BY BRUCE A. RITTER Being new to the job market can be incredibly tough-especially when employers and managers have plenty of eager teens and young adults, just like you, to choose from the hiring pool. Source: ArtToday, Inc. Yet, employers also recognize that valuable employees are quickly becoming a rare commodity. They know that bringing in new help is risky. Hiring the wrong people could ruin their company-while hiring effective, productive employees could cause business to soar. Most times, employers don't know what kind of workers they have hired until it is too late. Suppose you owned and ran a small company. What kind of employees would you want working for you? What basic character traits would you look for in them? You would naturally seek those that would make your business run smoothly, minimize mistakes, lift morale and increase profits. No matter the position, field or profession, valuable employees will always be in demand. And not just for their skills and talents, but also because they have built up solid track records of basic, yet vital, hallmarks that distinguish them from their peers. If you want to obtain job security-if you want employers and supervisors to consider you too valuable to ever let go-if you want your services to be in demand on the job market-then you must stand out from the crowd. You need to set yourself apart from a hiring pool largely made up of laborers who barely work enough to earn a paycheck. But how? Ten Character Traits Here are ten characteristics of valuable employees. These ten traits are just a few of the many qualities employers and managers desire in their workers. Practice them. Make them a part of your thinking. Doing so will dramatically increase your worth in the eyes of current and future employers. Listening to instructions: Have you ever noticed that mistakes on the job are usually followed by someone saying, "Oops, I thought you said."? Mistakes and accidents are often the result of people failing to pay attention to what they are told. Misunderstandings and miscommunications can be avoided if everyone simply applied this basic biblical instruction: ".let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak" (Jms. 1:19). It is human nature to speak and react first, then listen later (if at all). Rather than taking the time to consider the circumstances of any given situation, people tend to rush to judgment. How many times have you said something to someone, only to have them jump to the wrong conclusion? God's Word addresses this: "He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him" (Prov. 18:13). It is a rare person who waits and listens before acting. Yet, carefully listening to instructions will reduce mistakes and prevent accidents. It also shows respect to those attempting to guide you. As managers see that you are patiently listening to them without interruption, they will be assured that you are taking them and your duties seriously. Taking responsibility: Unfortunately, many (if not most) employees do just enough work to get by-just enough to justify receiving a wage. This can be seen in today's mass-produced products, which do not reflect the quality and care of individual craftsmanship. If you want to improve your value as an employee, then know your duties inside and out and pay attention to detail. The more you know what to do and when to do it, the more it allows your supervisor to devote his attention to other areas in the company. Avoid "tunnel vision"-focusing on your job and your job alone. Instead, be aware of the responsibilities of your co-workers and recognize how your duties affect their workload. When things go wrong, most people will follow their human nature and shift the blame to others. Yet, valuable employees are not afraid to take responsibility for their actions. Taking initiative: Generally, there are two types of workers-those who wait to be told what to do, and those who think things through and keep busy by constantly finding tasks that need performing. In an age when most workers-both teens and adults-do as little as possible, and then only when told, a self-motivated employee automatically sets himself apart from the crowd. He has a reputation for looking out for the employer's best interests and putting customers first. There is a saying that goes like this: "Give a busy man more work, as it is likely to be done efficiently." Those who show initiative-who hunt for ways to solve problems, to improve things, and to be more efficient-are most likely to be given more responsibility-even a promotion. Giving credit to others: Just as people tend to point their fingers at others when things go wrong, these same people will take credit for the good work of others. That is a sad fact of life, yet so true. But consider what the apostle Paul was inspired to write: "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Phil. 2:3-4). Practice giving credit to others. Whenever you are complimented for a job well done, always share the spotlight with those who helped you succeed. This will improve and strengthen morale among your fellow employees. It will also build trust among them, for they will be confident that you will look out and speak up for them, especially when no one else will. Being responsive: There was a time when, if someone said, "Thank you," the other person would reply, "You're welcome." But not anymore. Today, people usually reply with "Uh-huh" or "Sure" or some other statement. It is as though they lack the common courtesy to respond properly. Social interaction is becoming a lost art. Too often, people-especially teens and young adults who were not taught better-do not know how to interact with others. When someone