Develop The Habits Employers Want

Ever been in a job interview and been asked a question about a gap in your resume? They may have asked, “So what have you been doing since you last worked?”, or “What did you do to prepare for this interview?” All three of these questions give you the opportunity to demonstrate to the employer one key thing and that is what you’ve been doing – or not – when you’ve been in full control of the time you’ve had.

They are interested to see if you’ve taken some initiative, been proactive, made the most of this period, learned anything new, taken some training, upgraded your skills, addressed a weakness, improved your health, expanded your knowledge, etc. They are also checking to see if you’ve been complacent, dormant, passive, let your skills slide, removed yourself from the field you’re saying your interested in now. In short, have you been developing and keeping up your good habits or haven’t you?

Developing and maintaining good habits; the kind of actions and behaviours that employers desire the most, are not only a good idea, they could be the difference between getting a job or not. It’s one thing to say you’re invested in the work that you’ll be doing for a company and quite another to demonstrate that you’re invested.

Now suppose for example you’re out of work altogether and you are applying for an administrative position. You can foresee that some of the people you are going to be competing with are currently employed elsewhere in those positions which gives them a distinct advantage. You may not be employed, but you can still employ the skills that would be used on a daily basis by someone in that position. So for example you can practice your keyboarding skills, make a daily ‘to-do’ list, organize your personal or family paperwork. Buy some file folders and organize all the bills, receipts, various warranties for household items you own under categories like: Insurance, Autos, Mortgage, Vacation, Renovations, Taxes, Identification, Investments, etc.

If the above seems onerous, too challenging, beyond what you want to put energy into, then I’d suggest you might not be ready for the job you are actually saying you want to do. After all, if you can’t be bothered using these same skills for yourself, why should an employer feel you’re the right person to get things in order for them?

One thing you have 100% control over is your personal schedule. With no employer to record your attendance, check on your productivity, evaluate your adherence to a dress code, measure your attitude, do you or don’t you have the self-discipline to monitor yourself? You may disagree as is your prerogative, but getting up, showered and dressed on a set schedule even when you are not working is a key part of maintaining good personal behaviours that are consistent with what employers expect. Many people who go months without work and then get a job do not respond well when suddenly they get hired and have to be sitting at a desk at 8:30 a.m. dressed professionally, wide awake and ready to go at top speed.

Look into free or low-cost training opportunities in your community and then sign up to hone your skills, update your resume afterwards and keep your mind sharp. Small rather simple things like adhering to a 15 minute break in those workshops and training programs is what employers will demand you do when on the job. If you take your 15 minute break and come back only to then go about making your coffee you’re not demonstrating a respect for what the 15 minute break is for.

Another key thing to keep up is your personal communication skills; both written and verbal. You can’t do either if you sequester yourself away behind the curtains of your living room and cut yourself off from all contact. Talk with people, engage in conversations with store clerks, the paper boy, mail carriers, people you meet on walks around the neighbourhood, cashiers; all the people you meet. Your people skills need to stay sharp as does your comfort initiating conversations.

Like so many things in life, what you do with your time while you are between jobs really says a lot about you and your values. You are free to do what you wish with your time and are accountable in the end to only yourself. That’s a double-edged precious gift however. There are consequences – and don’t fool yourself into thinking there aren’t – both good and bad for whether that time is productive or wasted.

Most of the people I counsel who are out of work know they should be making good use of their time. They sound remorseful and want to rediscover that drive and personal motivation they had when they were working. They bank on igniting that energy and ‘turning it on’ when they get a job. However, many also find that when they do get hired, they lose those jobs quickly. They tell me that they couldn’t work as fast as the employer wanted them to, they just didn’t fit in, they were so exhausted after three days on the job they were late on the 4th day and were told not to return. In short, they hadn’t keep up good habits when unemployed and couldn’t work at the high level expected.

Good habits are something you control. Ignore developing good habits and you’ll develop bad ones by default.


What Do Employer’s Want Most? Enthusiasm!

In the employment workshops I run, I often ask those in attendance what they believe is the number one thing employer’s are looking for in the people they choose to hire. The most common answers are dependability, honesty, working hard and being a quick learner.

Those are all desirable qualities I acknowledge, but the number one thing that I hear from employers themselves is that they are looking for employees who demonstrate enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for the job and what it encompasses; for the organization and most importantly the customers, clients, end users – whomever benefits from the services and products the company creates and delivers.

The thinking goes that if each individual in a workforce is truly enthusiastic about the work they do, then collectively the organization becomes a motivating place to work. As the environment and the culture becomes one of enthusiasm, it attracts new people who are similarly motivated and energized and the organization takes on a dynamic spirit where people want to be, want to stay and want to grow.

When you have the above you have higher productivity, better products with fewer defects, services are delivered with personal ownership and people take pride in what they do and want to do better.

Ever worked in an organization like that? Is that the kind of environment you thought you could only dream of? Some people who are looking for work have an attitude that seems to suggest they’ll only believe it when they see it, and they never see it because in the interview and selection stages, they don’t exhibit any indication that they themselves will bring enthusiasm to the workplace and as such are passed over.

