Most managers will say that there’s no such thing as an irreplaceable employee. However, in every company there are people whose skill set, not just experience, is highly valuable to some critical business processes. The simple reason for this is that people with experience in a specified field could be found more easily than those who possess a required set of skills.
Therefore, the key to becoming an employee everyone wants to have around is in developing personal and professional competences that are useful in multiple settings. This may be particularly important for small organizations where employees often need to wear multiple hats or participate in processes that are not directly related to their job description. Such employees are reliable, trustworthy and valuable because they contribute to a company’s expansion in different ways. To become one, you need to invest time in personal and professional improvement.
The practical benefits of enjoying such a position are plentiful: your salary and your coworkers’ respect for you will increase, while your position remains stable enough. Therefore, if you care about your company and are ready to grow with it, you should definitely strive to improve your relevancy.
Regardless of your company’s niche market or your role within it, you need to avoid being mediocre to distinguish yourself to become noticed and trusted. As pointed out by Jay Goltz of New York Times a few years ago, it’s OK to be a mediocre employee because not everyone wishes to move beyond their current position. Those who do, however, need to understand what constitutes a mediocre (thus easily replaceable) employee:
- They rarely do something beyond what is expected from them.
- They work for salary only.
- They have no interest in the company’s future or how it can be built.
If these describe you, you stand minimum chances of becoming a truly remarkable employee. For most people it’s okay to work only as much as they’re expected to, but some people keep pushing the limits and keep progressing. That’s how you become more important, more valuable, and virtually irreplaceable.
1. Look Beyond Your Job Title and Gain Some Transferable Skills
One of the greatest mistakes you can make if you really want to prosper is limiting yourself to doing exactly what your job description involves. Instead, look for ways to gain some transferable skills, i.e. those that can be used for different job positions and in different companies.
- Critical thinking, argumentative discussion. These will help you participate in decision-making processes and present your ideas clearly.
- Presentation, communication, networking and verbal skills. Communicating with coworkers, peers, supervisors and managers is essential to building efficient relationships that establish you as a reliable and trusted employee.
- Organization, coordination and teamwork. By developing the ability to collaborate and coordinate, you become a person people appreciate more.
2. Shift Across Departments (Learn to Wear Multiple Hats)
Shifting across departments is not always easy in large organizations that function according to a rigidly structured hierarchy. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t try to participate in processes handled outside of your department. Simply by talking to someone in the marketing department and suggesting some creative ideas, you can participate in your company’s growth even if you’re an entry-level accountant.
Such conversations will make others perceive you as a loyal and engaged member of the team, and they may also lead to valuable new business ideas. You’ll gain respect from your managers, who are likely to recognize your contributions and start appreciating your presence more.
3. Awesome Stuff You Can Do With a Little Bit of Programming
When it comes to some specific skills you can gain to demonstrate your willingness to learn and become a more valuable part of the team, programming is often an excellent idea. With so many things today revolving around online presence and associated business growth strategies, you can contribute with your own ideas and skills.
Of course, programming is by no means easy to learn, but with a few months of HTML or CSS basics, you can learn to do some interesting stuff. For example, with basic CSS and some creativity, you can create a company newsletter and show off your market research or simple networking talents. These can also help you give some ideas for your company’s blog or website. In startup companies, this can be particularly handy as you’ll stand a better chance of applying such skills here. Heck, you can even learn Java programming in 10 hours.
4. Become a Lifelong Learner
Lifelong learning is a trend that was particularly influenced by the development of online learning platforms, courses and otherwise relevant resources available via the web. They let anyone who’s interested decide on the courses they want to take and learn at their own pace. This is a great resource for employees who already identified specific skills they need to develop and are ready to start working on them.
Among the most popular online platforms, Khan Academy and Udemy offer a wide variety of courses on business, management, languages, etc. With Upskilled, which offers both full programs and short courses, you can also specialize in different business or administration fields or learn more about coordinating complex projects, which can be useful to anyone interested in becoming a successful manager or entrepreneur. Apart from these, there’s an abundance of free online materials that are valuable for career development. More importantly, these enable you to specialize in certain areas and can give you excellent ideas on what the next big step for your department or your company could be.
Depending on your personal aspirations, becoming an irreplaceable employee should follow a path you define using the tips outlined above. These should give you only a general idea of what you can achieve by investing some extra efforts at work, while it’s up to you to apply them to your own setting. One thing’s for sure, though: sitting and waiting will hardly lead you to a better job or a more stable position, which is why you should start considering these as soon as possible.
Any experience with this struggle? Share your thoughts in the comments!