The government has an official standard for this distinction. But when you look around your office, you probably see people you could manage without. And maybe you're asking yourself, "How essential am I at work?"
This is a good time to assess your contribution to the organization.
Ask yourself these questions to help determine how valuable you are to your workplace:
1. Do you contribute to the bottom line?
If you're generating income, especially if you are exceeding expectations, you aren't likely to be the first one out the door. Of course, most people are not in a sales or income-generating role. Alternatively, do your ideas generate income? Can you point to problems you've solved that saved money for your employer? Do you create systems or implement policies that enhance your organization's ability to be competitive? These are probably the next best thing to actually bringing income in when it comes to a loose definition of "essential."
2. Are you easy to get along with?
This is subjective, but it can become a factor for organizations without rigid guidelines determining who stays in a layoff and who goes. "Plays well with others," or having "soft skills" may as well be on every job description, as there isn't an employer out there who doesn't want to employ people who know how to get along with colleagues. Do you wonder why someone who is failing at the job and can't seem to get a thing done manages to stick around while more capable people are let go? It could be that he has a great attitude, is positive in the face of adversity and doesn't cause trouble. Bonus points if he also gets along well with the boss.
3. Are you handy?
Roll your eyes if you will, but no one wants to let go of the person who knows how to fix the printer every time it goes down or comes to the rescue when the copier needs some TLC. Problem solvers are in demand. If you're the one everyone calls on whenever there's a challenge – big or small – you may have the golden ticket at work.
4. Are you well networked?
Granted, this may be more prized at some jobs than others, but as we engage in a more global workplace, your ability to meet and get to know people who may be very different from you can help you win valuable bonus points at the office. It's been said, "it's all who you know," and it's possible, in some cases, that who you know can actually help you keep your job.
5. Does anyone know what you do?
We all know the "strong, but silent types" who trudge along and get the important work done behind the scenes. Unfortunately, if you're great at your job, but no one is likely to know it, you probably aren't high on the "must keep" list at work. Think about this age-old question: "If a tree falls in a forest when no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
If your skills and work ethic are akin to the falling tree – no one hears you or knows what you do, it's time to start making some noise. You don't need to call yourself a parade or throw streamers every time you accomplish something, but it isn't a bad idea to send information up the management chain when you solve a problem or handle a significant situation.
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