Leading With Change + Innovation

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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Career Advice: 11 Ways to Become Essential – Part 1

You don’t have to be a business speaker to know: It’s a rough world, and that goes double as far as employment is concerned. As we often note, in today’s business environment, you’re either extraordinary, or you’re expendable. To maintain your job—better yet, to advance—you need to be essential. Few people are willing to expend the effort, however, preferring to keep their heads down in order to reserve their stores of energy and avoid potentially putting their jobs in jeopardy by “rocking the boat.” But if you hold off on taking risks or recognizing your full potential, you may actually wind up becoming another featureless face that’s wiped out in the next round of layoffs, or worse, watching your dreams fly out the window while you idly sit by.

Don’t let that happen. Take this business speaker’s advice and follow these tips for becoming essential.

Gain talents, skills, and experiences that few others possess. Nobody becomes a big name in their field by being ordinary. In order to garner worth and visibility, you need singular skills, talents, and experiences that aren’t widely held by others. In other words, you want to excel at what others aren’t good at, and strive to create knowledge gaps or networks of relationships others can’t easily replicate. After all, your resume may be just one of several thousand sent to HR’s inbox. Going forward, it will be the fruit of your work that really communicates your singularity and worth to the world at large.

See opportunities, connections, and problems that other people don’t. Easier said than done, sure—but some of today’s most richly-rewarded people are the men and women who see problems where none previously seemed to exist. Take Facebook, for instance—at the time of its conception, we already had people trading thoughts, photos and videos via email, online service and websites, but then Mark Zuckerberg asked, “Hey—what if we brought this all together in one really easy, simply digestible and hyper-intuitive interface?” The results speak for themselves. Look for areas where you can raise the bar—or, better yet, shatter entire ceilings.

Bring others together in ways that most people can’t. A movie producer isn’t necessarily a great filmmaker. That producer, however, may have a talent for bringing together people who can make a great movie, including directors, screenwriters, and actors — and securing the funding from disparate groups of financiers needed to pull the show off. The same goes for a start-up that can benefit massively from one person who knows how to skillfully bring together the right team to tackle a problem. Every problem in life we face is just a puzzle: Apply the right tools, talents and individuals, and you can systematically solve it. There is untold powerful in being able to serve as the connective tissue between teams who’d otherwise never be able to unite and apply the right combination of insights and efforts to achieve meaningful results. True leaders serve as multipliers that allow individuals, teams or organizations to come together and work in harmony, creating outcomes that add up to far more than the sum of their individual parts.

Cultivate scale and gaps. It’s important to have skills in which you’re so well-entrenched that others find it extremely difficult to catch up to you. Two words apply here: First or best — even better if you can do both. This isn’t easy and takes hard work. Think about scenarios where a lot of pain is required—such as earning a law degree or becoming a doctor—and how well-rewarded people are who push through it to get skills few others possess.

Build platforms and relationships that are difficult to replicate. At the end of the day, as business speakers can tell you, you want to make sure you can offer something that competitors can’t easily reproduce. You want to operate in areas where a clone can’t simply pop up overnight and bump you off the map with cheaper offers or products. It’s a lesson any professional, brand or organization (or, for that matter, business speaker) should take to heart — the easier we are to copy, the less perceived value we command, and easier we are to replace.

For more, please see Part 2 of our guide to future-proofing yourself and becoming essential.

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