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Time to Step It Up!


A little over a year ago, shortly after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, I wrote a blog about the importance of bringing your A-game to your job every day. “Even when our company is doing badly, and we didn’t get the bonuses we’d hoped for, and my boss is making me work longer hours for no more money, Tom? Especially then.

A year later, I’m not sure how your situation is, but I know what the president’s is. Things aren’t any better for the country. In many ways, they’re worse. And I’m guessing it’s like that for your company. So, how are you handling it? Are you throwing up your hands and saying it’s someone else’s problem or are you digging in trying to find ways to make things better – because I promise you, that’s what your boss is looking for. Whether you’re President Obama, the pastor of a church, the owner of a fast food franchise or me, you want to be surrounded by people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and just get it done.

So I went into the vault and dug up that blog, because I think it’s time to revisit the need to continue to step it up.

We all know someone who’s among the thousands who have recently lost their jobs. What gets me, though, is that so many of us who still are blessed enough to have jobs aren’t acting like we’re grateful to have the jobs we have. We’re still rolling in late; we’re still leaving early and taking longer breaks than we’re supposed to. We’re dressing inappropriately, and we’re cursing out our supervisors. We’re failing to polish our skills. We’re giving 60 percent instead of 100, and we’re keeping mess going. Yeah, I’m calling you out on this one, Sybil!

The sad news is that some of us who are doing a fine job have or will become victims of the bad economic situation, no matter what we do. It’s bad all over. You know it’s rough when they’re cutting back at funeral homes. I heard about one place that has stopped using a funeral hearse and drives the caskets to the cemetery in a Kia! Better a Kia than a Toyota Camry, I guess. And speaking of Toyota, that company is a perfect example of a company that was cruising along and suddenly was blindsided. Until they recover from the news that 2.3 million vehicles need to be recalled, their problem trickles down to their employees, the dealers and their employees.

Someone at some level on every job is feeling the pinch in one way or another. Hours are being cut or people are being asked to work longer for the same pay. It’s just a fact of life right now. You might find yourself having to make a sacrifice you might not have been willing to make when the job market was booming.

Still, so many of us who are skating by, acting like good jobs are dime a dozen. But when you think about it, people really don’t change that much. Hard workers are hard workers and slackers are slackers, no matter what the situation of the forecast is.

I know an employer who, during the interview process, asks the potential employee to hand her an envelope strategically placed on a table across the room. She says some people instinctively jump up, grab the envelope off the table and bring it back to her. Others look at her pause a moment, slowly stand, walk across the room, pick up the envelope and walk it back to her. She says she can tell by that small exercise which people are enthusiastic hard workers and which aren’t. Think about it. If you aren’t enthusiastic about trying to get a job, what will you be like three years, five years down the line?

As a boss, in a perfect world, I would want to keep everyone employed forever. But the world isn’t perfect. In fact, right now, it’s pretty jacked up. So, in this world, when tough times call for tough measures, I’m looking for people who step it up and keep work hard, whether their managers are around or not. I’m looking for people who are as enthusiastic about their jobs three years later as they were three days after they were hired. I’m looking for people who get to work on time, are willing to stay late and look for solutions and not excuses to problems when they come up. I want these kind of people not because I can promise that they will never be let go, but because I know they’ll do a great job for me and be able to move on and do a great job for someone else.

I don’t have to worry about them. I do worry about the people who are apathetic and do a mediocre job because they’re going to have a tough time out there.

If you need a wake-up call, here it is. This is not the kind of recession where, when things turn around, you’ll be called back to your old job. This is the kind of game changer where jobs, companies and entire systems are being eliminated for good. People are looking for ways to permanently tighten up their games.

So, if you’re blessed enough to have a good thing, do everything you can to keep it. In the meantime, take a realistic look at the kind of career opportunities that do exist, and tailor your skills – and your work ethic – so that you can bring something of value to the table.

I found an article listing jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Here are a few.

1. Bloggers. They earn money working for themselves and corporations.

2. Community/Content Managers. They manage Web sites and work as liaisons between companies and communities.

3. Green Funeral Directors. They incorporate environmentally-friendly options for families.

4. Patient Advocates. They make sure patients and families are on track with the patients’ care.

5. Senior Move Management. These are companies that help older adults and their families deal with locating housing or facilties.

6. Social Media Strategist. They use social media tools to help companies interact with customers.

Not only would I check out the skills needed for these jobs; I would be trying to gain skills for jobs that will exist 10 years from now. That’s how you step it up.

If you’ve done something to improve your skills for the future, let me know. I want to hear about it.