Friday, February 19, 2010

the four "P"s of emPloyment

I realize this is a bit off topic from my usual bloggeretic fare; but I know a thing or two about getting a job and  just figured I ought to share that thing or two with those who for some reason are still going to job interviews in greasy t-shirts from their fun week at Jr. High band camp.

What, you might ask, could a fruity art teacher happen to know about getting a job? Well, as it turns out I have read "What Color is Your Parachute", twice, and also "The World Belongs to Those Who Hustle", an article posted recently on the amazing site, The Art of Manliness. More than that, however, at the ripe young age of twenty-two I was put in the position of hiring people for a summer tree planting crew. Because it was to be such an intense environment and because my wages depended almost entirely on how well my employees performed, I took the hiring very, very seriously. I read books on techniques of management, leadership, and hiring. I interviewed each candidate for an hour and a half, checked all their references, and ended up writing a hiring and training manual that was disseminated and widely used in the four-hundred person company for which I worked.

Over the next six summers I interviewed probably around seventy different people, and unlike any other foreman I know, I never had a single one quit. There were quite a few I wished would quit, but that generally had more to do with me and my learning process, because the people who worked for me over the years were amazing, and we consistently out-performed every other crew in our company.

All this to say that although reforestation is a very specialized industry, I learned a bit about what it is an employer wants. I could probably talk your ear off about it, but instead I'm going to just give you four easy-to-remember principles, which I will call "the four 'P's of emPloyment." So without further ado...

Preparation: Locate a job you want. Figure out why you want it. Is it your passion? Your vocation? A logical and important step on your way to your passion or vocation? If it is none of those things, you'd better look elsewhere - primarily because you've got some soul-searching to do. I don't mean you have to be thrilled to death to work in a cubicle at Intertrode, but if you can't figure out how that particular job fits into a larger direction for your life (like, I've got to eat and save money so I can open that Hamster-Meat Taco stand I've always dreamed of) then you might get the job, but you're in for a whole lot of misery.

Figure it out. Then suck it up and get to work. Research everything - not just the position you're applying for, but also the company itself, and the industry in which it competes. It wouldn't hurt you to pick up a book, but the internet will do. Find out what sort of wage a top-performer can expect to earn. Find out what the company policy is on nose-picking - find out everything. Everything. I mean it.

Presentation: Your first impressions are the most important. If you don't take them seriously, they will be the only ones you get. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people miss it. Put together a resume and print it on actual resume paper. Make sure it is flawless. The person interviewing you for that tree-planting job may (like me) just happen to have an English degree. Don't give him or her some stupid reason like punctuation to pick another candidate. The resume is just the start, though. Wash your clothes. Trim your hair. Iron your frickin' pants. This may be stupid, but it's the way the world works and if you don't like it you can either suck it up, start your own internet-based business, or go find another world to live in.

Now, straighten your posture and suck in your gut. Then breathe in and out a few times and relax. Be yourself. They don't want to hire an automaton, they want a person. You happen to be a person - an awesome, unique one - so use that. If you can't seem to calm down going into this, then take a day and go on a silence retreat in the woods near your house. Chill out. Walk right into that interview and shake hands with confidence. Remember, you are awesome and have what they are looking for - you! You are the human resource that they are shopping for, so be confident.

Did I say that word already? Let me say it again: confidence, confidence, confidence. Most people are scared little sheep and will bleatingly follow a confident person wherever they go. Remember that "confidence" and "arrogance" are two very different things, and then go for it. I hired a number of people based primarily on confidence, and they never let me down.

Persistence: You probably heard about Winston Churchill's famous speech to a bunch of schoolchildren? He said, "Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up." Winston Churchill was the Man, so listen to him. Be polite, but for the love of Jim-Bob-Pete, it is not the job of the employer to track you down and make sure you're still interested in the position. By checking back, you demonstrate your eagerness to work, and your willingness to be a self-starter. Everything you do before you're hired shows what you'll be like once you have the job. So prove you deserve it.

Performance: The moment you start this awesome new job that you've yearned and burned for, you need to prove that you're worth the time it will take to train you. Work is a privilege. It is a gift. It is an honor and you have just landed the opportunity to show what you are made of. And here's the kicker: every day you come in to work, you are interviewing for your next position off down the road. So even if you come to hate your job and feel like you were made for far more glorious things, take a deep breath and remember that the decisions you make today determine the worker you will be tomorrow.

All right. That's it, then. Super-brevified and not all that original, but it ought to get you started. It's up to you now, so go make me proud. I'll be right here rooting for you and who knows, maybe you can put in a good word for me down the road when I get laid off.

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