One of the driving forces that brought my family and I back from Thailand is the success of my marketing business. I built my web development business to 9 full-time employees, and intend to go further than that this time. I intent to get an office, create an awesome culture, and generally kick ass and take names. Having said that, one thing that worries me as a potential employer is the quality of today’s workforce.
I’ve heard a lot of stories of young men and women graduating from college having a horrible work ethic. The first stories I heard were from members of my MBA class back in 2008 – the people hiring these young people. I learned what the terms “helicopter parents” and “blackhawk parents” meant. It was disconcerting on many levels.
Within the past month I’ve heard even more stories and anecdotes from employers and some recent college graduates about the lack of work ethic and drive the younger generation has.
As an employer my advice to any young person looking for a job is this: get a work ethic or you are going to be totally screwed.
Now let me explain…
What Employers (Especially Me) Want
To hold a job that requires you actually think, which is pretty much any modern job, you’re going to have to meet certain baseline criteria:
- Be on time, every day.
- When you’re at work, focus 100% on your work. Be present and work hard.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Not always the easiest thing, but necessary. I personally refuse to work with anyone who has a negative attitude day in and day out. Bad attitudes spread like a virus, and must be treated as such.
- If you expect to get a raise, go above and beyond your current responsibilities. Nothing is handed to you. You have to earn it. That takes additional effort.
- Take responsibility for your actions when you screw up. This shows maturity. If my 4-year-old daughter admits to messing up more than you do, you’ve got a serious problem. It’s also a matter of trust. If your employer can’t trust you, you’ll be out of the job.
- Ask questions. There is always something more to find out about the tasks your assigned, or the projects you’re working on. Find out. It will make a huge difference.
For me, and any employer really, that’s the minimum.
Now this is not a one-sided deal. You should have certain expectations too.
A Dose Of Reality For Employers
I was speaking with my Dad about the current state of our economy and what it took to get and maintain a job. One thing I was surprised to hear him say, which was later confirmed by someone I know in education, is that employers expect college graduates to be able to hit the ground running when they first start working.
This is what we call an unrealistic expectation.
I received my degree in computer science in 2008. I can honestly say that if I was hiring myself at that time (I already had 6 employees then), I wouldn’t have been able to hit the ground running. Not only because I wasn’t taught anything about web development, but we were never taught any of the “soft skills” you need to be successful at a job.
Here’s two things I really needed to know but was never taught:
- General business knowledge. If I’m contributing to the bottom line of a business, which employee does, it would be great to know a little bit about business, and how what I was going to do impacted one.
- How to work with a team. I didn’t do a group project until my senior year. My MBA was the complete opposite, but more group work as an undergrad would have been a very good thing. Unless you’re a one-person operation, you’re working with others. Teamwork is important.
The bottom line is that employers need to understand that they will need to train new employees. During this time these folks won’t be 100% income producing. However if they are not trained they won’t be able to succeed and produce even more for the company.
Now I hear that companies are worried about training people only to have them leave. And thus we enter a catch-22: employers want employees that can hit the ground running while employees don’t have everything they need going into a job.
Could this be one factor negatively effecting our economy? I think so.
I’ve read that today’s employee will have an average of 5-8 jobs in his lifetime. That means people won’t stay with you forever. Is that a reason not train them? I think not. That’s just bad business.
How My Next Employee Got Hired
This coming Thursday I am going to be presenting an employment offer to a young lady. Serendipity seems to have occurred as she is, by all evidence thus far, the polar opposite of what I hear of so many recent graduates. We’ll see over the next few months.
My interview of her, which was our second conversation, lasted a few hours. Within a day I had made my decision, which was based on:
- Her actions leading up to the interview
- Our conversation
- Her actions after the interview
She did send me her resume (which I didn’t ask for) and I did look over it, however no piece of paper can really tell me what I want to know. Hence the long interview.
Here is what she did right, and I suggest anyone looking for employment do:
- During our initial meeting during which I told her I was looking to hire someone, she asked for my business card, which I gave her.
- That same day she sent me an email. Her email mentioned parts of our conversation, showing me she listened, and addressed each point in my post about what I’m looking for in an employee. She also asked if we could talk again and provided her number.
- She immediately scheduled the next time to talk.
- When I told her I would be available to speak in person, sooner than the phone conversation we scheduled, we booked it. She also put my convenience ahead of her own.
- She was 10 minutes early to our appointment. She dressed well. Much better than me. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
- After the meeting she sent a thank you email. She continued to show interest in working with me, and reiterated how she could add value to the company.
A few other things that stood out:
- She volunteers for things that are interests of hers that are unrelated to her job
- She has a college degree
- She was open about why she left her previous job
- She reads books, and could easily tell me which one she read last and what she liked about it
So we’ll see if Dempsey Marketing will have it’s first employee (as I don’t count) later this week.
Long Story Short
As an entrepreneur I feel very fortunate. Today’s job market in the U.S. is horrible. Jobs are being outsourced or automated to lower costs and provide stock holders better returns. The education system appears to not be fully preparing young people for today’s jobs. Politicians seem to lack a firm grasp on what it’s going to take for more jobs to be created – there are more factors than they discuss on television.
It’s a hard time to be an employee.
However, jobs are out there. But you have to compete; you have to be very proactive. You don’t have to kiss ass (at least not mine) to cow tow to get a job, however you do have to show you want it and are a good fit.
You may need to gain some new skills, but do it. Never stop learning. Keep moving forward.
And when the opportunity comes, go all in on it.