Wondering how to become a valuable employee—the kind who is top of mind when promotions come up and who survives major staff cuts? It all boils down to your relationship with change.
Whatever your job description was when you started in your current position, I can make a pretty certain guess that it’s not the same today as it was then. If you work in a large corporation, the definition of your entire department may have changed. If you’re an entrepreneur or a freelancer, you’re probably making some pretty significant pivots to adapt to new marketing avenues and technology streams.
In today’s economy, there is no such thing as a stagnant job description anymore: It’s now an ongoing moving target called your career, and you will have to change if you want to stay in the game.
I have noticed that no matter how much change is going on in your professional life—or how committed you are to making changes in your personal life—it’s tempting to stick with old habits and “the way we’ve always done it” in your job.
The problem is, those “tried and true” methods may not be the most efficient, and sticking to your old ways could prevent you from growth and promotion. I call this “demonstrating what you already know.”
But if you’re always expanding what you’ve got to offer, you’ll always be in high demand. In the current job market, employees can’t just be good at their specialty—they must offer a wide range of skills to be viewed as a valuable member of the team.
Ready to move forward in your career? Here are my 7 ways to become invaluable in an ever-changing workplace—and an ever-changing world.
1) Pay attention.
Every day, you’re surrounded by people who know things you don’t. Keep an eye on them and watch what they through observation. Muster up the courage to ask them if they’d be willing to share their knowledge. Maybe they have an incredible way of selling to clients without sounding selly, maybe they’re a wiz at spreadsheets or maybe they have mastered the art of consistently engaging social posts.
Don’t miss out on the wealth of information in your workplace or your communities!
2) Use what you know in new ways.
Think you have to compartmentalize your hobbies and your work? Think again.
If you’re gifted in woodworking, find a way to apply that knowledge in the office. Make your hobbies work for you by using the lessons and basic skills you’ve developed outside of work into the metaphors and examples you use in the boardroom or in the content you’re pushing out. The more authentic you are, the more people will trust you.
3) Listen to more podcasts.
If you want to learn more about French cooking or social media or duck hunting, there are podcasts devoted to just about everything. Stop wishing you knew more about something and start learning about it from the people who are doing it themselves. What I love about podcasts is that you can listen on the go—while you’re working out, commuting to work or painting a room. (And while you’re at it, check out my podcast, The Next 24 Hours!)
4) Practice your new skills.
When you’ve just learned a new skill, it can be intimidating to show it to the world if you haven’t practiced it. Practice until you’re comfortable, and fail successfully. That means trying again when you don’t master something the first time. If you’re not afraid to fail, you’ll be much less likely to fall back on your old safeties.
A book I think everyone in your situation should read is Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D. (Note: I make zero dollars off this book and don’t particularly care if you buy it or rent it from a library or borrow it from your buddy down the street.)
This book teaches us that sometimes, jobs go away – they get moved. We can either wait forever for them to come back – and be constantly disappointed when they don’t – or we can adapt and change ourselves and our brand.
Change yourself by adding skills. Teach yourself something. Take classes. Do what you have to do to grow your capabilities. I was once just a mime. Then I also became a magician, a juggler, a fire-eater, and so on and so forth.
Those who want to stay as jugglers and never adapt will suffer when the world no longer wants jugglers.
Don’t be that person. Adapt, change, and always adjust your brand.
5) Evaluate your routines.
Do you take the elevator instead of the stairs every day? Do you stay at your desk for lunch instead of truly taking a break? Do you always sit with the same coworkers when you do take a lunch break? Do you find yourself scrolling social media when you get tired of a specific project? Look carefully at your working habits and decide whether these are habits worth continuing. If not, it’s time to relearn your routine.
6) Upgrade your technology.
It isn’t always necessary to have the latest iPhone or the newest software, but it is necessary to know how to use the latest technology. Learning new technology is a skill like any other, so stop demonstrating what you already know on Windows 7, and figure out the new tricks of Windows 10. Here at the Zimmerman Group, we love new tools like Slack and Asana to replace inter-office email communication and long checklists.
7) Stop and think.
The only way to change is if you’re willing to stop and think before you act. Before you make your next move, ask yourself if you’re doing it the same way you always have. If so, is there a better way? Give it a try, and don’t be afraid of failure. Failure is an event, not a person.
So yes—change is the new normal. That means that entire businesses have to adapt to stay afloat, but it also means that you will have to adapt to be an invaluable employee. The good news is that it’s all within your reach.
As a speaker and author, Curtis Zimmerman has impacted over one million people with his life-changing messages and award-winning programs. Curtis is an expert at transforming organizations by inspiring individuals to live their lives at performance level.
Want to be inspired? Check out his podcast The Next 24 Hours.