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  • The Nirvana of Personal Branding is to Become Indispensable

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    Are you indispensable?

    That’s right, if you become indispensable, you will not be subject to a firing or replacement. This is the most challenging personal branding goal. It’s lofty but wouldn’t you like to have that much job security and negotiating power? How would you feel if you could ask for any salary or benefits, as well as pick your company or start your own company, with customers or employers lined up at your door?

    Well, it’s possible, but very rare in today’s society. There is an exponential growth in the amount of small businesses in this world, as well as specialists who are claiming niche’s, fighting to hold them and struggling to stay relevant to the ever changing marketplace. People are having trouble enough standing out to worry about hitting personal branding nirvana by becoming indispensable.

    Imagine this

    A new technical skill just hit your industry and no one has learned it yet. You decide to go through training and become the only certified professional in the world with that skill. Due to your specialization, you have become indispensable and you can’t even fight off the amount of offers your receiving from companies that would like to advance their business with your skills. IT is possible, but how far will you go to position yourself in this respect?

    What won’t make you indispensable

    1) Becoming an expert in a saturated market. Learning everything you can about social media, including blogging, podcasting, social networks and social applications. Sorry everyone, but this is slowly becoming general knowledge. You can only differentiate here for select audiences.

    2) Sitting behind closed doors. As I always say, visibility creates opportunities. What do you think of someone who may be indispensable, but no one knows about it? It’s like having the perfect resume, but not submitted it to anyone. It’s like building an amazing blog template, website or Facebook page, but not publishing it. If you aren’t aggressive, you will digress.

    3) Following in one’s footsteps. Sure mentorship is great for your professional education, but if you are constantly copying others, then it’s hard to identify you among the masses. In order to become known in today’s society, don’t be co-branded (except for celebrities, when it tends to come with the territory). When you follow someone else, you lose track of who you are, with the benefit of learning, but at the cost of positioning.

    What will make you indispensable

    1) Don’t think about now, think about the future. If you concentrate on skills that are being taught in our school systems, you will not become indispensable, but rather, just another graduate. You need to become a thought leader, such that you are years ahead of everyone else in your field. This sometimes means that you have to make guesses or assumptions and try and back them with research (educated guess).

    2) Pay attention to what’s already out there. Not enough people read. It doesn’t matter how you receive your information (I prefer Google Reader). All that matters is that you are die-hard about your field. You should be subscribing to all relevant blogs and traditional news sites. Also, you’ll want to subscribe to research websites such as Marketing Charts and eMarketer, so you can start to plan for the future or at least build it into your pitch. The more you learn today, the better off you’ll be tomorrow.

    3) Forget about your weaknesses, they are WEAK. Listen, if you are horrible at creating websites or investing in the stock market, don’t allocate all your time to learning as much as you can. If you know what your strengths are, try to elevate those strengths into personal branding nirvana. Those strengths can turn into the skills you need to be indispensable.

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    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Career Development, Personal Branding, Positioning, Success Strategies
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    12 comments on “The Nirvana of Personal Branding is to Become Indispensable
    1. avatar
      EXPERT

      Hey Dan, good stuff here…especially your point around being visible! I am not sure I agree about the saturated market piece though…excellence is all about execution, and those that execute well, even in a saturated market, develop themselves very powerful brands! From my experience with people professing to be ‘social media heavyweights’ are mostly pretty terrible. My message here – being indispensable is as much about being great at what you do, as it is about being popular. The closing thought here though is – is indispensable a good thing if all it does is ‘pidgeon hole’ you and limit your opportunity to explore other skills and interests?

    2. avatar
      EXPERT
      Saran says:

      I can both Dan’s and Luke’s points here. Knowledge about saturated markets are by themselves indispensable. I think one of the most important attributes to consider about markets that are saturated now is that they are born out of saturation of another market. You can predict the future (slightly) if you understand the present market. Dan has touched this point too, emphasizing one to become a thought leader.

      I think these two points go hand in hand! Great post reinforcing the “Brand you” factor.

    3. avatar
      EXPERT
      Vanessa says:

      In response to Luke’s point, I think that becoming indispensable in a certain field gives you valuable thought leader status that actually keeps you from being pidgeon holed. You are free to find ways to connect and modify the old ideas in new ways. This may be drawing upon methods and practices of a different field.

    4. avatar
      EXPERT
      Justin Levy says:

      I think you make a great point about becoming a “die-hard in your field.” To me this means not only reading every print magazine, journal or newspaper that is related but also subscribing to as many relevant and meaningful blogs. Also, your point about visibility is key. Those indispensable people almost always have strong networks.

      These are both 2 of the things I enjoy the most. I love networking by being part of several organizations, attending trainings, seminars, being involved in social media sites, etc. I also really enjoy learning about new topics that interest me. When I find these topics I obsessively consume as much information as possible about the topic. This allows me to get up to speed quickly and start building my network of others who share the same interests.

      Thanks! -Justin

    5. avatar
      EXPERT
      Jessica says:

      Nice post. Interesting thing is that at work a last summer the company went through and auditing everyone’s computers and started the massive layoff process. Anyone who downloaded music or was viewing inappropriate things at work was fired, no questions asked or investigation. I asked one of my coworkers how they could just fire people and assume they could hire other people who would fill in their place, what if they fired indispensable people? He responded with, “no one is indispensable, if they were they could never get promoted or leave their position.”

