There are almost 10 million people that are unemployed in the United States right now. Some are in a position to start their own business. Most others are going to need to find a job. But how? How do they stick out in a crowded field of applicants that is often hundreds deep? Where should they apply for work? What’s a good business to work for and what should their be goal be going into the job? Money? Another notch on the resume? In my relatively short life, I’ve had many jobs and have learned many lessons from both the hiring process and the jobs themselves. In this post, I aim to help people get a job that pays them more than money.
(Note: Before you jump up and down over a post about getting a regular old job, remember a few things. I’m still probably the biggest proponent of self-employment there is. I wish everyone could have their own business. But I also recognize from the emails and interactions I have with readers that not everyone is going to start their own business. Even for those that will eventually start and run their own business, there will often be a season where they need to have a regular job. The job hunt can be a difficult process, and this post is to hopefully make it easier.)
Think about who you want to work for?
First, I know that everyone is not in a position to be picky. If you have the liberty to take your time looking for a more ideal job, here are a few suggestions.
1. Look for a good teacher/boss. A good teacher will not just have you do things, but will explain to you why they are being done. A good teacher will show you how each of the parts of the business work together to make the business run well. A good teacher will be patient. A good teacher will encourage you do your best. Talk to people that work for the business that you are interested in working for their manager or boss. Great teachers and bosses will often inspire great affection from their employees that will be evident when you talk to them. If you don’t see that, maybe keep looking.
2. Look for a company, product and service that you can be proud of. Try and get a job working for a business that has a great product or a great service that adds a lot of value to people. A quick test would be to ask yourself if you would be proud to tell people that you work for that company. If you are not sure about the quality of the services, would you be proud to explain what you would be doing at that company to your grandmother? What about the quality of the products being sold. Would you be proud to sell the product to your grandfather who is used to appliances that lasted 40 years, furniture made from real wood and toys that were created to withstand nuclear attacks?
I could never sell something that I really didn’t believe in or I wasn’t convinced was a very wise purchase. Imagine working at a liquor store and having many of your customers be alcoholics, or at a certain big-box retailer that sells disposable furniture. Think about working at a payday loan business, or any business that preys upon those that tend to make poor financial decisions. I would want to talk the customers out of half their purchases.
3. Look for company that really interests you. Do you enjoy bicycles? Get a job at a bike shop, a repair shop or a bike rental company. Like tech support? Get a job anywhere that you can help people use their computers. Getting a job anywhere in the industry that you are most interested in will be much more valuable to you in the long run.
If you aren’t able to find a company to work for that you are passionate about, that’s ok. There is still plenty to gain from every job, so just do your best and make the most of each situation.
If you remember only one thing from this post, remember this. What you learn at a good job is worth much, much more than the money you earn.
1. Obtain skills. Every job requires various skills. Try to learn as many skills as you can while you are at a job. The more difficult and complicated, the better. Don’t be the person that is always trying to do the easiest work. Work harder than your co-workers and learn the things that everyone else is trying to avoid.
This is especially the case if you are looking at getting into a trade. There are a lot of trades that you can learn pretty quickly just by watching and repeating all the various aspects of the trade. It won’t be long before you are skilled enough to go out and start your own business if that’s what you would like to do.
Side note: It can be good to learn skills that you might not use in your primary career. I worked in construction for years and gained a lot of skills that many people might look at and call them a waste of my time. But those construction skills have helped me almost completely remodel my house inside and out. I plan on owning rental properties long term, and a strong construction background is a very valuable asset. My point is that you never know when the skills you learn at your various jobs will be put to valuable use later in life.
2. Obtain a strong work ethic. Learn to work hard. Learn to be diligent. You can learn these skills at any job. You might have to push yourself really hard, but you can learn how to work hard even at a job that might be relatively simple. Then, there are jobs that make it really easy to learn how to work hard.
I once worked for the railroad. Working for the railroad can be one of the most physically demanding jobs in the world at times. If it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s 120 degrees between the rails. The tools are heavy, the rail is heavy, the railroad ties are heavy. You work in the extreme heat and extreme cold. We had to work 14 plus hour days at times, especially on derailments. I learned to work hard at the railroad and how to stick with a really hard job. Every job I’ve had since that time has been cake compared to the railroad.
3. Obtain the craft of customer service. Customers are the most valuable asset of any business. Learning how to treat customers is a skill that you can learn at any job and that you can use for the rest of your life. Take it seriously if your coworkers don’t.
