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Please sir, can I get on board full-time?
July 21, 2011 10:52 AM   Subscribe

How can I make myself indispensable at a new job?

I'm a budding UX designer (been in the game for about 2 years) and recently landed a contract position at a small branding company. Initially I was only going to be here for a month, but now my contract has been extended "indefinitely"... not quite sure what that means, but I'm treating each day at work as though it's my last. In the meantime, I've been making efforts to get to know the people I work with, which is hard for me as a shy, introverted person, but I think I'm getting used to it. I'm also trying to not let my anxiety show over the other shoe dropping at any time.

Apparently there's a possibility of getting on board full-time. How can I prove my worth, even though I'm not a rockstar, super-senior designer? Ideally I'd be learning with another UXer here, but I'm the only one at the company, and there's no real UX design process set up here (one of the reasons why I was hired to begin with.) What can I do on my off hours that will improve my job performance? Of course I'm still keeping an eye out on job postings, but I really like this place and want to stay!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
The first step to making yourself indispensable is making yourself known. Are there meetings attended/helf by directors? Talking during the meetings. Make suggestions. Answer questions. Knowledgebly comment on what someone else said. If there's a problem you have to bring up, bring it up with a possible solution.

You want to be remembered as the designer who knows their stuff, is thinking ahead and find answers to problems.
posted by griphus at 11:03 AM on July 21, 2011


Work with people in other departments than yours. Give them a little help when you can. Once you have multiple departments wanting you there they will have more reasons to keep you around. Provide a little tech expertise to the non-techs.
posted by UMDirector at 11:04 AM on July 21, 2011


No real UX design process = opportunity to craft one. Also, if the company isn't well-versed in UX (do you get a lot of people asking "what do you do?" - or even 1/2 people?) then there's a great opportunity to educate people about it. Empower other people, educate them, and get very familiar with the business and product problems.
posted by hijinx at 11:07 AM on July 21, 2011


The first thing that comes to mind is to (a) try and determine some tasks that most of your colleagues HATE doing, and (b) become an expert at doing those things. My own perverse brain has ended up being a bonus on occasion because, for instance, I happen to enjoy lengthy repetitive solitary work.

Of course this won't work if you hate the same tasks your colleagues do, but as a fellow introvert who has often worked amongst a cadre of extroverts, I've definitely had instances where people were practically lining up to give me what I considered to be SUPER AWESOME FUN JOBS and thanking me profusely as if they couldn't conceive of my willingness to do said jobs as anything but an extreme personal sacrifice.
posted by aecorwin at 11:43 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


My answer is similar to aecorwin's: figure out the thing that everyone acknowledges needs doing, but nobody knows how to do.

It doesn't help your case if you identify and fix a problem that nobody else identifies as a problem—even if the office winds up running smoother after you fix it, your co-workers still need to understand what "it" is.

Also, the potential downside to this is that you become the guy who's stuck doing that thing, whatever that is. If it's not what you want to be doing anyhow, that's not a good place to be.
posted by adamrice at 12:11 PM on July 21, 2011


These will be secondary, but can't hurt: ALWAYS be on time (if not early), even if everyone else in the office is casual about start times, length of lunch breaks, deadlines, etc.. It's one of the little things that goes a long way in creating a favorable impression, even if just subconsciously.
posted by mauvest at 12:37 PM on July 21, 2011


The universal way to be an excellent employee is:

- keep your commitments (show up on time, follow up when you say you will, deliver on budget and on schedule)
- when you identify a problem, also identify a solution (don't ever, ever make excuses for not delivering on commitments - it happens, but apologize and solve it)
- Be kind and respectful (and normal/comfortable) to everyone. Treat the most senior person like a human, and similarly treat the receptionist like a human.
- learn the culture and the lay of the land. Understand who is friends with who, who is influential, who can get stuff done, etc. This will help you get things done much more efficiently, and help you and your colleagues navigate the company. (even better if you are friendly with many people).
- Find out what your boss' goals are, and make them happen. This concept is kind of related to "make your boss look good," but I think even better. I know I'd rather have an employee who delivered and over delivered on goals important to me than spent time "trying to make me look good" (I mean, achieving goals does make me look good - but some people focus on pointless noise that they think makes the boss look good)

even though I'm not a rockstar, super-senior designer?

Are there any rockstar, super-senior designers at your company? Befriend and learn from that person.

If you are able to learn great things from another designer that's probably the absolute best use of any extra time. This will both serve the company (you'll be doing better work) and serve you (if you are let go tomorrow, you'll bring those skills elsewhere).

Additionally, definitely take on projects that will get you noticed as a go-to problem solver. However, you don't want to do random projects unrelated to your career goals - these should be projects that help you progress within your chosen career and that you will really want to show off on your resume or in future interviews.
posted by rainydayfilms at 1:28 PM on July 21, 2011 [6 favorites]



Are there any rockstar, super-senior designers at your company? Befriend and learn from that person.


The OP mentioned that they are the only UX designer at their company.

But a variation to this is to find someone who's a rockstar super-senior designer at another company (a freelancer would be even better) who can mentor you in the off hours and help you when you run into a snag. A lot of people helped me become the IA I am now, and the UX community overall is interested in helping new people learn our craft.
posted by Anima Mundi at 2:48 PM on July 21, 2011


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