Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Uncle Dusty's Guide to Hidden Business Languages

              Recently I served on an interview panel and was reminded of some realities that are often hidden from those who are trying for opportunities to obtain employment, broaden experiences or secure a promotion.  I say “hidden” because there are specific languages that are spoken at each level in the business world.  And I’m not talking about the limited Spanish that would allow me to procure a watermelon for Queen Elizabeth if she and I traveled to Mexico. 
                These languages are those of management and if you don’t speak the language, you won’t get what you want or need from them.  And the languages have to do with your abilities, but not in the way you may think.  These abilities are not related to your intellect, education or experience.  These are related to those unspoken, sometimes unteachable traits that are often overlooked; relatability, reliability and availability.  Luckily, your Uncle Dusty is fluent in both management and leadership and he is here to help.  It’s what I do, people.  I’m a giver.
                 Relatability – when you are applying for a job, typically those who are granted interviews are the top choices and the interview is what decides the selectee.  However, more than interview skills can move someone to the front-runner position.  When qualifications are similar and education or experience are within the same range, the final ballot is often cast for the person with whom you relate, or “click”; the person who you want to interact with at least eight hours a day, five days a week. Personality plays a vital role, so does passion.  I’m not always swayed by the best answer; sometimes it’s the most genuine answer.  And if you flub an answer in the interview, simply stop and ask to start again.  A good interviewer will appreciate your candor and ability to respond quickly and adapt to a tough situation.
                Reliability – once you’ve been selected, you should always thank your new boss for the opportunity that has been given to you.  However, the way to show your gratitude every day is by being an invaluable employee; be on time, be energetic, be focused, be professional  and above all else be pleasant.  When you are the employee I can always count on, I start to give you more responsibilities and a larger role, offering you opportunities for exposure to more which enhances your ability to move up the ladder.
                If your response to this is, “But Uncle Dusty, I’m stuck in my area all day" or "How do I get experience when I’m just a clerk?”  First of all, no one is “just” an anything.  Be proud of your job, whatever it is.  Those who work should never be ashamed, regardless of what you’re doing.  Your Uncle Dusty has hauled bags of feed at a farmer’s co-op, was a telemarketer for a very un-fun two weeks, served as shift supervisor at McDonald’s for two years and sold Big and Tall men’s clothes at Dillard’s for over a year; the last two while simultaneously working full-time at the VA.  Experience is experience, y’all.  Work is work. 
                Availability – when I started at the VA (as a GS-4 Temporary Student Worker) I made full use of the opportunities available to me.  I volunteered for assignments.  I regularly went to my supervisor and asked to be trained on different programs.  I continuously looked for ways to do my job more efficiently and I was never afraid to share the outcomes with people, including my boss.  I always wanted to know more, to do more.  And I didn’t complain about “being so busy”.  When asked, I said yes.  When not asked, I asked if I could.  Trust me when I tell you that you will have very little competition when it comes to volunteering.  More likely you will be the only one who wants to do a particular project, which is fine.  Because you will become the “go to” person for those tasks which will put you into contact with people you need to know in your company and you will gain a reputation as a hard worker, provided you are, in fact, a hard worker.  If you push your way into the spotlight, you better perform; sing, dance, make a papier mache cactus, plant corn, something.
                I’ll give you a very specific example.  This past week, I chaired the Water Safety Committee at my hospital and there was a visitor, which was unusual for such a mundane topic.   Uncle Dusty is becoming a subject matter expert in water safety, y’all.  Try not to be jealous.  The visitor was a new administrative employee whose supervisor brought her to expose her to things outside of her position.  And I love meeting front line employees because I came from the front line.  I welcomed her and congratulated her on having a supportive supervisor.  And I encouraged the other supervisors to do similarly with their staff, reminding them that I am where I am because my mentors and supervisors took an interest in me.
                At the end of the meeting we were discussing the need for a permanent person to take minutes as it is a fairly new committee and this young lady volunteered.  I was impressed and readily agreed.  And now she will have regular monthly access to several departmental supervisors and the Assistant Director of the medical center.  See what happens when you make yourself available?
                And that’s all I’m saying for now.

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