10 Savvy Ways to Become Totally Indispensable at Work

By Erica Lamberg

There's more to safeguarding your job than doing it well. Scoring your dream position or securing a juicy promotion can happen with the right strategies. We've asked career experts how to hone your job skills and forge alliances to keep your paycheque steady.

10 Savvy Ways to Become Totally Indispensable at Work
photo: istock

1. Be the go-to office ace

It may seem trite, but learning skills like how to change printer toner can provide an edge in the workplace, says Vicki Salemi, career expert with Monster.com. "You need to become the go-to person – the indispensable, integral person in the department who knows how to fix things," she says. "You're that person who people go to for everything. So when you're out one day, people feel your absence."

2. Volunteer to lead community service projects

Taking the lead on a company-wide initiative gets you beyond the scope of your job. "Not only will you feel good about what you're doing and add skills to your resume, internally at your company you can demonstrate leadership abilities and network, network, network," Salemi says. "If a position becomes available internally and you're eyeing for that promotion in another department, people outside your day-to-day will be able to vouch for you. You're building relationships as well as a strong reputation beyond your current cubicle/office and team."

3. Attend industry conferences

Salemi recommends aiming to attend external events twice a year. "You'll stay on the pulse of what's happening (in addition to networking externally) and become resourceful to your department when you return and share the knowledge you've gained," she continues. "You'll also be able to figure out what's next for the company from seminars and ideas and conversations exchanged."

4. Share credit

When you take the credit, nobody wants you around, but when you share the credit, you become someone everyone wants to have on the team, says Erica McCurdy, a business and life strategist with McCurdy Life Coach LLC in Georgia, US. "So even if you were the originator of the great idea, credit the team, the group, or thank the boss for the support. They will remember that you shared the spotlight instead of being a 'glory-hog,'" she says.

5. Be a team-player

Ask your colleagues what you can do to help lighten their workload. "Don't confuse this with doing other people's work for them," cautions McCurdy. But, she says, in the course of doing exceptional work yourself, take the time to ask others how they are doing and if there is anything you can do to support them in their work as well. "People remember that you asked and are more likely to respond favourably to you when it is time to recommend you for that next step," McCurdy adds.

6. Keep a (lightly) positive attitude

While being overly optimistic can come across as naive, negativity and back-stabbing almost always comes back around in the worst possible ways, McCurdy says. "Keep comments in the neutral to the positive range. When something goes sideways and you are asked for an opinion, keep your comments constructive and impersonal and avoid singling any one person out for blame," she says.

7. Be in sync with your boss

Although it may seem obvious, make it a priority to really be in sync with your boss about expectations, priorities and goals, advises Ben Brooks, founder and CEO of the New York City-based tech startup PILOT, that helps managers retain their best talent. "Make sure you're doing what will make them successful. Communicate often and form a close relationship," he says.

8. Focus on driving measurable results

It is easy to get caught in the grind of tasks, committees and projects, but try to track results and stay focused. "What can you point to that you really helped to drive/own? Focus on fewer things, that you can actually add value to and move forward," says Brooks.

9. Stay aligned with your company's mission

Adam Goodman, PhD, who directs the Center for Leadership at Northwestern University in Illinois, US, advises to connect as much of your own work as possible with the organisation's mission. "Routinely articulate this to others, including your own managers. It will clarify your own choices while giving you a lot of opportunity to let people know that your choices are guided by these larger goals," he says.

10. Be known for your congeniality

A kind demeanour and sincere personality can take you far in the business world. "Help people solve problems that don't necessarily or immediately benefit you," says Dr Goodman. "If you make this a habit and don't ask for immediate payback, it will be natural for others to seek your advice and assistance, and to help you when you need it."

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