THE BLOG
01/14/2015 06:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The One Way to Be Indispensable at Work This Year

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Here we are: A New Year filled with endless hopes and dreams. It's exciting, but may feel scary for some of us, especially when it comes to our career growth.

I spoke with a friend recently who told me he just got fired. When I asked him why, he said: "I have no idea!"

One of my hopes is that he never experiences that again, and here's what I'm telling him, and anyone else who wants to be indispensable at work this year:

Don't settle. That is, don't settle with seeking skills that aren't relevant anymore. Don't settle for only working harder and smarter. It takes working different.

In a world where robots and computers are fighting for our jobs, what's the key to staying ahead, and leading the future? Let me just say first that I'm always skeptical of the "silver bullet", but in this case this answer is exactly that. It isn't knowledge, and it's not about being the smartest person in the room. According to extensive studies, the most vital skill is conceptualization. Its raw definition is "the ability to formulate an idea or concept, particularly in an abstract environment", or simply "to be able to connect the dots." Here's how:

Think differently. Machines aren't good at ideating. Ever brainstormed with your computer? Right, like never. We're still decades, or at least years from that. Today it's about constantly putting new thinking into the universe, taking risks, and challenging the status quo, and then getting richly rewarded with success (and not the pink slip).

Make connections. This is a huge differentiator in a world of silos. There's so much stuff that needs connecting -- ideas, people, technologies, brands, customer service, product lines. And again, robots won't be doing that any time soon. So why not you and me?

Inspire others with authenticity. Robots or people who lead with their ego don't get choked up or share good personal stories (i.e. try asking Siri about how her day went). But those who lean in with their whole selves at work, admit they don't know everything, and look to power up others will be the ones who are anxiously retained and rewarded with opportunities.

Be generous -- the greatest impacts come from helping others. Those who conceptualize are more likely to see beyond themselves to help others, being generous in innovative ways. This is the future in an increasingly emotional economy.

Here's to the best year ever. This is your time. Make your work inspire everyone around you with newfound power. The world is hard-pressed for leaders like you to be the magnet to connects things and bring solutions no one else thought possible. Conceptualize and be indispensable!

Cross-posted on LinkedIn

Photo credit: Flickr

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