How to Make Yourself Indispensable to Your Boss

Ever met a doctor who couldn’t get a job?

The answer is probably no. And that’s no coincidence—unlike the corporate world, many jobs in medicine are in such high demand they’re all but guaranteed to be secure with the right degree and training.

That’s not to say you should dig up your old biochem textbook just yet. Rather, there are plenty of other avenues to job security. Chief among them is a time-tested route to success: Make yourself indispensable to your boss.

Being indispensable in the workplace is the career sweet spot. It means the wheels can’t turn without you, the bottom would fall out if you left. Someone in the boardroom is whispering in grave tones, “We can’t lose Brittany.”

Here are a few strategies to get you there.

Do Your Job (and Do It Well)

This isn’t a particularly exciting tip (sorry), but it’s the foundation for everything else: Fulfilling every last one of your job responsibilities with minimal oversight and ideally, far better than your predecessor.

Yes, this includes the less-exciting parts of your role (think those monthly expense reports), but rest assured that doing every aspect of your job well is the path to not only proving to the higher-ups that they can’t live without you, but also getting more and more opportunities.

An easy way to show your commitment to your job and make sure you get everything done? Show up before everyone else gets in to get a head start on the day. (Bonus: Researchers at the University of Washington found employees who show up early to work are thought of as better workers—even if they leave early.)

Be Proactive

Proactive people don’t wait for a task to be handed down to them; they anticipate, plan ahead, and prepare. They sniff out potential problems and find solutions before real problems arise. They become known as smooth and effective operators who can be trusted to manage projects and deliver results.

In short, they’re one step ahead, showing their bosses they’re on top of their game and can be trusted with their responsibilities.

To be more proactive in the workplace:

  • Plan Ahead: Learn the basics of project management and apply them to your daily work. Visualize projects and tasks from start to finish, identify major deadlines and milestones, and share them with everyone involved. Try to anticipate questions that you or someone else might have and provide answers upfront.
  • Communicate: Handed down a new assignment? Voice your expectations, raise any and all questions, and provide guidance to anyone who you suspect might need it. Most importantly, speak up if you sense misalignment among co-workers or clients. Confusion over expectations or roles is like dry powder waiting to blow up a project’s success.
  • Manage Up: Regularly ask your manager about his or her expectations, goals, and desired results. Then, no matter what you’re working on, make sure it contributes to those outcomes, and communicate the impact that you’re having. Most importantly, go out of your way to stay on the same page with your boss so you know you’re working on the most important tasks.

Say “Yes” to New Opportunities

Successful people don’t shy from opportunities, they pursue them. So say “yes” when your boss asks if you have the bandwidth to take on something new, whether that’s leading a new project you’ve never handled before or pitching a big idea in a meeting.

Most importantly, be thankful for the opportunity in the first place. After all, if you do a good job, you stand to become a trusted delegate for your boss. The more he or she trusts you to execute projects well, the more valuable an employee you become. And the more value you bring to your company, the rosier your career prospects.

The Bottom Line

You don’t want to be anything other than indispensable to your boss. Essential employees not only sleep better at night knowing their jobs are secure, but they have the the respect of the company’s leadership. Best of all, they probably have a promotion on the horizon.

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