• Karen

When you’re known as a miracle worker

Updated: Apr 12

In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock we see this famous exchange:

Kirk: How much refit time 'til we can take her out again?

Scotty: Eight weeks, sir. But ye don't have eight weeks, so I'll do it for ye in two.

Kirk: Mr. Scott. Have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?

Scotty: Certainly, sir. How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?

Kirk: Your reputation is secure, Scotty.

Are you the company miracle worker? You know, the person who can turn out a presentation at the last minute when someone else drops the ball. Or maybe you’re the one who can multitask and do your job while fixing someone else’s mistakes, all while making sure no one gets a bruised reputation. People can always rely upon you to pull some version of victory out of the jaws of defeat, make the team look good, and say ‘yes’ to just about everything. And yet…

Miracle workers don’t always get the same pay and recognition of those they rescue. True, you might have been the person called on at the last minute to bring a project across the line, but you may not be the one who gets the promotion, raise, or praise for doing so. Sometimes a key part of your miracle is fixing a problem confidentially.

As the job market becomes ever more competitive, the temptation to rescue, “go the extra mile” and “give 110%” can be overwhelming. If you’re looking for work, you want employers to know you can deliver, and if you’re employed you want to stay that way. In a world turned upside down by Covid, hyper-partisan politics, and many other forms of uncertainty, job stability can be a wonderful thing. Being a miracle worker and giving your all to work is one way to try to gain this stability. Just remember that a reputation as a miracle worker has consequences.

  • People hire you (or worse call on you for free work) when they are in crisis. Then when the immediate problem has been solved, they cut you loose. This happens more often now that gig work has become an accepted norm.

  • You may not be able to list all your rescue missions on your resume. Even if you get paid for your work, a condition of pulling someone “out of the fire” might be a confidentiality clause.

  • Your reputation precedes you. When people know you are coming in to fix things they might slack off, get sloppy, or get resentful. Bringing in a fixer can have all kinds of unanticipated consequences.

  • It can be hard to maintain a positive attitude. Realizing that you’ve spent a lot of your career cleaning up the messes of others can be frustrating. You may begin to wonder why no one calls you for the plum assignments or when things are going well.

Now, if you have a natural disposition towards helping, you may not be able to stop working those miracles at work, and I’m not saying you should. However, you need to be aware of the double-edged sword of being known as a miracle worker.

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