Let’s start with the word indispensable. According to Merriam-Webster,indispensable means absolutely necessary or essential. “Being indispensable at work means that your supervisors count on you so much that without you, the productivity of your department might suffer, or at least that’s the perception,” says Andy Teach, author of From Graduation to Corporation, and host of the YouTube channel FromGradToCorp.
Stever Robbins, an executive and personal coach and top 10 business podcaster, agrees. When you’re indispensable, some part of the company cannot function without you, he says. “You may have knowledge that is unique to you, a position in the organization that is unique to you, or a skill that is unique to you.”
Some people confuse indispensable with irreplaceable, but they are not the same. As business owners and HR managers say, everyone can be replaced. To be indispensable means that you are so good and efficient at your job, that your boss can’t imagine replacing you. It’s simple. You are the go-to person they count on to get certainthings done.
But why strive to become indispensable when, according to U.S. labor statistics, the country has 7.6 million job openings and only 6.2 million job seekers. This indicates that because jobs are not too hard to find, job security may not be a top priority for many in the workforce. Beyond job security, however, benefits to becoming indispensable include higher job satisfaction, being more likely to get a raise or promotion, and improved chances of being sought out for special projects.
Want to be an indispensable employee? Here are five tips to get you started:
- Track Your Metrics
As you set goals, look at the metrics that will matter and include them in your planning. Whether it’smeeting a sales quota, improving efficiency or measuring theoutcomes of various marketing tactics, be sure to look for yardsticksthat reflect the value of the contributions you are making. Think of metrics that will give positive answers to questions like this: Has my work enhanced the company’s bottom line? Companies value employees who are focused on finding ways to raise the performance bar.
- Make Your Boss Look Great
By becoming an indispensible employee you are also signing on to be your supervisor’s right hand man or woman. You are building trust between the two of you. Try to understand the mind-set of the person you are working for and figure out, “What are they trying to achieve?”and more importantly “How can I help them get there?”
- Be a Thought Leader
When everyone agrees or has the same outlook it is hard to stand out. By providing new and valuable thinking that benefits your company, you become a thought leader.
- Add Value to Every Project
Finish every project by asking yourself: Have I taken the extra step? Has this project added value to the company’s bottom line? Is there anything I can do better or differently to enhance the outcome of the project? We are not striving for perfection here, but rather ensuring that we did everything within our power to yield the best possible results.
- Channel Elite Athletes
This is one of my favorite tips because it forces you to think differently. Elite athletes are constantly trying to improve their performance. They fine-tune the details that allow them to compete at the highest level—and that habit offers valuable lessons for people who are trying to become exceptional at their jobs, says Porter Braswell, co-founder and CEO of Jopwell, a technology platform that helps black, Latino and Native American students and professionals unlock opportunities for career advancement.
“Now we are not talking about the ability to run fast, jump high, or any other physical attributes that come along with being an elite athlete. However, we are referring to the mindset. Competing: That’s the mind-set one has to be in before I believe they can perform well,” Braswell says.
Employees may view becoming indispensable as a double-edged sword. On one hand you have to constantly live up to high expectations, so if and when you fail, it is especially obvious. This can put a lot of pressure on you because you feel that people are always counting on you and you do not want to let them down.
However, it is better to be seen as indispensable and fail once in a while than not to be seen as indispensable at all. Not striving to be indispensable is a path to anonymity and easy replaceability. Who wants that?