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How to make yourself indispensable at work: Pro tips

October 19, 2022 - 11 min read

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What’s the meaning of “indispensable” in a company?

What are the benefits of being indispensable to your team?

Make yourself indispensable to your team

Give yourself your own place in the company

Every team has one: that go-to person who unblocks their colleagues and gets things done. They know where every particular file lives and what to do without looking up some details in the employee handbook. 

These people are indispensable employees with the added benefits of increased job security and respect. You’ve met them, benefited from their knowledge, and now, you want to be them. 

But what does “indispensable” mean? And more importantly, how can you make yourself indispensable?

Being someone indispensable to your company is about more than just doing a good job. Let’s dive a bit deeper into some specific tips on how to make yourself indispensable at work.

 

What’s the meaning of “indispensable” in a company?

Being indispensable at work means being absolutely necessary. If you’re indispensable, you’re likely an authority on a particular subject the team needs to know about. This makes you irreplaceable and, thus, harder to let go.

Making yourself indispensable at work isn’t just for you — it’s for the good of the company. After all, being indispensable doesn’t just mean you’re good at your job. That’s just the starting point.

We’ll go into more specifics below, but being an indispensable employee means taking on extra roles and responsibilities and holding knowledge that adds value to your team and company. That’s the true secret of being indispensable: adding value that no one else can.

For-profit companies have to worry about their bottom line. Anything adding value to the company is a plus. By being a “plus” in their balancing act, you ease the burden on employers worried about their organizational performance.

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What are the benefits of being indispensable to your team?

We’ve all heard that saying, There’s no “I” in “team.” Being indispensable is also about being a team player. The value you add will support and inspire your teammates. They’ll know they can count on you for the right answer. If they truly admire you, they’ll do everything they can to avoid letting you down. 

Alongside improved team dynamics, making yourself irreplaceable for your team does come with certain perks, like:

1. A higher sense of job security

You incentivize your employers to keep you on when you add value that no one else can.

Let’s take a look at a scenario: You’ve worked hard for a startup for several years. You’re good at your current role, and you’re very loyal. When your startup ran out of funding, you turned down other job offers because the CEO seemed very certain they’d turn things around.

But they don’t. Budget cuts hit, then desks start emptying. But your job is safe from the layoffs, right? You’ve been so loyal.

We hate to be the ones to break it to you, but our loyalty isn’t always rewarded. What is rewarded, then? Invaluable skills. You’ll have a higher sense of job security if you’re an irreplaceable team member who provides something like specialized coding knowledge or stellar management skills to the company.

2. Getting the chance to work on special projects

Making yourself indispensable in the workplace also means having a great work ethic and taking on extra responsibilities. That might look like being an authority on one client or the go-to person for specific tasks.

You might get the added perk of working on special projects that need someone with your particular skill set — skills you’ve acquired over a long career. And that experience helps improve your status.

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3. An increase in your morale

There’s nothing quite like knowing you’re appreciated to boost your morale. Being indispensable is like being hooked up to an IV drip of appreciation and morale boosters throughout your work week.

Your meaningful contributions to your team’s performance will be noticed by managers or co-workers, who’ll likely give you positive feedback on your hard work. That recognition can be really motivating. 

4. A chance to advance in your professional life

Being an indispensable employee isn’t an end in itself. Think of it as part of your growth in your career path. This means more responsibilities and bigger roles as people start trusting and relying on your abilities.

As you can imagine, this isn’t just good for yourself, but also for your team and company.

Make yourself indispensable to your team

Remember, it all boils down to a simple difference: invaluable versus valuable. Being valuable to your team means you have great contributions, and your team would do a lot to keep you. But if you’re truly indispensable to your company, you’ve exceeded being “valuable.” Instead of being worth a lot, you’re “invaluable.” That means you’re priceless. 

Ask yourself: are you adding value to your team, or are you truly invaluable to your team? In other words, are you contributing something to your team and workplace that they’d fail to gain by any other means? That difference is the secret.

So how, exactly, do you do this? Check out these six strategies to help you become indispensable for a company:

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1. Stay in the loop on your team’s projects

There’s a lot to keep track of — but if you really want to impress your managers and be the go-to person, stay on top of what’s going on with your team. What new projects are you taking on? Who’s working on what? What’s coming down the pipeline? This way, you know when to step up and offer solutions as the go-to person for certain tasks.

When you go the extra mile, you show that you’re not just great in your current role, but you’re also ready to take on more responsibilities. Make your manager’s life easier and increase your team’s performance.

2. Build strong relationships within your team

Teamwork makes the dream work, so remember to be a team player and to help others on your team. Foster relationships both with and between your co-workers.

When your team connects and operates on the same wavelength, you’ll all experience a boost in morale and work ethic. Besides, when you and your teammates feel like friends, you create a better work environment for all of you.

3. Become an expert in your area

What do you think of when we say the words “thought leader”? Part of being indispensable means being a thought leader in your area. This can refer to your entire role or a specific job segment. 

For instance, let’s say you’re really good at finding creative workarounds for social media stories or managing team communications. Start by defining your area and establish yourself as the go-to person for it.

This helps your team become more efficient because your co-workers will automatically know who to approach to tackle specific issues.

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4. Never stop learning

It’s not enough to just become an expert in your area. You need to stay on your A-game. If your area of expertise is a fast-changing field, stay on top of updates and best practices. And once you’ve gained mastery over an area, try to expand your playing field.

The more you know, the more indispensable you become. Both your co-workers and your employers will benefit as your skills grow.

5. Align your skills with the company’s needs

Take note of what your company needs and its organizational goals. Then, see how your unique skills can help further your company’s goals. By adding value in a visible, meaningful way, you help your company increase its ROI and thus improve its organizational well-being.

Let’s say your company is trying to build out its social media presence. They haven’t hired a social media expert yet, but they know they’ll have to soon, based on industry trends. If you happen to be a marketer who’s familiar with social media marketing, now’s the time to step up. Help your company ease visible pain points and they’ll see your worth.

6. Learn leadership skills 

One of the perks of being indispensable is growing your professional life. To show your senior managers and employers that they should trust you with more responsibilities, learn leadership skills like managing employee expectations or dealing with difficult employees. Then, put them into practice.

By learning and practicing leadership skills, you show your company that you’re invaluable and ready for more responsibilities.

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Give yourself your own place in the company

Success doesn’t happen overnight, so assess where you’re at and where you want to be. If you feel like you don’t quite have the skills or experience to know how to make yourself indispensable at work, this doesn’t spell certain doom. Instead, take it as a starting point. 

There’s never a singular path to achieving your goals but start by making space for yourself in your current workplace. Step out of your comfort zone. Your growth will benefit not just you but your whole team.

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Published October 19, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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