Succeeding With “No Special Talent”

Hey Anita,

I’m graduating from high school and don’t know what to do with my life. I’m not very good at book learning, so college isn’t for me. I’d rather go on a hike than sit inside and study! How can I find a job where I don’t have to sit at a desk all day? But I don’t really have any special talents. Is it possible to be successful without a college degree??

Hiker walks on Mountain TrailDear “Mountains to Climb,”

Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Everyone has an aptitude for and interest in something! If you haven’t already, make an appointment with your school guidance counselor. He or she can conduct some career tests and based on the results, point you toward appropriate vocational schools or community college certificate programs. Check out this Main Street article for ideas on outdoor careers that may suit your personality. Another great resource for adventurous grads is CoolWorks.com, a site that lists seasonal jobs in and near national and state parks and resort areas.

Zero_TalentI spotted an inspirational graphic, “10 Things That Require Zero Talent” on LinkedIn recently; it’s a good reminder of those “soft skills” that contribute to success that don’t relate to occupational expertise or educational degrees. I’ve written about many of them:

  1. Being on time. Check out my post, Snoozer or Loser, for tips on punctuality.
  2. Work ethic. If your parents didn’t instill a strong sense of job performance values, do it yourself with these pointers.
  3. Effort. Remember what it was like on Day One of Your New Job. Expend that kind of enthusiastic effort each and every day.
  4. Body language. There’s no need to discard your Body Language Consciousness after the interview. It’s a skill that can improve your everyday work life.
  5. Energy. Remain Alert All Day and don’t let Energy Vampires drain you.
  6. Attitude. Here are the Top 10 Attitudes Employers Look For.
  7. Passion. Targeting a Job that aligns with your passion makes it easy to get up each morning.
  8. Being coachable. Being open to advice, ideas, and instruction from a mentor, whether seasoned or youthful, is key not only for those just entering the job market, but employees at every stage of their careers.
  9. Doing extra. Going above and beyond is bound to earn some Compliments at Work.
  10. Being prepared. From Interviews to Exit Strategies, advance planning pays off.

Readers: Can you give an example of how one of these “zero talent” qualities helped you advance on the job?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Day One on Your New Job

Dear, Anita,

I used lots of your advice for my résumé and job hunting in the past couple of months, and I landed a sweet position as an administrative assistant! I start in a few weeks, and I’m excited and nervous at the same time. This is only my second job. How can I make sure I start off on the right foot?

Start New JobDear, Restive Rookie,

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Since you were hired, you obviously influenced your soon-to-be boss to good effect. But now you’ll want to charm the rest of the team with whom you’ll be working. Here are eight tips to help you put your best foot forward.

  1. Arrive on time. Better yet, show up 10 minutes early. Do a dry run of your route to work the week before, preferably near your starting hour to gauge potential traffic snarls. Get plenty of rest the night before so you won’t sleep through your alarm (easier said than done when nerves and an overactive imagination can keep you awake!). Select your outfit the night before, which brings us to…
  2. Tie in MirrorDress fittingly. When you interviewed, hopefully you noticed what is considered appropriate work wear for your position. When in doubt, overdress rather than underdress for your first day.
  3. Take notes. I never trust those waiters who don’t write down my order, do you? You’ll be deluged with a lot of new information. Hopefully there is a manual outlining all of your job duties, but bring your own notepad to jot things down so they make sense to you.
  4. Don’t talk too much. Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Before offering suggestions about how to improve things, or relating TMI (too much information) about your personal life, get to know the culture, systems, and other employees first.
  5. Ask questions. Conversely, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. What isn’t a dumb question today may appear foolish a few months down the road. If you finish a task, don’t just sit there – ask your supervisor what’s next.
  6. ’Fess up if you mess up. Oops, you accidentally hung up on a client. All but the most hard-hearted of bosses will forgive newbie mistakes, as long as you don’t keep repeating them.
  7. Bring your lunch – but nothing stinky (save your leftover curry for dinner). You may or may not be asked out to lunch by your new supervisor or coworkers. Toss your brown bag if invited, but you won’t starve if it’s not a social company culture.
  8. Have a great attitude. Show enthusiasm (but not deranged cheerleader level excitement). Keep a positive outlook even if you feel overwhelmed. More often than not, the feeling will pass once you get more comfortable with your new duties and surroundings.

Readers: Have you ever made a first day faux pas?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

 

RELATED POSTS:
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GED: Is It Enough?

Dear, Anita,

Due to an illness in my family when I was younger, I wasn’t able to finish high school. But I recently got my GED! I’m excited, but I’m afraid I still may not get as many job opportunities as I would if I had graduated with a high school diploma. Is my GED enough?

Dear, Good Enough,

Congratulations on receiving your GED certificate! As you know, it takes effort to complete the General Educational Development testing, but there may still be some stigma associated with a GED over a traditional high school Sidebardiploma. Comedian Chris Rock jokes that GED stand for “good enough diploma.” But is a GED good enough to get you a job?

The answer is: it depends. You will obviously not be qualified for a job as a rocket scientist or brain surgeon, but for some entry-level positions, having your GED will show that you did, eventually, finish what you started. For yours truly, a candidate who completes his or her GED represents character traits like ambition, resilience, and just plain turning lemons into lemonade.

Most employers – approximately 96 percent, according to the GED Testing Service – accept GED certification as a valid educational credential for employment.  Frankly though, when faced with two equal candidates, one with a GED and the other with a high school diploma, some hiring managers may not want to take a risk on the GED applicant. Make sure you shine in your interview, and if the subject comes up, explain the circumstances that prevented you from graduating with a traditional high school diploma.

Depending on your employment and career goals, you may want to use your GED as a launching pad for further education, either online, at a traditional community college, or through a vocational school. Once you attain a college degree or certification, a GED versus the traditional high school diploma becomes a moot point.

In my many years, I’ve seen many a job candidate with nice, shiny college degrees who turn out to be lazy, unprofessional, or difficult to work with. I would choose a candidate with a GED and a great attitude any day. You’ll find an employer who feels the same.

Anita

Job Seekers: Have you ever felt you lost out on a job because of your GED? Hiring Managers: Is the GED equivalent to a high school diploma in your eyes?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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