How to Be Irreplaceable in a Tough Economy


By Ruth M. Schaub, PP, PLS

I began my first law office job 25 years ago as a receptionist for a small firm. Along the road I learned the value of becoming the type of employee no boss wants to be without. Read my suggestions and find a way to make them apply to you and your work situation.

1. WORK SMARTER NOT HARDER.

Develop “obsessive” routines for doing things and do them that way every time to assure you do not miss an important step. Shortcuts are mistakes waiting to happen. Bosses understand that we make mistakes—but they do not understand why we repeat the same mistakes over and over. Mistakes are opportunities to implement strategies to make sure they are not repeated.

Organize your desk at the end of the day and prepare for the next day. Leaving your desk in a shambles sends the message that you are disorganized and that is not a message you want to send.

Be valuable and you will be valued. Are you an employee that you would hire? Make your boss’s life easier. Figure out what keeps your boss up at night and create a procedure so they know it is always taken care of.

Look ahead on the calendar repeatedly. Anticipate what your boss wants and provide it before being asked for it. Remind your boss of pending deadlines in enough time to meet those deadlines. Bosses want to reward employees who are exceptional. Regardless of your current position, do your job well. You cannot move forward until you master your current job. Do not just take up desk space—every day go above and beyond.

2. BE A TIMESAVER BECAUSE TIME IS MONEY.

Create keyboard macros for repetitive tasks such as phrases you type often or signature blocks. Create a caption document in your computer as soon as you file suit or draft an answer. When it is time to draft discovery, open the caption document, cut and paste your form discovery, and there are your initial interrogatories.

Be sure to go through your inbox at the beginning or end of each day. Think of your inbox as a refrigerator. Your refrigerator and your inbox both need to be cleaned out regularly or the contents will become toxic. Things that sit around in your inbox might kill your career! Despite my wishes, the project fairy has never come in at night to help out with the tasks I detest. Get work done and move on to the next project.

Open your mail in the same place and in the same fashion every day. Calendar all dates and deadlines before giving mail to your boss. You need to think of your boss’s inbox as a huge black hole that eats everything that you put in it never to be seen again. You may need to give your boss only photocopies and keep all originals for you to process and file. It is better to make a few extra copies on a matter than to lose one original or miss a deadline.

3. REMEMBER YOUR MEMBERSHIP RESOURCES.

Attend a study group. You do not have to take a certification exam to attend a study group. There is much to learn, and the information will transform your career. Read NALS publications and your state or chapter publications. The information is valuable and current. Stay current by attending seminars and monthly chapter education. Need an expert or does something baffle you? Post your question on the NALS Community and let a NALS member help you. Networking is free. Broaden your contacts. Know someone in every county in your state and every state in our country.

4.  BECOME THE “GO-TO” EMPLOYEE.

Today, companies are running leaner with fewer employees and they are asking more from those who are still employed. It is more important now than ever before to be the best at what you do. Consider learning a new language. Get tapes for your commute or take a class. Think how valuable you would become to your firm’s immigration department if you learned to speak Spanish!

Learn new software even if you have to take a class. You do not want to be the employee who slowed down office progress because you could not learn the new software. Become the office software expert, the Goddess of Grammar, or the e-Filing Expert. It is good to be seen by your employer as the person everyone comes to in the office with questions.

Knowledge is power and education is the one thing no one can take from you. Knowledge is yours to take anywhere you go in life. When you stop learning, you start dying.

5.  IN THIS ECONOMY THE SQUEAKY WHEEL GETS REPLACED.

Today it may be critical to be the person known for finding answers and taking action. Be the problem solver and not the problem creator. Problem solvers are valued. Problem creators are replaced.

Treat coworkers as you would want to be treated. Give praise to others and remember to say thank you. Do not be seen as being uncooperative or lazy. The days of keeping employees around because of longevity are over. If you say “they do not pay me enough to do that” or “that is not my job,” you might be right!

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