When I was starting my first job out of college, our COO gave us some advice: “Order this book, go home and read it over the weekend, then come back and find a way to be a linchpin.” The guiding principles of Seth Godin’ book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? are pretty simple: if you want to be successful, find a way to make yourself irreplaceable at work. That can mean any number of things, depending on where you are and what you do, but for most of us, it’s a fast-track to job security.
What’s it mean to be a linchpin? It could be beefing up your skills or being the first one in the office every day. You might make yourself into the person who dabbles in IT, the person who plays golf with the who’s who in town, or the person who can take a good idea, chew over it for a bit, then reintroduce it with a new, solid-gold angle.
Whatever their specialty, irreplaceable people understand that it’s not enough to just show up and do the work. The real value is in that extra bit you bring to the table out of your own curiosity and determination. And any good manager knows that one dedicated worker is worth two or three meh employees any day. Want to be indispensable? Snag Seth Godin’s book, and try out these seven tips for making yourself irreplaceable at work.
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1. Come With Ideas.
Whether you’re working as a manager, associate or intern, one of the best ways to make yourself irreplaceable at work is to come with ideas. Bring actionable ideas to the table, but bring big-picture ideas, too. Got an idea for a new vertical? Think your company should be investigating new offerings? Want to spearhead a company culture overhaul? Think there’s potential to sell the client on a budget increase? Offer up your ideas! If you think it might move the needle for the company, bring it up for consideration. An employee that doubles as an idea factory is one of the most valuable business assets.
2. Offer to Take Things On.
Is there something in the office that doesn’t really fall under anyone’s role, but that desperately needs a little attention? Is there a Christmas party that needs planning, processes that could be streamlined or a new internal project that needs spearheading? If you want to make yourself irreplaceable at work, offer to take on the things nobody else wants to — just be sure you’ve got a clear sense of your boundaries.
3. Pitch New Business Opportunities.
Being a great presenter is one of the most valuable business skills to have, and one of the toughest to teach. If you want to be hard to replace at work, practice your presentation skills, then search for potential new clients to use them on. If you can tie a number to your contributions in the form of new business, your managers will start to see you as the one to bring along for the pitch. As for how to do this, start by practicing your storytelling skills, and make your pitches feel authentic and impassioned.
4. Offer Solutions.
If there’s a problem at work, instead of joining the ranks of people who just complain about it or avoid being questioned, be one of the first to offer a few thoughtful solutions. Do some research, outline a process, and suggest an alternative. Odds are, your bosses will appreciate your problem-solving skills and your willingness to help troubleshoot issues and improve productivity.
5. Find Your Niche.
If you’re looking for job security, spend some time zeroing in on your “unfair advantage.” What skill do you have that nobody else at your company can compete with? What can you do that no one else on staff can do? How can that skill affect your company’s bottom line? What skills could you grow out of that and use as a value-add? Find your niche, then look for new ways to highlight your contributions in that space.
6. Get to Know Your Boss.
If you want your bosses to see you as irreplaceable, spend some time getting to know them on a personal level. Ask them about their families, how they spend their weekends, what shows they’re watching and what they’d be doing if they weren’t at the company. Make no mistake: being irreplaceable first starts with loyalty, so make sure you’re someone your managers know, respect and trust.
7. Be Trustworthy.
And on that note, if you want to be irreplaceable, be trustworthy. Keep an open, honest dialogue with your managers, and keep them abreast of your goals and plans. If another opportunity comes up, discuss it with them and give them a chance to match it. Keep out of office gossip, and be direct and professional with your communication. Essentially, don’t give your managers a reason to worry. The most successful employees are the ones who make their bosses’ jobs easier, so do what you can to have your boss’s, reports’ and coworkers’ backs and make your office environment a happy place for everyone.
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