How to Work Yourself Out of a Job

Earlier this month, I got the opportunity to interview Shannon McFayden, a former Senior Executive Vice President at Wachovia. Shannon is Wachovia’s former Head of Human Resources and Corporate Relations. Once named one of the “25 Most Powerful Women in Banking” by US Banker, Shannon now works as an executive consultant and leadership coach.

Shannon had some fascinating insights about workplace culture, worker motivation, and more. One of the most interesting – and surprising? She believes that the goal of every HR professional should be to work themselves out of a job.

“The role of HR,” Shannon said, “should be to help leaders get really good at attracting, developing, and engaging talent – so good that they don’t need us anymore. The goal of every HR person and every HR function should be, ‘Let’s work ourselves out of a job.’ When the organization no longer needs us, that’s when we know we’ve accomplished our mission.”

The goal of every HR professional should be to work themselves out of a job. @Talent_Tribune

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That’s a controversial statement, especially in a world where most people want to ensure their job security by making themselves indispensable. But it’s also a good reminder that our personal career goals aren’t always the only things that matter. In fact, I’d argue that regardless of position, industry, or company, we should all try to work ourselves out of a job.

What does it mean to “work yourself out of a job?”

If you love what you do and like where you do it, you probably don’t want to actually work yourself out of a job. Luckily, that’s not what it means. Working yourself out of a job isn’t about making yourself redundant – it’s about approaching work differently.

If we’re motivated solely by self-preservation – by the thought that we need to work as hard as we can to make ourselves essential – we’re missing out. And so are the companies that hire us.

Self-preservation is the enemy of collaboration and communication – not to mention productivity and efficiency. If we’re too focused on our own achievements, we forget about the big picture. We don’t care about the success of our coworkers and teams. We don’t work as hard toward common goals. This mentality of self-preservation is bad for companies, and it’s bad for individuals.

Working yourself out of a job isn’t about making yourself redundant – it’s about approaching work differently.

Working yourself out of a job doesn’t mean working to get fired. It means prioritizing the goals of the organization over the goals of an individual. It means trading exclusive knowledge for open exchange. And sometimes, it means putting the success of the team ahead of your own.

How can you work yourself out of a job?

When you try to work yourself out of a job, you’re a better employee. You work more productively and efficiently. You’re a better at communicating and collaborating. You’re someone that others want on their team – and you’re a more valuable asset to your organization.

How can you start working yourself out of a job?

1. Share your knowledge and expertise.

Employees who are motivated by self-preservation want to keep exclusive knowledge and valuable expertise to themselves. Employees who are motivated by team success, on the other hand, want to share what they know to help others advance.

If we’re motivated solely by self-preservation – by the thought that we need to work as hard as we can to make ourselves essential – we’re missing out. And so are the companies that hire us.

2. Work toward common goals.

Maybe you want to get a promotion, or even just beat your personal sales record. And that’s great. But while you’re working toward your own career goals, remember your company’s goals, too. Do your part to help meet – or exceed – common goals, and you’ll find that it helps your personal goals, too.

3. Keep the bigger picture in mind.

Though it’s easy to get stuck within the four walls of your cubicle or office, there’s a big world out there. It’s great to be driven and self-motivated, but every now and then, get outside your own head and see what’s happening on your team, in your department, and with your company. You could learn a lot.

Work like you’re trying to work yourself out of a job, and it’s likely that the opposite will happen. Share what you know. Prioritize organizational goals. Focus on the big picture. Do that, and you’ll see big returns for your own career. Even better? You might just find that you enjoy work more.

 

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Abby Perkins is the Managing Editor at Talent Tribune, a SoftwareProviders.com blog dedicated to all things HR. When she’s not reading or playing with her dog, Abby enjoys writing about human resources and business trends and technology.

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