Last week I had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance. She is very close to retirement age and is sincerely hoping to be offered an early-retirement buyout the next time her company downsizes. Her problem – if you can call it a problem in this difficult employment reality – is that she is in a critical role, has a unique skill set, and is a consistently reliable performer. Her employer needs her. This is a very enviable problem to have – to be bulletproof in your job.
In this blog I’ve written about job security following from occupying a critical role and possess unique skills that your company would have a difficult time replacing. There is a third leg to this stool: being the associate who is easy to work with, conscientious, and professional in every situation.
Are you the “go to” person in your work group when things need to be accomplished on tight deadline or the work is particularly critical?
If your answer is "yes" then your professional reputation is adding to your employability and job security. If your answer is "not sure" or "no", I encourage you to consider adding the following three behaviors to ensure "reliability" and "conscientious" become part of your professional brand:
Reduce your drama around deadlines and other pressured work situations. Everyone has aspects of their jobs that are stressful. Manage deadlines and other pressure situations with grace. Think of being the duck on the water: calm on the surface, but paddling feverishly below the surface. If additional work is needed during crunch times, be available without much fuss. This does not mean that you should always be the first one in the office every morning and the last one to leave every evening. In fact, in most organizational cultures, this just demonstrates your inefficiency.
Offer more value than what is requested. Try to anticipate what else would be useful and if you can provide it effectively, do it. For example, if you are asked to put together a presentation based on some materials, also put together the corresponding speaker’s notes, the notes the speaker can use to give his or her presentation. A research student did that for me once and she quickly became my indispensable “go-to” person.
Deliver on promises. “Under-promise and over-deliver” is a popular quote by business guru Tom Peters. In career counseling, I share his quote frequently to help talented and highly-motivated professionals positively shape their reputations. Stretch goals are great and I never want to squelch your motivation, confidence, or optimism; I do, however, want you to consider how promises may affect your professional reputation. Over-promising (even with the best of intentions) unfortunately damages professional reputations when you fail to deliver -- negatively affecting your credibility and the perceptions of your competence. In today’s business environment, it is always better to consistently exceed everyone’s expectations.
Do you have any other suggestions for ways in add "reliability" to your professional brand?