How to become indispensable

By Jake Jorgovan
When I was in college one of my good friends always had the coolest internships and the best jobs.

While most students were slaving away for free, he was getting paid for his internships, and paid well.

He had job offers flying at him left and right, and he never took an internship that didn't pay. If he had decided to drop out of school, he would have had no problem walking straight into a high paying job.

In talking with my friend, I asked him how he got to this position, how he had so many offers and paid internships?

He had a simple philosophy:

"I get inside the company and set myself up so they have no choice but to hire me."

He made himself indispensable.

Becoming a linchpin

In Seth Godin's book, Linchpin, he describes a new mentality on how to approach your work.

Traditionally people have gone to work and waited for people to tell them what to do. Seth proposes that in order to become a linchpin (an indispensable individual) you must dive into your work, take initiative, and make yourself indispensable to the people who are hiring you.

This applies to your full-time employer, or to the company that hires you on a contract basis.

If you just show up and do what is asked, then you are another replaceable cog in their machine.

If you show up, go above and beyond, and deliver more value than they expect, then you become indispensable.

Indispensable in action

My friend in college had this mentality and executed it with every opportunity he came across.

For one company, he showed up and helped them re-organize their servers and project management system. No one asked him to do this, but he saw room for improvement and wrote up a solution that would make things better.

Organizing the server did two things for him:

First, the company loved him because projects became more organized and easier to manage.

Second, he now had unique knowledge to manage an aspect of their company. They could not hire someone else with that knowledge.

He made himself indispensable and his compensation grew as a result of it.

How to make yourself indispensable

You can't fake your way to becoming indispensable. You can only do it one way.

You can only do it by creating value for the company hiring you.

You must learn new skills that aid in the tasks you are doing.
You must look for things that are broken, and fix them without being asked.
You must take initiative and find ways that you can create value for your employer.

You must do all of this without expectations.

Don't go above and beyond on your job and then immediately ask for a nice bonus. Instead, consistently deliver beyond expectation. Your employer will take notice over time.

A good employer will see the value that you bring to the table and compensate you accordingly.

A poor employer will shrug off your efforts and give no reward.

Part of becoming indispensable is choosing the right employers to become indispensable for. If your gifts, your value, and your efforts are not rewarded, then eventually you must take your talents elsewhere.

The great thing about the linchpin mentality is that it prepares you for growth. It prepares you to grow in your current position, or in your next career opportunity.

Even if your opportunities are not rewarded at your current position, your skills are changing. Your knowledge and your mindset are growing. These will aid you when you seek out the next position and make yourself indispensable there.

The bottom line

Don't sit by and wait for people to tell you what to do.

Instead, dive in and take initiative. Start projects on your own and seek out ways to create value.

If you create enough value, you will eventually become indispensable.