The workforce needs good, responsible workers

“So how did it go?” was the first question out of my mouth when No. 1 showed up at 10:30 p.m. last night with a wide grin on his face.

“It was great. I’ve never stood on my feet that long in my life though,” was his reply. That’s when Super Mom and I sat back and had another one of those ‘parent moments’. Last night, our son took yet another leap forward towards his independence from us. He got his first real job. It was another one of those days we knew was coming but we just didn’t know it would come so soon.

It ranks up there with the day he took his first wobbly steps; the day he said, “Daddy I went in the potty chair all by myself!” and was so proud of it. There was his very first day of school, his first solo tackle in football and the day he backed-up one car and slammed into our other car. For years it was a growing list of items that is gradually diminishing for all of our sons, but we’re savoring every moment as they happen.

The dependence he once had on us for absolutely everything in his life is slowly but surely leading to the path of independence and our tenuous hold on him as his parents leave us both happy and sad; happy because this has been the goal all along – to raise good, independent, God-fearing men. Sad because I long for the days when I could look at him and know that he needed me.

For years now No. 1 has worked odd jobs around town for some extra cash. Usually it was at the local recreation center as a referee for youth sports at and teaching little kids how to play soccer, basketball or flag football. This time, however, it is a job that requires a W4, an actually schedule and opportunities to advance and increase his salary.

When he left for his first day on the job I thought, “Please don’t screw this up.” I caught myself instantly after that thought crept into my head because if there is one thing I’ve learned about this kid, it’s that when he puts his mind to doing something well, he is committed and nothing will ever deter him.

I recall my first real job as a teen – I really didn’t consider it a job because I had fun doing it and I was surrounded by good people and good mentors. Yes, there were a few times when I thought, ‘I can’t believe I have to work tonight when there is that game, or dance or activity that I would rather go to.’ I’m not going to lie either. There were times when my youthful exuberance got the best of me and I decided to play hooky instead of honoring my obligation to the job. It took me awhile to realize that when you make a commitment to your employer, you have to honor that commitment.

Last night I saw that enthusiasm in my son’s eyes as he described his day on the job. It’s what happens every time we start a new job. The challenge will be to make sure that the enthusiasm never wanes. It is also a challenge to find ways to improve your position within the company, show your worth and potential and to make the most of every opportunity.

If you are new to the workforce, here are a few things to consider when starting a new job:

1) Be reliable – This is a big one. Nothing rankles an employer more than an employee who cannot show up to work on time, or an employee who consistently doesn’t show up for work. Be prompt and consistent by managing and paying attention to your schedule, giving yourself enough time to get to work and arrive at least ten minutes before your assigned start time. How will this work in your favor? Simple, your boss will remember it when you need time off or need to start work late for an emergency or that doctor’s appointment you’ve had scheduled for three months.

2) Be a sponge – Learn as much as you possibly can. While you are in your training (also referred to by some as your ‘probationary period’) ask a lot of questions whether it’s to clarify a policy or to understand a concept that has been taught. Rule of thumb: When you start to feel comfortable in your job, you need to find something to make your job more interesting. Even if you have worked at a job for a year or ten years, there is something else you can learn about your job, company and your customers.

3) Be opportunistic – Nobody likes a ‘suck-up’, but your employer is always looking for people who are driven, motivated and innovative. Look for opportunities for advancement, ask your boss for training opportunities and always take the initiative rather than waiting to be told or asking what needs to be done.

4) Be enthusiastic – No matter what industry you work in and no matter what your job responsibilities there will be times when you feel dissatisfied about aspects of your job. You may also be surrounded by co-workers who have decided that since they don’t like the job, no one should. This is a losing mentality and a flawed philosophy. Your environment is only as good as you make it, so make you job as enjoyable as you possibly can by staying positive.

5) Be responsible – This is the ‘catch-all’ for the workplace. It includes all of the things listed above and more. When you are responsible in your job duties you will find that your boss will give you greater latitude because he or she trusts that you will do a good job. By being responsible and trustworthy in your current job will usually follow you in all future employment opportunities. I still get great referrals from former employers and I’ve even been offered jobs by former employers because they remember the ethics I practiced while employed by them in the past.

I’m very proud that my son has joined the workforce and I hope that he will practice good habits today that will help in the future. I still loathe that he and his brothers are growing up, but I love that they are growing up as responsible young men.