How to Be a Great Employee Without Being a Drone

My dad used to tell me that if someone offered you a job you took it and you did whatever you were told! And he also walked 150 miles to school through hungry Visigoths or something like that. There’s a bit of a misconception among entry-level job hunters that to be a good employee means unquestioning obedience, head down compliance and soul sucking assimilation.  It doesn’t. What it means is the secret to long term success, career satisfaction and, ultimately, respect for your abilities. Being a good employee is good for YOU.

So how do we do this?


Leave the Hive, Get a Job

By Lisa Correu, Principal/Job Search Advocate, AfterSchool Career Workshops

I’ve been doing a lot of speaking recently to various colleges, career fairs and industry organization events and I’ve noticed a few things. T-shirts are cooler than they were when I was in school and I need to update my sitcom references. But the most surprising thing I've observed is that the sense of urgency I would have expected in upcoming grads just isn’t there. Maybe you’ve been beaten down by all the crappy stats and depressing news stories that keep saying you’re screwed, no one will ever have a job again and we should just kill ourselves. Can’t say I blame you there, I have to turn off the tube, get the hell away from the Wall Street Journal website and run over to College Humor just to keep the noose away from me, too.

So here’s my theory on this. We are pack animals and there is nothing so pack-like as a college campus. You all move in herds, as one, into buildings, out of buildings, down tree lined sidewalks and into other buildings. You’ve been conditioned to think of yourselves as a single entity. Yes I know you’re individuals, yes I know you find ways to stand out from each other and right now your creativity knows few boundaries. But when you regard the world after graduation I think maybe you see it from the group perspective. So when you’re told everything sucks you believe it as a group. If no one’s getting a job than neither are you.


This is your chance. Shake off the notion that you will all move on together and simultaneously apply for the one job that’s out there. Break off, see your potential, and learn to promote yourself as an individual, tell me what’s great about you. Screw the Generation Y, Millennial or whatever hive name you’ve been given. It will only serve to keep you in the group. Lean on the group, use the group for advice, play with the group but keep you to yourself. Sure the unemployment rate for 20-24 year olds is a bitter 16% but the EMPLOYMENT rate for 20-24 year olds is 84%! Somebody’s getting the jobs.

So get out there, get that urgency and use it to get ahead of the hive. And then you can re-group with the hive over beers and bitch about your jobs. It’s what the rest of us do.


Pay Attention!

By Lisa Correu, Principal/Job Search Advocate, AfterSchool Career Workshops

My son was speaking to me the other day about something that seemed important to him but I was deeply involved in writing some web copy and since his conversations lately have run to why the dog shouldn’t be on the couch I just sort of ignored him. So when he finally screamed, “The cupcakes are BURNING!” I realized he really did have something to say and I pulled the scorched pan from the oven, said something bad under my breath, and decided to never bake again.

It’s easy to become a bit too focused sometimes, a little myopic and ignore what’s just outside your nose. You’re probably guilty. You’re in school, have been for several years and now you’re almost at the end; you can taste that diploma and you hopefully (ok definitely) have your job search going. But you also need to keep your eyes on the bigger world. Keep up with the news, stay abreast of what’s happening culturally, delve a little deeper than you might normally and click on random links when you’re surfing. If you find a word you don’t know, look it up. Look at bestseller lists and read music and movie reviews. Pay attention to editorials both locally and nationally and start reading the business sections of newspapers. Begin thinking about how what you read applies to you; make it personal, it’s time to start including yourself in the population. And watch this come in handy when you can conduct an intelligent conversation with a new contact or, even better, a hiring manager. Contributing to a conversation and taking it further will win you real points.

I’ve met a few entry-level candidates over the years who were very aware of the world around them, about history, about past culture and, bizarrely, music made before 2003. They made the best impressions and were hired more often. Sadly, they were more the exception than the rule. There are many small ways to surpass the typical candidate. Paying attention is one of them.

How does all this produce a successful job search? Find out at our day-long job search seminar with AfterSchool Career Workshops and get on the path to a successful career!