What is an indispensable employee? Someone who can never be fired? Well, that is the literal translation of the word. But an indispensable employee is much more than that. An indispensable employee is one who can always be counted on to save the day. Someone who can be depended on to the job perfectly to the ‘T’. Someone, who more often than not, rises rapidly through the ranks on the back of their powerful personality and stellar body of work. Someone each one of us aspires to be.

So, how exactly does one get to be the ‘un-fire-able’ employee, the indispensable one?

Not by sucking up to the bosses, though that does work in many cases. Personal experience has shown me that the most indispensable employees have these key characteristics.

1. Be Great At The Everyday Stuff

It’s very simple really. Most of us make such a big deal of thinking out of the box and going the extra mile, we often forget to cover the basics. Getting your job done accurately and without any glitches, on a consistent basis must become second nature. The idea is to get both the extremes spot-on attention to detail is as important as big picture thinking.

Whether they’re customers or co-workers, be nice to the people you deal with every day. No one likes a grumpy face, least of all at the workplace.

2. Pick Your Specialization. Master It.

We all know that one person at our workplace who’s a wizard with numbers. There’s the colleague who awesome at writing superb copy. Then there’s the girl who’s great in coding Ruby on Rails. You get the drift. Becoming THAT guy that the entire team depends on is the goal. A specialist’s reputation typically straddles different management ranks. He is sought after not just by his own team, but even by cross-functional teams.

Dig deep and identify a talent that you can convert into workplace skill and hone it. You may be a good artist. Why not try your hand at Photoshop or Illustrator to see how well you can create visual images. Positioning yourself as a subject matter specialist goes a long way in cementing your spot in the team and offers you a leg up in the corporate ladder.

3. Be The Fun Guy (Or Gal!)

Being indispensable does not have to be synonymous with being a drag. Yes, it pays to be meticulous; but letting your hair down and joining in the Mardi Gras parade every once in a while never hurt anybody.

We are biologically wired to seek out ‘fun’ people and try and hang out with them. You see, having fun releases endorphins or ‘feel good’ hormones in our brains giving us an instant chemical high. This explains why the average person prefers to watch a hilarious sitcom on television over crunching numbers for an office presentation.

4. Lend A Helping Hand

It’s good to be brilliant or geekily eccentric. But in the popularity stakes, everybody likes a nice guy. The guy who is pleasant, chatty and helpful usually leaves behind a better impression on others than the reserved and anti-social genius. I don’t mean all you have to do is be a friendly colleague.

Volunteer to help out a coworker. It not only wins your goodwill from the concerned person, it also racks up brownie points in your favor in your boss’ mind. The best part? According to research by Professor Adam Grant of Wharton Business School, helping a coworker lends you a sense of happiness and satisfaction, which in turn makes you more productive at your own job. Win-win, isn’t it?

5. Take Initiative

This one’s a no-brainer. The ones who go the extra mile, the ones who take risks and stick their necks out are often the ones who reap the rewards as well.

It’s not just management mumbo jumbo; research shows that taking initiative is the quickest way to fast-track one’s career path. It could be an extra project on the side or a new experiment that you want to try out for your department. It does not always have to be work related. Even things like rallying for a cause or stepping up to fix that broken television set in your cafeteria will earn you not just pats on the back, but also recognition as someone who’s not afraid to take on challenges.

In Closing

It’s only human to feel needed and crave recognition. By going the extra mile to become indispensable at your workplace, you’re not just oiling the wheels of your career graph; you’re also helping yourself be happier and hence healthier in the long run.