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Adele Scheele

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Secrets for Becoming Indispensable

Posted: 02/23/10 03:03 PM ET

Driving with NPR in my ear, I listen aghast to the daily unemployment statistics-- thousands of jobs still being lost. And this, according to the survey, is an improvement, down a quarter percent from the month before. Are you next? Before you prepare yourself to accept what looks like the inevitable axe, know that not everyone is let go. The majority of people still have their jobs. It's fair to say, however, that the more your talent is recognized, the more your work satisfies, and the more connected you are to your bosses, the greater your chances of keeping your job. This works, as the efforts of my clients prove. There are secrets to making yourself indispensable, and I don't mean blackmail. Here are some ways achievers do it.

1. Do more than your job description--a lot more. This won't be easy especially if you are overworked as is. But you can always work smarter. You can ask what is most important to do. This helps you not only prioritize your tasks, but also makes you part of the concerned team.

2. When you perform the work you are asked to do, like writing reports, don't just silently turn them in and passively wait for praise. Never do either - wait or ask. Instead, explain to your boss why this report is important - whether you have revised the order, bulleted critical steps, shortened overlong prose, added charts or summaries. If you wait for a pat on the head, you are still caught in the "Good Student Trap" of doing simply what is required and waiting for your grade. Your boss will very likely respond in the same way - checking off that you've done the work but not recognizing any specialness. If you are the one who tells why the report is critical, your bosses will pay attention and respond to your good work counting you as more of a colleague. And, isn't that what you want?

3. Anticipate what your boss needs, which, in turn, becomes your clue to making yourself essential. Whether it is a matter of organizing data or desks, you can intuit important tasks that are going undone. A caution, however.

Don't jump in without asking which method is preferred -- whether the folders should be organized alphabetically or chronologically; how to make better travel plans; increase preparation for the next important meeting, or conduct background research that was insufficient in the first place. You don't want to do that extra work that isn't even wanted and can make you wrong. Instead, offer up your solution and ask if it's helpful. Being recognized takes more than one step of delivery. In fact, it takes at least three steps: recognition, discussion, and then action. Only then, will you will bring positive attention to yourself. That's what you want even though it might feel somewhat forced. But you are still not finished. You have to talk about what the problem was, how you fixed it, how it works now, and why it is important to the people who are in charge. There's work in getting your work noticed. And, you may have to endure some flack from your co-workers who are unwilling to put themselves out and view your efforts as brown-nosing. Keeping your job is worth the extra work and snide comments.

4. Stop complaining. No whining. Such negative responses have to be channeled to positive energy, even in the face of depressing news. At the very least, you can say something like, "what is, is; still we have to go on." Optimism on your job keeps up not only your own morale but that of others.

5. Befriend your boss. Don't stay distant. If he or she likes movies, and you like the same kind, you can talk about film reviews or what you have rented on Netflix. Or, if your boss cooks, and you do too, trade recipes or bring in samples. Is this sucking up? Only if you have a juvenile student attitude. This is the essential skill of what I call Showing Belonging and is critical to your career. Never heard of it? Too bad it is not taught in B school, let alone college. Until it is, you need to learn it yourself and from great role models in your field. It's not so different from how you respond to your friends. Why treat your boss as less? Sharing interests gives you an edge to building trust.

Doing indispensable work with a great attitude goes far to make you indispensable.

Make your luck happen!

Adele Scheele
DrAdele.com