My job has been going through some major changes that has, for the first time in quite a few years, required hiring a lot of new people. As such, we’ve been experiencing some growing pains, remembering what it was like when we were hired, trying to figure out how best to train these new people.
Being on the low end of the totem means not having to deal with the heavy training part – while I do have to assist with questions and train some for the department I am in, I am free to observe these new hires and the training going on, learning and thinking about the things going on round me. It also points to some troubling thoughts and observations: practices that, at best, will keep them out of full time employment and, at worst, will lead them out of the door.
So what advice would I give them?
1. Practice and Play when Opportunity is Given
Our department is a computer-based department that uses a combination of custom-built tools and standard programs – mainly, Adobe Photoshop. All of this stuff utilizes basic concepts and ideas that are fully transferable to other departments and businesses, even if the procedures are not. How well these things transfer, however, depend greatly on your knowledge, understanding and use of the tools – and what you do with them during those periods of downtime, such as what many of these people experience daily as work builds up.
So why not play? Why not learn the tools more, explore more of what you can do, try out new ideas? Guitarists practice and play almost daily to keep their skills in check, machinists who move up in the world are constantly learning the new techniques and tools to stay ahead of the curve, and artists don’t become better without the continual practice and procedure. Not many jobs give you the opportunity during downtime to understand the tools, but when you fail to take advantage of the ones that do, you’re only hurting yourself.
I’m not saying to do this during working time, however – your job should always come first. However, if you have 5-10 minutes before work, downtime during work where there’s nothing to do, why sit like a bump on a log and talk?
2. Speak, think, and listen bout your job
I know you want to talk about the next concert, what you did over the weekend, or ask about some burning desire, but if you’re new to a job or place of employment, all of that talk, while it helps us get to know you, keeps you away from reaching your fullest potential. Ask questions about you do, take notes when we speak, observe with full thought when you’re there.
The notes thing can’t be stressed enough – just as in school, what notes you take and how you take and use them will be critical not just to the work you produce, but to how those of us who’ve been there a long time observe you. It’s easier to take someone who’s willing to improve under our wings than it is to fight with someone who simply doesn’t care.
3. Participate and volunteer for things when opportunity strikes
This is one of those “Do as I say, not as I do” moments, because now you learn one of the many failures that kept me as a seasonal. There have been times when I’d be asked to go to different departments, to do different tasks or to be trained to do something else. Many times, I’d complain and bellyache, or be an ass about doing it – so it’d go to someone else, and eventually I’d be laid off.
Years later, as I observe these same behaviors – the dodging out and doing their own thing when other people are volunteering to learn a new skill or department – I understand what my bosses saw in me: that noisy, unwilling-to-learn, lazy do-nothing bellyaching about not having work yet also complaining being sent home or not being given opportunities. Who would I want to work with: That person not jumping up to do a golden opportunity, or the person eager to listen, willing to work and learn something new?
I’m now in a position where I might not be physically able to: years of laziness and physical damage have taken their toll, and some jobs – especially the physically demanding jobs that make up my company now – are too much of a risk on my heart. I can’t blame my coworkers for that: I brought all of it on myself, and I know I’ll never move up in this company again. That’s 16 years of my life that I screwed up and can’t get back. That’s 16 years of painful knowledge, however, I can hopefully pass on to someone else, in the hopes that they make their lives better.
I can’t guarantee success for everyone – in fact, I can’t guarantee doing all of these things will bring anyone success. Technology and time is constantly evolving, and a skill you have today may no longer be necessary tomorrow.
I can promise you, however, that doing these things will greatly improve your chances and opportunities for success. In this I can say I’ve witnessed it – I’ve seen a lot of good friends go on to a great many better things, especially the ones who do these things. If you’re new to a job, to an industry or place, all of these things can help you move up in the world.