Very recently, I was contacted by a former employee. She had worked for me in two summer job placements for students and then in my own office. The summer jobs worked out well – she was conscientious, respectful and worked hard. That is why I hired her for my own business. Three or four years had passed and I thought she would have matured, gained more experience and be a good employee.

However, she had learned some bad habits in those few years. She did not come to work on time; some times she did not come to work at all, with no contact to say she would not be in that day. When she did show up she socialized with the other staff, preventing them from doing their work also. The final straw was the day I walked in about ten in the morning and she was in my chair, with her feet on my desk, drinking coffee and speaking with a personal acquaintance on her cell phone.

What Happened?

The first two positions were summer jobs while she was a student. She was in a program where some job preparation was provided. She knew she needed a good referral from the job in order to continue with her studies.

Coming from a larger but northern community, her opportunities for exposure to work experiences were limited. Using her cell phone during office hours, at the work place, when she did come to work, was rather common in some, but not all, of the Native work places in the community. This practice is still an issue but it is just not acceptable in any modern work place. Coming to work on time, each and every
day, is also a challenge in those communities, which are caught between the traditional and contemporary worlds. Some of the Native work places have policies in effect outlining when and how many days off are given for funerals, family emergencies and travel. Traditionally wakes are held and the travel to some of the more remote locations requires considerable time. Some families insist that family members attend traditional ceremonies regardless of work expectations. This then encourages absences, even when an individual is not affected by the events in question.

Self-direction is expected today. And that means not waiting to be told what and when to do tasks for which an employee is responsible. In other words, just because no one directly tells an employee what specific tasks to do in a particular hour, day or week, employees are expected to work at their tasks on their own. This is not a problem just for Native people, but for all youth particularly.Take initiative, and if you are not certain what to do, ask the boss for direction.

And yes, the boss is the boss – they have the responsibility to ensure that employees do their jobs. This ties into ‘respect’ and understanding
that there is an order to the work place. This also means respecting their job and responsibilities – not just sitting in their chair/desk.

This same young lady had discovered socializing, meaning ‘partying’. That was more important to her than working. That did not impress this employer for while what people do on their own time is their business, when the partying interferes with the ability to do the job, it is the employer’s business. When the partying affects how clients see the employee/employer, it is the employer’s business.

I gave her notice at that time – she showed up a few days later, as if nothing had happened. She was dismissed.

So recently, she contacted me again. She sent a three-page resume. She had done a variety of short-term jobs, with gaps in-between, saying she had changed. She asked for a job – with no specific types of work skills showing how we could utilize her to assist our company meet its goals.

We had no job opening.

L.C. Stanley and colleagues are available for training and presentations on Career Development for Native People by contacting SAY Magazine – 1.866.485.2380.

The world of work is a whole new world that has to be understood in order to succeed.

As with any new environment, the work world has a culture of which one has to be aware in order to be successful.

So many young people arrive at the door of this new world without understanding that it has rules and expectations the same as any other culture.

Traditional Indigenous culture has its rules and expectations too and a high degree of personal responsibility.

Traditional values are built on responsibility not only to oneself but also to the rest of creation in order to achieve a good life.

These same values are just as important in each undertaking whether at home or on the job.

Being prepared is the key to being successful.

Employers look for people who are prepared with credentials and with personal ethics. That is why they try to find the ‘right’ employee from the people who apply. They look for a person who has a positive recommendation, a good work record, and can get along with other people. Just having these three things can get you a job.

Employers have difficulties finding suitable employees because of the inexperience of applicants not knowing the rules of the work world.

Employers want their employees to be successful, as employees’ success is also the employers’ success.

To avoid lost opportunities or no opportunities, it is very important that young people prepare and learn what will make them successful in the world of work.

Preparation is a key traditional trait as traditional people were always getting prepared for whatever it was they were going to do, whether hunting, fishing, living.