lucy-dunnBy Lucy Dunn| 20 July 2014

I have quite a number of responses to my recent article regarding making yourself indispensable, and success will follow suit. They argue that it is not enough by simply doing your job well. In this month’s article, let’s look at some elements which goes beyond “doing your job well” and/or are out-of-your-control. This week, Microsoft announced it will lay off 18,000 people, 12,000 of those are from Nokia which was acquired by Microsoft. These kinds of un-anticipated upheavals are what we call Black Swans.

Depending on where you are in your career, even being indispensable may not be enough. Many talented people will be looking for a job this week. We believe that people who get ahead (or in this case stay ahead) need to “think ahead.” They have a game plan to build crucial experience, acquire key contacts all of which stacks the deck, so they have an advantage, even when Black Swan events occur. They not only are more protected, they are the first to be hired and they are more likely to get promoted in normal times.

The ability to notice where the new opportunities are and then turn them into reality adds values to the company and value to your stature within the company and industry. Your real value goes much beyond executing the work you were hired to do in the first place. There is a saying “you don’t become a star doing your job. You become a star making the right things happen for your company.” Those who do a better job (last month’s article), are sensitive to the markets, and have higher EQ, stand out and will always be in demand.

One important contributing factor to your success that is not discussed much is your BOSS. Few things are as valuable as working for someone who is willing to share responsibility, teaches you desirable skills, and encourages you to be creative because they “have your back” if something doesn’t work. This kind of boss is worth searching for and even changing jobs for. Who is on your list of bosses you would change firms for? Don’t have a list? Then I suggest you start building one.

With big changes of any kind like the appointment of a new business head can mean they will try to bring their own team. In that case you may lose that great boss or find you are totally incompatibility in style or even business directions. At that point, what do you do? Do you leave or stay? Unless it is really unbearable, most choose to stay put. So what can you do to “survive” and thrive in a new management style? Again, that depends on your adaptability, organization agility, soft skills, as well as keeping your eye on your long range goals. What feels like an intolerable career company could be a terrific training or skills development opportunity, and you won’t feel bad about leaving when you have achieved what you need to make the next step.

Today, in industry verticals or companies with high levels of innovation, individual failures when associated with stretched goals are seen less as a sign of incompetence, and more of a sign of someone willing to champion the next big thing, and willing to take risks to innovate in the company and industry. People in general admire intellectual bravery in their peers as well as superiors. You could well become a source of inspirations to others.

Lastly, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of clean and complete execution. There is no magic formula to success. Whatever you do, you still need to put in the hard work. Along the way, hopefully you find some great bosses who help you pick up those essential skills which act as catalysts to your career. So make a plan and work the plan so when there are adverse conditions which come up unexpectedly at workplace (think Microsoft right now), you will have armed with relevant ammunition and have more choices than others (i.e. you have graceful re-entry strategy). Isn’t it nirvana when you have freedom of choice in work?

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