Two months in to my professional career I learned the value of a strong work ethic and professional commitment. Living in Dallas, the few inches of snow that had fallen were enough to cause widespread cancellations throughout the city. Being new to the workforce and having learned to drive in Colorado, it never dawned on me that the snow would have implications on my own need to show up to work. I naively jumped in the car and sped (I’m sure it seemed that way to the natives) off to work.
I was one of four employees in the office that day. Joe, Pat, Robert, and I spent the day in an empty building – splitting our time between foosball and the daily grind. Joe was the CEO; Pat was the COO. Robert was a dedicated employee. The other two hundred plus decided to stay home and missed an opportunity to stand out amongst the crowd. Of course, I didn’t admit that it never crossed my mind that a little dusting of snow would be a valid excuse not to show up. I played it cool and confirmed my commitment to the company. Whether or not I had a valid excuse, the senior executives knew from that day forward that I would show up. As an added bonus, I got to spend some valuable time with them, asking questions and learning about their approach to business.
I can guarantee you that both Joe and Pat knew my name from that time forward. In fact, the proof was in the pudding. Several months later I spoke to the COO about buying my first house and needing proof of ongoing employment. Unfortunately, being an extremely junior employee, my salary didn’t quite qualify me for a mortgage (they weren’t throwing money at people who couldn’t repay the loan back then). I had many successes in between my snow adventure and mortgage application and had become one of the shining “up and comers” (I had figured out that having a strong work ethic and working hard to refine my skills allowed the company to bill more hours at a hire rate for my time). I sheepishly approached Pat, asking if there was any assistance he could provide. Much to my surprise, I was rewarded a 70% raise (in hindsight, that was largely because I was significantly under-compensated for the value I was providing the company).
It’s hard to find employees that are committed, hard-working, and unwilling to take advantage of situations. Standout employees show these types of traits. They answer emails on the weekend, they work hard when nobody’s looking, and they are dedicated to getting the job done.
Next time you have an opportunity, make the decision to honor your commitment as an employee and show up when you don’t have to. It may be well worth the minimal effort that you have to exert.