Common: Having your position or skill-set jeopardized by competition.
Uncommon: It has been said that only the strong survive. This may be most accurate in the animal kingdom, but in the emerging urban environment it is less about “survival of the fittest” and more so “survival of the smartest.” We have shifted from an era of physical power to one largely guided by brain power.
No, this is not a Darwinist dilemma that leads to extinction (at least not yet), but perhaps worse, a quandary leading to a slow, unfulfilling, but tolerable existence. There are few feelings worse than sensing you are “expendable” and fearing an impending doom (in this case, job loss).
In a world of technological convergence and merging borders it is becoming more and more important to differentiate yourself and bring something unique to the table. And let’s face it; these current times are also straining businesses and bosses. When push comes to shove, companies value financial savings as a very high priority. In other words, if a business can save money, they won’t worry about saving what they view as expendable.
In part 1, I opened with a quote found on a Silicon Valley billboard: “1,000,000 people can do your job. What makes you so special?” I don’t feel there is a better way to put it. If you’re reading this, the advantage and opportunity you have is preparation and intelligent action, hence the following…
10 ways to become indispensable:
1. Focus on your strengths rather than building weaknesses. While it’s important to be versed and knowledgeable in numerous areas, it’s important to realize that it is impossible to be an expert (or anything close) in all areas. In today’s multifaceted work environment, a jack-of-all-trades blends into the crowd. Conversely, there is power in developing a concentrated skill-set. When you can demonstrate a rare level of skill or expertise, your services immediately increase in value.
2. Always expand your network of connections. Can you tell this is a reference to the common “what/who you know” axiom? Yes, networking still demands our utmost respect. If you’re not consistently reaching out to others and engaging and contributing with them, then you will be lost in the periphery. Strategic alliances matter – arguably more than skill. In short, if you keep the right company, the company will keep you around. And tools such as LinkedIn can be extremely beneficial for professional and quality networking.
3. Learn to recognize, read, and predict trends. It’s not enough to understand what is currently happening. True leaders are always one step ahead. Instead of studying information that contributed to today, they search for data that will influence tomorrow. As William Gibson said, “The future is here, it’s just not widely distributed yet.” Fortunes are made by those who think about tomorrow. Move away from the conventional inquisition, “What is happening?” and replace it with “What is going to happen?” Predict where decline and growth are taking place. If you work for a company, understand where the ship is headed and how you can you get involved in projects that will matter most.
4. Strengthen your right brain skills. Like I mentioned in part 1, as important as analytical and mechanical skill-sets are, they are also most easily outsourced because they are most easily defined, taught, and learned. The future belongs to those who learn and master more right-brain abstract skills-sets such as creativity, problem solving, resourcefulness, communication, leadership, and relationship building – this is the repertoire of the new-age professional.
5. Get the company to invest in you. Take every opportunity you can to attend workshops, seminars, trainings, etc. Earn special certificates and specialize your skills. Information is a social power with a dualistic-benefit: 1) The more a company invests in you, the more difficult a severance will be, and 2) The more skills you have the more valuable you are to the marketplace as a whole. Enough said.
6. Toot your horn without blowing it. Building on #6, shrouding your skills in secrecy does not benefit anyone. To a degree, Donald Trump is absolutely right in saying, “If you don’t tell people about your success, they probably won’t know about it.” Yes, there are tasteful ways to emphasize your abilities; one of which is sharing measurable results as opposed to personal opinion. There are countless resources available on this topic, an aptitude well worth studying and developing.
7. Adopt a consultant mentality. A consultant is appointed to question usual patterns of thought (or social/company culture) and look for more effective ways to delegate and use resources–time, energy, tools, talent, money, etc. However, we don’t need to be a corporation to utilize the efficacy of a “consultant mentality.” The most productive, accomplished, and innovative individuals I know have trained themselves to become their own consultants. They have made a habit of constantly thinking ahead, reassessing their performance, analyzing their results (not their opinions of the results), and searching for more efficient methods of action. Make a habit of asking yourself one new question, “What can I do to make myself more valuable in my current job, business, and/or relationships?”
8. Embrace ambiguity. Life is not a linear and predictable process so do not pretend that tomorrow will be the same as today or that you must have “all” information available to make your next decision. Thriving today means not only embracing the unknown, but expecting it.
9. Work smart. Assess your performance and discern what is working from what is not. In most cases, we do things out of habit or tradition, not reason. And don’t confuse volume with value. Deliver what is most important. Working yourself to death in the name of high-production, is not admirable, it’s stupid. Balance a long-term vision with a desire for maximum efficiency. Easier said than done, of course. Seth Godin says it best, “Nothing about becoming indispensable is easy. If it’s easy, it’s already been done and it’s no longer valuable.”
10. Provide value. These tips are not intended to be deception tactics aiding you to “pretend to be more, by doing less.” Even the greatest con will not stand the test of time. Eventually, people will always spot a charlatan, so don’t waste your time or anyone else’s. At the end of the day, you must make a positive impact to your company and your customers. True value is derived from our efforts to look beyond our own short-term rewards and contribute to a larger mission. It’s not what the company can do for you, it’s what you can do for the company.
If your place of work does not reflect a purpose-based culture, don’t whine or dramatize the situation. It’s rather simple; you have 3 choices: 1) Accept the current circumstances and risk long-term dissatisfaction. 2) Change your attitude and lead by example 3) Leave the company. You will know what to do.
Remember, in the end it is the responsibility of the employee and small business owner to make themselves valuable and irreplaceable. Just as an enlightened business would do, individuals should craft and uphold their own UVP (Unique Value Proposition) as a way to differentiate themselves and spotlight their talents and dedication.
What do you do to make yourself indispensable? Please share your comments below.
- Don’t be outsourced – How the right-brain can make you invaluable (Part 1)
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