Back in 1939, the British government came up with the idea for the Keep Calm and Carry On propaganda posters. The posters were supposed to calm the masses and let everyone know that the government was doing everything possible to defend their country against the Germans. Matt Jones has taken the old slogan and put a new spin on it to reflect how we should be conducting ourselves in the current economic crisis: Get Excited And Make Things. I think he’s brilliant! There’s no reason to keep calm and carry on. Now is the time to prove yourself! I’ve penned a top ten list of ways I believe you can make yourself indispensable in the workplace. My words might seem harsh, but this post is meant to give you swift kick in the butt to get you motivated.
1. If You Don’t Read, You’re Stupid
Seriously, if you don’t read the top industry blogs for your profession, I really do think you’re stupid. How do you expect to get ahead if you aren’t learning what’s ahead? How can you be innovative and consider yourself an expert in your field without reading what other industry experts are talking about? If you aren’t set up on an RSS Reader, please take the 15 minutes to do so. Personally, I use Google Reader and can’t imagine my life without it. If you feel using a reader is too much of a hassle, you can always subscribe to email alerts. Whatever works best for you, just please, please, please read. At the bare minimum, you should at least be reading your own company’s blog (ahem).
2. Prove You’re More Than A Monkey At A Keyboard
Don’t just sit in your cube or office and become a spreadsheet jockey. Prove you’re an asset to the company and losing you would equate to competitor gain. Make sure you’ve got a clear understanding of the big picture of where your company and industry are headed. It’s not all about knowing how to perform your current job really well (although that’s essential). Once you’re done being a robot and concatenating fields, use your cutting edge industry knowledge (that you’ve gleaned from blogs) to come up with new ideas, new products and ways to save the company money and present them to your supervisor. If you’re able to see around the corner, your plans will be implemented and you can go ahead and change your name to Golden Child.
3. Focus On What You Love And Nail It
Gary Vaynerchuk, host of Wine Library TV and internet celebrity, summed it up best during his SXSW talk, “But, I promise you my man, if you do something you love everyday, you will put in the 18 hours a day you have to win, and then you will kill it and make way more more money. Because if you live for the weekends and vacations, your **** is broken.” Take the portions of your job that really, really love and bust your butt doing them. You won’t mind the work and because you love it, you will succeed. Others will notice how much effort you’re putting in.
4. Don’t Let A Gen Y Pipsqueak Take Your Job
Companies are replacing executives with younger, cheaper, and smarter employees. The labor is easy to find! Stay ahead of the curve and embrace new ideas (better yet, think of them). While you’re just now learning about social media from your third grader, Gen Y has been on LiveJournal since high school. Don’t allow recent college grads make you look outdated by catching you off-guard with their new-fangled ideas about business operations. You should already be up on these trends – read! And if you are resistant to proven ideas, move over, the young punk is taking your job.
5. Jump At The Chance To Absorb More Responsibilities
Be flexible and learn to go with the flow. Company policies will change in these times of cutbacks. When you say, “That’s not my job” all your employer hears is, “I’m not in it for the long haul.” Never, ever say, “That’s not my job.” You should jump at the chance to absorb more responsibilities, it makes you indespensible. If you take on more responsibility now and prove yourself, you might be rewarded with a promotion once the economy starts looking up. Besides, don’t you want to challenge yourself with more responsibility? Doesn’t it make you feel good about yourself? Don’t ever pass your work load or extra projects to someone else.
6. Separate Yourself From The Herd
If you’re a worker bee and live in a cube farm, you have to differentiate yourself from the other hundred employees with your same position. What are you doing differently for your company? What do you bring to the table? Don’t allow yourself to be labeled, be unique (in a good way). Make sure your supervisor knows just how wonderful you are. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but ensure your superiors know you’re capable and motivated to earn a future with the company. If you can’t distinguish yourself from your cubemates, you’ve got a problem on your hands.
7. Work Hard, But Work Smart
Bust your butt, but be smart about it. Think outside the box, you don’t need the same SOP you did two years ago. Surely, new technologies have evolved to allow you to streamline your processes so that you’re more productive, lending more time to brainstorming new ideas, feed reading and accepting more challenging responsibilities. Problem solve. There’s always a better way to do things to make it easier on yourself and your company without taking short cuts. Be agile and adapt to new processes that others innovate. Don’t stick to old ideas solely for tradition’s sake.
8. Be Accountable and CYA
No one is perfect. Thankfully, there are tons of tools to help you avoid spacing out including Backpack, Remember The Milk and Ta-da Lists. There’s always ol’ faithful – Outlook Calendar and reminders. Document everything. Now is not the time to discuss an action item and lose the email with the details. If you’re like me and are forced to use Outlook, you’ve most likely gotten annoyed at the search function. Set up an automatic bcc that goes to a designated folder within your Gmail account so that you’ll never have to spend time hunting for an email again. How did business people function before Google Search technology?
9. Work, Eat, Sleep, And Breathe Your Company Culture
If you don’t embody the corporate culture of your current employer, you won’t fit in their long-term plans. Period.
10. Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
By this, I really mean don’t get too comfortable. It’s rare that a person truly is indispensable. In reality, we are all on the chopping block. The old cliche says there are only two things for certain in life: death and taxes. (I feel we should add chocolate cravings to the list). Accept this reality and you’ll work better under pressure. Treat every document you submit as if your job depended on it and you’ll produce top notch material.
11. Polish Your Personal Brand, Just In Case…
Even if you successfully achieve all of the aforementioned, you still might get laid off. Shenanigans happen. But, I promise if you bust your butt, you won’t feel as bad when it happens. More importantly, if you put these practices into motion, you’ll improve your work habits and will be a much more attractive a candidate to future employers. You’ll have outstanding references. Polish your personal brand so that you’re ready to shine at a moment’s notice. You’ll need to differentiate yourself from other job candidates too. Start a blog about your industry. There’s no better way to prove you know your stuff than publishing your own thoughts. Use social media to network with relevant professionals and don’t skip professional society meetings. It never hurt anyone to have more friends.