This week’s blog features sage words of wisdom from my friend Dr. Bill Gestal. Important reminders for all of us:

According to a recent Gallup poll, the average U.S. worker expects to work until they are at least 66 years old.  For round number sake that means most workers will work for 40 years. Using an average of 2,000 work hours per year, people will average 80,000 hours of work in a lifetime.

It seems reasonable to infer that by doing your craft well, by working well, you’ll earn the respect of other workers and the right to be heard. Work with all our heart. Be a good worker. And give it your best even when the boss isn’t watching.

Last month I contacted some people I know who have hired, fired and managed people in their work careers and asked them what qualities they look for in new hires and employees.

One person wrote me back and said:

  • Consistency and length of service
  • Personality fit with existing team
  • Aptitude for the role. Even if they don’t have the skills necessary, have they demonstrated that they can learn new skills and have they achieved success at new challenges in previous roles.

Another person responded:

  • Proficiency
  • Passion: “Ideally I’d like to hire a person who has so much passion for the job that they would do it for free. Someone who likes their work and is energized by their work is someone who is largely self-managed.”
  • Values: “Are the individual’s values consistent with those of the organization? Will they be a good fit or will they find themselves in continual value conflict?”

A third person, who works more in a service-oriented profession rather than a corporate setting, gave 2 important characteristics:

  • Technical proficiency
  • Servant’s heart

Then he added a caveat: “The technical stuff is easy, what’s most important is the kindness of spirit, the calmness of presence, and the ability to make today’s project the best we’ve ever done.”

A Forbes article on the topic surprised me when it listed “Ability to work in a team” as the #1 skill employees look for.

AJE Recruiting Specialist America’s article, “What Do Employers Want from Their Employees,” listed 6 characteristics:

  • Demonstrate dependability
  • Self–motivated
  • Positive representation
  • Rise to the occasion
  • Team players
  • Positive attitude

Based on all this, if you want to work at your job in amanner that earns the respect of your employer and fellow employees, I offer 3 practical suggestions:

#1. Gain competencies and grow better at the important things you do

Malcolm Gladwell argues for the 10,000-hour rule for world-class proficiency. Most of us don’t have the time, means, or circumstances to gain world-class proficiency in our craft or career, BUT we can all gain proficiencies and grow better at the things we do for work.

For example, I love to watch professionals and people of all skills and stripes:

–          The brick layer who throws the precise amount of mortar every time

–          The pianist, guitarist, and violinist who can make their instruments sing

–          The performers of Cirque du Soleil

–          The dentist who can keep drilling that cavity even when I have to swallow and my jaw moves up, down and sideways

What I love is that each of these workers has gained a high degree of proficiency in their work. Grow better at the important things you do. Every one of us can hone and improve the important competencies for our jobs or professions.

#2. Don’t whine

Every job has aspects that stink… don’t whine about them and commit yourself to perform well in the tough, uncomfortable parts of your job.

Pay attention to small things… take initiative… even if you can’t go the extra mile, at least go the extra inch/foot.

I remember talking with a Dad, whose daughters had grown to babysitting age, and he offered them 3 pieces of advice:

1. You must take the sitter’s course. I want to know you are competent.

2. Always be a little early. The adults are going somewhere and you don’t want to be responsible    for them being late.

3. Look to do a little extra… when the kids are asleep, clean the dishes or pick up around the house.

This will set you apart and get you called back.

#3. Don’t be a jerk

Get along with others and don’t be a jerk. And ask yourself if your boss or mentor would be pleased with your work attitude and performance. Every article I read and every response from my business contacts listed being able to work with others as one of their top characteristics.

Now remember… this advice is not intended solely for career advancement. That’s great if it happens! Strive to grow better at the important things you do, remember not to whine, and never be a jerk… and you can’t go wrong.