Leanna Cruz, Editorial Director
It wasn’t long ago that the workforce experienced tremendous layoffs, and for many the concern of job security still looms. Those whose career success strategy includes becoming indispensable are less concerned. They have decided to drive their own success rather than “wait and see,” and they are putting their efforts toward developing skills essential to the success of strategic initiatives of company leaders. This is a strategy that is more likely to make you a valuable resource, avoid obsolescence, get noticed and get ahead. During challenging or uncertain economic periods, employers tend to retain individuals who have invested time to the development of new skills and knowledge, stay informed about trends that support individual and company success and who take initiative to contribute to the continued success of the company.
Becoming indispensable is as much mind-set as it is about skill-set. Deciding to become an engaged employee who contributes and gets in the driver’s seat of their own success requires a positive perspective, confidence and a commitment to action.
Consider these eight strategies for your career success:
The current work environment of constant change and uncertainty means that old rules do not necessarily apply and that decision-makers are open to new ideas, presented with clarity and accompanied by benefits. Job descriptions no longer apply because the way work is done has changed. Waiting to be told exactly what to do, is not the best strategy. Identifying opportunities for department and company success is a much better option for your career success and advancement.
Strategies to and value:
• Be willing to take on work outside the scope of your responsibilities, particularly those for which you can use your strengths or learn a new skill of interest to you and for your career development plan.
• Take the initiative when a project has stalled to identify solutions, motivate team members or collaborate to identify a new strategy that will move things forward.
• Utilizing sound judgment in prioritizing tasks by aligning those tasks you choose to spend time working on with those that advance company strategy. Delegate others to a direct report or colleague with an interest in those tasks.
• Commit to a customer-centric orientation and provide exceptional service to not only maintain clients, but to also encourage then to turn to you and your company for additional services.
• Be willing to collaborate with others to complete projects before deadline, efficiently and of the most remarkable quality.
• Lead change and encourage innovative ideas.
Develop a Niche
Hone your skill and knowledge so that you are the go to person for information, advice and inclusion on projects and strategy development. Or, identify a role that is not currently offered, that you have an interest in and that is beneficial to the company. Offer your talent to fill that gap. Whether this requires that you learn new skills, enhance your current skills or commitment to advance your skills, you are more likely to become indispensable if your collective skills and experiences are unique. Projects that stir your passion will motivate you to commit the time necessary to do exceptional work. You’ll soon gain recognition as an indispensable contributor.
Strategies to develop and hone your niche:
• Remain current about industry trends to determine which new skills, knowledge and technology are required for your company to remain competitive, and enroll in coursework to acquire the skills. Follow thought leaders in your industry.
• If you enjoy group facilitation and teaching, volunteer to lead an employee training session or series of trainings or seminar about new regulations, procedures, knowledge or skills.
• Become the expert on a subject that is beneficial to your department or company. Listen to the most common challenges (or complaints) in your department, company or among your colleagues and be the resource of solution ideas.
• Create a job opening. The job you are most suited for may not have been created yet because no one knows the benefit of having someone perform these functions. Become an intrapreneur. Create a job proposal that outlines the work to be performed, describe its benefits to the company, and be prepared to describe why you are uniquely the best fit for the job. You may also want to be prepared to suggest how your current job responsibilities will be handle, such as identifying a colleague perfectly suited and even mentored by you.
Become a “Linchpin”
Bestselling author Seth Godin discusses his book Linchpin how the “linchpins” of any organization are those leaders who rise to the top during times of challenge and hold things together. People who are linchpins have a talent for building relationships, connecting people and ideas, facilitating collaborative efforts and looking right through a problem to envision possible solutions. Such employees are the “solution providers” and are the truly indispensable members of any organization.
Suggested strategies for becoming a Linchpin:
• Take the lead for a new project. Surround yourself with an outstanding team willing to collaborate to quickly identify the problem and commit to contribute toward a solution. Employ your stellar project management skills and if you have not developed them, add this to your career development plan. Project management skills are essential for career advancement.
• Recognize that team effort and collaboration is often more expedient than trying to handle challenges alone. And that knowing how to obtain all resources for success of the collaborative team is essential to the success of the project. Lead the team in development and implementation of the solution, ensuring that the team has all the resources and access it requires.
• Maintain an attitude of success no matter what. Be persistent and willing to engage in a process of trial-and-error until the most optimum solution is unveiled. A frustrating process, a necessary component of advancement, in need of someone comfortable with constant change and able to motivate and maintain a high level of enthusiasm amongst a team.
