How do I make my-self indispensable!


How do I make my-self indispensable!

Jan 23, 14 10:01 am

Speak Mandarin, German, Russian & Portuguese (English too). Know enough coding to get a job at google, but turn them down for architecture. Be well-versed in all up-to-date programs. And be humble. 

Jan 23, 14 10:24 am

Indispensable to whom?

Jan 23, 14 11:02 am


Jan 23, 14 11:12 am

If its about work, then work harder than most. Thats the only way...

Jan 23, 14 11:50 am

Be self-employed ha.

Jan 23, 14 11:52 am

How do I make my-self indispensable!

Jan 23, 14 11:59 am

Pull your weight and get chummy with the important people.  Hard work will only get you so far... and putting your neck out there can meaning giving others the opportunity to chop your head off. Be careful (I speak from experience).

Jan 23, 14 12:09 pm

know something important other people don't know.

you need both.  if you know something that isn't important, that's not going to help you.  if you know something others know, that's not going to help you.

Jan 23, 14 12:10 pm

Be the first one in, the last one out, work weekends, know Revit 2014. Autocad 2014, Rhino, Grasshopper, DP, Adome suite the IBC and CBC thoroughly, be the brightest. Never blow a deadline, exceed all expectations - Actually, I have met a few that meet these requirements - and when the ax fell in 2008, they survived in that they were recession proof. It's a level in architecture that is similar to what it takes to be a SEAL - no pain no gain - comfort = mediocrity = expendability = a broke person

Most people will never aspire to this level because of the amount of work and self discipline it requires.

Jan 23, 14 12:11 pm

Forget everything else...if you bring in the most business you will be indispensable. Aside from that we're all replaceable. 

Jan 23, 14 12:16 pm

xenakis, that doesn't work.  i'm fairly certain those people are not indispensable, but even if they are, you comparison between people who put in the most hours (idly or not) doesn't really have a finite end.  if you have 2 people who want to be the last one out, they will never leave.  especially with a salary position, that just means more working for free.

Jan 23, 14 12:30 pm

also - avoid negative people - these losers who basically retired while on active duty will pull you down with cynical horror story's of lost battles - avoid them - better to be with successful people or alone - avoid losers. these losers want to take your rose colored glasses and throw them under a bus.

Jan 23, 14 12:57 pm

"also - avoid negative people"  Classic!!!

But seriously thanks for all the tips everyone, much appreciated!!!!! :D

Jan 23, 14 2:23 pm

Xenaxis is a 100% correct. People that kiss ass and get chummy just move from place to place looking for a better paycheck. People who become indispensable are the ones that pull their weight...

Jan 23, 14 2:46 pm

sad but true, I know of too many that wander from job to job -sadly,  sooner or later, the lack of progressive experience catches up to them, that and the high pay for 5 years at the 2 year level and it's game over. Also playing fast and loose, I know of one who plays that game - "dine and dash" off to the next job they go leaving everyone in a lurch at the last place. 

Jan 23, 14 2:58 pm

sitting at your desk longer than everyone else is different than pulling your own weight

Jan 23, 14 3:08 pm

pick the red pill.

Jan 23, 14 4:12 pm

And being popular amongst your peers helps a lot too...

Jan 23, 14 4:27 pm
won and done williams

People who work hard are a dime a dozen - totally dispensable. Own the relationship with your clients and you will never be let go.

Jan 23, 14 4:32 pm

Its pretty awesome to see how everyone on this post is demeaning the value of hard work. I work at a large firm where most people kiss ass a 100% of the time, and they are the ones who do not get bonuses or even design work. I am not saying that everything else is not important, but do not mistake the fact that hard,smart work will get you ahead in life...

Jan 23, 14 4:41 pm
Saint in the City

Who really knows...  generally, however, I'm not sure "indispensibility" it's a great goal.  It's not far off from saying "how do I become perfect?".

I think you will be a lot better off by just over-performing every task you're given, and constantly expanding your knowledge / skills base.   Beyond that, I just really would worry too much about employer reactions.  Focus on becoming better -- that's enough.  

