Become Indispensable: Solve Interesting Problems

Question for you: What do you have as your description line in your LinkedIn profile?

Mine says “Moving People to Action”

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What does your LinkedIn Description say?

I see several varieties of description.  Some people just put their job title: “VP Marketing at Corporation Inc”.  Some people an abstraction of their past experience “Experienced Manager in Telecoms Industry”.  Some people describe what they aspire to be.  I leave it at the somewhat vague “Moving People to Action”.  What is your profile description?  It is important.  The founder of LinkedIn says so.

I am reading Reid Hoffman’s book “The Startup of You” at the moment.  He speaks of treating your own career like an entrepreneurial startup.

Life on Permanent Beta

One powerful idea from the book is to keep your career on “Permanent Beta”.  Beta is an IT term for a not-yet-fully-tested version of the software.  We release beta software so we can find out how it is really used by customers and make many iterative changes before the final delivery of finished software.  Permanent beta is to assume that I am never finished, I am always a work in progress.  Permanent beta is to stop the search for a comfortable, coasting job that pays the bills with little or no effort on my part.

Plan A, B & Z

He speaks of Plan A, Plan B, Plan Z thinking.  Plan A is your current career.  Plan B is your aspirational career.  Plan Z is what you would do if Plan A and Plan B fell apart, the worst-case scenario.

An example in the case of myself 11 years ago:  Plan A was working as a manager in Accenture and working towards promotion to partner.  Plan B was starting up my own company.  Plan Z was living off my savings for a year while studying.

Moving forward to today, Plan A is teaching at IESE, speaking and writing.  Plan B is unclear and needs some work.  Plan Z would be living off my savings for a year or two.  I clearly need to do some work on Plans B & Z.  Reid says you are in danger of unexpected environmental changes if you don’t have some meat on the bones of these 3 plans.

Plan B should be based around the Meaningful Contribution venn diagram.  Jim Collins calls it the hedgehog concept.  It is a combination of what you do well, what you enjoy doing and what the market will pay you to do.  Reid calls them:

  • Your assets
  • Your aspirations and
  • the market realities.

Your assets include hard assets like money in the bank; however the really important inventory is your soft assets – skills, network, personal brand.  What are you known for?  Reid is very, very strong on taking choices that value learning over monetary reward.  The more you learn, the more valuable you can become.

Who you know is What you know

I haven’t read this chapter yet, so I am assuming…  but in a world where google, wikipedia and youtube allow us to find any knowledge in an instant, it is no longer of great value to know stuff.  Practical wisdom – which increasingly is knowing who to call, and knowing that they will answer and take action because it was you that called is the valuable stuff.

Are you Indispensable?

If your boss gives you lists of tasks to complete, you are dispensable.  You are not “you” at work, you are a processor of standardised tasks.  The recipe for being “you” can be written down, and will be outsourced to cheaper labour.

If your boss gives you interesting problems to solve, you are of value.  You are “you” at work.

If you are the one that identifies the problems, and ask others the interesting questions: then you might just be on the path to Indispensable.

Become Indispensable.

How does one become indispensable?  The first step is changing the profile description on your LinkedIn profile.  If your description is your current job title, then it is likely that you have no Plan B.  You are not actively investing in yourself to make Plan B a reality.

To become indispensable, first make your profile description your Plan B “aspirational” title.  Click here to begin that change.

Now, start to invest time, money and energy in making yourself ready to live up to that aspiration.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and dreams and aspirations are supposed to take some work.

Curiosity, Learning and Adaption.

Curiosity is the first step towards Learning.  Explore beyond. How did he do that?  Why did they do that?  What is happening here?  Curiosity is to wonder at the things I do not yet understand.

Learning is the most important daily task to adapt to the changing reality.

Rapid Adaption for yourself and for those around you: you become indispensable.

If you are not indispensable, you are dispensable.

If you are dispensable, you are commodity.  You are competing on price.   There are some mighty cheap people out there, cheap & able to follow recipes, cheap & able to follow a process manual.

2 comments

  1. […] If someone asked you, “What is your job?”, what would your response be?  Go ahead, take a minute to think about your answer.  I asked a similar question a few weeks ago in my post Become Indispensable: Solve Interesting Problems) […]

  2. Michelle Bruce · · Reply

    excellent advice!

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