Employees come in all shapes, sizes and skill levels. Regardless of the job description, in a tough economy employers are seeking and finding the exceptional employees. Will you be chosen?
Exceptional, not Average
Depending on the statistic you choose to believe, the unemployment rate varies between 7.7 percent and 11.2 percent. Regardless of the statistic, if you are employed, you probably want to stay employed and if you are unemployed, you are probably anxious to become employed.
What characteristics do employers seek? How do you demonstrate that you possess those qualities? In my experience as an employer for over thirty-five years, employees come in three basic categories: white knights, milk toast and red ants.
These individuals are the ideal every employer dreams of having on the payroll. They are exceptional. What makes them outstanding?
• They operate on instinct instead of the narrow confines of a job description. They think quickly, adapt without being told, take responsibility, and achieve positive results. They are less concerned about receiving credit than about achieving results for the company and the client.
• Independence describes them more than the necessity to be micromanaged. They enjoy the freedom to take initiative. Employers want them in a brainstorming session where they contribute and stimulate creative ideas. They will be the first ones to offer a suggestion for an innovative approach to marketing. They will take it upon themselves to create a new marketing brochure from the PrintPlace.com brochure design templates.
• White knights know when to step it up or dial it back into a team mode. They adjust to an urgent need for action or the desirability to soothe a ruffled co-worker or client. They know when to speak up about the 800 pound elephant in the room because others want to know but don’t feel comfortable asking.
• Problem solving discussions are held in private and praise is given in public. Potential problems are never presented without offering at least one possible solution.
• Down time becomes productive by helping co-workers, seeking additional knowledge about the company or industry, or performing the mundane tasks of organizing or cleaning. They are not seeking ‘brownie points,” they just can’t help being productive.
• They possess an attitude of honesty, cheerfulness, integrity and encouragement. Intelligence, education, credentials and experience are coupled with a strong work ethic and drive.
Picture a slice of soggy toast lying limp in a bowl. It really isn’t causing a mess, but it isn’t all that thrilling either.
A “milk toast” employee shows up to work on time and does the minimum necessary to perform the job description – no more and no less. They really don’t cause a trouble or upset anyone, but they don’t do anything outstanding either. If the working hours are eight am to five pm, do not expect to see them before eight am and at five pm and thirty seconds, they are gone for the day.
It’s not that they have a bad attitude; they are essentially bland and more robot-like. Milk toast employees treat the work as a job rather than a career. White knights have a career attitude. Milk toast’s best function is on the assembly line or serving as a file clerk. Dependable, steady and responsible would be descriptive characteristics. The front office receptionist should not be a “milk toast.” Their attitude on a new marketing campaign would be, “anything is fine.” No helpful ideas would be offered.
If you have ever had the misfortune to encounter a red ant in real life, you can imagine the lack of desirability to have one as an employee.
They are constantly picking at people, complaining about everyone and everything. Nothing is ever good enough for a red ant. There is always something to complain about. Do they suffer in silence? Oh, no, they spread their whining and criticism to everyone without even being asked to contribute their comments. Any time there is any potential conflict, they are in the middle of the drama stirring the pot and agitating the situation.
The one good aspect of the red ant is that they will offer every possible reason why the new marketing ideas will not work. They will see every possible flaw in the plan. Knowing the potential flaw in advance allows the “white knights” the opportunity to correct the issue before the new brochure campaign is printed and mailed. Frequently the remainder of the team will rally even more energy to offset the red ants. This could be a positive.
Bottom line – Fire the red ants. Rehabilitation is seldom successful.
Knowing the distinctions between the “white knights,” the “milk toast,” and the “red ants,” both employees and potential employees are aware of the standards to which to strive. Employers have solid guidelines for selecting the ideal candidates.