If you don't like that answer, try:

1.  marrying the boss

2.  swallowing the boss's car key fob.

Jan 23, 14 4:45 pm

working hard was a valuable work ethic when we had unions, when people stayed with the same employer for 30 years, and retired with a pension.  i don't even know if there was actually an idyllic time like that, where we could just work for a living without worrying about our bosses spying on our personal lives and such.  anyway, today employees and employers are both disposable.  que sera sera

work smart, not hard.  learn new things whenever you can.

Jan 23, 14 4:57 pm
Saint in the City

So, without a union, there is to reason to work hard?

Are you familiar with unions?  You've got it a$$ backwards.

Jan 23, 14 5:12 pm

Xenakis, I knew a few of the uber hard-working types you mentioned. When their firm was bought out they were thrown under the bus like everyone else. Work hard and play hard and work well with your coworkers, but don't shortchange your self or your family. If you really want to be indispensable start your own firm.

Jan 23, 14 5:18 pm

A "Architect" is a particular image.  It's individualism where having your own style is a 'good thing'.  The envy of a lot of licensed professions because we're sort of the butterflies.  What other highly educated profession can get away with and be accepted with a full sleeve of tattoo's and be taken completely serious?  I can throw on a pair of jeans, brightly colored wrinkled cotton blazer, and a button down and walk into a corporate boardroom wearing this frumpled outfit.  If questioned about my attire, I can say "I'm the architect" and that will explain everything... You are suddenly unique, artistic, and have some sort of 'flair' about you where it's ok.  That is what we soft sell: "something special". 

We don't sell BIM, Revit, and the drawings.  We sell our artistic ability to create spaces which can evoke emotions, imagination, and create a 'better place' for them to work and play.  So focus there... not the tools of the trade.

Unions would suck the life out of our profession so all would be created equal when we are clearly not.

Jan 23, 14 5:32 pm
wurdan freo

Think like an owner.

Most owner's I know, don't want to work 12 hour days, seven days a week. They will, however, do whatever it takes to complete the job at hand by the required deadline while minimizing risk to the firm and maximizing profit. Imagine or ask what the Owner's goals are for the company and integrate them into your day to day activities.

If you are working 12 hour days to look good, but your production is no better than someone working 8s... you're not fooling anyone and you're wasting your time. 

Jan 23, 14 5:35 pm

Those who focus on the tools of the trade will become "tools of the trade" and guess what happens when those tools become obsolete? off to the junkyard of unemployment

"We don't sell BIM, Revit, and the drawings.  We sell our artistic ability to create spaces which can evoke emotions, imagination, and create a 'better place' for them to work and play.  So focus there... not the tools of the trade."

Jan 23, 14 6:34 pm

As an ex-athlete, i dont believe you can become out standing w/o working hard or practicing hard at it. Just need to know what to practice

Jan 23, 14 6:51 pm

be visiblw - all the good work and long hours will be wasted if the "power" does not know it - it was especially a problem at a big office like Skidmore - where I was invisible - so when the bottom fell out - game over.

Network, publish or perish, teach - be visible

Jan 23, 14 6:51 pm

Never stop improving yourself and carefully build and maintain client relationships. Why? Because you can be the designer that brings in millions of dollars to your firm and yet if the principal feels that it is in the interest of the firm to let you go, guess what?, the principal is letting you go.I admit, it sounds counterintuiative, but this kind of behavior happens all the time. Trust me. Don't work your fingers to the bone for anyone, except yourself.

Jan 23, 14 11:25 pm

Get clients, work hard, keep learning new skills, and always find a good scapegoat when something goes wrong, such as that invisible intern who hasn't developed much of a working relationship with that person in power that you're friends with. But first and foremost, start building your network of clients as soon as you can--attend ULI conferences, Real Estate Council meetings, Planning and Zoning meetings, all on your own time.  One guy I went to school with who wasn't much of a designer did precisely this and is now a principal at a highly respected 75+ person firm in his mid-thirties.

Jan 24, 14 12:12 am

Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut. 

Say "I'll find out," never "I don't know."