addresses you, kindly respond. Let that person know that you heard him. This is common courtesy. This alone will set you apart from others who routinely say nothing, but stare blankly into space. Responding to people is just another way of showing them that they matter. Believe it or not, some customers will determine how much business they will bring to your place of employment based on how well you treat them. Think about it: If you were in the market to buy a new jacket, where would you rather shop-at a store that hardly recognizes your human existence, or at one that treats you with warmth and respect? Performing your duties cheerfully: Some people are naturally upbeat, positive and easy to be around. On the job, such individuals are usually well liked by their peers and acquaintances. Do you know why? It is because no one wants to work around someone who maintains a surly or negative attitude. Pessimism breeds more pessimism. Likewise, positive, cheerful attitudes can also be "contagious." After being delivered from slavery in Egypt, ancient Israel constantly grumbled and complained as they made their way to the Promised Land. Their murmurings led to contempt for God's leaders, and ultimately gave way to rebellion. When Israel sent twelve spies to scout out the Promised Land, ten of them brought back a negative report, while two-Joshua and Caleb-brought back a good report. All twelve spies saw the same things, but the majority focused on the negative while the few looked at the positive. This caused Israel to murmur, whine and complain. This quietly led to rebellion. God had to sentence His people to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, so that a new generation-one that would appreciate His many blessings-would take their place and conquer "the land of milk and honey." At work, as in life, things sometimes go wrong. Problems need to be solved. No one (especially an employer) wants to work with people who only see problems, but not solutions. Consider: All jobs and professions have at least one thing in common-their purpose is to solve problems. The greater and more complex the problems, the greater the demand and the higher the income for the positions needed to solve them. Yet, amazingly, many routinely gripe and complain about tasks they think are beneath them. They never stop to think that if such tasks did not need to be resolved, they would be out of a job! If everyone kept this in mind, they would appreciate why they were hired in the first place, and the workplace would be a more pleasant environment. Being dependable: Supervisors can tell you horror stories about employees who habitually call in sick or arrive late. By your actions, show people that they can depend on you, and that you keep your commitments. Arrive to work on time, return phone calls, and perform tasks on time-remember that simple commitments are important, too. In addition, no matter what you are assigned to do, strive to achieve a consistent level of quality and excellence. Be known for performing tasks well all the time. Staying healthy: Whenever an employee is sick and takes time off from work, his co-workers will have to cover for him. They will have to do his duties, in addition to fulfilling their own duties. If he makes a habit of calling in sick, his fellow workers will start to resent him, and morale will suffer. You can avoid this by simply eating healthy, staying away from junk food, getting plenty of rest, exercising, etc.-in other words, by doing all that you can to prevent sickness. That said, if you do come down with an illness that can spread to others, don't go to work until you are feeling better. Going to work while sick might seem admirable, but you could end up passing your illness on to other employees. Think of it this way: It is far better to have just one person stay home sick than it is to have several employees miss work due to catching an illness that could have been avoided. Becoming self-disciplined: Society offers plenty of things to attract our attention-the Internet, television, cell phones, etc. But a good employee is one who stays on track. He doesn't allow things outside the job to creep in and steal his time, attention and energy from doing what he has been hired to do. He remains focused. Exceeding expectations: Too many workers do only what they are required to do, and nothing more. You can instantly increase your value to the company by going above and beyond what is expected of you, such as being willing to take on duties that others refuse to do. Notice what Jesus Christ taught about profitable servants: "But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird yourself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward you shall eat and drink? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do" (Luke 17:7-10). The Ultimate Job Security Remember, today's workforce is largely made up of non-motivated, indifferent, irresponsible laborers who are more concerned with self-interests than with the interests of others. You have an advantage over young people in the world-you have access to God's truth. Each of these ten character traits are based on His Word. God expects you to develop them. He even offers to help you do this. He knows that if you yield to Him now, He can use you as a future "employee" in the millennium, leading and guiding humanity in the only way that produces permanent peace and real happiness-God's Way. The ten hallmarks of valuable employees will automatically set you apart from the crowd. They will increase your value in the job market, and will provide you with job security. And they will also help you become an effective worker and leader in the world tomorrow.