Today’s job market is more flexible than ever before. Some predict that soon 40 percent of the economy will comprise of contract, temporary, or freelance work. For some, this is freeing. For others, it provokes worries about insecurity.
At some point, all workers wonder if they are dispensable. Thinking you’re going to get fired—whether because of inexperience or an economic crisis—is stressful
How do you respond to stress?
People approach stress in different ways. Those who think job security is out of their control might choose not to think about it. Enterprising employees might try to corner their market, making sure they are irreplaceable. Still, others learn in-demand skills, turn to other industries, or seek outside advice.
The best strategies focus on becoming indispensable at work. What strategies can you use to become indispensable to your employer or in your field?
Strategies to Becoming Indispensable
Hundreds of strategies exist to increase your credit at work, from buying a round of coffee to threatening to quit. Of course, not all game plans are created equal. Finding and applying the right ones for you will give you a boost toward staying employed. With some research, we’ve identified eight of the easiest, most common sense paths to self-improving your career:
- Find what the business needs to get done. Become a problem solver. Look for the issues that other employees complain about. Think about the business’s processes, software, planning, and policies—what looks incomplete? Take over that area and become a guru.
- Acquire a specific set of skills. Unique and hard-to-get skills are valuable. Are you ready to study a foreign language, enhance your computer programming portfolio, or attend a conference? Talents and interests like these tell employers that you possess diligence. Even something unrelated to your career can look impressive on a resume. Free or inexpensive courses are available online.
- “Modern Elder” Chip Conley is a perfect example of skill acquisition in action. Formerly a CEO in the hotel industry, Conley joined Airbnb in his 50s and needed to upskill fast. His advice is, “Rewire, don’t retire.” Bring your wisdom to the table with a beginner’s mindset. The moral for all ages is to value your experience but stay curious.
- Master work relationships. The higher you get in business, the more social capital becomes essential. This doesn’t mean blindly networking at every opportunity. It’s about finding value in relationships. Be confident and personable, and pursue the right opportunities. Build a web of contacts that will help you.
- If CEOs are successful, why do they always looked rushed? Because when your time becomes valuable, every meeting matters. You might not be a CEO, but you can try networking like one. Have passion and vision, and be willing to take calculated risks.
- Go above and beyond. If you put your hand up more times than anyone else, you’ll receive favor from higher-ups. A lot of people think extracurricular work isn’t rewarded after high school, but employers want diligent workers. Show employers how dedicated you are and what sets you apart from the rest.
- Overtime work is fine once in a while, but you can suffer serious psychological effects from constant sprints or all-nighters. Burnout is real. Among people claiming disability benefits in developed countries, 33 percent are now for mental health. Those who slog it out past 40 hours a week are at higher risk for illnesses like the flu and coronary heart disease. To avoid burnout and protect your health, value your free time, self-esteem, and work-life balance.
- Try out some thought leadership. Sharing your thoughts on your industry gives you traction and prominence. Remember to think of yourself as an impartial expert when writing your content. You don’t want to sound like an ad. Find something you’re passionate about and play up your qualities as a leader. Thought leaders are rare (read: indispensable). They combine reputation and specific expertise with broad communication skills.
- Don’t forget teamwork. You can’t get a job done without your colleagues, so don’t only focus on your superiors. Three-quarters of employers rate teamwork as “very important.” Yet, you may need to track this performance metric yourself. Only one in five employees receive regular evaluations on their ability to work on a team. Despite this, polishing your teamwork skills won’t go unnoticed.
- Be contemporary. In today’s 24-hour, connected news culture, people love what’s new, hot, and cutting edge. However, this burning desire for being at the vanguard of modernity also leads to high turnover. To give yourself the best chance of staying put, be a lifelong learner. Read widely and read often. You’ll naturally keep ahead of the latest news, trends, and technology.
- Be a good listener. You’ve mastered work relationships, now continue to focus on the human element. Take notes at every meeting and impress others with how much you apply. Employers will trust you more if you can prove that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying.
By using these tips, you’ll be valued by bosses and esteemed by coworkers. Happiness at work is often about finding that “sweet spot” where business expectations and your ambitions meet. Create an environment where the company needs you just as much as you want to stay.
You and Your Employer: Mutually Indispensable
Employee retention is a balance between emotional stability and money. From the company’s perspective, the average cost of rehiring is more than $4,000. They want to keep employees, not out of sympathy, but because it’s cheaper, more sustainable, and likely to promote revenue.
It starts with productivity. You can’t be indispensable if you’re unhappy, exhausted, or employed precariously. From a business perspective, a productive employee is one who’s comfortable and happy at work. You and your company should be mutually indispensable. Aim for long-term positions and companies with growth trajectories that match your own.