Be Nice

You may have big plans on where you see yourself in 2, 5 or 20 years from now. Conversely, you might not have a clue where life will take you; you have no idea what you’ll be doing in 3 weeks let alone years into your future. No matter what might be ahead in your future, one of the best things you can do now and along the way to wherever you land, you can do no better favour for yourself than to be nice along the way.

Now, already the ‘A’ type personality folks are assembling and some among them are saying that being nice gets you nowhere; that it’s a dog eat dog kind of world. Nice people are fodder to be chewed up and spit out, walked over and left on the lower rungs of the corporate ladders. They might say that nice guys finish last, that you’ve got to claw and fight your way up to every hand-hold you can clasp on the way up because nobody but nobody who amounts to anything will reach back and give you a hand up.

I suppose there are people like that; well let’s be entirely honest – there’s no supposing about it. Yes, there are people and professions that attract those kind of people with those kind of mentalities.

For the majority of us however, what is the price of being nice? Weigh any answer you come up with against the question, what is the price of not being nice? There’s the little gestures and the big ones of course. The big ones are the ones that most often make the headlines; the customer who drops a $3,000 tip for the waitress, the celebrity television host who treats the entire audience with gifts and goodies, makes wishes come true for ordinary people on the shows etc. They’ve got the untold wealth and corporate backing to be the face of niceness.

You and me though? Well, we’re likely just your everyday people; folks who work regular jobs, won’t ever gain widespread recognition. The emergence of social media has given us a platform to share our smiling faces with the world, and that’s likely the most public exposure we’re likely to garner.

Being nice can be self-serving of course and let’s be honest, it sure makes us feel good to do good for others. Drop some coins in a panhandlers cap, open a door for someone, give praise to someone who guts out a personal challenge and part of us feels good inside for doing so. Nothing wrong with making yourself feel good. Do more of it I say.

When you’re nice it can have some ripple effects too. You smile at me and I smile back. A few steps later, I give that smile to someone else and like the wave at a sporting event, it catches on and gets shared. Being nice is like that. I’ve seen first-hand people in cafe’s buy a drink for a stranger in line behind them and then that stranger do likewise for someone else. These aren’t just stories of the goody two-shoes types; these are real people. Sometimes the beneficiary of an act of kindness isn’t thankful true enough, but then again sometimes the beneficiary receives an unexpected act of kindness right at the moment when they needed it most; that reminder of the good around them. It can pull people sharply into the moment if they’ve been wandering around in their own little world, feeling ignored or invisible.

Being nice doesn’t have to cost any money whatsoever though. It can mean asking a co-worker how they’re doing and actually stopping long enough to show you really want to know. It can mean recalling something they told you two days ago and then following up with an inquiry about how that evening went or how that trip with the kids to the theme park turned out. Being nice could mean investing a tad of yourself in what that other person shares as important to them or meaningful to them.

Being nice might mean things that never get seen, never get recognized but nonetheless make things better for others. Maybe you do up a few dishes that aren’t yours at work, you make sure the toilet seat is clean every time you leave the washroom, you sharpen a few pencils at the Reception desk or keep the stapler stocked each morning so someone never gets frustrated looking for a pen.

I was saying to a colleague just yesterday that it was ironic that I was interviewed for a job years later by a woman whose children I supervised while working in a Boys and Girls Club decades ago. Good thing I was nice to both her and her kids! Who could have predicted that life would bring us back into contact that way in a completely different city and context?

Want to shock the person you’re in a relationship with? Send them an email or instant message that reads nothing more than, “Thinking of you just now.” Nice!

Yes, what if you did the odd thing or two simply with a goal and nothing more beyond being nice? You’d better watch out; you might develop a reputation for being a nice person!

Should you find that your acts of kindness go unnoticed or you get taken advantage of, be nice anyhow. We need more people like you.



Great Customer Service Creates Jobs

As it’s mid-December, there are large numbers of people world-wide that are making the trek into stores and shops to browse and make purchases for Christmas gifts in addition to the regular shopping they do. This is therefore a time when all shop and business owners would do well to remind their staff about the importance of providing an exceptional shopping experience.

It’s overly simple actually and in an employees own self-interests to excel. Ensure that customers get personalized, attentive service and they’ll come back as well as spread the good word. This in turns means increased sales, more revenue for the employer, and hopefully more hours of work for the employees. And those seasonal employee’s that they took on for the higher crowds might make themselves invaluable to the employer in the process and find themselves hired beyond Christmas only.

The flip side is equally true; stores that don’t rely on great customer service and leave a shopper to find things on their own may find customers leave empty-handed, they then pass on negative experiences to their friends and don’t return themselves. Those seasonal employees don’t generate income for the store, and the store owner dismisses them after the holidays as per their contracts and moves on.

Do some shop owners and large businesses take the increased profits and terminate all the seasonal help anyhow after December? Sure some do. However, if you are an employee trying to catch on, on a more permanent basis, you only improve your odds of being hired longer if you are friendly, customer-focused, complete sales and make additional sales of merchandise.

As an employee, you are also generating a positive reference, putting current experience on your resume and filling in any developing gap when you take a seasonal job. Think of things this way; even if you are looking for a job in a field outside retail, this short-term position is still developing transferable skills you’ll use in the future and providing you with a number of possible answers to those interview questions in your future.

Think about it. You’re dealing with people and that means possible problem-solving experience, dealing with challenging situations, working on your sales pitches and how to sell a product. You’re also getting first-hand experience that could apply to the ‘teamwork’ question. So this short-term job you’ve got could be the current experience you need to demonstrate you have relevant skills to an employer in another field; the one in which your preferred job is found.

Right from the start in some seasonal job, you’d also be wise to think about the last few days you are employed in December. You’re going to probably want to ask your Supervisor to be a positive reference for you aren’t you? So now is the time to work to impress yourself upon them. Being friendly, helpful, willing to do the little things that are asked of you outside the job you were hired to do, and contribute to the stores financial well-being, that could really solidify your value to the Supervisor, and in turn help you when your future employer calls to check up on your performance. Think ahead!

Now on the other hand, there are people who will get hired for Christmas help and go through the motions. They only look as far ahead as the end of their shift, put in minimal effort for minimum pay, and feel that if the employer wants to make huge profits off of them, they should be compensated more than minimum wage. If you feel this way, you probably will have a less enjoyable experience working, and it will show. Don’t appear shocked and hurt in the future if you ask for a good reference and the Supervisor is reluctant or just gives you an average one. It has to start with you.

So it’s not too late being in the middle of the month. You’ve got time to put in a stellar effort and turn things around. Each day you get a choice to do your best or not. And more than each day, you get a chance to change your attitude and increase your performance and therefore value to an employer throughout the day in any given moment. If it doesn’t come naturally to you to be overly friendly and helpful, try it out on the next customer. Interacting with a single customer will only take a few moments; ten at the most I’d reckon. Can you ‘fake it until you make it’ for that short period of time? If you can, duplicate it with the next person, and so on.

Rather than being jealous of other salespeople who have awesome customer service skills, think about watching and learning from them. Even going up to someone and complimenting them on their abilities and asking for their help in developing your own people skills is good advice. We all learn from each other, so why not learn from people who do things better than us?

Be attentive, be friendly, welcome people to the store, thank them for coming in, ask if you could assist them. Tell people about any specials you have and if they want to be left alone, tell them you’ll be happy to help them and all they need do is ask when they are ready. Leave your cellphone in the backroom and focus on your job.

May you have a good seasonal employment experience!