Remain a Positive Supporter
If you believe in the purpose, mission and values of the company, value the opportunity to work for the company and to contribute to the advancement of its mission and continued success.
Strategies to become a positive supporter:
• Get in the driver’s seat of your own career development and develop and hone the skills which will make you a value asset to your department or business unit, now and into the future.
• Refuse to disparage the company in discussions with colleagues, family, social acquaintances or social media.
• Commit to contribute your best to help maintain its competitive edge.
• Support company leadership while they continue to determine the best strategy to remain relevant. During these periods, change is common and constant, and uncertainty is inescapable.
• Become an ambassador of your company’s employer brand. It is not only the Human Resource Department that can identify the best new talent.
Cultivate an Attitude of Collaboration
The best work, the bet ideas and the best solution come from collaborative effort. If you wish to be associated with the best results it is important to cultivate an attitude of collaboration and to commit to being an effective and contributing member of any team. Recognize that teams are created so that diverse perspectives, talents, skills, knowledge and experiences can be considered to ensure the best outcome.
Strategies to hone a collaborative reputation:
• Maintain respect for the unique skills, knowledge, perspective and contributions of others, encouraging them to participate.
• Recognize that differences of opinion will occur, and that the point of difference is always an opinion. Be appreciative of their input.
• Offer input to assist colleagues in completing their tasks or learning new ones.
• Develop your communication skills related to collaboration.
During periods of economic challenges and uncertainty, employees must be proactive and take responsibility for advancing their careers. This means discovering ways your skills, knowledge and strengths can contribute to the success of the company, then taking action.
Strategies for being proactive:
• Rather than waiting for an assignment, seek “stretch” assignments and additional responsibilities.
• Serve on planning and development committees.
• Volunteer to be a mentor and to help develop leaders for the company.
• Establish your own benchmark for job performance that overshoots those targets set by your boss.
• Take the initiative in following up with clients and customers to ensure their satisfaction with the company’s product or service and identify any challenges that you or someone in the company can be of help in resolving.
Take Inventory of Your SKAs
To remain indispensable it is vital that you remain current and relevant. At periodic intervals during your career, especially during times of change, take an inventory of your skills, knowledge and abilities (SKAs) and develop a plan to enhance them. Rather than wait for a formal performance review request for feedback regarding your SKAs quarterly, and create a plan to keep your career ahead of the curve. Request and be open to open, honest and candid feedback. Without it your feelings will be intact, but your career may stall.
Strategies for developing your SKAs:
• Enroll in teleseminars, webinars, online courses and certificate programs, and attend conferences and seminars to learn or expand your knowledge, skills and abilities. Choose those that 1) are relevant to the position you’d like to fill, 2) provide you with the opportunity to expand your current responsibilities, and 3) allow you to become eligible for other roles within the company which will improve your chances to fill an executive leadership position.
• Read trade publications to stay current with trends in your industry. Be especially alert for any opportunities that will allow your company to penetrate new markets and expand its business.
• Enthusiastically participate in company-sponsored professional development programs. Frequent topics include workplace ethics, business communication, and conflict resolution and negotiation. Not only will these courses enhance your overall knowledge, but they will also provide you with the opportunity to network with colleagues from other departments, expanding your network.
Develop Effective Communication Skills
Whether in speech or writing, all employers place a premium value on good communication skills. Whether presenting a new idea, trying to get your point heard, presenting a sound reason for why you deserve a promotion, sending email, writing a blog or writing a report, being able to do so with clarity, concisely, logically and with the ability to field questions is essential.
Strategies to enhance your communication skills:
• Hone your listening skills when communicating with co-workers and clients. Rather than listening for a particular cue, such as an objection, with the intent to respond, listen with the intent to understand.
• Throw any kind of prejudice away. These block your opportunities to come to the best result. Remain open to the exchange of ideas and opinions.
• Suspend your frame of reference and filter so that you are able to hear the entire message, not only the part that fits in with your schema.
• Learn how to interpret body language so that can gain a more accurate interpretation of verbal messages. Beware the many individuals demonstrate body language specific to their own moods and emotions. For those individuals that you work with regularly, learn the message behind their body language.
There is a saying that “No one is indispensable.” If you can demonstrate how you can uniquely add value to the success of the department, business unit or company, you can be the exception. Each of these strategies taken alone can do a lot to improve your worth to a company. Incorporating them all into your career success plan will enhance your career advancement and satisfaction. Enroll supporters, develop a plan and be on your way to becoming one of the few who may be indispensable.