“It’s because college kids today can’t do math, one line of reasoning goes. Or they don’t know science. Or they’re clueless about technology, aside from their myriad social-media profiles. These are all good theories, but the problem with the unemployability of these young adults goes way beyond a lack of STEM skills. As it turns out, they can’t even show up on time in a button-down shirt and organize a team project.” — Martha C. White
The truth is, soft skills are the stock in trade in the workforce today. You’ll hear them called everything from “essential job skills” to “soft skills” to “transferable skills,” but all of these terms refer to something we can call simply “being a good employee.”
And hovering somewhere near the top of most of these “essential job skills” lists is that wiggly thing called “work ethic.” Work ethic can be a difficult thing to describe. A quick google search will bring up a couple of definitions that include the ideas of “hard work” and “diligence”, but even these concepts can be a little tricky to pin down.
If you’re looking to develop your work ethic, where do you start? What should you do? Let’s look at some basics of work ethic.
1. Showing up on time.
2. Dressed appropriately.
3. Alert and prepared to work.
What a strong ethic DOESN’T look like, is the guy who comes into the office exactly seven minutes late every day, looks like he shaves about once a week, and can’t seem to get started in the morning until he’s spent forty-five minutes drinking coffee and making small talk with everyone in the office.
Other key traits of a strong work ethic include:
• Asking for constructive criticism or other feedback from peers and superiors.
• Requesting additional responsibilities and when you have mastered your current job duties and can perform them quickly and correctly.
• Volunteering for special projects and committees.
• Actively seeking improvement in processes and practices.
• Setting goals.
• Meeting deadlines.
• Completing tasks without supervision.
• Continuing to work hard under pressure.
• Solving problems independently when possible.
An employee with a great work ethic is reliable. She shows up to work on time or early, dressed for success and ready to tackle the day’s challenges. She sets goals for herself, and finds new ways to complete her job duties more efficiently and effectively. She seeks out additional roles and responsibilities and offers to take projects over for her superiors or peers in order to make the best use of the “company’s time.” She works well without supervision, solves problems on her own whenever possible, and rarely buckles under pressure.
If you want to begin developing a stronger work ethic for your career, it’s always a great time to start. Set a goal to begin doing one of the actions listed above. Start simple, and work your way up to the ones you find more difficult. Someone who volunteers for extra work, but has trouble completing the tasks already assigned to him or her, isn’t a very valuable team member. First things first!