    6. avatar
      EXPERT
      Andrea Hill says:

      Becoming a subject matter expert superstar is a great thing, but the problem is ensuring that the skill is valued. It’s much like investing: you can be the only XYZ in your state, but unless there is appreciation for that skill, it’s not worth much. So I’d argue that in addition to being an SME, you also need to be a bit of a salesperson…

    7. avatar
      EXPERT
    8. avatar
      EXPERT
      Deb Dib says:

      Dan, really great stuff. I’d add this — seems like the essence of being an indispensable brand is being niched — being a visible and valuable specialist in something that’s needed now.

      Yet, as you say, to be an indispensable brand you must always be looking to see what is looming on the horizon that few have yet identified as a trend/need. Then you’re prepared before most others; when the new need looms, you’re already trained and ready to jump in and meet it as a provider of the service and a thought leader in the field.

      Being indispensable to a company, however is all about the bottom-line, because none of this matters if it’s not tied to revenue and or profit. Being a profit driver (even if you’re in a “cost center”) is what keeps you indispensable. So being niched as THE expert, being future-forward before anyone else is, being a visible thought-leader, and tying that all to delivering or supporting profit is the recipe for indispensable.

      Thanks for opening a great discussion Dan. There are some terrific comments on your post!

    9. avatar
      EXPERT
      Dan Schawbel says:

      Great comments everyone.

    10. avatar
      EXPERT

      Great article! I definitely need to be more aggressive instead of sitting back 🙁

    11. avatar
      EXPERT

      Great points as usual Dan! I especially like your suggestion to forget about your weaknesses. NOBODY is good at everything, but who cares! You get paid for what you’re good at, not what you’re not, so focus on what you’ve GOT and build on that.

    12. avatar
      EXPERT
      antirabbit says:

      There is a problem with this concept, and it unfortunately has less to do with the economy than we would like. The workplace is changing and people are becoming less necessary. Anybody who is “indispensable” who is not management, threatens management’s control and the more they are needed, the less they are “wanted”. The reaction to this has been outsourcing or automation. There was a very influential man who most Americans have never heard of, Frederick Winslow Taylor.

      This is from Wikipedia.

      “Taylor is regarded as the father of scientific management, and was one of the first management consultants.[1] He was one of the intellectual leaders of the Efficiency Movement and his ideas, broadly conceived, were highly influential in the Progressive Era.”

      In a sense, Taylor was the father of deskilling and decomposition of skilled jobs into their pieces.

      Also, those in IT might want to read Nicholas Carr’s “IT doesn’t matter”

      Its a far bigger problem we are dealing with than many thought. The 21st century will see the end of work as we know it.

      Machines, can do all scriptable work far better than humans do.

      People were not meant to do boring repetitive tasks. Even complex ones like driving or agriculture or haberdashery. Machines will eliminate human work in factories.

      Businesses will focus on their core competencies and will employ far fewer people than today, they will not need offices, as the Internet makes geographically distributed virtual workplaces possible. Work that does require people will be done from anywhere.

      Save your money, you are going to need it!

    10 Pings/Trackbacks for "The Nirvana of Personal Branding is to Become Indispensable"
    1. […] From Dan Schwabel at Personal Branding: The Nirvana of Personal Branding is to Become Indispensable […]

    2. […] are smart. You had better keep your strategies.  Dan Schawbel  has shared some good ones on The Nirvana of Personal Branding is to Become Indispensable.They seem simple but sometimes  people forget to take them into […]

    3. […] become known as responsive–and therefore responsible–and dependable and effective and indispensable. 3. Do you feel everyone needs to know the basic “survival” routines on the web now? […]

    4. […] And I agree — although it can be hard to follow the advice of Gina Trapani, who Dan interviewed. Check out what she had to say: Being on top of your game is the best kind of “branding” you can do, because honestly? Most people are not. Most people let email slip through the cracks, or say they’ll get back in a week and don’t, or drop the ball on that task you talked about doing in that meeting two months ago. When you follow up, when you’re responsive, when you’re on time (even early!) delivering on your deadlines–even when you pre-empt being late with a “Hey, I said I’d get this to you today but I turned out to be busier than I expected. How’s Tuesday instead?”–your co-workers and colleagues and clients will be impressed and only want to work with you more. You’ll become known as responsive–and therefore responsible–and dependable and effective and indispensable. […]

    5. […] The Nirvana of Personal Branding is to Become Indispensable […]

    6. […] If your interests lie in working for a corporation, then you MUST apply social media to those business functions, but also learn traditional approaches and look to the future. At the same time, there is NO job security anymore. When your colleagues preach about “job security,” it’s a load of crap! The only way to have job security is to become indispensable. […]

    7. […] If your interests lie in working for a corporation, then you MUST apply social media to those business functions, but also learn traditional approaches and look to the future. At the same time, there is NO job security anymore. When your colleagues preach about “job security,” it’s a load of crap! The only way to have job security is to become indispensable. […]

    8. […] blogged about the idea of being indispensable before. Do you think this is really possible considering the new […]

    9. […] blogged about the idea of being indispensable before. Do you think this is really possible considering the new […]

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