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Be Better: Entering the Workplace as a Good Person

The Need to Be Better

A team is only as successful as each of its members. This idea rings true in today’s working world as more firms emphasize individual development and cultivation of a positive workplace culture. Each employee has the potential to bring a unique set of skills to the table, but these skills may require work and dedication to acquire, and there is always room for improvement.

For instance, we may not always be fully engaged while at work, or may not be devoting our full attention to our objectives. According to Gallup, business units with actively engaged employees experience a 20% increase in sales and a 10% increase in customer ratings. These businesses are also 21% more profitable. To recognize a deficiency in this category and work to improve upon is not only better for business, but it helps us to better ourselves and our quality of life. Self-actualization and improvement in the workplace can help us to grow into well-rounded individuals and achieve greater satisfaction from our careers.

Qualities that Count

Although everyone is unique and has different strengths and weaknesses, there are some key qualities exhibited by successful employees who positively contribute to workplace culture. These employees typically have clear values, and they demonstrate their commitment to them consistently. However, they are also inclusive and understanding of other coworkers’ backgrounds, values, and cultures. Inclusivity of all genders, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds is of major importance in the workplace today, and has been highly overdue in receiving the attention it deserves. Being better first and foremost means treating everyone with the same level of respect with which we treat ourselves. This means making an active effort to make others feel accepted, such as paying attention to preferred names and pronouns.

Furthermore, these employees must be able to synthesize and act on feedback in a productive and positive manner and be able to give polite and helpful feedback in return. Making connections both inside and outside of the workplace with coworkers will help to foster positive and trusting relationships that facilitate communication of feedback, among other information, and will help us to reveal and improve upon our implicit biases. Implicit biases are the attitudes and stereotypes that affect how we perceive and treat others on a subconscious level, and these biases can negatively impact how we interact with our coworkers. Building personal relationships with coworkers can help us see past these biases and learn to understand others on a deeper level. This means that we must be attentive and active listeners, and must learn how to communicate with all levels of employees.

On a more technical level, successful employees are proactive in looking for new opportunities to showcase and develop their skills. But, they do not try to compete with their coworkers directly, instead choosing to focus on being better than they were yesterday. Moreover, they volunteer to help their coworkers, and are not afraid to ask for help in return. Asking for help when we make a mistake or need extra information can be a hard pill to swallow, but it is never a bad idea to ask for assistance when the skills needed to get the job done are out of our domain. Being able to recognize and take responsibility for our mistakes is a mark of good character and is the first step towards personal growth.

Personal Development Plan

When we maximize our skills in personal development, or our ability to improve ourselves, we experience personal growth. Personal development skills include many of the skills frequently listed on a resume, including organization, work ethic, problem-solving, and communication. We can improve these skills, which often differ based on individual goals and career paths, through workplace training, formal education, or lifelong cultivation. This process often starts by pushing ourselves to overcome our fears, which may include taking a class in public speaking or simply starting a conversation with a coworker in the office.

In our daily lives, at work or in school, we can tackle these fears through personal development in a variety of ways. Some common methods include:

  • Asking for feedback from mentors, coworkers, friends, or family regarding a variety of topics, from time management to a recent accomplishment or project.

  • Learning from others who inspire us inside and outside the workplace and actively networking to surround ourselves with positive and successful people.

  • Finding a mentor or a veteran coworker who would be willing to provide advice, information and help with skills-building.

  • Reading up on relevant topics and educating ourselves on important socio-cultural issues.

  • Investing in wellness practices like meditating, journaling, and personal fitness to improve our mental health.

What to Expect

To emphasize that personal development is an individualized process, some of our current CWIB members have contributed their own thoughts and experiences regarding cultivating emotional and technical skills for the workplace.

Our Co-Chief Executive Officer, Jillian Hoglan, aspired to balance her emotional intelligence and technical skills. Her time in CWIB, school, and other work experiences has exposed her to the impact of good leadership, both from herself and others. She believed in “the importance of empowering others… through empathy and leading by example” and that empathy is a powerful way to enact positive change in workplace culture and performance. Additionally, Hoglan wished to advance her skills in Tableau, SQL, and Agile, which are valuable data and software manipulation tools.

A current member, Liana Ruiz, has developed a unique perspective on self-improvement through her experience launching her own business. Time and stress management has become essential, and more unexpectedly, Ruiz has had to stretch her skills to organize the legal and financial aspects of her sole proprietorship. Working with children through her business has also required her to “shift [her] interpersonal skills from a more business-oriented approach to a less formal approach.” Helping children overseas in the Linking Lives Study Abroad program made that transition easier for her and broadened her understanding of her field.

Grace Farmelo, a CWIB member and Chronicles staff writer, expressed her intentions of being a “positive and unifying” member of the workplace, who contributes to a positive work environment. Her main focus was to make and facilitate friendships in the office. Furthermore, she anticipated needing to be more open to asking questions and speaking up. Interpersonal skills are often harder to hone than technical skills, and can require a lifelong commitment to learning and adapting.

Moving Forward with Confidence

It can be difficult to hold a mirror up to ourselves and determine what we could be doing better, but it is ultimately for our own benefit, as well as the benefit of those around us. But, self-improvement does not happen overnight, and it certainly does not have to begin in the workplace. Self-analysis and skills-building can happen in school, in part-time jobs, and in internships. In fact, it is beneficial to begin this process before entering the professional world, as it will contribute to making a good first impression and make it easier to integrate into a new work environment. As told by our CWIB members, committing to being better is a challenging but endlessly rewarding experience, and one that has facilitated progress and change throughout the corporate world.

By: Lauren Miles

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