I noticed a lot of articles recently on finding a job, interviewing and doing more to make your job secure. Many of them are written from human resource consultants and offer great tips but does anyone ever ask what the boss thinks? I am currently a boss of three people. In the past, I have had employees who had a daughter 3 years younger than me (I would more accurately describe that working relationship as my assistant told me what to do and I obeyed), Generation Y employees, temps, my boss' kid, employees who talked to much, employees who said nothing…in other words, I have been the boss of many types of employees.
…and you know what? I'll let you in on a secret. I am still stunned people think I am in charge. Call it the impostor syndrome. But, outside questions of a technical nature, I get asked a lot of questions that completely stump me. If you ask your boss a question and they pause, they are probably thinking the same thing I am in a similar situation- how do I not sound stupid to a question I can't answer? A lot of my friends who are bosses admit the same thing. There really is no "boss school." A MBA teaches you great theory but being a boss require a lot of soft skills you develop through life experience- in other words, it can't be taught and what you get promoted for (being good at some technical skill) is different than what you have to do after you are promoted (manage people): it is a really strange contradiction of business.
But, here's what I learned about what makes a good employee:
- Be a work geek. You remember that Star Wars or Star Trek geek in high school? They knew EVERYTHING about the shows and would talk to everyone about it. Be the same thing at work. Know what you do better than anybody else. Its hard to replace someone who is that technically good at their job since a potential replacement would be that far of a step down.
- Make your boss' life easy. Tell her the problem and how you intend to solve it. Make him look good in front of others. Figure out what your boss is terrible at and make that your strength (in other words, cover up for my weaknesses). Solutions, solutions, solutions instead of problems, problems, problems…If your boss has to solve all your problems, why does she need you? I will give you an example. My friend complains that his employee sees him every 10 minutes after an assignment is given to look over their work- why did he assign the work in the first place if he's basically doing it for them?
- Reliability is sometimes worth more than talent. What drives boss' insane are the employees with potential who coast at work; they are unreliable- which version will show up? The employee who delivers on potential or the one who coasts. If you are a sports fan, you know what I am taking about- the player who's good enough to break your heart aka the "coach killer." Bosses don't necessarily need geniuses at work (cue the boss being stumped even more) but we like reliability. Doing what you say you are going to do goes very far in life and at work. Bosses like grinders (to use the sports analogy)- they know they will get into the trenches and work hard.
- Attitude counts. I sometimes hate corporate-speak. Being a "good team player" really means "people respect this person professionally and likes them personally." Why can't people write that? The issue is that an employee may be technically proficient but people hate them. This causes the boss a huge problem (you are not making my life easy- see above). Bosses hate employees who complain what they don't have (I don't make enough, I don't have enough responsibility, I want a promotion). I have seen employees with a good attitude who are reliable getting ahead faster than their more talented counterparts.
Anyone have any other tips?