Do you know the adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?” Well, value might be seen in a similar light. Without delving into a discussion on marginal utility or Adam Smith’s labor theory of value, at a basic level, value can be understood as a the result of a subjective calculation which sees valuation as a function of something’s utility (i.e. the amount of satisfaction one gains from having that thing) and the supply of a given thing. So what does this have to do with keeping your job? A lot.
Many employees are valuable. As long as they perform their professional duties they are of utility and satisfy a need. However, the fact that they are of utility and perform some function does not imply that they cannot be replaced. No doubt, there exists a large stock of potential employees who could perform the same function just as well, or perhaps even better (maybe even for a cheaper wage). To become invaluable you must demonstrate to your employer that you are irreplaceable; that there exists no backlog of people who can adequately fill your shoes. How does one go about doing this?
One way is to approach your job with a certain degree of exuberance. Like yawns, I have found that enthusiasm can be infectious. Instead of just shuffling in and out of work every day, approach your job as something exciting and challenging, and then allow for this excitement and energy to seep into daily interactions with coworkers. By doing this, you become a beacon of light in what can sometimes be a dull and even depressing environment. Attitude and personality (coupled with work ethic) is something managers notice. When confronted with a layoff, though your job could be done with someone else, if your personality is irreplaceable (and you have an impeccable work ethic) you will stand a better chance of weathering the storm than coworkers who might perform just as well as you, but are more nondescript and demonstratively less enthused about their job.
Another way of becoming an invaluable asset is by cornering the market (so to speak). Much like a tycoon or baron who, during the Gilded Age, might establish monopoly—forcing consumers to purchase goods and services from one monolithic vendor—many jobs provide employees the ability to explore new projects, innovate understanding, and amass knowledge and knowhow. By amassing knowledge and willingly taking on additional responsibilities and opportunities which progress either your industry or your just your job description, you establish yourself not only as a go-to person, but as someone who is indispensible because of the knowledge you possess. And while, unlike the baron or tycoon, it is important to share this knowledge, establishing yourself as an expert in your field will make your employer think twice, should the time come, about letting you go.
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