10 ways to make yourself indispensable at work.


The rumor mill was working overtime and "structured reorganization" was the new buzzword fueling the activity. Actually, it didn't make any difference what they called it, the reality was that thousands of employees would be laid off over the next several months. The news had Sharon James (a pseudonym) really worried. The 25-year-old financial services manager had joined the insurance company only three years ago. Although she had survived two other downsizing efforts, James wasn't sure she would make it through this one. She needed a miracle.

To help her sift through her options, James asked a more senior-level manager in another department to help her develop a personal strategic plan. Of course, no one is truly indispensable. But, James' goal was to make herself so irreplaceable to the division that her managers couldn't afford to lose her.

Before drafting her plan, James assessed her strengths, weaknesses and value to her department. She also analyzed her competition. Then she developed a plan with both long- and short-term strategies to increase her value within the operation. Below is her list of "fast-start" actions that could help any potential victim of downsizing to secure his or her job.

  1. Take ownership of all your responsibilities by seeing your department as a company, a profit center and yourself as president of your company.

    As president, you must consider the balance sheet in every decision you make. Will this action help to increase the bottom, line, or will it be seen as an asset or a liability? The president of any organization must be a visionary and see the bigger picture. Perhaps you'd like to order more inventory because you hate having to shop around for bargains on a tight schedule. But think again. Do you really need them right now? Or could you wait a couple of months? What decision would the person in charge make?

    A chief executive, the experts say, would consider effective cost control and know that an excessive inventory is not cost-effective. He or she would take into account the total departmental needs over the next two months and order not in advance but "just in time" to cover the need.

  2. Take responsibility for your career advancement. In a "right-sizing" workplace, don't expect anyone else to protect or guide your career. In times of transition, individuals must be proactive and look out for themselves.

    Burnetta Williams, managing director of corporate finance at Federal Express in Memphis, feels that the best way to secure your job and career mobility is to develop a knowledge base that few others have: "When I was hired, I didn't have a firm job description. The company knew it wanted someone with my credentials [undergrad degree from Yale University and a master's from the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts...

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