The Characteristics of a Good Employee

Most employers seem to agree that good employees display qualities such as dependability, punctuality, initiative, a positive attitude toward the job, ability to get along well with others, flexibility, motivation, organization, and an ability to perform assigned duties.  And most individuals preparing to enter the workforce would look at this list of expectations and find it reasonable.

Does anyone plan to start a job or career unmotivated, disorganized, and under-prepared?  Of course not!  The problem is that the qualities and behaviors listed above are automatically assumed by employers; they constitute minimum expectations.  Most companies do not provide programs to train their new employees on how to develop loyalty, project a good attitude, or show up on time each day.  And why would they?  Students who graduate from high school or college possess these attributes and more, don't they?

More and more frequently, employers are complaining about the work ethic of new employees and are surprised at the degree to which they lack the basic skills and behaviors necessary to succeed in their jobs.  Employees are not showing up to work on time (or, in some cases, not showing up at all), not willing to perform the tasks assigned to them, and not taking the initiative to look around and see what needs to be done.  Often these same individuals have portrayed themselves in interviews as dependable, flexible, and willing to take initiative.

So how can you tell if YOU would make a good employee?  If you are currently employed, or have recently held a job, answer the following list of questions based on your work behaviors:

1.  Am I a dependable, loyal employee?

2.  Am I a flexible employee?

3.  Do I take initiative?

4.  Do I have a positive attitude?

5.  Am I a motivated employee?

If you do not hold any type of job now, you may want to ask similar questions about your behavior as a student; after all, being a student is your most important "job" right now.  Ask yourself such things as:  Do I show up on time for my classes?  Is my out-of-class work complete and handed in on time?  Do I take initiative to learn more about the subject matter than is expected of me?  Do I exhibit a positive attitude in class, by listening, and by contributing my own ideas and opinions when appropriate?  If I were the teacher, would I want to teach a student like me?  If I were another student, would I want to attend class with someone like me?

The most serious mistake a student could probably make is to think, "Well, I'm not the best student or the best employee right now, but these aren't REAL jobs.  When I graduate and get a REAL job, everything will change."  Positive work behaviors do not magically "appear" at the time when a person starts a "real job."  Like most good things, a positive work ethic develops over time and with effort.

A popular theory states that it takes 30 days to break a bad habit; so how long does it take to establish a good habit?  That depends on both the habit and the person, but as it is pretty clear that good habits don't develop overnight, it might be wise to start now.  Start with that 8:25 homeroom class or that part-time job you currently hold.  Go in today or tomorrow morning with the attitude that you are going to put forth the best possible effort in all that you do.  Look at it as a "training ground" for that great job you plan to start after graduation from high school or college.  If you are the best student you can be TODAY, chances are you will possess all the qualities employers are seeking when you go off to pursue the career of your dreams.

This article was written by Mary Keen Krikorian, Career Planning Associate, State University of New York College at Oneonta.
A few slight changes were made to adapt the article to 6th grade Career Exploration students.