If you're a tech, know the latest software (not all of them). If you're an architect (or aspire to be one), your value is in managing - deadlines, consultants, budgets, co-workers, clients, etc etc etc.  

The advice above about "think like your boss" is spot-on. Work smart, play stupid, and deliver on your promises.

Jan 24, 14 12:24 am

I don't know means I don't care - 

Jan 24, 14 2:50 pm

Thanks everyone for your time & insight

Jan 25, 14 6:51 am

If you want to hear a polite answer, here is it: "This is an interesting question."


If you want to hear the truth:

Keep on dreaming. EVERYONE is dispensable or replaceable. If you think you or anyone else is in dispensable, you have not been in this profession long enough. I have seen the let go of a principal who have been working for the same firm for 32 years, and ran one of the offices for 25 years, and brought in almost every project.


A successful business will make sure EVERYONE is dispensable. Just like McDonald, no matter who comes in and work, after you have been trained, the result will be the same. You want to have a successful business model that will transform ordinary people to do extraordinary things.


Gang Chen, Author, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Jan 25, 14 2:28 pm

You can do 12 hours worth of high quality work in 8 hours, and be a fun addition to the office culture

Jan 25, 14 2:51 pm

That is absolutely correct. When I was working for others, the only problem I had is I always ended up finishing what I was supposed to do in less time than they expected, and they had a hard time to keep me busy. I simply informed my supervisor that I was done, and I started to fin ways to improve the office after I am done with my portion of the work like helping other PMs, and coming up with QA checklists, building up office detail library, etc.


I have seen people stay late for two reasons:

1. It is way over their head and they could not handle the job, even if they really try hard.


2. Some bad employees dragged out the work to try to get overtime pay. They just pretended to be busy with the 8 hours, and purposely NOT finish the work in time to get overtime. It has actually happened. I am NOT joking.


If you really cannot finish your work within 8 hours, you need to find a way to work more efficient, and also talk with your boss to find a solution. A tired employee is NOT a good employee, and WILL affect the quality of your work.


Gang Chen, Author, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Jan 25, 14 3:05 pm

Gang Chen - I could not agree with you more.  If someone is constantly working long hours it is not because they are busy, it is because they are not resourceful and have poor time management skills.  We see this at our office all the time when new employees come in and can't handle a workload that is the same as others who are easily getting it done within 40 hour weeks. 

Jan 25, 14 3:30 pm
chatter of clouds

Work well...and for free. Forget you have a name or a life - it takes too much time to remember your name AND pronounce it. Accept to respond to a grunt. Don't sleep - stay at office 24/7. And you're not to consume coffeee, its money-bring your own. Sorry Xenakis but your post was that depressing.

Jan 25, 14 5:01 pm

Mr. Chen,

  On your 2 points you made regarding reasons why people stay late. They are valid. Have you considered that those are not the only reasons why people stay late? Surely a smart guy like you knows there are other possible reasons why people stay late.  When ive seen someone in over their heads, its been the opposite they leave early, and end up either quitting, or changing jobs.  Standards of "being done" are really quite different today then they were say 10 years ago.  At one point you also stated that you simply informed your supervisor that you are done, by the way i assume that since you had a supervisor you were talking about your days as an intern, which I would find it unusual for an intern to be involved in all of those activies like standards?  its been my experience that in a typical design team, you are never really done.  When I have completed something I simply moved on to another project, which leaves me really no time to be as involved in the activities you described. Id get more detailed but I know employers peruse these comments, would not want to air out all the architects dirty laundry. 

Xenakis, don't work so late man, people will throw you under the bus.

Jan 25, 14 8:32 pm

Just thought id say something on behalf of those that work late, you guys really should really not pick on those people, for one thing remember when we are all on your quarterly vacation they are the ones picking up the slack.

Jan 25, 14 8:51 pm

You'll always have a supervisor (or the person you report to until you are the owner of the firm). When I was a PM, I report to project director or a principal, when I was a principal or Vice President, I report to the owner.


