With over 10 years of experience, I’ve learned how to rock your job and help you stick around for the long haul.
Between high school, college and now I’ve had a number of jobs. Now, don’t start thinking that I’ve job hopped over the years. That’s not true. I typically stick at a job for well over a year, but I sometimes add 1 or 2 jobs on top of my main one. You see, I don’t like to sit still and I like to make money. So I’m willing to bust my butt to reach my goals, which I have to say, are mighty big!
Over the years I’ve seen co-workers come and go. I’ve seen bosses get agitated with some characteristics of my fellow co-workers. I’ve created a list and I want to share it below with you. There are certain things that we all know we shouldn’t do on our job – steal, lie to our boss, procrastinate, etc. But do we know what we should be doing? What qualities do we need to possess to be a standout employee? Well, I’m here to help.
I’ve always tried to put my work first. Now, don’t get me wrong – if my family or friends really need me then I’ll be there in a heartbeat. But I like to think that my strong work ethic at the office has helped my bosses to be more understanding when I do need to take off. I also try to not make a habit of it.
A few years ago I was working in a small attorney’s office. At the time, it was just the attorney and me. Now, years later, the attorney has expanded well beyond the two-man operation from when I first started. That has nothing to do with me, other than the fact that I was willing to help out and was honest when I couldn’t take on more. Anyways… back to my story…
A few years ago, one of my closest friends lost someone very important to them. Now they never asked me to attend the funeral. They knew I was working and had school, they also knew the 6 hour round-trip car ride wasn’t going to be easy with everything else going on. But I knew in my heart that I needed to be there. This girl meant the world to me and she still does. So I asked my boss if I could have 1 ½ days off. He asked why and I could tell he was thinking – this isn’t even a family member why should I give it to you. But I said one thing that really helped – I understand this is short notice, I will work late the next few days to get caught up and I do not expect to be paid for vacation time. He looked at me and said if it’s that important then you need to be there. I can manage for a day without you, but be prepared to work when you get back. So I left. I drove 3 hours home, went to the funeral, sat by my best friend and was just present.
At the end of the day, I drove back and showed up to work on time the next day. I worked my tail off getting caught up and none of my work slacked in the least. I proved that I was worth having. But what I never admitted and was hoping that I wouldn’t have to is that I knew in that moment how valuable I was. I knew that I was replaceable, but I also knew my friend wasn’t. So I was willing to take that risk, but by being granted a little freedom and understanding, I was willing to prove him that I was worth keeping. That’s what you have to do. You have to be willing to give more than you take.
Let’s face it – employers are looking for key characteristics of a good employee.
If you have a few qualities that’s good, majority then that’s great, but if you have all of them then you are going to be in a golden position to work your way up.
Here’s what I’ve noticed over the past ten years as the qualities employers are craving for in their employees:
SHOW UP EARLY – I understand rare mornings happen and your alarm doesn’t go off or the baby was sick and you just couldn’t get there on time, but the majority of your mornings you need to show up early. I’m not talking an hour early, but a few minutes or so. I know when I get to the office, I have to turn my computer on, get some water and set my purse down. By getting there a few minutes early, I can take care of all of that without rushing around. That way when 8:00 am hits you’re already at your desk ready to work.
STAY LATE – If the work isn’t done then be willing to stay a few minutes late. It won’t happen every day and it will really show your employer you’re committed.
I had a job once I loved. It was hard and challenging, but I loved it. My boss was great, my co-workers were wonderful and I went to work everyday loving what I was doing. So on the rare occasion a client’s documents weren’t completed or a client needed a late appointment, I was willing to stick around. I didn’t do it because I was hourly and liked the extra 30 minutes of pay – that wouldn’t be worth it. I did it because I thoroughly enjoyed what I did and liked helping. That’s how it should be.
BE POSITIVE – No one likes Negative Nancy. Don’t be a naysayer. There is nothing worse than someone who complains all. the. time. Stay upbeat and you will notice how easy it is to hit your goals or how much more willing your co-workers will be to help you out. You never know – you’re day may actually go by faster, too!
