How do you become indispensable to your current (or future) employer?
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Job SearchNetworking
I was talking to Jeff, my PR guy, the other day. I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult to get on the news in New York (pay no mind that it’s the number one TV market in the country). Jeff is good at what he does. In fact, he’s one of the best PR people I’ve met (and I’ve met a lot of them). But, as I sat there strategizing with him, I wondered aloud, “Jeff, why do people hire one salesperson over another?” Sensing the rhetorical nature of my question, he hesitated, “Because they’re better at selling?” Sure, that’s one answer. They have to be good at selling. That’s the bar for entry. Assuming you have some semblance of selling skills (which seem harder and harder to come by), what’s the one thing that will set you apart from every other candidate out there? Your rolodex.
And that’s when it struck me. Having the skill set for your functional area is really just the bar for entry. It’s your rolodex that makes or breaks you. I told Jeff that, while he was good, if he wanted to be really great, he needed to get a better rolodex. Instead of trying to pitch the media, he needed the ability to make one or two phone calls, get connected with the right person, and then use his PR pitch skills to perfection to get me on TV in New York.
I started thinking about the other professionals I deal with. Recently, we had an issue with a hotel overcharging us. Instead of sending it back to me to handle, I would’ve much preferred my financial accounting firm to already have the relationship with the hotel, deal with the situation, and let me know when it was handled. If we had a really big problem, I would fully expect them to call Marriott corporate (or whichever brand we’re using) and deal with their contacts in finance. Now that would be valuable. And that would set them apart from every other firm.
What makes you valuable? Your work ethic? Your competence? Your experience? Sure. But what makes you indispensable? Your relationships.
Your relationships give you the ability to get a meeting, get a resolution, get a credit, get a favor…with just one phone call. That saves you time, and saves us money!
I met with a lawyer recently. Unlike most attorneys I know, this one said, “We can do the transactional work for you – just like any other law firm. But, my goal is to add value to your business. I want to help you with strategy. I know a lot of people that could provide incredible resources to you. Resources in the form of influencers, customers, investors and advisors. I want to help you identify new businesses that set you up for incredible success.” Who wouldn’t want that person aligned with their business?
Three months prior to entering the world of commercial real estate, I knew pretty much no one in the industry. Within 90 days, I met face-to-face with more than 60 people. Additionally, I built other relationships. I went to a commercial real estate conference in Las Vegas and met even more people (again, this was before I was even in the business). I started to build a strategy around the idea that if I already had relationships with potential customers before I ever got hired, I’d be a far more valuable employee.
I also learned was that some of the most valuable relationships I built were with other brokers. Because if you already have a relationship with the broker on the other side of the table, you can bring more value to your client.
You might be thinking, but I’m not generally in a role that is customer-oriented. Keep in mind, every role is customer oriented…because without customers, who needs employees, right??
If you’re in IT, build a relationship with not only the vendor of your products you support, but also other customers who are running those applications. Microsoft recently came out with a really interesting program for early stage companies. I sure wish my IT provider told me about it. Instead, I found out about it from someone at Microsoft who works in Corporate Development.
Are you in HR? Instead of getting the job, and then figuring out the best health insurance plan to go with, why don’t you meet with people from all of the plans and find out when and why you’d go with one versus the other? Then, once you’re on the job, you’ve just saved you (and the company) from spending time figuring out something you really should have already known. And you know who to work through to get the job done.
Are you in supply chain? You know what would make you really valuable? Understanding how other industries manage their supply chain. Understanding the cutting edge technologies they’re using. And I’m not just talking about reading up on it. I mean actually building relationships with those players. They’re going to tell you things that you’ll never see in a book or article. Then, you’ll be able to figure out how to not make just iterative steps, but truly transformational change in the way your supply chain operates. And then, when you run into a problem at your own company, you’ll know who to call.
Obviously you can’t know everyone, but certainly you can know someone.
I could go on and on with every functional area. But I won’t. All I’ll say is, if you think you know enough people. You don’t. If you think you’re well connected in your area of expertise, then think about the other relationships you need to build. Who are your customer’s customers? Who are your customer’s suppliers? Who are your customer’s service providers? How do you build relationships with them to bring more value to the table?
Deliver on the skills. Deliver on the relationships. And be truly indispensable.
And, maybe someone could help me out. If you know anyone in the media in New York, please let me know. It will be my way of bringing more value to Jeff!