So how do you communicate professional enthusiasm? First and foremost use the word itself. Introduce the word when you compose your cover letter. I personally use it as my trademark sign off instead of words and phrases like, “Sincerely”, “Regards” or “Yours truly”. Typically I write, “With enthusiasm.” At the outset I might commence with, “It is with great enthusiasm…”

If you have a look at my LinkedIn profile, you’ll note that how I am marketing myself is not simply as an Employment Counsellor, but rather, “Your Enthusiastic and Empowering Employment Counsellor.” The inclusion of these two descriptive words tells you I’m excited and motivated about assisting and I’m at your service. Sure my business card and title at work is Employment Counsellor, but LinkedIn is where I create my own identity and my employer doesn’t govern how I identify myself on my own profile.

As for my resume, I have the word enthusiasm prominently inserted near the top of the document so it becomes one of the key first things a reader takes in. As for the job interview itself, I make sure I communicate my personal enthusiasm both in my choice of words and in my body language; my smile, eye contact, sitting slightly forward and varying the tone of my voice so it consistently communicates and commands interest.

A number of people; no, a very large number of people don’t believe employers care much anymore about the people they hire. They get passed over for jobs or can’t keep the jobs they do get for very long, and as a result they have a jaded and decidedly negative attitude when it comes to the whole selection process. They’ve come to believe that employers don’t care anymore about investing in people. Unfortunately for those who have this viewpoint, they grow to have a distrust of organizations and their hiring practices. They come to believe based on their own experience that good jobs and good employers don’t exist anymore and worst of all they spread this to others.

Actually the exact opposite is true. Employers take great pains to find the right people who will contribute productively to their products and services. They agonize over choosing the wrong person; take extra time in many cases with 2nd, 3rd or event 4th interviews in order to select the people they feel will best fit and bring enthusiasm with them to the job. Selecting people takes time and money; selecting the right people takes more time and money and it takes skill to differentiate between those who are genuinely the right fit and those who are faking their way through the selection process. The more they can rule out those who are faking their way into a job the better they’ll be off in the long run.

Someone who is enthusiastic about a potential opportunity behaves in certain consistent ways. They find out about what the job is really all about before an interview. They only apply for jobs they sincerely wish to take if offered and they learn about the people who work in those organizations in order to determine how they will fit if hired. Enthusiastic people are positive, engaging, interested and come prepared with some well-thought-out questions of their own; things they really care to know.

Look, if you walk in with a forced smile, scowl and sigh heavily when you’re kept waiting 4 minutes after your scheduled appointment and then ask, “Will this take very long?” as you sit down, you might as well be okay with the answer, “Absolutely not; why you can be on your way right now actually if you’d like.” This job you applied to is no longer available.


Why The Word, ‘Passion’ Is In

Look at any on-line or on the wall job board these days and you’ll see the word, ‘passion’ or ‘passionate’ in many of those postings. Why is that and what’s really being sought by the employer? How passionate can a person be after all about selling socks or working on a line?

There are a number of ways to look at this. First of all there are many people looking for work today, and it’s a fairly known thing that few people stick with companies for decades anymore. When someone in their 20’s takes a job and launches their career, neither the employer nor the employee themselves plan on the person staying until they retire. The employer wants to ensure however, that the people who do work on their behalf work with enthusiasm and commitment while there to ensure the success and longevity of the company.

That doesn’t come as a surprise does it? I mean if you started up a business yourself, you’d have a tremendous investment of money and your future prosperity locked up in that enterprise. So don’t you want people who you hire to be strongly committed to making the business successful? If the people you hire are truly motivated themselves to succeed, the business has a high probability of being profitable and standing the test of time. On the other hand, if employees view their work as a job until something better comes along, they are less likely to put forth the extra effort that being outstanding requires.

Employers want to attract people who are enthusiastic about the work they’ll perform. Enthusiasm and passion come from wanting to perform at a peak level. If you can demonstrate some of that passion in an application and subsequent interview, you’re off to a good start. But how to demonstrate passion?

For starters, look and sound engaged and glad to talk about the work you’ll be doing. You know how all you have to do with someone in the early days of a relationship is mention the name of the person they are smitten with to get a dreamy look or a smile? It’s like that; the person’s body language changes instantly at the name because there is an emotional response. When you are talking about an opportunity before you, do likewise. Sit slightly forward in the chair, smile, vary the pitch and tone of your voice, emphasize or stress certain words in your speech. In short, sound enthusiastic when you talk.

Be cautioned however. Can you generally tell when someone you are speaking to is phony or over the top? Think of those infomercials on television where someone is absolutely bonkers over their plastic food containers instead of struggling with their old rolls of wrapping paper. Really? Does anyone really get that happy about leftover plastic containers? Those are actors who we tend to laugh at more than identify with. That’s not genuine passion. If you act excited about jobs you really don’t have an emotional investment in, people will see through you too.

Emotionally invested…hmmm… might be on to something here… So suppose you got to the interview and in wrapping things up you got that tired old question, “Why should I hire you over the other people we are interviewing?” Now further suppose you answered, “I stand out because I’m emotionally invested in the success of the business. While others might be looking for A job, I’m not; I want THIS job. This job is a good fit because I’m committed and personally motivated to succeed, and the opportunity to work with others who have a similar passion for this work is exciting.”

