Make yourself invaluable in any career.

Congratulations on landing that first job! You probably applied or are applying for a job through an online site or through the company’s website. Maybe you had to physically fill out a paper application. Maybe you are still in the applying phase and are wondering how to be a good employee. The following tips are going to be helpful to you in becoming an invaluable employee no matter the job and in hopefully landing a good reference for future jobs.


  1. Availability: Be honest about your availability to work right from the beginning. If you are still in school and have to work around that, tell them. If you have to babysit your little sister on Friday nights, just be honest from the start. Employers know that young people have sports, school, and other commitments. If they do not want to work around that, then they probably won’t hire a student anyway. Even if you have another job already and this is to be your second, let them know at the interview. Managers do not like to be surprised to find out that the weekend help they hired is not available every weekend. And be realistic with your self too. You cannot be expected to have every Saturday night off to party with your friends.
  2. Work Ethic: It doesn’t matter what job you have: dog walker, babysitter, cashier at the local market. You are still expected to do the best job you can. It is important to take pride in your work, even if you hate your job. Your manager and fellow employees could be valuable assets to you later when you are able to look for a better job, and don’t you want them to let others know that you were a dependable, hard worker? I have worked for places that were against hiring younger people based on past employees who came to work and had a bad attitude and did the bare minimum or less. You are only there for a little while. No matter what the atmosphere is like around you, try to be cheerful, work just a little harder than expected, and be willing to learn new things. You may not plan on staying at the mall job after college, but you may be able to get a couple raises or promotions while you are there in the meantime. And that all looks good to future employers.
  3. Transportation: Before you apply for that job across town, figure out how you are going to get there. If you do not have a vehicle yet, who are you able to depend on to drive you back and forth every day? Do not assume your parents are willing or able without first discussing it with them. I remember fighting with my parents who would not drive me to my first job because “how am I supposed to get my own car if I can’t get to work to earn money?” Have you had this conversation? I always felt that I wasn’t given the opportunity to get ahead because I didn’t have reliable transportation. One of an employers biggest pet peeves is hiring someone who is always late or absent due to transportation issues. Is there public transportation you can take? A friend who works there also? Figure this part out BEFORE you take a job, or you could find yourself with a bad reference. This leads into the next factor:
  4. Reliability: Will you be there when you say you will be there? Are you on time and ready to work as soon as your shift starts? These are things that employers are looking for. A good rule of thumb is to be at your job 15 minutes before the start of your shift. This gives you time to put your stuff away, go to the bathroom, visit with co-workers, and get prepared for your day. Most managers want you to be ready to go at the start of your shift, with your drawer already counted if you are in retail and all the non-work stuff done. You are just wasting the company’s time if you are waltzing in 2 minutes before your shift and you are being inconsiderate to your co-workers. Even worse is being chronically late. Other people are relying on you to be there and be on time. If you are relying on public transportation, make sure you get there early. Bring a book or homework if you need something to do before your shift.
  5. Ability to follow directions: You will be trained the first couple weeks on how to do what is expected of you. Pay attention and practice as much as you are allowed while you are being trained so that you are ready once you are on your own. Do not be afraid to ask questions, even once you are trained; it will be better than trying to fix mistakes you might make. But pay attention!! No one likes having to keep telling someone over and over how to do a part of their job. It makes you look incompetent and no one wants to work with someone who can’t follow basic instructions. Your manager and co-workers know you are new and are usually willing to help for awhile, but you are supposed to be there so that they can handle other aspects of their jobs, not do yours for you.

No matter what career path you choose or how little the job may seem to be, these five qualities are going to make you an invaluable employee. Your work is a reflection of you and you have the opportunity to create your best self through your work. There are no little jobs, no matter what you are getting paid, and there are always opportunities to move ahead on your path if employers see you as a valuable asset.

I hope that while you are looking for a job, you keep these qualities in mind. Please like and rate this page, and follow and sign up for weekly email reminders. I’d love to hear from you in the comments, let me know what qualities you think I might be missing if you have been in the workforce already, or what questions you may have. Make sure you look for Being Grown Up on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. XOXO

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