The Emerald Resource Group Blog

News, advice, and insights for job seekers and employers.


How to recognize when your talents as a front-end developer are being under utilized

In my 30 years of experience of working with front-end developers, I have found that many have more “horsepower” than the IT leadership team is tapping into. This under-utilization of one’s skills creates a challenge in growing your career and staying fully engaged at work. However, many times front-end developers struggle identifying signs their managers aren’t utilizing more of their skills. That’s why I have put together the top 7 signs your boss isn’t fully utilizing your talents as a front-end developer.

1. Getting passed over on highly visible and high impact projects/promotions

In my experience, the best way to tell if your manager isn’t fully utilizing your potential is if you are being passed over on high impact projects. It is not uncommon for you to be working midstream on a less desirable project when a high impact project opens up. There’s always ways you can transition off a current project; however, if you find this happening on a consistent basis this is a good indicator that your manager may have misconceptions of your skills.

How can you tell if this new project is one you want to be on? Grab a lunch with a high-level user of the new project and get insight from the business side to see what significant impact on the overall strategy of the business and who you will primary interface with. Future hiring managers look for the level of users their projects impacted.

2. Being left out of important meetings

No one loves meetings. I get it. But, not all meetings are the same. In my 30 years of experience, I have seen a trend that if your boss sees you as someone with high quality characteristics within the organization they will go out of the way to include you on higher level meetings. These meetings allow you to develop relationships with decision makers in the company. Similarly, if you’re not invited to high level meetings, this could be a sign that your manager isn’t appreciating your full potential. Especially, if this meeting has high influence on the future direction of your organization.

3. Your ideas aren’t taken seriously

Perhaps you’re a part of higher-level meetings or even higher-level projects but you feel your ideas are just being put to the side. Oftentimes I will see front-end developers who are highly skilled and know their supervisor recognized their talents; however, your supervisor still doesn’t take your ideas seriously. Specifically, you notice when offering an innovative approach to a networking challenge or a potential new software that could solve a business bottleneck that your idea isn’t investigated further. It could be another sign that your supervisor isn’t fully recognizing your talents. Part of enjoying your career is making a difference at where you work.

4. You are the smartest person in the room

The statement of “you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with” could not be more true. One of the best ways to love what you do and grow your career as a front-end developer is to learn from others. Perhaps identifying a front-end developer  that is in a position you aspire and setting up an informal mentorship can send the right message to others in your organization. Especially early in your career, it’s much more difficult and often less fun when you’re the most experienced front-end developer in your department.

I have found that the front-end developers that grow their career the fastest are challenged by surrounding themselves with people more experienced.

How can you tell if you’re the smartest person in the room? Here are two quick tips.

  • Does your supervisor take credit for your ideas at the meeting you’re not invited to?
  • Do you find yourself answering many more questions than your asking?

5. Numbers talk

Another way to tell if your supervisor recognizes your talents is what they are paying you relative to your peers. Hence the saying, numbers don’t lie. If your salary has been stuck with the minimum cost of living adjustment while your peers are getting higher raises this is often a sign of you being underutilized and underappreciated. With all the available data online, it isn’t hard to compare your salary with the average in your field or industry. 

Another quantitative field to check is your bonus. Did your colleagues receive a bonus that you didn’t? Often the reason your supervisor will give you is that your peer received a bonus for the high profile project (the one you asked to be on) they worked extra on. 

To compare your salary with others, you can use Glassdoor Salaries Guide to see if you’re being paid market average. However, I have found that it is often best to talk with someone who knows the local IT market in which you are currently working. Salaries are highly dependent on the markets you live in. I have found over the past three decades that there is no one else who knows what companies are willing to pay for IT skills better than someone who has spoken with hundreds of front-end developers. If you’re interested in learning what other local companies are paying for your skills set you can reach out to me here.

6. You’re being micromanaged

No one likes to work for a micromanager. This can simply be their style of managing.  However, If you notice that you’re being micromanaged while others aren’t, there could be something more to this equation. If you think that your boss isn’t fully utilizing your skills look to see if they are micromanaging you and others. If you tend to be the one that is being micromanaged this can be a sign that your boss doesn’t have the confidence in your work which can lead to limiting your upside potential. 

Over the years, I’ve worked with many front-end developers who complain about this on a weekly basis. “I’m looking for an opportunity where I’m not being micromanaged.” Often it boils down to working for a supervisor who has confidence in your work and recognizes potential in you.  

7. Lack of recognition

Annie McKee, the author of How to Be Happy at Work wrote that “there’s nothing worse than feeling unseen and unheard in the workplace.” In my experience this couldn’t be more true. But it is important to keep your expectations reasonable. I find that it can be a good idea to get a second opinion on if you think you’re getting enough appreciation. I find that if you carve out some time at the end of the week to reflect on what you accomplish and what you did well to then compare that to the recognition you received, you will often see the gap, or lack of gap, on paper. From there, you can decide or show this comparison to a close friend to determine if you aren’t receiving the appreciation you deserve. 

If you still find that you aren’t being recognized for the great work you’re doing. This is often a sign that your manager does not see the value that you bring to your role. 

There is no end all be all

No ONE sign alone means that your manager isn’t willing to fully utilize your skill. Many times it is just a habit of a manager or if one of these signs has only happened a few times that doesn’t necessarily mean your boss doesn’t recognize your full potential. What I have found over the past 30 years is that if you’re experiencing these signs over an extended period of time it may be time to consider your career options. 

Now what do you do if you feel like you have more firepower than your manager is letting you use? Or if you feel like you have more skills and potential and your company is not allowing you to tap into? 

In my experience it is best to start looking for opportunities that align with your long term career goals that do allow you to tap into your full potential. If you’re interested in learning about front-end opportunities that can grow your career, feel free to email me or call me.