If this sounds crazy to you and phony, then the job you are going for isn’t the ideal one for you at this time. That’s just my opinion mind, but again, if you put yourself in the position of an employer, you want people who are truly committed to perform at their best – especially when they work without being supervised. People who are genuinely enthusiastic about their work require less supervision because they regulate themselves and excel because they enjoy what they do.

This win-win situation benefits both the employer and the employee. Ultimately, if the company succeeds and you are part of that success, your chances of reaping some of those rewards increases. Many companies, (though not all) who either fail completely or have to down-size, have an employee force that see their work as just a job; no more or less important than another job.

Here’s a little nugget for you; there is an endless supply of people who can competently do the same work you are capable of, but there are only a small number of people who are genuinely passionate and invested about doing the same work. So replacing people is easy on the one hand when an employer needs to. On the other hand, finding exceptional people who will find fulfillment and dive into their work with enthusiasm is much more challenging.

Do you wish you could stand out from the crowd and truly grow with a company? Good advice therefore would be to prove your self-motivation for the work to be done, exhibit some enthusiasm and passion, and tie your future success to effort you put forth each and every day. Your passion will make you both memorable and valuable.

Passion never goes out of fashion.

A Look At What Honesty Means

On many resumes or imbedded somewhere in a cover letter, I’ll often see a person indicate that they are honest when communicating their qualifications. (Is honesty not really more of an attribute than a qualification in the first place?) So I thought it time to look at this word, “honesty” and pick it apart a little.

Rather than start off with some dictionary description, I’m going to relate rather what I’ve gleamed over the years through talking with employers, hearing stories from workers – some by the way who have been entirely devious and dishonest if truth be told – and finally from my own musings.

Well one thing about being honest is that you’ll be upfront and tell the truth when dealing with your employer. So right off the bat, think of all those days you may wake up and just not feel like going in to work for some reason. You know, it’s -31 degrees, cold and dark; little Johnny is in a school play at 11:00a.m. right in the middle of your work day, you had a big night out last evening and are feeling it as you rise. So will you be one of the people who gets up and gets going or one of the people who calls in ill when really you’re not?

Employers need to feel you can be counted on to be present and do the job you were hired to do. When you are absent, it’s not as simple as just paying someone else in your place and therefore not costing the employer any money. Oh no. The employer has to scramble and use time to find your replacement. They may need to call around to a few people before finding someone to come in at all in your stead. The person replacing you might be on time or maybe a tad late due to when they get the call and can get in. Then your co-workers have to adjust and slow their work to accommodate your replacement, do the usual introductions and chit-chat etc. all of which take time. If no replacement is coming, existing workers have to take on more, spread out duties which impede on overall performance.

Theft is another issue for employers that they actually have to calculate into their projections. Sadly true, some employees don’t see the big deal in stealing pens, scotch tape, paper, staplers, even furniture! “No big deal, they can afford it.” Actually, this theft results in higher costs for consumers, tighter budgets, perhaps less pay for employees even. The number one item employees steal? Toilet paper. Yep, toilet paper. I don’t know about you, but the toilet paper in my workplace isn’t the kind I’d want, but there it is, the number one item of choice to steal.

And some things employees steal aren’t immediately detected because they appear invisible at first. No security guard scanning employees as they leave at the end of a shift is going to catch someone darting home with information and ideas in their head. Many employees have to sign documents saying that the information they come into contact with (intellectual property) will not be shared or divulged outside the workplace to anyone. If this weren’t the case, by now we’d all know how they get that creamy centre inside a Cadbury bar!

Honesty and integrity go hand-in-hand for many people. When you have integrity, you do the right thing even when no one is watching. You put in an ‘honest days work’, you go home having given it all you’ve got. From time-to-time, I suppose it’s not unreasonable for someone to not be at their very best on a given day. Too many distractions in one’s personal life, a sleepless night for unknown reasons etc. can contribute to a person not performing up to their usual standard. While this is understandable, no employee would be willing to accept lower pay on that day for work performed. “Now see here Johnson, we caught you dogging it today, so we’re only paying you 78% of your salary”. Who would say okay to that?

Honesty therefore has to do with being able, willing and prepared to perform work at the level determined by the employer. Exceed that level of production and you stand out. Perform the work expected of you and you become reliable and build a reputation for putting in an honest days work. Fall below the standard set by an employer and you either your best isn’t good enough and you’ll be released, or you may be given a chance to improve if the employer knows you’re capable through observation of your past performance.

Holding yourself accountable however; being honest with yourself, this is the most important kind of honesty you can tout as an attribute to be desired. What is your personal standard of work? Do you strive to just do the minimum or be your best? Who in the organization do you measure yourself with, if anyone at all?

At the end of a shift or a day, you are probably the only one who really knows if you gave it 100% or not. If you do give it your best on a daily basis, you can look yourself in the mirror and defend your record of performance and effort expended. If on the other hand you know you aren’t giving it 100%, why aren’t you putting in an honest effort on a regular basis? That question might be worth exploring.