Ask for more work – Once you’ve completed your daily, weekly or monthly tasks don’t just sit around on Facebook. Reach out to get more. Try to learn as much as you can because you never know when it’ll come in handy. Plus, if you’re willing to take on more work to help out then that might cut back the nights you have to stay late. Just a thought…
TAKE THE INITIATIVE – This quality goes with the one above it – asking for more work. If you see something that needs to be done then do it, even if it’s not your assigned task. It’ll keep you busy, help the office and you might just prove yourself a bit, too. Plus, taking the initiative means not putting something off until the last minute. There is nothing more frustrating than watching a co-worker be assigned a task to complete by the end of the month. Here we are on the last day of the month and they are just starting the task. Then you find out that they can’t complete their assignment because they don’t have all the pieces. If they would have started 3 weeks ago when it was first assigned, then they would have noticed what all they needed and it could have been ordered.
Here’s another example of taking the initiative. I had a job once where the receptionist was suppose to clean while she had free time. If we were extra busy one week then the cleaning would slack because she would have less free time. So if I went to the bathroom, I would just grab the cleaner and wipe everything down when I was done. It took less than 2 minutes and the bathroom was clean for the next person. Plus, it really helped out the girl at the front desk who was swamped with calls and appointments. She was instantly my best friend because I was willing to help her.
GO ABOVE AND BEYOND – again, show them you’re worth it. I am a huge believer in NOT doing the bare minimum. If I want my job to last and I want to prove that I’m irreplaceable then I am willing to take on more work, work harder than anyone else and commit to the company.
In one job I had worked my way up to be the office manager, which meant I was writing everyone’s paycheck, balancing books, paying our payroll taxes, ordering supplies, managing and training the staff. However, the office needed more. The staff was behind and we needed help with drafting documents. So instead of saying, “sorry, that’s not my job anymore.” I figured out a way to help. I took the smaller cases aways from the paralegals so they could spend more time on the bigger, more complicated ones. It was hard and I was stressed some days, but being able to help out was so much more important to me.
BE WILLING TO LEARN – The first thing you have to realize in any job that you take on is that you don’t know everything. With that in mind, you have to be open. You have to be willing to try new ways of getting the job done and finding better solutions.
BE WILLING TO TAKE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM – I used to be the first one to become defensive when I just felt like I was going to be criticized. It’s a hard pill to swallow to find out that the work you did isn’t good enough or right. It’s rough. But to grow as a person you have to be willing to take criticism. Now, I am NOT talking about destructive, down-right mean criticism. I’m talking about listening and learning from someone that is willing to help you grow.
One really standout way to take constructive criticism is by taking notes. In the moment, I may not be thinking clear because I’m trying to still defend why I completed those actions. So by taking notes then I can process everything on my terms. Plus, it’ll help me the next the situation comes up because I can refer back to what was suggested to me. It shows the boss (wo)man that you’re really invested in getting better and are willing to learn.
BE OKAY WITH GRUNT WORK – Let’s go back to the time I cleaned the bathroom to help out. Now, it wasn’t the only time I helped clean that office nor was it the only job I had that I cleaned at. I remember working at Office Depot my first few years in college. I liked it for the most part, but my least favorite task was cleaning the bathrooms. Disgusting. But it was a task that rotated between staff members so when it was my turn, I would roll up my sleeves and do the best job I could.
I knew that job and that task wasn’t forever. And I also knew that I wasn’t too good to scrub a toilet. I was not raised to think that something was beneath me, so I gave it my all. You have to be will to scrub a few toilets (figuratively or literally speaking) to get ahead. What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.
BE A TEAM PLAYER – you have to be willing to put the company’s well-being above your own. Now I’m not suggesting you lie, cheat or steal to help the company, but what I am saying is pitching in to help out. At my current career (I say career and not job here, because this is what I will be doing for the rest of my life) we have quotas to hit. So, as a team we help each other reach our individual quota. If I’ve hit mine then I ask who needs help and vice versa. That’s they way it’s suppose to be. If we each hit our quota then we win individually (a nice little bonus!), but if we help the office reach the overall goal then the office does better, which we will see a benefit from in the long-run.
Like I said earlier, you have to have some of these qualities to be successful at any job. I used a lot of office-type jobs in my example, but I’ve done most types of jobs. The only one I haven’t done is food. Well, I worked at an ice cream shop and snow cone stand one summer, but that’s the closest I’ve come to food. I’ve worked at several different types of retail stores and office jobs, but they all have one thing in common to be successful.
You can check out my other career tips here.