04 Apr 2019 21:06 IST

Be driven by self-motivation

Employers always hope for recruits who are excited about work and can hit the ground running

Many of us from business schools will be finishing up our time at our institutions and getting ready for Day One at our first jobs. There’s bound to be excitement tinged with some nervousness. Employers look forward to the incoming cohort with a similar mix of excitement and nervousness. They’re excited at the prospect of fresh blood coming in even if they’re not sure what to expect.

Large companies across the world, ranging from Google and IBM to Apple, Hilton and Starbucks, have stopped using graduation as a requirement for hiring. There’s a message in that for incoming employees. We care less about your certificate, your degree and more about what you actually can do. At TalentEase, we have also been meeting students at campuses and a peek into what we share with them, and what we look for in incoming associates, may be useful as we prepare to move from taxiing on the runway to take-off.

Internal engine

A team member we prize like gold dust is someone who is driven from the inside. People like this are not motivated by outside triggers. They come to work because of something firing on the inside.

Many jobs today require employees to work out of sight of their bosses. There’s no biometric attendance to check, and minimal direct supervision. Several employees are told to work from home. This freedom increases the responsibility on us to deliver even when no one is watching.

These assignments need us to take charge of ourselves — to walk in every day and set the agenda. We need to be our own hardest task-masters. We can’t afford to wait to be told what to do. We demonstrate initiative. We volunteer. We suggest a project we can opt into, an idea we can develop and drive, a problem area that we dive into.

At TalentEase, our Facilitators work at remote schools and colleges. We expect them to show up on time, dress professionally, come prepared every day for the skills and values sessions they will take with children and young adults. They can’t do this unless they have internal engines. We won’t know that they are representing us and our mission right, unless we are satisfied that they come charged with such self-inspiration.

Bias for Action

Business is about getting things done. While large parts of the business world involve ideation and planning and strategy, winning businesses are those that execute well. That act more than talk. This happens when the culture at a business values action over talk. When we join a company, we must demonstrate that we have this bias for action. Talk is easy, but one ounce of action is worth more than ten pounds of talk.

Are we accountable? Do we say what we mean and mean what we say? If we’ve promised to send a client an email by 6 pm, do we stand by that commitment, whatever happens? If we’ve promised to have a presentation done for the morning meeting, do we need people to follow up with us or can they count on us having it ready?

This happens only when we have an attitude of doing rather than just saying. This means that we will develop a habit of making notes, of setting reminders, of creating a schedule, of following up. Of saying no to an evening drink, if it means failing to keep a commitment I have made.

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the pleasure of hiring and working with several young MBAs, but the ones that stood out, the ones that really went on to make it big in the organisation, were the ones who acted and didn’t just talk.

Marathoners vs sprinters

Employers prize marathoners. They want to know that you’re in it for the long haul. That a bad Monday or a worse Tuesday is not going to get you down. There’s no point being a fabulous performer in Week One and then having that energy and enthusiasm taper off. I need to be a performer, but also a consistent performer. We need to have not just speed, but stamina.

Often, we see employees who refuse an assignment that is personally inconvenient. They make excuses. This is the worst kind of associate to have on the team. People who shirk work and refuse to take responsibility. Team leaders have to constantly either plead with them or strictly order them to take on the tough tasks. This is irksome and you will soon find yourselves placed in the ‘too hard to deal with’ basket and that can be career-limiting.

Employers also need associates who are resilient. There will be mistakes made, criticism that is given, a tough boss, not entirely supportive colleagues — but can we bounce back? Do we have too thin a skin that the mildest criticism gets us down? Are we able to take feedback well and work on improving ourselves? Do we a take a setback too seriously or are we prepared to learn from it and embrace the next challenge? Do we only opt for the easy client or are we prepared to deliberately ‘put ourselves in harm’s way’ by taking on tough clients, difficult locations, moon-shot projects? These are the type of employees that bosses notice, because there’s so little competition for the tough stuff.

Our entire time as students has been in preparation for this moment. Our world as students is very different from the world at work. There are different expectations and different results. From taxiing on the runway, we are poised for take-off. The skills and behaviour that kept me on the ground are not the ones that will help me take off. Can we show that we are internal engine driven, that we have a bias for action and that we will be in it consistently? This is what employers crave, this is what they mean by leader employees. Can you be one?