8 Ways To Be Irreplaceable At Your Job

While many in today’s economy pooh-pooh the decades old concept of job security as outdated and irrelevant, there is one hard truth that is almost inescapable: most of us who have jobs, want to keep them. Why? Because we need them.

Let’s face it folks. Though clocking in at work may not be one of our favorite things to do, without the blessing of a job, bills would go unpaid, children would go unclothed, and marriages would go unhappy. Yep. That’s right. It pays to have a job…and it pays to keep one.

But how do you manage to keep a job in a dog-eat-dog economy like the one that so many of us are forced to face each day? By becoming the kind of employee that an employer would never want to do without. By becoming “irreplaceable.”

8 Quick Tips for Becoming an “Irreplaceable” Employee

Before diving into the “Tip List,” let’s be clear. In truth, no employee is irreplaceable. Certainly, there will always be someone, somewhere in the world who can find a way to do our jobs at least as well, if not better, than we can. That’s understood. Nevertheless, each of us should realize that when we really take the time to dedicate ourselves to doing—and being—the very best that we can on the job, each and every day, we can ultimately expect to earn our employers gratitude and trust. And while earning such things is no guarantee that we will always be employed, one thing is for sure: it won’t hurt.

Tip #1: Be Skilled. In the first place, employers want employees that know how to do their jobs—and how to do them well. And while a good and reasonable employer probably won’t have a problem allowing team members to climb the learning curve that comes with every new position, they will almost certainly mind a new hire that is lax about coming up to speed. Time is money. Don’t be slow about learning all that is required of you in a new position. Instead, be a go-getter. Ask lots of questions, execute new and unfamiliar tasks with an eye toward learning, and take notes as often as you need to. Do whatever you can to get ahead of the newbie learning curve as quickly as possible. Your employer will thank you for it.

Tip #2: Be For The Team. While knowing your job inside out is a good thing, don’t ever assume that you will only be called on to work your own job. If you stay on with your employer long enough, expect to have to pinch hit for a colleague—at least some of the time. Rather than seeing the added responsibility as an inconvenience to be avoided, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity. To help your employer pull through in a pinch is a privilege, and to expand your knowledge and value to the organization is an opportunity. There are few employees that truly function as team players these days—and that’s what makes real team players valuable. In a world where many employees feign care for the team while secretly (or not so secretly) working to climb the organizational ladder at the expense of all others, a principled employee who is truly committed to advancing the good of the whole will be a breath of fresh air to those in upper management—and highly valued.

Tip #3: Be Professional. Let your deportment be that which befits a leader at all times. At work and after work. During lunch and during happy hours. While chatting at the water cooler, or toasting at the division-wide holiday party. Be kind. Be polite. Do your work. Keep personal matters private. Avoid gossip. Reject cliques. Shun vulgarity.

Tip #4: Be Diligent. When working, help your employer to maximize their return on investment. Show up for work early—or at least on time. Prioritize your tasks for the day and for the week, and focus on getting the items that mean the most (to your supervisor)—done first. Take breaks on schedule, and don’t overshoot your time. In short, work hard and stand out.

Tip #5: Be Positive. Some say attitude is everything. While I’m not convinced of that, it is pretty darn important. A recent Forbes article showed that the overwhelming majority of new hires that failed in their jobs did so, not because of technical deficiencies, but because of poor attitudes (e.g., including a lack of coachability, low motivation, and temperament issues).* Work is hard enough without having to deal with frowns, immaturity, and a boatload of complaints. Be a joy to your supervisor—as well as your coworkers. Smile. Help out in a crunch. Ignore the negativity around you rather than becoming embroiled in it. While bad attitudes are contagious, good ones can be, too. Commit to being a bright spot in the workplace so that your higher ups want you around.

Tip #6: Be A Problem-Solver. Most managers are irked by employees that always talk the problem. Many of the most highly valued employees are those who know how to think critically and devise solutions. When confronted with a roadblock on the job, don’t run to your manager for help. Instead, stop, take a deep breath, and think the problem through. Generate a list of possible solutions on your own—or with a colleague. Which solutions are most feasible, and why? Once you’ve armed yourself with a few solid strategies, then approach your supervisor. If you do, the meeting, and your future, are bound to go a lot better.

Tip #7: Be Honest. Simply put: Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal.

Tip #8: Be Excellent. When given an assignment, always fulfill what is required, but don’t stop there. Put pencil to paper, and brainstorm what other items you can deliver—by or before the due date—that could really add value. For example, if your supervisor asks you to evaluate five or six software programs and recommend the package which would best meet the needs of your department, do that—but go beyond. Why not search out a few professional trainers that could be contracted to do a two-hour session when the software goes live? Or better yet, why not propose to learn the in and outs of the program yourself, and roll-out an in-house training effort that would save the organization a few thousand bucks? Even if you’re supervisor shoots your ideas down, you’ve still gone above and beyond the call of duty and demonstrated a strong commitment to the organization. When it’s time to downsize, you will probably be one that he or she would prefer to keep around.

To Your Best Job Success—Cheers!

*Hire For Attitude, Dan Schawbel, Fortune, January 23, 2012.