Virtually every office has one: that employee who is the go-to contact and seems to knows everything and everyone. The office can’t run without her. No one wants to think about what would happen if he ever left.
Being such a critical part of the team has a number of benefits, including a measure of job security. But those indispensable team members don’t get just that way through arbitrary means. If you want to join their ranks, here are seven ways to get there.
CHANNEL ELITE ATHLETES
Elite athletes are constantly trying to improve their performance. They fine-tune the details that allow them to compete at the highest level—and that practice holds some valuable lessons for people who are trying to become exceptional at their jobs, says Porter Braswell, cofounder and CEO of Jopwell, a technology platform that helps black, Latino, and Native American students and professionals unlock opportunities for career advancement.
“What I mean by that is not the ability to run fast, jump high, and all the other physical attributes that come with being an athlete. But more of the tactical, being a good teammate, communicating well, knowing how to work hard, being disciplined, being able to multitask—all the things that come with that athletic mind-set. Competing: That’s the mind-set one has to be in before I believe they can perform well,” Braswell says.
DO YOUR OWN REVIEW
You may get regular feedback and a performance review from your supervisor, but it’s also important to do your own regular review to ensure you’re on track with your own goals and expectations, says Carolyn Birsky, founder of Compass Maven, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, coaching firm. Keep track of your accomplishments, training, feedback, projects, and overall numbers related to your job. We often think we’ll remember all of these things, but it’s easy to forget pieces here and there, she says.
Then, periodically and honestly review your progress, set new goals, and look at what it’s going to take to get to your next milestone, she says. These self-checks can help you ensure you’re keeping on track with your own career development and shore up areas that may need improvement. This practice will also keep you ready for the next time you’re up for a promotion.
“One of the mistakes employees often make is forgetting to hold those all together in some sort of file. That can be some of your best leverage to put your case forward and say, ‘This is why I think should be promoted. This is what makes me really good at what I do,’” she says.
TRACK YOUR METRICS
As you set your new goals, look at the metrics that are going to matter and include them as part of your plan, Birsky says. Whether it’s bumping up a sales quota or improving efficiency or cost controls in your business unit by a certain margin, be sure to look for positive measures to which you can contribute and how you can be most productive in contributing to them. Companies value employees who are focused on finding ways to raise the performance bar.
DO AN ALIGNMENT CHECK
It’s also a good idea to ensure that the areas you’re prioritizing in your career and development are consistent with what the company values, says licensed therapist and career coach Jessica Sweet. You may have a sense of what’s important to the company, but it’s essential to actually be clear that your efforts are moving initiatives forward that the company cares about, she says.
“I would be looking at what the company’s goals are for 2018, and be looking at how my skills and experience align with those goals, and how I can set myself up on any projects that are going on, to add the most value to those upcoming projects,” she says.
When employees are afraid to show that they’re imperfect or they don’t know something, it gets in the way of their performance, Birsky says. Learning how to effectively communicate with your boss and team, including asking questions and ensuring that you fully understand assignment instructions and ask questions when you don’t is essential to ensuring you’re performing in the best possible way for your company.
Beyond that, ask for opportunities to get better. “Be vocal to your boss about the fact that you are open to learning. Ask for opportunities to collaborate with another team, or be vocal about your ideas, or you might see a training [you need to get better]. Make your case for it,” she says.
ACT LIKE YOU OWN THE PLACE
Ownership is essential to being invaluable, says Andy Chan, founder of Seattle-based career coaching center Prime Opt. Take ownership of your work—whether it’s a project assignment or even a simple spreadsheet. Think about it in terms of the bigger picture of the company and what its goals are. When you take full responsibility and apply strategic thinking to your work, you’re immediately supporting your supervisor and team in a new and more valuable way. “Every time, when it comes to you learning new skills, it actually opens up a conversation for you to ask for a raise or a promotion,” he says. So, think about what you can take ownership of in your work environment, and treat your work as if you own the company and are acting in its best interest.
MAKE YOUR BOSS LOOK GREAT
One of the most important things you can do to be indispensable to your boss is to help them excel, Braswell says. People value those who help them do their jobs better.
“Really get in the mind-set of the person you’re working for or alongside and really figure out, ‘What are they trying to achieve?’” he says. “Through having an understanding of what they’re trying to achieve and having the context, you can then say to them, ‘What can I be doing to help you achieve that goal?’” Once you know where you fit in and exactly the metrics on which you should be focused, you can rank or prioritize your efforts on those tasks and initiatives, he says.