In a world of drab, bare-minimum employees counting down the minutes till they can leave, a person who can be counted on to deliver in any situation is invaluable. Seth Godin calls them Linchpins. I call them the Go-To Guy (or Girl).
(For the purposes of this piece, I’ll refer to the Go-To Guy to avoid any he/she confusion. But Go-To Girls are every bit as prevalent—and awesome.)
Go-Tos are the ones everyone instinctively checks with when a tricky problem comes up—because somehow, they always know what to do. They always keep their heads in a crisis. They’re always happy to help out, they’re energizing to be around and they instantly boost the morale of anyone they come in contact with.
They are the office equivalent of superheros. And anyone can be one. (Well, almost anyone—see caveat below.)
Why the Go-Tos get it all
Caveat: If your reaction to the thought of being a Go-To is “Gah! So much extra work and responsibility! Why would I want that?”, then you’re not Go-To material. Don’t even try to be. It won’t work.
If, however, your reaction is more along the lines of “Interesting…What’s in it for me?”—here’s your answer:
Even if he’s a lowly file clerk, a Go-To somehow manages to get the respect of even the highest up on the totem pole. His questions are answered, his voice is heard and no one hovers over his shoulder to make sure he’s getting his work done.
Why? Because he’s proven time and again that he can be trusted and that he delivers consistent, superior results. And even if you are “a lowly file clerk,” being a respected lowly file clerk can make you feel important and valuable—which goes a long way towards enjoying your job, whatever it is.
“Have you ever met that personal assistant over at Jones & Jones? He’s a dynamo.”
“I know him! We had a crisis with the Smith closing, and you should have seen how he handled it. Jones is lucky to have him.”
“I’m telling you, if he ever leaves J&J, we’re snapping him up.”
“Not if we do first!”
That hot-ticket employee they’re discussing? Yeah, that could be you. Your reputation doth proceed you—and it doth do you good if you’re a Go-To.
If you ever decide to leave your job for something else, a few positively sparkling recommendations won’t hurt. Heck, if you’re as good as they say you are, you’ll probably have a few offers already lined up. (See above.)
This is by far the most important perk of being a Go-To. If you have dreams of negotiating a flexible schedule or work-from-home arrangement…If you’re sick of being stuck in a cube and angling for that new office that just opened up…If your kid gets sick and you need extra time off without getting wrist-slapped by the employee handbook…Leverage is the tool that will get you there.
Being a key asset your company can’t live without gives you plenty of negotiating power. Any boss who knows what’s good for their business will do everything they can to hold on to a Go-To (within reason).
Just make sure you use your powers for good and not evil, okay?
How to become a Go-To
So. You’re up for the challenge of being the office superhero. (Good for you!) Here are the steps you need to take to earn your Go-To Guy (or Girl!) cape:
Sounds rather mild for a superhero, doesn’t it? But in a workplace full of people who b*tch and moan over every copier jam or extra project, being cheerful and happy to take on whatever’s thrown your way can really make you shine.
Do what’s asked of you with a smile, offer to help others if you’ve got some extra time, thank the people who help you out. These seem like such small gestures, but you’d be amazed how rare it is to find someone who’s just happy to be of assistance.
Keep calm and carry on
Deadline will blow up. Big deals will suddenly crumble. That’s the nature of working anywhere; sometimes sh** happens. But while everyone else is panicking and pointing fingers, a Go-To gets down to work to see what he can do to damage control.
Be cool. Be collected. Be a rock that others can depend on,
The next time a critical project comes up that needs extra-special care, guess who the boss is going to think of first for the job?
Go above and beyond
If your report is due on Monday, turn it in on Friday (with a few extra stats thrown in that you weren’t required to include, but that you thought the company would find helpful). If you’re filing and you notice the system’s a little hard to navigate, propose a better way to organize it. Heck, if the coffee pot is out of water and that’s technically “the receptionist’s job,” refill it yourself—then wipe up the spills around it.
This one is tricky, because you don’t want to come across as a suck-up. The key is in giving extra as though it’s a matter of course. (“Oh yeah, I noticed the ABC Corp. deadline is next week, so I thought it might be helpful to send out that status report to the team to make sure we’re all on the same page. It only took me a minute; don’t worry about it.”)
Don’t be pushy or showy about the fact that you’re doing more; just do more because you’re a good worker and you care about the company. People will notice.
Always be learning
Most employees are happy just to do their jobs, day in and day out, and remain totally ignorant of anything that doesn’t fall within their “need to know” scope. But a Go-To is a curious and ambitious person. He likes to make connections between tasks, look up terms and procedures he doesn’t understand, ask intelligent questions to help himself see the big picture more clearly. And because of this, his areas of knowledge and expertise are always growing.
I started off as a temp at my law firm, filling in for a secretary on maternity leave for a few weeks while I was in college. Eleven years later, I am a paralegal who has gradually negotiated herself down to a part-time schedule to accommodate her side hustle. How did I rise through the ranks? Through all of the above.
You can do it, too. And I can tell you from experience that it’s worth it.
Kelly Gurnett is Assistant Editor of Brazen Life and runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger extraordinaire here.