“The prevailing wisdom has been that to get ahead, you should learn something from one company and move on—and up—at the next,” says Brian Kropp, a managing director at CEB, an executive advisory firm that offers data analysis of more than 50,000 employee surveys from 10,000 organizations. “But that only produces short-term effects. In the new workplace we’re seeing a greater emphasis on relationships,” he says, which means veteran employees are at a far greater advantage. According to CEB research, longer-tenured workers are beginning to rise to positions of success more quickly than those who move every few years. So what does this mean for your current career goals? Ditch the job boards and set to work making yourself an indispensable employee! “Being indispensable is about being the best,” says Lucy Leske, vice president and co-director, education practice at the executive search firm, Witt/ Kieffer. “If you’re always striving to be a better, more valuable contributor, people will inevitably take note and you will get ahead.” So here are some simple strategies to becoming indispensable at work.
Looking ahead to 2018
Our guess is that you could benefit personally and professionally by following just a few of these recommendations in the year ahead.
  • Be Flexible: “The odds are that the way you’ll do work on January 1st won’t be the way you’ll be doing work on December 31st,” says Kropp. “Make sure that your boss sees you are someone who can get the job done no matter what’s happening around you or what challenges are posed.”
  • Stay Current: “If you’re not regularly reading about industry trends in trade, business, and general publications, checking out online sources and staying current on trends in your industry, you’re compromising your career growth,” says Leske. “Keeping up on trends, but more importantly, being able to apply those trends to your organization, demonstrates your understanding of its place within the industry.” One sure way to do that is by attending the upcoming Investment Recovery Seminar & Trade Show in March, which will showcase companies and concepts that can help you succeed back home. For example, the session entitled. From “Gray to Green” translates the latest 2017 benchmarking data and translates that into actionable information for increasing IR’s value (and your role!) within the organization.
  • Don’t Be a Loner: “The idea that you can be an individual contributor and be successful is an idea of the past,” says Kropp. “Fitting within the network of the workplace is a part of the new definition of a great employee.” The Investment Recovery Association provides plenty of opportunities for connecting with and networking with your fellow IR professionals. Don’t think of networking as “an event,” but rather as a process for establishing growth.
  • Be A Thought Leader: All of that knowledge you’ve gained by reading up on the industry? Leske says to make a habit of sharing it. “Write articles, make presentations, serve on panels or blog,” she says. “People need to have confidence that you know what you’re doing and that you’re willing to use it to help other people’s problems.” The association is always looking for contributors to ASSET 2.0 and presenters at our annual conference. Step up and share your knowledge! Make it your job to see that investment recovery has a seat at the table for the sustainability and green initiatives within your organization. Prioritize “It’s really easy to add more things to your to-do list but it’s just as critical—if not more so—to know what to take off,” says Kropp. The IR workload is overwhelming at times. Good decision making, delegation, and prioritization are the signs of an effective leader, no matter your position. (Search the ASSET 2.0 article archives on the association website for an article by CMIR Fellow Dennis Knutz on “Defining Your IR Charter to Improve the Customer Experience” for some insight into doing less…more effectively.) Seek Opportunities for Broader Experience Actively pursue any opportunity for managing others or taking on a project outside of your normal comfort zone, no matter how small and trivial (or large and daunting) the task may seem. “There’s a difference between begging for these opportunities and raising your hand,” she warns, “but if someone says there’s a job to be done, raise your hand first and ask for help later. The biggest mistake is passing up the opportunity.”
  • Anticipate Your Department’s Needs: Being a reliable source for your department leader and seeing opportunities for your department to improve are great ways to be better at your job. Take on tasks that your department leader may not need to oversee directly and present a finished product to him or her. Seeing this initiative from you often helps your supervisor understand that you can handle tasks proactively and things will not be falling solely on their shoulders.
