Infinite possibilities. Idea boardMy recent post on the pros and cons of being the “go to person” addresses how agreeing to take on everyone’s work can damage your career advancement. When you are the “go to person”, you can find yourself both overwhelmed and most importantly, labeled and stereotyped as a doer rather than a leader. The article talks about the importance of avoiding saying yes and taking on everyone’s busy work about the importance of setting boundaries and knowing when to say no.

I posted the article to my LinkedIn groups and the discussion elicited over one hundred and fifty responses. It’s clear that many women are comfortable in the role of being the “go to person”. Some, however, understand that it can be a trap for ambitious women who risk getting overwhelmed with busy work; the type of work that is invisible; that does more to hinder advancement than help.

I coach ambitious professional women who are committed to moving their careers forward and upward. As part of that process, I request feedback from their colleagues and supervisors. One of the most common barriers to advancement cited is that the person is considered to be more of a doer than a leader. They are seen as the “go to person”; someone who gets things done and is always willing to take on many different projects. But what is most important to note is that the feedback indicated that as a result of being the “go to person”, they are not perceived as having leadership potential. The belief that doing more leads to advancement is not true unless the work they are doing showcases their talent; unless the results of the work can be leveraged across the organization.

So how do you decide whether or not to say yes to a new opportunity?

.A recent article in Fortune offers this for consideration.

“Will the experience enhance your knowledge and play to your strengths? Will it introduce you to new concepts and new people? (All great reasons to say yes!) Will it require you to develop new techniques for managing your team or working with more experienced people?”

All of the above mentioned scenarios are valid reasons to say yes to a new opportunity.

How do you determine if the work will help you advance your career?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it a high profile assignment that will attract attention across the organization with key stakeholders?
  2. Does it leverage your strengths?
  3. Does it offer an opportunity to gain experience in an area you have determined is necessary to reach your career goal?
  4. Is this project important to your sponsor or mentor?
  5. Are there political considerations that make saying no challenging?
  6. Is there an opportunity to leverage the results of this work?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is probably advantageous to take on the new project.

The lesson here is to stop and think before you automatically say yes to every new project. Think strategically to better understand if the opportunity presented can help you get the visibility and credibility you need to advance.

It’s important to see the difference between work that you can leverage and benefit from versus the invisible work that puts you in a box as the doer, not a leader.