Why being replaceable is a GOOD thing
Being replaceable in work may not seem like a good thing. But I definitely think it can be. Those who disagree tend to think about replaceability in a negative sense. Who wants to think there is someone else out there that can do your job as well (or better) than you? A lot of this comes from a scarcity mindset: that there are only a set number of jobs and once they are taken that’s it. But new jobs are created all the time as long as there is a case that demands it.
No one wants to be replaced by someone else in a job they enjoy, are good at (or at least fit into); that would leave us jobless. But when we’re good employees, it’s usually not a total replacement or upgrade, it’s a better fit. And that better fit for an employer means you probably weren’t the best fit and they likely weren’t either for you. Yeah, it stings, but I certainly don’t believe there is one and only job/career/company out there for each of us.
Our interests and skills change, or at least I hope they do. Most of us grow and improve at our jobs. That means our motivational fit for our current role decreases and eventually we will get bored with our job (at least those of us who are always looking for that next big thing).
Let’s think about our skills. If you drew your T-shaped skills 5-10 years ago, would they be different than they are today? Would you still want to be doing what you were doing then? Does that job even still exist? Once you’ve mastered those skills, or have decided you don’t want to, you should replace yourself and move on to something new.
Now yes, it sucks to get laid off, fired, replaced, but it can good. If I’m replaceable that means my skills are in demand and I should be able to find another job. If I’m not replaceable, what happens when the company decides to do away with whatever I’m good at because it’s no longer in demand? I’ve seen it happen many times when people can’t leave a company because of their tribal knowledge or the benefits there and they are miserable being trapped there.
Even if you really like your job now, you still want your skills to be relevant and be replaceable in case something happens. I was laid off from Target in 2015. It was horrible but also awesome. I had a great job at Target. I loved it. But I would have stayed quite awhile. I would have gotten comfortable. I never would have gone independent and worked for other great companies, learned more about SAFe, started Women in Agile as it is today, or left the state of MN for that matter. I would also be in more debt because that severance pay was great for grad school loans.
The point I’m trying to make is that when your skills are in demand, so are you. Keep an eye on the market, take a chance on replacing someone else and allow yourself to be replaced. Learn new things and keep current. Because when the next bubble bursts, you likely won’t be in it if you have replaceable, sought after skills.