Becoming Indispensable at Work

Imagine being so valuable to your company that they agree to pay you over a million dollars a year after retirement simply to not work for anyone else. On August 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that retiring GE vice chairman John Krenicki will receive $89,000 a month through 2022 as part of a non-compete agreement in which he cannot work for a competing company for the next three years. Becoming an indispensable employee might not earn you a post-retirement plan up to Krenicki’s standards, but can still create new opportunities for advancement and greater job security in any position.


Few managers can find fault with employees who meet their deadlines, create projects that increase revenue, and take the initiative to push high-quality projects to completion. Results, however, need to be consistent. As author Alexandra Levit states in a  recent Forbes article: “You’re only going to be as valuable as your last project.” By proving yourself a dependable and efficient worker, you take the first step in making yourself integral to your company. This gives you a portfolio and hard evidence to reference when asking for a promotion or position change.

Play to Your Strengths

Your talents and strengths are the skills that set you apart from other employees. Gallup’s famous research into strengths-based leadership found that people who enjoy what they do work faster, better, more efficiently, and miss less work. Does your current position allow you to showcase your strengths, or should you consider changing to a position in which you to use the skills that come most easily and that you enjoy using? When your talents match the skills necessary for your position, you create a scenario that makes it hard to imagine anyone else would be able to perform tasks as well as you do.

Talent Cross-Training

Although focusing on strengths is important, certain skills like communication and writing transcend all positions and industries. “To move from good to much better, you need to engage in the business equivalent of cross-training. If you’re technically adept, for instance, delving even more deeply into technical manuals won’t get you nearly as far as honing a complementary skill such as communication, which will make your expertise more apparent and accessible to your coworkers,” suggests a 2011 Harvard Business Review article. By developing these integral skills you will most likely improve your talents as well as show that you are a versatile employee who would succeed when advancing into a better position that requires a slightly different skill set.


In a field saturated with similar employees, sometimes further education or a certification can be the key to advancement. If everyone seeking your dream position has an MBA, would an MEM degree allow you to stand out or develop the strengths that are actually most important for the position ? The Wall Street Journal suggests this might be a growing trend in the article “Move Over M.B.A.s, Here Come the Engineers.”  If you already have a master’s degree, could a professional society certificate be the next step? (See our article on PMP certification for advice from NUMEM alumni.) Once you determine your desired specialization, look at the LinkedIn profiles of people already in the field and see what types of education and certification they hold and if a similar path might be the next step for you as well. Soon you’ll be on the way to becoming an indispensable employee and achieving the career path best-suited to your interests.

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