For background and links to chapters in this series, see here
SECURING AND KEEPING A POSITION
“In looking for employment the most important thing is that you shall be able to do the work that your prospective employers want done.” – S. Roland Hall.
After choosing a vocation and preparing oneself for it, the next big problem is the securing of employment. In some occupations like farming, where a person has his own farm, or in one like medicine, where the young physician is going out to practice by himself, there is no necessity for going through that uncertain step of securing a position; but in most occupations the young man starts by working for some other person or organization. He places his services on the market and he is naturally anxious that the sale shall be prompt and the compensation satisfactory. There are a few general principles to be kept in mind the same as in making any other kind of a sale.
Each vocation has its own particular method of securing employment; the traveling salesman, the stenographer, the school teacher, the mechanic or the government employee, each has a particular road to travel. A person entering any of these lines for the first time should make a study of the right procedure so that he will e properly presented to the employer. There is probably some experienced person in the same line who is also seeking the position which is desired by the new person, and thus more experienced competition must be met.
In the first place a person should feel certain that he is able to do the work that will be required of him in the new position. Failure to make good is a very serious impediment to alter advancement. With the temporary job, this is not so serious as it is if a person is getting started in his chosen field for a life’s work, or if he is just beginning with the organization he wishes to work up in.
In presenting himself for employment, either personally or by letter, a person should naturally want to make a good impression, since, if the first impression is not favorable, his real worth may not have opportunity to show itself. One should, however, not overdo it, else there may be a reaction. When I see a person overdressed while seeking a position, or one who in his letter resorts to too much “fine writing” I am reminded of an experience I had buying strawberries in Mexico. On top of the basket were a few wonderful berries – large and fresh – but when I got well into the basket nothing but small, musty ones were found. The extreme of placing the large ones at the bottom and the small ones on top would have been equally unpleasant. The sensible thing is to take care with one’s appearance or correspondence so that one will get a hearing, but there must be evidence of something ore than surface fineness.
A few years ago I had an application for a person who wanted to teach English. The letter contained two spelling mistakes, so the applicant was given no serious consideration,. I found later that this applicant would have been much better than the one who received the place, but a spelling mistake in the letter of application of a teacher of English is something that simply cannot be tolerated. Not that a mistake in spelling once in a while is so serious – we all make them– but when one is applying for a job one is expected to do one’s best.
The same thing applies to personal appearance. A soiled collar in a regular employee may be tolerated; he may have had an accident in his regular work, and we would pay no attention to it; but if an applicant for a position presented himself for an interview with an untidy appearance he would certainly have this charged up to him as a demerit.
More important than the superficial item of appearance is the proper presentation of the actual case. Someone wishes to purchase service and the applicant has service to sell. The prospective employer should have the essential facts presented in a concise and attractive form. Training, experience, previous record, enthusiasm for this particular job, and other fundamental items should be presented in a way that they will appear to advantage. That intangible quality known as personality is an important factor in the personal interview, but those who employ large numbers of people are trying to go behind this more superficial quality of the individual and learn what he can actually do. Some individuals because of some slight unfortunate item in their personalities can make a much better impression in a letter than they can in an interview.
The Letter of Application
Many a good job has been lost by a poor letter; likewise, a good letter has been the opening wedge that has led to the securing of many desirable positions. The first thing to consider about the letter is its physical makeup. Paper should be white, and clean and of standard size. The letter should be folded the usual way and sent in an envelope of standard size. A letter written on colored paper, folded in some faddish manner in a small envelope of unusual shape leaves a bad impression with a busy executive.
Care should be taken with spacing of the letter on the page, so the whole thing will have a pleasing appearance. Needless to say the style and grammar should be as good as the writer can make them, and the letter should be brief and business-like. More letters of application are spoiled by being too long than too short. The applicant should avoid giving the impression that he is too anxious for the place; no one wants the man who can get a job nowhere else.
In a personal interview the applicant should make such preparation as he can so he will be as much at ease as possible. He should dress carefully, being sure that his clothes are clean and in good condition. He should be prepared to make a brief statement of his case, but he should not press the matter to a point where it will be distasteful. I remember a case where in the early part of the interview I made up my mind to employ the man, but he pressed the matter rather more vigorously than I liked, and kept hanging on so long that I first became annoyed, then disgusted, an before I could get him out of the office I had thoroughly made up my mind that I could not stand to have him around.
Large industries which employ men are rapidly coming to the practice of using an employment manager who is charged with securing all the help needed by the organization. Where this is done there is usually a better opportunity to have one’s case presented in a satisfactory manner than where he hiring is done without system.
Most technical schools maintain an employment bureau to assist their graduates to secure desirable positions. For example the Brigham Young University maintains a teacher placement bureau, so that principals or superintendents may visit the Institution and find out who are available for positions an adjust what their records have been. There are also many commercial employment agencies of every kind.
One needs but to glance over the want columns of the daily papers to realize how many people are placed through this medium. One who resorts to this method of securing a position should, of course, study the form in which his statement should appear, in order that it will attract attention and receive favorable consideration.
Keeping a Position
The getting of a position is sometimes not so difficult as keeping it. In most organizations there come times of retrenchment when it is necessary to let some of the hands go. In cases of this kind the individuals whoa re least valuable are the ones who are allowed to go first. The thing for the employee to do is to become so valuable that he cannot be spared under any circumstances. The first essential in doing this is to always be on the job and to make every minute count. Work should be made agreeable, and one should take the deepest interest in everything that will promote the welfare of the person or industry he is working for. The story of the rise of all the great captains of industry, as well as of professional men, is the story of devotion and industry.
Andrew Carnegie started life as a bobbin boy at a dollar and twenty cents a week; later he became a telegraph messenger boy; then a telegraph operator. His next employment was with the Pennsylvania Railroads as telegraph operator and assistant of Thomas a. Scott, superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division, at thirty-five dollars a month. Six years later he succeeded Mr. Scott as superintendent of the same division. In 1865, after twelve years of service, he resigned from the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, and gave all of his attention to the manufacturing of rails, locomotives, and steel for bridges. In whatever employment he entered no one could keep him from advancing because of his industry, his loyalty, and his intelligent service.
James A. Farrel, president of the United States Steel Corporation, began his business life as a laborer in a wire mill in new Haven. He next became a mechanic, then a wire drawer, and then foreman. From one step to another he rose till he finally became president of one of the greatest corporations in the world.
men of this sort are living examples of the qualities necessary for success. They retain their positions when others are losing theirs. In such men are found the qualities that make advancement inevitable.
1. What are some of the first things a prospective employee should take into account in looking for a job?
2. How may a person find out what positions are open?
3. Discuss the relative merits of a letter and a personal interview as a first step toward securing a position.
4. What are some of the essentials of a good letter of application?
5. What are some of the points to be kept in mind in a personal interview!
6. What do you know about employment agencies?’
7. What are some of the essentials in keeping a job?