by Vivian Giang
In order to protect yourself from the next round of layoffs, you need to convince your employers that you’re valuable and that your existence alone benefits the company.
“Today’s business environment doesn’t allow for satisfaction with the status quo. It requires constant growth and change,” writes Mark Samuel in his book Making Yourself Indispensable: The Power of Personal Accountability.
“Being indispensable means that you are adaptable, learning and growing with your organization as it changes and evolves…at the end of the day, you are either working to make yourself indispensable or working to make yourself obsolete.”
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Samuel provides seven tips to help you become the most valuable person to your employers:
1. Never take the shortcut. Have you known many highly-successful people to be lazy? In order to be truly irreplaceable, you have to work hard. You can’t take shortcuts and still expect tremendous respect.
2. Be adaptable, not rigid. Samuel says that being rigid is the fastest way to losing your job. In an age where technology, workplace environment and strategy techniques are constantly changing, the most pernicious thing you can do for your career is to cling on to something from the past and refuse to change.
“The good news about rigidity is that it gives you a sense of control — it is predictable. You understand it, know it, can explain it, and can even teach it to others,” he says. “The bad news is that the sense of control is often a false one or temporary at best.”
“You can always tell when someone isn’t adaptable to change. They demonstrate their paralysis through resistance, advocating for the old way, talking about the “good ol’ days,” or undermining current change efforts through their lack of cooperation and cynicism.”
3. Being a perfectionist will be your downfall. Most people think that being a perfectionist is what they need for success, but, in actuality, it prevents it.
“Perfectionism fosters inaction — waiting until we we can guarantee success before we take action. And this negates accountability and prevents success. We wait for the perfect plan, the perfect decision, and the perfect action that won’t fail.”
4. Be of service to others without expecting anything in return. Most of us only do things for other people if we get something in return, but a truly irreplaceable employee is someone who makes decisions and solves problems for the good of their team and other departments in the organization.
The more you become “we-centered” rather than “me-centered” the more indispensable you become. Samuel quotes Stephen M. R. Covey’s book The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything:
“Trust grows when our motives are straightforward and based on mutual benefits — in other words, when we genuinely care not only for ourselves, but also for the people we interact with, lead, or serve.”
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5. Be purpose-driven, not goal-driven. At work, you will have goals to achieve, but Samuel says that these goals are often “established without a clear sense of purpose.” And since most people are often too busy to go above and beyond their daily tasks, they’re not making an effort to produce actual changes. Samuel quotes Daniel H. Pink in his own book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us:
“Substantial evidence demonstrates that in addition to motivating constructive effort, goal setting can induce some unethical behavior.”
So don’t stress out about finishing every single step you’ve written down on your checklist or it’ll become a never-ending cycle.
6. Be assertive. Life is a game, so play big or go home. Take charge, stand apart and don’t be afraid to speak up during meetings for fear of sounding unintelligent or being wrong.
7. Forgive others quickly. “The measure of accountability is based more on how you handle mistakes, mishaps, and breakdowns than on getting everything right all the time,” Samuel says. “It’s about how fast you can pick yourself up when you fall; how quickly you correct a mistake that you made; that little or no harm comes to your customer, family member, or friend.”