No matter what reason you give, constantly working late is bad for you AND the firm. Something is wrong there. I cannot imagine a employee is constantly stressful can perform his/her best. A employer wants you to give him/her your best performance under your best mental and physical state, not performance under constant stress. No excuse.


Gang Chen, Author, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Jan 25, 14 11:52 pm

Working late constantly is bad, of course. But then, there are employees who always start glancing at their watches around 5:50 pm, because they have to leave at 6:00 pm, be it deadline or not, leaving others to finish up for them. Those are the most dispensable type in our business. Like it or not, theres the truth.

Jan 26, 14 12:42 am

If you're constantly working late, another possibility is that your supervisor has poor time management or unrealistic expectations.

Jan 26, 14 7:58 am

why not set realistic deadlines for your employees, so they don't have to work over an hour late?  why not figure out how to finish your schematic design in a reasonable amount of time so you don't have to wait until past the last minute to to have your junior staff finish the CDs?  some might think it's not really fair if you're paying them for an 8 hour day, but getting paid for their 10 hours a day of working.  some might think it's actually better for your employees to have a life outside your office.  go ahead and let them eat dinner with their families, so they have a full and rewarding life.

if you can't set achievable goals and manage a schedule, maybe you should look at assigning the project to someone who can.

Jan 26, 14 10:00 am

How do I make my-self indispensable!

Have good weed.

Jan 26, 14 10:56 am


Totally agreed. It has to be fair for both parties for any kind of relationship to be sustainable. I like that when I was working for one big firm many years ago, it is stated very clearly that the time beyond the 8 hours is the employee's time. 

It is OK to occasionally ask the employee to work late to meet a sudden deadline, but you need to pay them or give them comp time off.

We always complain that clients or people do not treat architects with respect. Let us start by treating ourselves with respect first. Your employees are just asking for a normal life, is that too much to ask?


Gang Chen, Author, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Jan 26, 14 12:25 pm

 I am all for completing work in 8 hours and going home.  What I'm saying is that if anyone stays late, we would be very narrow minded to blame the one person who works late. 

Yes, of course there is always someone higher up when you work for any company, but generally speaking when you are at the pm, or even at the pa level,  there is a level of autonomy.  Especially when your pm, or principal in charge are managing several other projects, along with daily duties.  As a Pa or PM you are expected to manage your project and have hindsight on every aspect within the scope of services.  This would create pretty much an endless list of problems to solve, which means more meetings, more man hours, more staff planning, then you find out your best drafter is on several other projects, so if this drafter helps you while helping on several other projects guess what he is going to work more than 8 hours? You cant do the work , the pm does not know how to use the latest software, what to do?  as the pm you cant do the work you are already on several other projects.  Well thats when you as a pm have to modify a persons weekly hours have meetings with the other pm's who are using your best drafter and re arrange his or her hours.  In the mean time who is picking up the slack for work not being done?  there the million dollar question.  There are times when something urgent comes up from an OAC meeting then I can see the pa, putting the staff to work and sending out the work to the project owners, copying everyone on the project so they know the urgent problem taken care of.  If a pm had to hear "I'm done" from a pa very often,  that pm would probably say the pa is not being proactive enough in terms of finding more problems to solve because that's what an architect does he solves problems.  An architect is not an assembly line worker that says I'm done and then stops working.

All im saying Mr. Chen, is keep in open mind not everything is as black and white as you may think.

Jan 26, 14 2:17 pm

I do agree if someone constantly works late,  there is a problem.  The problem could be as simple as that person being burnt out, needs a vacation.  Or more complicated, which would involve other aspects.  as a closing statement , like Michael Jackson said sometimes you got to talk to the man in the mirror, and on behalf of all those people that get picked on, pigeonholed, for working late,  ill say what Michelangelo said to Pope Julius, "it will be done when its done".

Jan 26, 14 2:36 pm


Work late? I finish early - I am pretty fast, learned that in the videogame industry - but when your project admin comes by at 5:30 with a menu from Chaat Bravan - and your Pm says " we got to get this out right away - can you stay late?"

Jan 26, 14 6:03 pm

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