Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Most Important Characteristics of Great Employees

Yesterday, at the RWPA meeting, we had a panel of guest speakers to answer questions from some of the students currently enrolled in the paralegal certification course. Seeing as how I was the one in charge of choosing and arranging for the speakers, I must say I think I did a superb job in the choices I made. And the most important question that was asked -- concerning the traits that employers look for in their employees -- generated several fantastic answers. In fact, the responses were so great I knew I had to write them down somewhere so that I have the ability to go back and remember what was said. Basically, all five speakers agreed on four fundamental traits that good employees possess: a teamwork mentality, accountability, self-initiative, and adaptability.

Accountability is another big one. If you make a mistake, you must be willing to own up to it. As someone put it yesterday, mistakes are signs of an attempt to get things done. Since we're all human, we're all destined to make mistakes, and that's perfectly fine. The important part is that we must be willing to admit when we mess up, and we much take an approach to solve any mistakes we make. If we're not willing to point out our own flaws and the small (or large) things that we have done wrong, the problem becomes that much bigger, and the ending will never be a pleasant one.

The teamwork mentality is pretty cut and dry. In order to make things work in the workplace, you must be willing to work with, support, and embrace a team-driven attitude. If one person has too much work, and another has none at all, it is essential to know that you can count on one another to even things out and help the process along for the betterment of the whole department. Mentoring programs are of the utmost importance, but if there isn't a mentor program available for your specific position, you must be in charge of your own mentoring. Find someone who is willing to help you, and make sure you're willing to help anyone else. Working together in an office setting (especially in the legal field) is of the utmost importance.

One of the main points my boss brought up (as he was one of the panel speakers yesterday) is that it is so important for employees to take the initiative to be one step ahead in the game. Don't just do what is asked for you, always go the extra mile and think ahead to what will need to be done next. An employee who sits around waiting to be told what to do is of very little value in the workplace. If we want to show our employers our true value, we must show them how driven we are and how we can see a project through to its end instead of sitting around waiting to be asked to perform one task at a time.

Adaptability is such a core trait that we all must embrace not only in our careers, but in our personal lives as well. Change is inevitable. The job you are hired to do will almost assuredly NOT be the same job you will end up doing somewhere down the road. The ability to take change and accept it is something that will keep you on your toes and will show your employers that you are in it for the long-haul. If you're able to adapt to different environments, different situations, different duties, and different co-workers, you will be better off in the long run.

Of course, there are many characteristics that make up the employees that employers treasure the most, but these four seemed to be the most essential to all the departments that were present at yesterday's meeting. Although some of these traits are ones that must be learned, those of us in the work place must strike a balance and be able to hold ourselves to the standard that employers have for us. This list might sound simple, but it's the foundation for a successful career.

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