If you are reading this blog, you have probably at one point either heard of, or read Seth Godin‘s book, “Linchpin“. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the highlight: be indispensable. I would take it another step, and say that you need to be indispensable to the right people.
I had a client – we’ll call her Lilly – who came to me because she felt unhappy about her job and wanted to see if what work she was meant to do. Lilly had a string of jobs over her career track, mostly in marketing. In each one she worked her butt off trying to become indispensable. She’d take on extra projects, work overtime, and was always eager to contribute ideas. Because she worked so many hours, she would end up spending less time with friends, and had difficulty holding onto relationships as a result. Within a few years, she’d get burned out, stressed, and eventually depressed. It would eventually affect her work performance. She’d switch jobs every few yeas as a result. In some cases, she was laid off, and a few times she was actually fired for lack of job performance. When she came to me, she was recently laid off, and was working at a retail store.
Her boyfriend at the time – we’ll call him Tim – has his own business, and was doing well, but he was transitioning his business into a different direction, and was unhappy with his admin. Lilly had stepped in a few times to help out when Tim’s admin couldn’t do the job. For example, Lilly ran a few of Tim’s email campaigns because Tim’s admin didn’t really understand how to use the email marketing software. Although Tim had asked if Lilly would be willing to replace her admin, Lilly was always reluctant because she felt mixing business life and personal life would always be a bad idea. Tim never forced the issue, and continued his search for the perfect admin.
Then one day Lilly was at her retail job, and a customer had come up to her and thanked her for providing such great service. Retail, as you may imagine, is a thankless job for the most part, so receiving such gratitude should have made Lilly feel good about herself. It didn’t. She recalled how when she rarely received good feedback in her previous jobs. And when she did, but the positive feedback never brought her the kind of joy she that one would associate with them. When she did feel a sense of accomplishment, it was short lived. This perplexed her.
After some discussion, we discovered that out of all the jobs she’s ever had, the only time she’s ever felt truly appreciated was when she helped her boyfriend with his business, whether it was designing a flier for him, or managing his email marketing database. Her boyfriend even told her several times that he wished he could find someone exactly like her with her exact skill sets, but he always ended up coming up short.
And that’s when she had an epiphany. Without any prodding from her boyfriend, Lilly proposed the idea of working for her boyfriend. Tim was surprised and ecstatic. Lilly quit her job, and started working for her boyfriend doing what Tim’s admin used to do, and is also in charge of Tim’s overall marketing. She’s never felt so good about a job before. She said her boyfriend made her feel indispensable. She became his linchpin.
Whatever job we have, whatever career path we are on, it is not enough to be indispensable. We also need to be indispensable to the right people. What is the point of being indispensable to your boss if you’re not indispensable to your spouse? What is the point of being indispensable to your fans, if you aren’t indispensable to your friends? Be a linchpin in the lives of those that matter most to you. Be indispensable to the right people.