Will You Be Indispensable At Age 72?

Photo by J.T. O'Donnell
Meet Kay. At 72 years old, she is about to celebrate her tenth anniversary with her employer. She has cut back to four days/week in her job as a lead nurse at a large assisted living home, but has no intention of retiring soon. Which makes her employer very happy because they want her for as long as she can stay. What a great situation to be in, right? Here's Kay's journey to becoming indispensable.

Growing Up Wasn't Easy For Kay

Kay grew up in a poor township in Pennsylvania. The middle daughter of a family with five kids, her dad died when she was young and her mom never fully recovered from the loss. Kay spent her school years juggling her studies while looking after younger siblings. She had a talent for taking care of other people and keeping things running smoothly. Thus, it only seemed to make sense she would go to nursing school - the first in her family to get a degree beyond high school.

Divorce Sent Her Back To Work

Kay married, had two kids, and left nursing. She was an excellent stay-at-home mom. But, after 26 years of marriage, she found herself divorced and in need of a job. The only position she could land was the night shift as a nurse. That was 20 years ago.

It's Not Work Ethic Or Smarts That Makes Kay Special

Kay's got a great work ethic. She arrives on time and holds herself highly accountable. She is very smart too - she's kept up with all the changes in her field and adapted to technology too. But, neither of those make Kay special. Instead, it's her unique approach to work that makes her indispensable.

Kay Has Two Customers...& She Makes Sure Both Their Needs Are Met

If you ask Kay who she serves, she tells you: my employer and my patients. As a nurse, Kay has a passion for patient advocacy. She wants the elderly in her facility to be well cared for. She knows they need someone dedicated to managing their care closely, making sure they have the best quality of life possible. The residents adore her. Their family members, who were unable to care for them on their own, are grateful for her support of their loved-ones. They regularly tell Kay's employer she is valued and respected by the patients and their families.

At the same time, Kay knows if the facility isn't run well, money can be wasted, the reputation may suffer, and jobs could be lost. Thus, Kay approaches her work like she is an owner of the company. She does what she can to save and make the facility money. She is always looking for ways to improve efficiency, productivity, and morale. She isn't a manager, but she sees herself as responsible for the success of the facility and its employees. This makes her valued and respected by her employer.

Valued & Respected By Your Employer AND Customers = Indispensable

This might seem like a simple answer, but it's not. Understanding what makes you valued and respected by the customer and the employer ensures neither side can do without you. Customers can love you, but if what you do doesn't justify your salary, your employer may let you go. In short, if you do work that matters to both sides, you'll stay in-demand.

7 Tips For Making Sure You Stay Indispensable

Kay says the following helped her stay employed throughout her career:

1) Go to work everyday asking, "What can I do to help the company grow?" Kay always looked for ways to ensure the company was thriving. Especially, if it involved making the customers happy too (see #5). That way, she got recognition from both sides for a job well-done.

2) Never say, "It's not my job." If the work needs to be done, get it done. Better still, get everyone to pitch in and make the best of it. The time you waste complaining isn't productive.

3) Remind yourself of what you have. Kay says she was sincerely grateful for her job and benefits and made a point to go through them in her mind each workday so that she felt upbeat and positive at work.

4) Don't get sucked into the negativity or office politics. Kay actively avoided the water cooler chat that involved excessive complaining about the company. She also learned early to avoid the office gossip and the "he said, she said" that creates drama in the workplace.

5) Keep your customers in mind at all times. Kay always looked for ways to make her patients happier. This focus on their satisfaction ensured she got consistent kudos and compliments passed on to her management team.

6) Maintain your self-respect. Kay always made sure she was proud of who she was and what she was doing. She didn't need praise or recognition from management because she was focused on impressing only one person with her accomplishments: herself. Kay felt good about her contributions and that gave her a positive confidence on-the-job that made her pleasant to be around.

7) Show the love. Kay consistently thanked her employer's management team for giving her the opportunity to be the best employee she could be. She showed gratitude for her position and made it clear through both her words and her actions that she valued and respected them as much as they did her.

PS - Kay Isn't Just An Amazing Employee, She's My Mom!

I'm proud to say, I'm Kay's daughter. (The picture above is of me and my mom!) As Mother's Day approaches, I wanted to be able to share with all of you the wisdom she was kind enough to share with me over the years. Learning the secrets to being indispensable at any age in your career is a very powerful thing. I'm so lucky to have her as a mom - and now you have her help too!

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