How to Prove Your Usefulness, Keep Your Job, and Maybe Even Get Ahead: Be Indispensable

One of the lessons many learned from the recent economic troubles is that almost no one is indispensable. You never know when your job could be on the chopping block.  You can, however, decrease the chance that you will be the one laid off when these decisions are made.  The key is showing that you are valuable — and possibly indispensable.

Here are some ways that by being indispensable you can prove your usefulness, keep your job, and maybe even get ahead:

Show Flexibility

Are you flexible?  One of the best ways to prove your value on the job is to be flexible.  Can you work beyond your job description?  Are you willing to learn new things?  Do you look for ways to improve your abilities?  Being able to handle additional job responsibilities, and having the flexibility to acquire new skills, are essential for success in life, as well as in your career.  If you can show your adaptability, you are more likely to keep your job, even during difficult times.

Acquire Marketable Skills

In addition to adaptability, you should also strive to improve your marketable skills.  Find out what skills your employer values, and what skills can help your employer.  Then, work to acquire them.  Find out what certifications you might need to improve your job performance.  You can also work to improve your communication skills (written and oral), and find other ways to be of use.  You might be able to take seminars, or classes, to help you improve your skills.

Be a Problem Solver

indispensable at work

Are you indispensable at work? You should be!

Creative problem solving will almost always be valued.  If you can develop problem solving skills, you are more likely to enjoy better job security.  Look for ways to improve matters at your job.  This can include finding creative ways to boost productivity, cut costs or satisfy customers.  The idea is to show that you are someone who helps get things done, spotting helpful solutions to problems, rather than doing little more than pointing them out.  Develop a reputation as a go-to person for creative solutions, and keep your job longer.

Have a Positive Attitude

Your attitude can also have an impact on your workplace, and your ability to do your job — and retain your employment.  Someone with a bitter, poisonous attitude can can case all sorts of problems at work.  If you are resentful, and show an attitude of entitlement, you can lower morale.  Additionally, you might be among the first of those let go during tough economic times.

A positive attitude can help your co-workers keep going.  Plus, if you do your job cheerfully, you will be considered an asset to your company — especially when added to your flexibility, additional skills and problem solving abilities.

Don’t Become the Only Expert on One Topic

Some people make the mistake thinking being indispensable means they master one aspect of their job and become the sole expert at their company.  They think that by doing this they are indispensable and can’t be fired since they are the only one who knows how to format the TPS report, for example.  What this attitude really does is lock you into one position with no room for advancement.  How can the company promote you if you’re the only one who can do your job?  It can also put you on a fast track to being irrelevant.  One new system or technological change can make what you do obsolete.  You’re better off following the tips above than making yourself the “indispenable” expert.

Bottom Line

In order to improve your ability to do your job, and to show your value to your employer, it can help to take an active approach.  Look for ways to adapt to the changing economy and business environment, and find ways to solve problems at your workplace.  With a little extra effort, you can increase the chances that you survive the next round of lay offs.

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Published or updated April 6, 2013.


  1. Great post, especially the point about being the only specialist in a certain area/field. I have never thought about it that way. I will be sure to keep that in mind.

  2. Headhunter says:

    Being a problem solver and having a positive attitude are two closely related “skills”. These mean that in addition to what you bring to the company, you will make others around you bring more. A positive attitude means that you and everyone close to you will be more productive. A problem solver means that instead of creating stress, complications and slowdowns, you will be reducing such inefficiencies. These are skills or traits that will help in every job – and at home, as well.

  3. Don’t overlook opportunities for additional job training from software to management type skills. The classes are usually inexpensive and most employers will cover them for you. It shows a desire to grow in your position and if it doen’t work out you take those certifications, etc. with you.

  4. I think actually getting your job done is also a good way to prove your worth. To many people let other things get in the way of doing their job to the level they are expected, so by getting the job done on a consistent basis, the bosses should notice.

  5. Whatt you describe may be considered soft skills. It can be the difference of staying employed or not. You want to be dependable, responsible and add value so they recognize you as a contributor to the organization.

  6. This was great advice!!

  7. Great tips! I hope I can follow these myself.

    I have an “indispensible” coworker because he has been really good at getting to understand some tricky tax issues AND is able to help other people understand them. He’s not the only tax expert in a firm of CPAs, but he is the tax expert who is most accessible to those of us working in the less-tax-savvy parts of the firm, so we value him a lot for being there to answer our questions and provide guidance.

  8. Tamara @ Lead Generation says:

    I agree with you, they are all fantastic ideas… And the main key is to never stop learning…

  9. Advice given is great in theory, but has anyone seen the job descriptions posted online or in the local paper? Talented, well-rounded, smart people need not apply. They almost encourage people to say “not my job.” Those postings are so bloody specific and narrowly defined that no person is qualifed, or exists, for that matter. And we wonder why there is a “talent shortage.” Don’t even get me started on where the shortage of talent really exists. If we truly want people who are not one-trick ponies, then we need to start looking at hiring Lipizzaners (as this article suggests). But that takes talented, well-rounded, smart people.

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