Unless you’re Mick Jagger, Usain Bolt (in his prime) or Meryl Streep, as great as you are at whatever it is you do, you can be replaced — that’s just the cold hard truth. How often has this chilling thought crossed your mind? The realization that there are gaggles of people out there who can perform your job just as good, if not better than you, is even more scary than Googling a medical question.
If that first paragraph plays to your insecurities, I am hoping to build your confidence back up moving forward, so stick with me. Being dispensable is a reality, unless you have incriminating photos of your boss or your uncle owns the business. Chances are you’re in the “at the mercy of” pool with the rest of us, so keep treading and don’t feel singled out.
Let’s assume that you function at a high level. That you’re smart and really good at your job. You’re super dedicated and passionate. You’re as loyal as you are effective. Every year you pass your review with flying colors. On paper you are ideal. Do you think all of these qualities, attributes and skills make you impenetrable to getting canned? The answer: Nope.
It all comes down to figuring out how you can survive in a highly competitive job market and how you can effectively put yourself in a position of greater value. If you left your job, would your absence be felt?
Would you be missed? Does your presence affect the bottom line or the overall atmosphere and morale at your company?
Hopefully about now you’re thinking, what more can I do? Well, here are a few ideas that may help bring your immunity level up a few notches and your blood pressure down:
>> Be diverse both within and outside of the walls of your company. At work, look for ways you can participate from time to time with projects that are outside of your typical job function but are within your wheelhouse of knowledge. If you can do this in a way where you cleverly contribute without stepping on the toes of your co-workers, you will be looked at favorably as an “above-and-beyond” team player. You are adding more to your plate, so be sure not to over reach and spread yourself too thin. Find a balance!
>> As far as diversity outside the walls of your company, take initiative and utilize social media for a reason other than telling people about how you sprained your hip during a Civil War reenactment getaway weekend. Position yourself within the industry as an expert in your field by creating your own content or aggregating useful materials that you can share to build a following among the peers in your industry.
>> Don’t wait for a position to open to advance your career, create a position for yourself. As an in-the-trenches employee, you probably have good insight on how things are run on the day-to-day and what is working and where there are areas for improvement. Upper management relies on you to do your job but would most likely look favorably on you for taking the initiative to identify what might need fixing and more importantly, your ability to provide a solution.
If you can create a position for yourself that gives you more responsibility and oversight, while benefiting the company as a whole, you create a win-win! At the end of the day, even if the job doesn’t come to fruition, you’ve shown your boss that you are a big picture thinker, you’re ambitious and eager to take on a bigger role, and that’s smart self-promotion!
>> Be likeable and nice. This seems like such a ridiculous point to bring up, but the reality is most of what I say above won’t matter if this isn’t at your foundation! In fact, the deciding factor when it comes to being hired or a company keeping you employed could very well come down to this point.
Think about it, not only are you representing your company to the outside world, but you are shoulder-to-shoulder with your co-workers for more hours in the week than you are with your own family, so your attitude and people’s impression of you is very much at the forefront. Regardless if you’re the smartest in the room, the biggest producer or have the fewest stains on your Dockers, opportunities, advancement and job security could very well be predicated on the fact that you’re nice and likeable.
As Stuart Smalley says “You’re good enough, smart enough and doggone it, people like you."
For those of you who thought I couldn’t incorporate a 1991 “SNL” reference and make it relevant, take that!