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 Four Ways to Make Yourself Indispensable

There are several ways you can make yourself stand out at work, and stand out in your manager’s eyes.
Here are four expert tips to help you make yourself indispensable to your boss:
Tip 1: Build on What You Are Told. When a manager gives instructions, a good employee will closely follow the directions and do what he or she is told. However, a great employee will not only follow the directions that he or she is given, but will also add value by pushing the project along and anticipating the manager’s next step. Your managers are often busy managing multiple aspects of project. Therefore, you can’t expect your managers to do their jobs and yours, too. They won’t have time to spell out every single aspect of your project assignment. During check-in meetings, let your manager know what you both had agreed upon and the extra effort you put in to advance your aspect of the project. When you demonstrate competence, your manager will likely give you more independence to run with projects, and you’ll become a little more indispensable.
Tip 2: Have a “Can-Do” Attitude. If you want to become indispensable to your manager, then one of the best ways to distinguish yourself from your peers is to be a “can-do” person as opposed to someone that often says no. Managers look for professionals who not only produce exceptional results, but also have a “can-do” attitude. The best way to strengthen your bond with your manager is to step up when he or she makes a request. If you can become a reliable “go-to” person, then your relationship with your manager will strengthen. Realistically you won’t be able to complete every request exactly as it’s outlined. Demonstrate your commitment to your manager first by saying yes, and then bring up an alternative plan of execution based on your time and resource constraints. If you find a way to reliably deliver results, especially in difficult situations, then your manager will begin to view you as a “go-to” person.
Tip 3: Lighten Your Manager’s Workload. Volunteer to take projects off of your manager’s plate. During check-in meetings, ask about projects coming down the pipeline. If you hear about a project that fits your skill set, then offer to get the ball rolling. To become truly indispensable, identify ways in which your skill set complements your manager’s skill set. If your manager hates doing a particular task, and you’re willing to take it on, then he or she will want to keep you around for as long as possible. One note of caution: while it’s okay to occasionally volunteer for administrative work to make your manager’s life easier, you should prioritize going after projects that demonstrate and grow your skill set.
Tip 4: Keep your Manager Updated. Do this on a timely basis and let him or her know about any bumps in the road because managers never like to be surprised. So the best way to be indispensable to your manager is to make sure you routinely keep him or her updated on your work. You can do that by establishing formal check-ins or informally doing so by dropping by. You can also send email updates. Your office culture will dictate the appropriate manner for the update, but frequency is important. Plus, be sure to give your manager a “heads-up” if there’s a problem you’ve encountered so it can be addressed at an early stage. Remember, no one likes to be surprised at work.
– Sharon E. Jones
About the Author: A graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard College and author of Mastering the Game, Jones is the founder and CEO of Jones Diversity, Inc., which offers services to organizations looking to improve their workplace culture, and create more diverse and inclusive teams. She’s also practiced law and been a community leader during her 25-year career, including positions as an assistant U.S. attorney, and as senior counsel for Fortune 500 corporations and with major law firms. Additionally, she’s served as a board member for the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession and president of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Chicago (IL), which she co-founded.
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