You have to have a little bit extra!!! Employers today are looking beyond basis technical skills and knowledge. Don’t be taken aback by some of the questions most will ask in interviews. One nervous applicant for a skilled techie job was really surprised when asked if he knew how to wash dishes. He hesitated thinking why he was being asked this question...too late!!!! Yes, indeed. Employers are looking for attitudes that will make a difference in how you apply the technical skills and knowledge required in the job. They look at your attitude towards work, towards your colleagues, towards challenges, towards clients, towards on-the–job flexibility. Yes, they look for attitudes, habits and skills you may just have taken for granted. Here are some of those most employers value.
Positive attitude towards work. You probably can claim you do your work well. But for employers, this means more. It is responding quickly to other demands that pop up unexpectedly. If you think of your work as just a 9 to 5 activity, then don’t expect any reward from your employer. You can expect to be in that 9 to 5 rut forever and the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth! If you are one of those who only show you work hard when the boss is around, watch out. Supervisors know the workers…and the fluffers. Most importantly, your own self- respect will erode. Once you lose your self-respect, you also lose your drive to improve and the whole house of cards collapses.
Positive attitude towards everyone…most especially yourself. You may be one of those or have met one of those fellow fluffers who cozy up with the superiors and are mean to those placed under them. If you are one of these, time to change. Build up a more positive self-image. Start with eradicating bad mental habits and start developing a healthy noggin. What goes around, comes around…remember that. Everyday, practice seeing only the positive in others, seeing opportunities in the situation you are in rather than whining at things you can’t stand about work or other colleagues. Build up your colleagues in front of your supervisors. In meetings, encourage efforts of people. Recognize the good things others have done. Take responsibility for mistakes or shortcomings and take the necessary steps to improve your behavior. As you keep becoming positive, everything you do becomes more uplifting as well.
Positive attitude towards learning. This is not just learning the job quickly. You may be a fast learner but if you think you are much better than others and refuse to learn from them, forget about promotion. Seeking help from your colleagues, especially when you are new in a job, encourages interaction and builds links. When tasks come up, learn how to do them. Many times when this happens, our tendency is to fall back to our job description, the classic turtle maneuver, and just maintain that this task “is outside my job”. Stop drawing the lines as to what you are supposed to do. Learn the task and do it. You are always the winner in this. You learn new applications and develop new skills, making you more employable.
Willingness to change. Employers always enjoy working with people who jump at a twisted task and are flexible in trying out new things. Everyday, find out how you can better perform the tasks you are doing. Try out ways to improve your processes. Test out some innovations in your area of work. Continue learning about your area and how others in your area are doing. Let go of ways that are not productive and walk up another path. It is only by pushing the edges that you get to make the job interesting.
Initiative. Employers value those who get things done without being told and go beyond the normal job expectations. They appreciate workers who can work without close supervision. Look into yourself and find out what stops you from doing things. Deal with your fears and anxieties so that you are able to respond to daily challenges more proactively and responsibly. From the start, be very clear with your superiors about boundaries so you can act accordingly. Take the steps to build up your courage to do what you think needs to be done in the tasks assigned to you.
Organization skills. You may be a starter but when you just keep starting things and not finishing, bad news is in your future. You need to start but also organize the steps necessary to complete the task. This is where you need to develop the skill to follow up, schedule your day so tasks are done, files are ready for sharing and reports are prepared.
Punctuality. Most of the time, jobs have very clear targets but sometimes, that’s not so. When you take on a task, clarify with your supervisor the targets and the timelines. Be on schedule. When you think you can’t make it, don’t go at the time the report or the task is expected to be done. Each day, look at your timeline so you get a sense of whether you will be on schedule or not. If you sense a delay, immediately bring it to the attention of your superiors or your team. Ask for help or ask for extra time, but do this way before the deadline. Then, the team has time to make the judgment call. If it is important to meet the deadline, then extra resources can be detailed to do it. If not, then, extra time can be added. Over and beyond this is being punctual in going to the office. Being there on time for the job is important to the job. Inform people where you are or when you can’t make it on time. Don’t be a fluffer….or have I said that before?
Good manners. Employers will always make clear their expectations when they hire you. At times, though, good manners are taken for granted until a situation comes up and surprise….surprise…there are other expectations, stress, impatience…and a chance to really be a jerk in a screaming match! Say thank you, greet people in the office, be pleasant and kind, let the office know where you are, dress properly and appropriately, and remember…Grandma may be watching!!! These are some of the unspoken behaviours that mark you as a winner with a future and not a slack-jawed doofus waiting to self-destruct!
Still in school? This is the right time to build these employability skills. Get involved in school organizations and activities. Help out at home. Structure your homework. This way, you start developing skills, attitudes and habits that employers value. By the time you are ready for employment, employers will be chasing you.