What’s a Work Ethic and How Do I Get One?

Work ethic. It may sound a little archaic, but in our generation it matters more than ever and has the potential to set you apart from your peers. Essentially, having a work ethic means that you care about your work efforts. You believe that what you do has value, that it must meet a certain standard and that it is an extension of your character.

So what does a good work ethic look like? And how can you start developing it while you’re still in college?

1. Practice Being an A+ Student

This principle is less about the grades you make and more about the conscientiousness you develop. Push yourself to improve the quality of your work right now. You might be able to skate by in your college courses without giving your very best, but as soon as you land that first job, anything less than “A+” work is unacceptable. You can start preparing yourself by making sure you never submit work for class that you wouldn’t be proud to put in your portfolio. Once you’re on the job, every little assignment counts.

2. Check Your Ego at the Door

When it comes to your work, attitude is everything. You’ve probably heard employers say that “you can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitudes.” As an entry-level employee, you may not be hired because of your expertise. You aren’t expected to be a seasoned strategic planner, but you are expected to roll up your sleeves, jump in and learn all you can with humility and enthusiasm. At this stage in the game, grunt work may be part of the territory. No matter where you find yourself, pinpoint something you can learn from the situation.

3. Come Early. Stay Late.

Like it or not, Generation Y is sometimes viewed as a lazy, apathetic and self-consumed cohort. So while you may know yourself to be a hard-working and committed team member, there’s a chance your superiors are subconsciously attaching a different stigma to you. As a member of this underestimated generation, you can work twice as hard to prove that perception wrong. I’m not only referring to the time on the clock when you punch in and punch out, although that is part of it. In all aspects, as a young professional, strive to do more than is required of you.

4. Be a Change Agent

If you find a way to improve your job or perform your work more efficiently, take the initiative to let your superiors know. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, try new things and propose fresh ideas. You have a unique perspective to share and can prove that you aren’t afraid to be intellectually curious.

What advice do you have for developing a strong work ethic? How are you preparing now to be the best employee you can be?

Keri Cook is vice president for Liberty University’s PRSSA Chapter. You can follow her on Twitter @cook_keri.

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