I once worked as a teller at a bank, primarily in the drive-thru window. The drive-thru window can be a pretty stressful position at a bank. When things get busy, cars get backed up, and the longer people have to sit waiting in their cars, the more frustrated they can be. So a lot of banks, and tellers won’t allow businesses to do their business deposits through the drive-thru as they can take a little longer than regular transactions. With that understanding, there was one local business that always came through the drive-thru because they needed to get back to their business as quickly as possible. This lady was always given a hard time by a number of my co-workers because she was viewed as an inconvenience. I never viewed her that way. She was nice and was a great customer of the banks. Taking her deposits through the drive-though was just a great opportunity to serve her and her business. She picked up on the difference between the way I treated her and the way she was usually treated.
One day around Christmas time, she pulled up to the window and put her normal deposit in the slot, along with a Christmas card. Inside the card was a note thanking me for my kindness and my unwillingness to view her as an inconvenience. There was also a $20 bill and a Merry Christmas. I will never forget what I learned from this situation. Businesses exist to serve customers and they will never forget how you make them feel.
So, you have a better idea of why you want a job, what you are looking to get out of the job and the type of company and boss you want to work for. Now how are you going to going to get hired when there are hundreds of other people that have all applied for the same position?
1. Get to know the people at the business. People want to hire those they can trust. The more they can get to know you, the better your chances are going to be of getting hired. If it’s a coffee shop, go in every day for a month. Talk to the employees. Talk to the managers. Ask them what the job is like and how hard it is to learn. Show them you are interested in the business. It is possible to be picked out of a pile of applicants and be hired, but it is much more likely to happen if you are known personally by the business. Even if you don’t ever meet the person that is doing the hiring, you would be surprised at how much influence employees and managers have over the hiring process. A good word from them can many times equal a job.
2. Find a way to help out. When I was 15 years old I wanted to learn how to golf. So I signed up for golf lessons. Over the course of my handful of lessons, I slowly got to know the golf pro that worked at the course, and who also was in charge of staffing the pro-shop. As I began to hang around the golf course more and more, I noticed one day that they were out of range balls. The driving range worker hadn’t shown up to pick up balls that day and and they had no one to do it as they were already a person short. As they were talking about what to do, I interrupted them and said that I would go out and pick up balls for free. This blew them away at first, but they could tell I was serious. Five minutes later I was driving the golf cart that scoops up all the driving range balls up. When I was done they gave me soda, a handful of driving range tokens and two days later a part time job. What I had done meant a lot to them and got my name put at the top of a few hundred applications to work at the golf course.
3. Learn niche, in-demand skills. When I was in Jr. High and high school, I learned how to make basic websites. This was back in the early to mid 90’s when most people barely knew how to use a computer. I got a job one year working for a local real estate office helping them put their listings on a company website. I got the job because almost no one at the time knew much about html.
Today it might be helping a business setup and run a social media account, or making video’s for their website or helping them with graphic design. There are a ton of little niche skills that if you can learn, you can get a job at a business that cannot, or does not want to pay to hire a professional to do the work. So get as many extra skills as you can. In a crowded field of applicants, having an extra skill to help the company can often push you ahead of the pack.
4. Be honest. I once beat out 100 other applicants for a temporary job from Craigslist that paid $12/hr simply because I was honest about my abilities. I said what I was good at, and more importantly as it turned out, was honest about what I wasn’t good at. I didn’t want to waste the guys time if I really couldn’t do the job that he wanted done. I don’t think anyone else mentioned what they weren’t good at, and in the end, the guy specifically told me that was why he hired me. So go ahead and sell yourself like everyone says, just do so by being honest.
5. Be willing to work for cheap at first. Don’t get all hung up about how much you are making when you get hired. When a business or application asks you how much you want to earn, put down whatever they think your work is worth. Let the quality of your work do the talking and things will take care of themselves. If you learn a ton of skills and the company doesn’t want to raise your pay, go work somewhere else that values your skill-set more. Why? Because excellent company’s value excellent workers and they will usually pay up to keep them around. If a company is wise, they will continue to raise your pay to the degree they want to keep you around.
Never give up on your long term goals, but hold loosely the path that is going to get you there. One job will lead to another, and that one to another. In the end, wherever you work, learn to make the most of every opportunity.
What are some things you have learned from your past jobs that are still helping you out today? What other tips would you add to those that are looking for work? For those of you that have your own business, what makes you want to hire someone? I’d love to hear from you! Hope you are all well.