We all know coworkers who seem to have a foot into everything going on. These good employees are running meetings, always on time for work, ready to proof a quick email, or help you study for an exam. How do they do it all? Well, they have learned that being reliable is a sure-fire way to become indispensable at work. And when you’re indispensable, it makes it easier to take on more responsibility and more complicated work. In short, your career will move forward faster.

Do you want to become a good employee or (even better) – indispensable? Here are five ways to get started:

1. Be There No Matter What

We’re not talking about going to work with a fever or when a family member is in crisis. Those things happen and when they do, you don’t need to be at work. What we’re talking about is showing up 15 minutes late for your shift three days a week because you got stuck in traffic, again. Or not coming in because you’re irritated at the way your schedule has changed. Being dependable is the first step to being indispensable. When people know they can count on you, they will trust you with more responsibility. Plan for traffic. Work out any nagging issues. Just do whatever it takes to be a reliable employee.

2. Ask Questions

Not sure how to operate a new piece of equipment or manage a new employee? The smartest people ask questions. If you are afraid of asking questions because you think it makes you look dumb, think of what making a huge error will look like. It’s better to ask questions until you understand something. Knowledge brings understanding and a better work quality. Without those, you can’t differentiate yourself from anyone else.

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3. Do More

Within reason, do more than what’s expected. It’s pretty simple. This isn’t always a clear cut way of thinking, so use your own judgment. Don’t be the person who gets thrown every tiny task because you can be counted on to suck up where everyone slacks off. That’s just being a professional doormat. But can you volunteer to look into the benefits of a new scheduling app and present a report about it? Can you stay an extra hour during crunch time if you’re able to? Giving a little extra helps others take notice of your professionalism when it counts.

4. Be the Cheerleader

Always speak positively about your organization in front of others. You can gripe all you want at home or to a couple of your most trusted, non-work friends, but when you’re at work, keep your attitude optimistic (if you’re in a really bad spot, then at least stay neutral). If you want to move ahead in your organization, know that management looks for people who are going to move their goals forward, not someone who resents the structure or regulations. If you have a valid complaint, bring it to your manager, don’t just mutter about it to colleagues.

5. Share Your Knowledge

Did you just complete a specialty certification course? Have you recently traveled or worked internationally and are bursting with new ideas or concepts? Do you have great study tips to pass on? Formally sharing your knowledge, through a lunch seminar, an after work gathering, or even a tip sheet, is a great way to help colleagues and boost your professional reputation. Everyone can learn something new and freely sharing what you just learned and tailoring it to the needs of your unit or department is a good way to help the organization as a whole.

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Being indispensable takes effort. But if you want to get ahead, effort matters – a lot.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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