Five Skills Everyone Needs to Get and Keep a Job

When I thought about who I wanted my children to be when they grew up, I used to say I wanted them to be “marriageable” and “employable.”

Notice that I didn’t say “get married” or “get a job.” I simply wanted them to develop personalities that allowed them to form friendships and relationships. I also wanted them to develop skills to be a responsible, mature contributor in whatever form that took.

Most of my professional career was spent hiring—and firing—employees. Most of these were first time job holders. I recently wrote an article title I Did Not Want to Fire Your Child. If you haven’t read it already, click through and read that article first. I talked about the traits parents can instill in their kids during the high school years that will prepare them for college and later a career.

Today I want to talk about work specifically. Whether it’s a summer job, an internship or their first real job, there are specific things that every employer expects from an employee.

Here are my five skills employees need to have to get and hold a job:

1. Show up every day and show up on time. Employers want someone who comes to work every day. Someone who doesn’t make excuses about why they can’t be there on time (or at all). They want someone who gets there not just on time, but early and then someone who stays late without expecting to be paid for every minute they are on the clock. Employers want someone who goes the extra mile for the company.

And when you show up, dress for the part. Dress for the job you want, not necessarily the job you have. If the executives wear suits or ties or heels, you should also do so.

2. Do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. Turning in reports and work on time is critical to job success. Following through and making sure you respond to people in a timely manner are vital to success on any job. Being known as the go-to person for getting things done will take you far up the ladder to success.

3. Tell the truth. We all screw up. We all miss deadlines. When you do, own it and apologize for it. Trying to cover your mistake with a lie or half-truth will never work in your favor and you will become known as a person who cannot be trusted. If your boss can’t trust you with the little things, they surely won’t trust you with the big ones.

4. Remove “it’s not my job” from your vocabulary. The very first thing I tell a new employee is to learn every single aspect of the job whether it’s how to fix the copier or knowing enough not to call the IT person every time your laptop freezes up. Learning new skills while on every job you have will help you when you go to get the next job. Be the person who is willing to fill the coke machine if necessary or the one who stays late to help the boss meet a deadline.

5. Get along with your co-workers (you don’t have to be BFFs but you do have to get along). This includes not participating in office gossip or backstabbing. A workplace is a great place to learn what kind of boss you one day want to become—or not to become. Learn to be a team player. What we all learned in kindergarten is also true in the workplace. Support the company and its employees, work well with others and be 100% on the team. It will make you shine on the job!

Notice that none of these traits include having a great GPA, prior experience, or a degree. That’s because none of these are necessary to be a great employee. So post these “tricks of the trade” on your refrigerator door and let your kids walk past them every day.  It might just save them from ever hearing those dreaded words “You’re fired.”

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