As a business owner I rely heavily on the labor force. I need strong and healthy workers who are willing and able to work. And when I say “willing to work”, I mean actually working, not just being employed. It sounds straight-forward enough, no doubt. Show up on time, be reliable, provide a little muscle, break a sweat, learn a few things, and grow your career.
I think for most people of my generation, that’s the way we started our careers. The stories and details may all be a little different, but the theme is the same – work hard, learn, grow.
But over the past few years, I’ve noticed that it has gotten harder and harder to sift through the pool of applicants and find workers who are willing to work hard and learn.
Don’t get me wrong – my current workers are great. I get compliments all the time from clients who tell me how pleased they are with my crew, how respectful and courteous the guys are, what a pleasure it is not to be bombarded with loud music or disrespectful behavior.
Truth be told, I pride myself on that. And I work hard at finding the right guys. But it does seem to be getting harder and harder to weed out the wannabes, the “entitled”, the lazy, the “know-it-alls”, or just the dim bulbs.
I guess my thought process began a few weeks ago when I saw an interview with Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, he basically travels the country looking for the sewer rats, the hog farmers, the trash sorters, etc – all the jobs most people wouldn’t want to touch.
The workers are all hard-working Americans who clock in an honest day’s labor doing often unpleasant tasks, all while taking pride in their work and supporting their families.
His travels and encounters have given him a frontline look at the state of the American workforce, and the jobs that are needed, and oftentimes available.
His take was interesting, as he argued that even though we currently hear a lot about the high level of unemployment, we don’t hear a lot about the thousands and thousands of jobs available for those who are willing to take them. And he didn’t blame the workforce necessarily. The blame, he argued, is on the disconnect between the education system that is training young people for jobs that aren’t needed, while simultaneously creating a stigma against jobs where you may get a bit greasy, sweaty, dirty, etc.
So while thousands of decent-paying, reliable jobs are available, our education system is perpetuating an atmosphere where students borrow money that they won’t be able to pay back, to train for jobs that aren’t available.
An interesting perspective, no doubt.
So here’s my tips for you young’uns out there looking for a job.
Be dependable. Show up on time. If your day starts at 8am, show up at 7:55 so you’re ready to work at 8am. If you’ve spent the past few years being a lazy college student sitting on your couch watching gameshows, then you’ll know that the Price is Right rules mean you can’t go over. That means 8:02 is no good for an 8am start. Fix your alarm clock. Fill up with gas. No excuses. It’s about the easiest thing that makes the biggest impression on your boss. If I can count on you to be on time, then I can probably count on you for lots of other things too.
Listen. When I’m telling you what to do, pay attention. Boss talking is not check your weather app time. If I’m not making sense (which happens), then let me know. I’ll say it another way so I do make sense. Don’t sit there and nod and then not do things the right way because you didn’t listen. I don’t like wasting my breath. Most bosses don’t. Listen to what I say, and then do it. Another pretty easy one.
Learn. The first two items are huge, but admittedly easy. This is where things start ratcheting up a bit. When you listen to what I tell you and what I teach, hopefully you’re retaining a bit for the next time. If you’re a worker looking
to impress your boss, there is no quicker way than to demonstrate that you remember and are applying what you were told the last time. The less I have to tell you as a worker, the more value you are to me.
Treat it like a career, not a job. I get it. A 22-year-old kid is looking for beer money and wants to spend his time with his friends. Been there. I know. Remember the old intro to The Flintstones when the 5pm horn sounded and Fred threw down what he was doing mid-task to go home. That doesn’t fly these days. If you want to advance, you want a raise, you want more responsibilities, you want to be recognized, then a little extra effort is required. My day doesn’t end at 5pm, far from it. If a worker can demonstrate to me that they are more interested in getting a job done well, taking the extra time to stay organized, or getting a few extra tasks done than they are to leave at 5pm sharp, that goes along way. Plus you’ll earn a few extra bucks in the process.
Think. I’ve read a number of articles on this lately, today’s youth is losing the ability to logically solve problems. Blame it on cell phones, or video games, or today’s education – whatever. But the ability to look at a situation, recognize or assess a problem, and come up with a solution is sadly becoming a lost skill. Even though you may be able to follow instructions (ie paint-by-numbers) doesn’t mean you can create your own instructions, or adapt if something isn’t quite as planned (ie paint your own masterpiece) . It’s important, and if you can demonstrate some problem-solving ability, you’ll go far, not just in one job, but in your career as a whole.
Are you looking for a job in the hardscaping industry with hands-on training? Think you have what it takes? We always keep interesting respectable resumes on file. Make yourself known to us. Always the first step.