Skills & Expertise

7 Ways to Become Invaluable To Your Employer

"Always keep your boss' WIIFM in mind: the 'What's In It For Me'"

Media jobs are like fickle romantic partners. What seemed like a sure thing when you first started can suddenly go south, especially when budgets and staffs tighten. Like any relationship, you need to tend to your job and prove the value you bring to it in order to keep it.

But you can’t exactly buy your job flowers from time to time. And ensuring your job security is about more than simply “not screwing up.” It’s about raising your value in the eyes of those who control your professional future—proving to your boss you’re more than a headcount.

The good news: it’s not that hard. The bad news: you’d better start tomorrow. Here are seven tips that will make you more visible, more valuable and hopefully less likely to fall victim to a sudden breakup.

1. Ask for a Meeting

Paula Caligiuri, a professor of human resource management at Rutgers University and author of Get a Life, Not a Job, suggests volunteering to sit in on meetings to which you may not ordinarily be invited.

“Many times, receiving more visibility at work is as simple as asking for a high-profile opportunity. Once that opportunity is given to you, be sure you are ready to shine,” Caliguiri says. “The two things you can control when it comes to giving yourself greater job security are the critical skills you possess and the high-quality network you have at work. A high-visibility project will give you the chance to expand both.”

You can also ask to take a private informative meeting with your company’s executive leaders—it will give them a chance to wax on about the organization (which they’ll probably enjoy), and demonstrate your commitment to both the company and to self-improvement. After it’s over, your name and face will be remembered.

2. Pass it Forward

When you read an insightful article or catch wind of breaking industry news, share the link with your colleagues.

This is a trick new employees often use to get noticed, but it can also cement your standing. Don’t just hit ‘Send:’ “Forward the document along with your three bullet points summarizing what people really need to know from the article,” says Andrea Ballard, recruiter, hr consultant and corporate trainer at the Olympia-based firm Expecting Change LLC.

“You’ll save others in your group time and energy and help them feel better prepared.” Forwarding industry insight is also an easy way to show that you care about the corporate mission above and beyond your day-to-day responsibilities, and that you can think independently.

But don’t send around jokes or cartoons—that only indicates that you’re bored at work.

3. Take the Lead

Never turn down an opportunity to lead.

“When your company’s leaders say they are looking for a volunteer for something, speak up right then. Don’t wait to go back to your desk, mull it over, investigate all of the alternatives and then finally get back to your boss,” says Ballard.

“Leading a project and training others, and being perceived as the expert in an area will help boost your credibility,” she says. Of course, don’t set yourself up for failure either. If you feel uncomfortable presenting in front of a group, don’t take yourself out of contention—consider taking a public speaking class.

4. Become Known as the Expert

Being perceived as the expert in an area or having expertise in a particular skill—like writing, video editing or even Facebook and Twitter proficiency—will help boost your indispensability.

“Know how your organization competes and where your skills fit into their competitive core. If you expertise is needed for the competitive core, you are more critical to the organization,” says Caligiuri.

“If you can add skills to your repertoire to make you more unique within that critical role, even better.” You can also bring to the job something valuable, like a full Rolodex of contacts, or a social platform following.

5. Raise the Proof

Start collecting tangible evidence of your value to the company, including facts and figures like website traffic reports or met revenue goals.

Also keep testimonials from clients or coworkers. “Whenever you get an email that says ‘great job on project x’, keep that and forward it to your boss. Better yet, ask the person who wrote it to forward it to your boss directly,” says career coach and former Fortune 500 recruiter Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

“Use these testimonials during any review or salary meetings to tangibly demonstrate your worth.”

6. Dress the Part

That advice about dressing for the job you want, not the one you have? Very true. “Professional” versus “casual” not only describes how you dress, but how your commitment is assessed when you dress that way.

“Your manner of dress provides a visual cue others may subconsciously—or possibly consciously—use to decide where you belong in the organization,” says Caligiuri. “Professional attire will help others readily see you as someone who belongs at the next level in the organization.”

7. Check In

Face time is vital to your success at work.

Your boss may not have time for non-essential meetings, but will appreciate frequent (though not annoying) check-ins about a project’s status, even if everything is running smoothly.

“Taking 60-90 seconds of their time every day isn’t much off their time plate, but over time brings them tremendous information about you and your team that keeps them in your loop,” says Jim Hornickel, director of training for corporate consultants Bold New Directions.

“But make sure to get feedback to see if your strategy is working. Always keep your boss’ WIIFM in mind: the ‘What’s In It For Me.’ It’s the most critical factor in having your boss’ receptivity and buy-in to taking up more of their time.” Career expert Barry Maher, author of Filling the Glass, says written notes work well too.

“A great strategy is simply to write the boss a very short note at the end of each week, explaining just what you did during the week,” he says. “Many bosses will save these and, come review time, they might even write the review from them.”

Like #4 says, being perceived as an expert in a skill can boost your indispensability. With Mediabistro’s online courses, you can learn valuable media skills from successful industry experts with experience in marketing, advertising, copywriting, copy editing, social media and more.

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