Maybe you’ve been at your job for just a few months. Maybe you’ve been there for a few years. Either way, once you slip into a comfortable routine, it’s easy to take your foot off the gas without realizing it.
You might not be coasting through the work you do. Perhaps you’re even digging into your latest project really intensely–and that’s a good thing. But it only increases the chances that you may be neglecting your relationships around the office, starting with your boss.
Now that the adjustment period after the holidays–aka “January”–is behind you, it’s time to take a fresh look at how you’ve been interacting with your boss to see if you can invigorate your relationship. As career coaches are always saying, you need to make yourself indispensable, not just reliable; “satisfactory” never got anybody promoted.
Here are four things you can do to right now to remind your boss why they just can’t live without you.
In any job, it’s really easy to fall into trap of project- or work-management, where you’re just slogging through your tasks in order to keep things on track. The daily responsibilities pile up, and it’s your job to make sure everything gets done well and on time. Once one task is completed, you move onto the next one–probably hoping for praise on the thing you’d just finished and looking for guidance on the one you’re about to start.
But neither comes, and you start to get worried that your efforts are going unnoticed. Your solution here is to pick a task that’s a little outside of your normal work–one that matters to the business. The employee who’s most likely to catch the eye and ear of the boss is the one who creates, plans, and executes a valuable initiative that nobody requested.
The challenge here is that you need to find something you have the skills and time to actually pull off. But it may not be as difficult as you think. Maybe it’s as simple as finding a new way of organizing your meeting calendar, or a modest cost savings program that still makes a difference to your team’s budget.
Your manager might not be able to weigh in on every project you tackle, but every boss is on the lookout for people who can think in ways that positively impact the organization, both inside and out. Those who can are eventually rewarded. One caveat here: When you’re looking for improvements you can make, just be sure not to disparage the way something is being done that you want to change. Pose it as a question, like, “What do you think of me taking a closer look this month as how we’re organizing customer feedback? I think I can come up with some ways to streamline it.”
Once you get your boss’s support, make sure you follow through. You’ll be thought of in a different light, and you’ll also put your career on a faster track to move up in the organization.
Take a new hire or somebody on your team who’s at a position a few rungs beneath you under your wing. Why? First, it will get that employee trained and up to speed faster than your boss might’ve expected. Second, it will free up your manager’s time to take on other tasks while knowing that an important team member is being trained and mentored.
Best of all, your leadership skills will be on full display when you offer some pointers and help them develop their own skills. Not everybody has innate leadership abilities, but even many people who do just don’t have the chance to show them off. Mentoring a team member is one great way to give yourself that chance, and get noticed for it.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Think again. It’s amazing how the easiest parts of your job can cause the most frustration–not just for you but for your boss and your whole team–when it isn’t done well, or is done “just okay.” Little headaches in your everyday workflow can really jam things up. So if you’re looking for an easy reset button to hit where you and your boss are concerned, take a fresh look at your day-to-day tasks: Whatever it takes to move things along, become a perfectionist at it.
Your boss wants to know that you’ll accept nothing less than perfection every single time they assign you a task or project. The less your manager has to go back and glance over your work, the better. That way, you’ll be able to ask for more more challenging stuff, and your boss won’t have any qualms about giving it to you.
Thinking ahead is a gift you can give your boss pretty much every day. The best way to do it isn’t to think about what happens when your role on a task or project ends, but what happens next–after you’ve handed it off to somebody else.
In just about every job imaginable, most actions are linked to other actions, so the best thing you can do is think through the linkage before your role on the chain is finished. Many employees stop the process short of the end, thinking that they’ve already come to it, then hand something off that isn’t always in the best shape. But the real end is when all of the ramifications of the work have been accounted for and there’s no further action to take.
Your goal is simply to show your boss that you grasp the complete picture. To do that, try and think of some ways you can adapt what you’re asked to do in a way that helps people further down the line. These can be small tweaks to your process, but if you lighten the load of the next person who’ll have to take over what you’ve finished working on, you’ll be thanked for it.
It’s easy to think of your relationship with your boss as just an interpersonal thing–your rapport, how well you communicate, and so on. But it’s shaped by the work you do together day in and day out, which means that some of the best ways to get noticed (for the right reasons) are hidden in plain sight.
Don Raskin is a senior partner at MME, an advertising and marketing agency in New York City. He is also the author of The Dirty Little Secrets of Getting Your Dream Job.