Wednesday, July 28, 2010

With or without you

Let's be honest:entering the workforce in this economy has not been easy.  Once you get in, how do you make sure you keep your job?  When companies are in dire straits, they often start cutting with the newest hires. But what if they just couldn't stand to let you go?   How can you make yourself indispensable at work?
There are certain groups at work, let's call them "constituents" (we're campaigning for your job here, remember?) that factor into your overall impact on your workplace. Here's a brief rundown.

Your boss
First and foremost, you should aim to add value to your boss.  This includes keeping them updated on your projects and successes, making them look good, and being a good sport when it comes to challenges and new responsibilities.  Some tips:
  • Don't be afraid to toot your own horn.  This could include projects completed successfully, but also progress and milestones.  Landed a new contact? Let her know.  
  • Be the go-to gal (or guy).  Whether it's in your job description or not, if there is something you can do to make your boss's life easier (and it doesn't get in the way of your primary job duties), do it!  For example, in our small department, there are two directors and two employees.  So I'm on the employees social committee and my coworker is on the emergency response team.  We don't have to do it, but our directors don't have time to do it, and our department's participation shows we are team players, so we do it.
  • Put yourself out there. Once you get your bearings, don't be afraid to speak up for your team. Whether it is representing the department on a committee, or presenting at a conference, the fact that you are willing to take a public role shows that you are confident in your abilities, and your boss will be confident in you, too.
  • Soak up the knowledge.  There is always more to learn, whether it's through keeping up with skills at conferences, reading industry blogs, or
  • Bring something new to the table.  One way to make sure that your position and your skills keep growing is to keep on the lookout for what's next in your industry. And when you find it, volunteer to do it, whatever it may be.  Not only have you found a new opportunity for your company, but you've created a duty that is all yours.
  • Be trustworthy.  This seems to go without saying, but trustworthiness can be huge, and being a trustworthy confidant or worker can really bring your relationship with your boss to the  next level. It's easy to trust any marginally competent person to finish most tasks, but it takes a lot more for them to trust you with other things, such as sensitive projects, issues, and just general information.
Your department
The people you work with on a daily basis may not be able to save your job when the time comes, but as your colleagues, can be great connections in getting back in the office.  In addition, the place you hold among your teammates is definitely something your supervisor is paying attention to, and their opinion definitely matters.
  • Be a resource. If you're the team veteran, take some time to mentor those that may need a hand. If you're a rookie, take advantage of your outside perspective and bring new insights into what's there.  
  • Be constructive. We all have joint projects from time to time, but even when you're not assigned to something, your team should be able to bounce ideas off each other.  It's easy to offer praise for mediocre work, but if you offer constructive feedback to take someone else's work to the next level, then you aren't only doing good work yourself, but you're elevating those around you. And everyone likes that.
Your coworkers 
  • Be a liaison. Every company has some disconnect between departments. Depending on what you do, it can be too easy to sit at your desk and work with your coworkers for days before seeing another human being. Don't let your department's silo habits be a downfall; get out and chat at the water cooler a little. It will help your department (and you) seem more approachable and help your company see you in a more favorable light (rather than a completely neutral light).  If they don't know you, they can't love you.
  • Remember you're on the same team. Even if you're in different departments doing different things, as employees in the same organization, your end goals are the same. Your methodologies might be different, but keep the bigger picture in mind. It's in both of your best interests to find a workable solution for the company.
Your company/organization
  • Step up. Volunteering to be on a committee or project can not only put you in the good graces of your boss, but of the company as a whole. The more visible you are to them (skills and team-playing wise) the better.
  • Be the expert (relatively speaking).  Do you constantly get questions regarding software or grammar or something else that you think of as a natural strength? While it may seem annoying at times, your pigeon-hole as an expert (in whatever) can be used to your benefit. Volunteer to organize and lead a training session. It will add value to your entire organization (and show the HR department what you can do), while helping you farm out those skills to others.  I've done a couple of these trainings myself (on Microsoft Word and interactive forms, no less), and since I already had those skills, the payoff ends up being far more than the prep it takes to actually train other employees.
As you may have noticed, there are some common themes...volunteering your expertise and working well with others.  While these aren't always enough to save your job, they can at least get you great references.

Repeat after me: If they don't know you (or what you can do), they can't value you.

What do you do to stand out? What do you value in your coworkers?
[photo: incase]


  1. These are all really fantastic tips, Angeline!

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