  • Promote Your Department’s Efforts: Do others in your organization realize the value your investment recovery efforts provide? Do your sustainability top brass realize that you’ve been providing sustainable business practices for decades? Others outside of IR can control your destiny, so it’s in your best interest to get to know them better both personally and professionally. The more you communicate with your boss, the better it is for you. While you’re at it, get to know your boss’s boss! Assume Success “Your positive attitude can be seen in your facial expression, posture, tone and speed of your voice,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. “Be confident in your work. You’re uniquely qualified to do exactly what you do.” Imagine that everything you contribute helps the bottom line, she says. “Even when things are dicey, you can challenge yourself in 2018 to use setbacks as opportunities.”
  • Study Your Industry: We’ve already talked about ways to stay current and improve your IR IQ. But your company’s industry is most likely rapidly changing and you need to keep up with what’s happening now. Most industries have trade magazines or websites that have the latest news in that industry. It’s important to read these so that you are well-informed and can discuss recent industry events and changes with your coworkers, supervisors, and management. Information is power that can quickly translate to personal success. Always Come to the Table with a Solution: Offering a solution or idea is only half of the equation, and many managers feel that an idea without an action plan will only create more work for them. Share ideas with context and a clear path for implementation for the leader to evaluate. The more you present any issues with recommended solutions and then implement those solutions in a timely and effective manner, the more the leadership team will rely on you and think about you for future projects and new responsibilities.
  • Find a Mentor: Everyone needs someone to teach them the ropes—to guide them through their career. Find someone at your company or a fellow member of the Investment Recovery Association whom you respect and want to learn from. You don’t need to directly ask them to be your mentor, just keep the communication lines open and take them out to lunch once in a while. You can talk to them about non-work interests as well—but when you need work advice, they’ll be there for you.
  • Improve Your Communication Skills: One of the most common mistakes made by both managers and employees today, is that too often, both are afraid to come to the table and talk about underlying issues. Fear of confrontation is so overwhelming, but if you communicate boldly, more frequently and honestly in 2018, and you’re not afraid to work through conflict, you’ll likely reduce your stress and be a better worker. Don’t assume that an email or text was actually received, read and agreed to. Pick up the phone or walk down the hall and have a face-to-face conversation whenever possible… especially when there is potential for conflict or misunderstanding.
  • Don’t Overwork Yourself: If you’re already an overachiever, have been dubbed a “workaholic” or are generally exhausted, then you need to slow down and break the habit of setting impossible goals for yourself in the new year. You may have to recalibrate and expect say, 75 percent of your workload to be achieved in a set period in order to feel fulfilled. If you’re a manager, this approach may take some undue pressure off staff, too. Home and work balance is a critical component of personal and professional success.
  • Volunteer to Get Involved with Special Projects, Particularly Those Across Business Units: The more you can help across all business units, the better. Lending expertise, time and effort to other teams will help you get to know other aspects of the business as well as help you connect with people across the company. However, remember that your current position and duties are the most important, so be sure not to bite off more than you can chew.
  • Invest in Continuous Learning to Stay on Top of Your Game: Many companies encourage employees to go back to school and pick up courses that can help them do their job better. Consider pursuing Certified Manager of Investment Recovery certification. If you are pursuing an MBA, try to immediately translate your newly gained business knowledge into tangible action at work, as this can grab the attention of company decision makers and show them what you can do for the company. The Investment Recovery Online Campus has literally hundreds of short, impactful online courses available for members and associates that can help expand and improve upon your work and personal skill set.
  • Follow Through on All Tasks and Commitments: One of the most important things you can do as an employee is to follow through on work commitments. Do what you say you are going to do in a quality manner, on time and on budget. Your coworkers and management will see a pattern of reliability from you, which should increase their trust and confidence in your work. Over time, this should translate into key leadership taking notice of the value you bring to the organization and may lead to challenging promotional opportunities down the road. –Sources: ForbesWoman, Forbes.com, ASSET 2.0
Hungry for more? Attend the 2018 Seminar & Trade Show, March 18-21, Orlando where the session “From Gray to Green” turns the latest CAPS Research into IR-indispensable gold.