It’s common knowledge that every employer wants a hard worker, but not every employee realizes being a hard worker isn’t the same as being indispensable.
If you want greater job security, respect from your colleagues and opportunities to grow your career, the key is to know how to make yourself indispensable at work.
In other words, you need to become the employee that — when layoffs roll around — your bosses fight for. The one who makes them say “Oh, we can’t lose her. She’s our go-to person for __________.”
Below are six ways to go from a hard worker to an indispensable employee.
1. Solve Problems
Anyone can complain about a known problem, but not just anyone can identify the true source of a problem or go out of their way to solve that problem. An indispensable employee can.
As soon as you start working for a company, you’re likely to hear about an ongoing problem that no one has bothered to solve. If you want to get noticed in all the right ways, this is a perfect opportunity. Consider the problem, research possible solutions and present them to the office.
When you propose such solutions, be ready to answer questions like these:
- How will this make the office run more smoothly?
- How does it work?
- What makes it better than other solutions?
- Why should we try it?
- Who will be in charge of it?
Being prepared to answer these questions not only shows you’ve thought things through, but also turns you into something of an authority figure in the eyes of your colleagues. With well-earned authority comes respect, trust and indispensability.
2. Help Your Colleagues
Hard workers do their work, and they do it well. Indispensable employees do their work and then some. They take the initiative to do more than what they’re given, to go out and find assignments and to help out other employees when they see opportunities to do so.
Granted, you can’t do all your colleagues’ work — and you shouldn’t. However, taking on a little extra work to help a struggling or overburdened coworker accomplishes three things:
- It makes that colleague eternally grateful and an ally
- It shows your bosses that you work well with others and you’re not afraid to go above and beyond
- It helps you become a more versatile worker, possibly learning new skills from the tasks you’re helping your colleague with
The bottom line is that helping others at work helps you, them and the entire office. As an added bonus, learning new skills by branching out of your comfort zone makes you even more employable should you ever choose to work elsewhere.
3. Propose Ideas
Another important part of how to make yourself indispensable at work is to share your vision.
Similar to solving problems, proposing ideas means getting proactive. It’s a little bit more than just fixing a kink in workflow, though. Proposing an idea, in this sense, means identifying a way to improve your work environment, then making it happen.
For instance, maybe you hear your bosses discussing the importance of public relations. You also notice that some of your colleagues seem less-than-thrilled with their repetitive routines. Then an idea strikes: You imagine solving both concerns with one solution — a fundraising event.
After a pitch like this, one of two things can happen:
- The idea is applauded but not put into effect.
- The idea is accepted and built upon by the rest of the team.
No matter which of these two results you meet, you’ve already made yourself more noteworthy in the office. You’ve put yourself out there as a person with passion, drive and, in this example, a philanthropic spirit.
If result No. 2 is the victor, there’s a good chance you’ll be tasked with running the operation you’ve proposed. Boom — just like that, you’re the go-to person for a new project. Really, you’re the only person right for the job.
4. Learn From Everything You Do
With any luck, proposing a good idea will lead to more responsibilities and a more unique position. The more specific your role, the better. After all, if you’re the only person who knows how to do what it is you do, it’s going to be near impossible to replace you.
As you continue to advance in your career, always maintain a healthy appetite for knowledge. No matter how big or small the task at hand may be, when you get a chance to learn a new skill, take it. Master it. Own it.
Each time you do this, you accomplish quite a bit in one fell swoop. You …
- Build confidence in yourself, which helps you to
- Project confidence at work. As a result, you
- Become more of an authority figure to your colleagues and
- Become a greater overall asset to the company.
With the right attitude, this chain reaction is not at all unrealistic. All you need is a genuine thirst for knowledge and the desire to use what you learn.
5. Share Your Passion
Hopefully you’re already passionate about your work, though it can be difficult to maintain that same level of passion throughout your career. If you take opportunities to keep your work life interesting, that will be a big step in the right direction.
Being passionate shows your fellow workers you care about your work and you like where you’re at. It encourages others to be positive as well. Every manager wants a worker around who has that kind of effect. A worker like that — one who genuinely likes what they do and wants others to share that positivity — is a rare gem.
If you’re saying “What passion?” then it might be time to reevaluate your work life. It’s not that you’re necessarily at the wrong job, but you may need a reminder of what drives you.
Regardless of how you feel about your work in this exact moment, it’s worth the long-term investment to takes steps toward maintaining a passionate outlook on your work. As a sustainable force of positive energy, you’ll be that beloved colleague who no one wants to lose.
6. Build Relationships at Work
One of the greatest truths about how to make yourself indispensable at work is that you can’t do it in isolation. You could be the hardest worker in the office, but without your colleagues’ respect and appreciation, that hard work will go largely unnoticed.
So network. Don’t just talk to your officemate — talk to everyone. Bounce around ideas with your boss. Use lunch to chat with colleagues from different departments. Take project ideas to any and all workers who you think could contribute.
The more people know you — in a positive way, of course! — the more of impression you make on the office as a whole, and the less likely it is that you’ll ever be overlooked professionally.
How are you making an impression at work? Share your thoughts on how to make yourself indispensable at work in the comments!
If you’d like to stay up-to-date on more ways to grow your career, subscribe to the Punched Clocks newsletter.
Get everything you need to build a career you love by signing up for the newsletter.