Being a good employee is one thing. You show up on time and complete tasks successfully, and are generally pleasant to work with. Your performance reviews are satisfactory, you’re well-liked around the office, and you wrap things up at exactly the moment your workday officially ends so you can go home and move on with your “real life.” There’s nothing wrong with any of that!
But being indispensable at your job is something else entirely, and if you’re a highly competitive person who’s hungry for more responsibility and recognition at work, that’s probably the path you’ll want to take. It means that your boss simply can’t manage without you. Even if you’re OOO for just two days to enjoy a long weekend, things descend into chaos, and your team is always more than grateful when you return. Your coworkers might be good employees, but being indispensable makes you a truly hot commodity and will ensure that your managers will do whatever they can to keep you happy and engaged on the job.
So how do you become indispensable? Read on for seven expert tips.
1. Take initiative
“Taking initiative means going above and beyond your normal job responsibilities to get things done, and it’s something that can really set you apart from the pack while your coworkers are sitting back and waiting to be told what to do,” Sarah Hancock, content marketing manager at BestCompany.com, a website that compiles company rankings for consumers, tells us. “Employees who are proactive and look for ways to do things better or prevent obstacles are difference-makers, and difference-makers are highly valuable.” Being able to successfully follow directions and execute an assignment is great, but it’s no match for having the ability to see what needs to be done and then moving forward to make it happen.
2. Be supportive during meetings
When you’re in a meeting with a group of colleagues and higher-ups, you might feel tempted to use that time to shine a spotlight on your own projects or expertise. There are situations when this is appropriate — and you should absolutely get credit where credit is due — but don’t lose sight of the fact that an important meeting is an excellent opportunity for you to show your manager just how well you can support the work they do as well. Career coach Meredith Castin recommends that you offer to take notes and to become an expert on any key matters that you know your boss is planning to speak about. This will give you the chance to engage in the meeting while still proving your indispensability. Your manager will appreciate the support … and you’ll get your moment to shine.
3. Stay open to learning more
The indispensable employee, according to Managing People Better co-founder Leigh Steere, is “regularly taking classes, attending webinars, and reading books with an eye toward how she can add more value in her role. When she learns new skills that she can implement on the job, she immediately starts incorporating those that don’t require permission.” A thirst for professional development is in itself impressive to a manager, but since learning more will naturally give you the confidence to step up professionally, your work will only continue to get better over time.
4. Become a go-to problem solver
Many bosses spend their time focusing on big-picture issues instead of details. As a result, they may not always be aware of problems until they’ve become, well, big problems. At your current level, it’s probably easier for you to spot potential roadblocks ahead of time or in their earliest stages. This gives you the perfect platform for being a fixer! “When a mistake occurs, you’ll be the one who can provide fixes,” psychologist and Got a Bad Boss? author Dr. Noelle Nelson says. “Your boss will come to rely on you, and in return, you’ll have much more power around the office.”
5. Know a little bit about everything
No one expects you to be an expert in every aspect of your company or industry, but if you can collect just a little bit of knowledge about almost everything — or at least build a relationship with reliable experts in a range of subjects — your boss won’t be able to live without you. “Get to know the ins and outs of your company, as it will go a long way in all scenarios,” Monster.com career expert Vicki Salemi recommends. Teach yourself how to decipher any report that might cross your desk, make friends in the IT department, figure out the best place to get low-cost office suppliesin a pinch, and stay current on industry trends. This kind of knowledge will give you an edge over your coworkers and will make you a valuable resource.
6. Maintain a positive attitude
No one wants to be friends with someone who is perpetually moody or unhappy, and no one wants to work with a Negative Nancy, either. While everyone is entitled to a bad day now and then — you’re only human, after all — all of the good work you’re already doing for your boss will only be more impressive to them if you can be consistently positive while you do it. “A negative outlook rubs off on coworkers and managers, who will take note if you are rolling your eyes, texting in meetings, complaining, or just being difficult to work with,” says Alix Greenberg, founder and CEO of curated e-commerce art site ArtSugar.
7. Build relationships with important stakeholders
If you work in a customer-focused business, establish a friendly rapport with clients. If networking internally is key to your team’s success, engage in regular conversation with as many colleagues as possible. According to business coach and keynote speaker Sue Hawkes, building these connections will reflect well on your boss and give them confidence about granting you more responsibilities down the road.