What's more important than a great personality and stellar technical skills? Good old-fashioned dependability. Here's why, and how you go about establishing it.

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A lot of articles that name “the most important job skill” mention items such as empathy, communication, initiative, flexibility and confidence.

Don’t get me wrong. Those are important abilities to have.

But let’s harken back to yesteryear and recall a tried-but-true workplace skill that will never lose its luster.


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Doesn’t sound very hip or glamorous, does it? But even in the 21st century, dependability is super important, and not only because it applies to pretty much any type of career or line or work. The fact is that when you have established a firm reputation for dependability, you’ll have put yourself on the path toward steadily increasing levels of responsibility, as well as pay.

You’ll likely be granted more autonomy and less supervision.

And everyone knows that, come layoff time, it’s the ones who’ve made themselves the most indispensable who are least likely to get the axe.

What’s even more wonderful about dependability is that it’s not all that difficult to acquire, develop and master. Consistently arriving to work on time is an excellent start. Reliably meeting your commitments is another. Staying focused, carrying tasks to their logical conclusions, being able to accurately predict how long it will take you to complete said tasks, attending to detail and always doing your fair share are other key “ingredients” of dependability on the job.

It’s also important to remember that being dependable is not the same thing as being perfect (which is, after all, impossible). You’ll always run into obstacles and at times may find yourself being absolutely forced to, say, miss a deadline. However, if you have already established a rock-solid reputation for dependability, people will cut you some slack.

Another sign of dependability is the very good habit of keeping people updated so that problems and glitches don’t come as surprises. And, trust me, at work everybody hates surprises. Bosses, especially.

The crazy thing is that being dependable is so easy it’s amazing more people don’t try it. Instead, many of us tell ourselves that a winning personality or mad technical skills are the secrets to career success and job security. And it’s true that those things are important, too.

But dependability is indispensable. The way you should be.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at wg@karenburnsworkinggirl.com.