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Preparing Young Adults for Their First Job – Strategies for Being a Good Employee

Once your young adult has landed a job, there are several strategies to use to be a good, reliable employee. Learning how to support the company’s short- and long-term goals while at the same time growing and developing one’s own skills is important to both job success and career satisfaction. Put these tools and practices to work in order to make the employment experience a good one.

Be a reliable employee

There are many ways to put your best foot forward as a new employee, but these employee fundamentals are sure to help your young adult be successful:

  • Be on time. Allow plenty of time to get out the door. It’s better to be early than late, so allocate wiggle room for flat tires or unexpected road construction or traffic. Get in the practice of bringing a book to read during any extra time before the shift begins.
  • Be professional. While it’s fine to be friendly and upbeat, be sure to stay focused on roles and responsibilities. Always speak to co-workers, customers and managers with respect. Before leaving for the day, ask if there are any important tasks that need to be done.
  • Learn how to do your job well. Understand what is asked. Be clear on expectations and understand due dates and deliverables.
  • Work hard. Be fully present. Leave the phone and social media for after work hours.

Learn how to balance work with school responsibilities

Students who juggle work in addition to school obligations have to work harder to strike a balance between commitments. It’s important to set priorities and put healthy practices into place. Employ these practices to maintain a work-school-life balance:

  • Be clear about your availability. When possible, be up front about your work availability prior to beginning your job. If additional or unexpected school or personal commitments are going to impact your work availability, have the conversation with your manager or scheduler as soon as possible.
  • Manage your time. Plan your daily and weekly schedules and prioritize your work. Be honest about time snatchers – scrolling through social media feeds, binging TV shows, playing video games or splitting your focus by multitasking – and consider how you can put that time to better use. Reward yourself for using that recovered time in more productive ways.
  • Avoid schedule overload and the stress associated with over commitment. Be clear what you can handle and make sure your employer understands that as well.
  • Get adequate sleep. Your work and school performance will suffer if you don’t give your body – and your brain – proper rest and recovery.

Ask for help

It’s hard to ask for help. We want to give the impression that we are self-reliant and fear that we will appear incompetent or unknowledgeable. But a reluctance to ask for help at work is limiting or even destructive to careers and personal well-being. Understanding that we can be more effective and efficient if we ask for input or help from a more experienced employee early on is a great way to avoid larger problems down the road. Here are four times when you should absolutely ask for help:

  • You don’t know what you’re doing. Even the most experienced employees face instances when they are unclear as to what is being asked. It’s OK to ask.
  • You have too much on your plate. Assignments and tasks are projected to take a certain amount of time. Sometimes those time estimations are wrong or other needs come up that are more important. Explain the situation to your manager. Ask for more time and ask for help prioritizing your tasks. Or ask a co-worker to help. Be specific about what you need and what the deadline is.
  • You made a mistake. Own the mistake and let someone know. The goal is to understand what went wrong and how to avoid the same mistake in the future.
  • You need help from a more experienced co-worker. If you don’t know your company’s processes or systems, you’ll need to ask someone who does.

Ask for additional responsibilities or training opportunities at work

Whether you’re hoping for a raise or just wanting to add to the breadth and depth of your skills, asking for additional responsibility can be complicated. Here are a few ways to pick up additional skills and responsibilities:

  • Ask your manager. Before you ask for more things to be added to your workload, make sure you have a handle on your current responsibilities. Help your manager understand the positive impact on the business or department if you acquire additional skills or take on new tasks.
  • Be proactive. Do you see a problem that needs solving? Is something falling through the cracks? If so, let your department know that you could help with those tasks.
  • Offer to help a co-worker. If you see a busy colleague who is juggling too many assignments, offer to assist.

Be open to job performance feedback

Receiving feedback is difficult for everyone. Our brains are wired to protect us, and neuroscientists have determined that criticism is perceived by the brain as a threat to survival. People who effectively process feedback and put it to use to improve their skills and performance have learned to work around this hardwiring of self-protection. Here are some ways to be resilient about performance feedback:

  • Don’t shut down. Be aware of your body language and tone of voice when someone is offering constructive feedback. Whether suggestions are coming from a supervisor or co-worker, be physically and emotionally open to the person’s thoughts and recommendations.
  • Listen.  Let it sink in. Ask how it impacts your team. Some types of feedback can be hard to process in the moment. Take time to consider the feedback and revisit the conversation with your supervisor. Ask how you can do better.

Performance feedback is about skill and execution of a task, not about you as a person. Good managers develop those who work for them. Feedback, given openly and constructively, is a gift for your development. If you have regular conversations with your manager, ask for feedback on a regular basis. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Do you have one or two suggestions for how I can improve my work?
  • How could I handle my projects more effectively?
  • Is there anything I can do to make your job easier?
  • Do you have any suggestions for improving how I prioritize or complete my tasks?

Be willing to address issues at work

Even the best work environments have misunderstandings, projects that miss the target or interactions that don’t go as planned. Keep these three things in mind when addressing issues at work:

  • Assume positive intent. Most misunderstandings are just that – a misinterpretation of facts or the situation. Before addressing the issue, go into the discussion assuming the person had good intentions.
  • Talk directly to the person involved. While you can seek advice from a manager or mentor for how to handle a situation, it is always better to deal directly with the person involved to gain an understanding for how you arrived at a place of misunderstanding or frustration.
  • Consult a manager or mentor if the situation remains unresolved. Ask for advice on how to proceed constructively to resolve the issue.

Your military community makes it easier for you to help your young adult prepare to be a strong employee. Reach out to Military OneSource with questions or for additional assistance. Call 800-342-9647 or set up a live chat today. OCONUS/international? Viewr calling options.

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