How To Make Yourself Essential

Be honest. What are you really contributing at work?

My work makes me happy
Getty Images/Vetta
The federal furlough has put the notion of "essential" and "non-essential" back in the news.

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.

More from Miriam Salpeter
How NOT to make a good impression at work
Can't stand your job? Freelance!
How to launch a new business online
Miriam Salpeter

Miriam Salpeter

Contributor

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Business Success, Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Get her free white paper: 5 Mistakes Job Seekers Make and How to Avoid Them.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

10 Comments

Filter by:
missneifa2u

I was let go from a company that I was with for 5 years. I was told that mistakes were made that cost the company money. But yet I could not take a day off without someone calling me asking how to do this or that. Upper Mgmt forgot very important detail. They had me doing a job that was required by two people! They eliminated my co-worker's position but NOT her work. Hence, it fell on me...Responsabilities that were time consuming and took me away from the duties that I was hired to do. So in essence, NO ONE IS ESSENTIAL

October 09 2013 at 12:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to missneifa2u's comment
nikoman1

Totally agree with you. I was in a similar situation...I saved a company money not having to hire a replacement for 2 leaving co-workers...very little reward. Never do it again...keeping my mouth shut next time, less work for me with the same pay and benefits.

October 09 2013 at 8:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lauramartha3

Apparently this writer has never worked in a "regular" office job, where, no matter how good you are at your job, how many times you are promoted and how many awards you receive, you can be fired "at will" by any boss for any made-up reason. I was fired from my 5-year job because I was too quiet, didn't join in office parties and often worked through my lunch half-hour because I was in the middle of some difficult research. Oh, and, I often politely asked the person in the next cubicle to turn down their radio, which was playing pop music (or use earphones) because it made it really difficult for me to concentrate or hear person with whom I was speaking on the phone (professional/work-related calls).

October 09 2013 at 11:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jddabbs

Please join http://www.cashcrate.com/4972018 if you need extra $

October 08 2013 at 4:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dickn2000b

Not only is no one "essential" for a job, it's career suicide. First, it's not your job. The job belongs to the employer who can hire and fire almost at will. The employee merely fills the position for a finite period of time. Second, making yourself essential in any position means your employer may find you so valuable that it would be impossible to replace you. If your boss can't replace you, how will you ever get promoted? And those 1 through 5 prerequisites are laughable. This is just another fluff piece.

October 07 2013 at 8:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
lizzine

Most importantly, do you have 18 years of experience and a Master's degree?? Janitoial work is very academic you know...we'll be paying you $12.50 an hour...


^ sad reality

October 07 2013 at 6:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ectullis

That'sall well and good but being an old white guy trumps everything.

October 07 2013 at 5:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mikelookup

I will tell you exactly how to be essential to your employer. Be on time each day. Be a self starter. Don't gossip! Don't lie! Don't talk bad about the hand that feeds you! Don't complain. Of course, competency is important! I know you youngsters might have a hard time with these points, but you should have learned this as part of life growing up!

October 07 2013 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to mikelookup's comment
lizzine

So it has nothing to do with how hard I suck up?? phew

October 07 2013 at 6:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
nikoman1

At one time I would have agreed with you but all you said has gotten me no-where...then again...I am female and have been working for 40 years.

October 09 2013 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Jobs

In Partnership With
Keywords:
Location:

Search Articles

Top Companies Hiring

April 20 - April 27

Looking for work? See what companies added new openings this week.