Next to great communication, probably the best asset you can bring to an employer is having a positive attitude and bringing positive energy to the workplace every day. Not only is this a key employability skill, it’s a critical life skill. It’s the skill of learning to see everything as an opportunity. Everything is an opportunity. It may not always look that way, but it is. Every day that you show up to work is an opportunity to advance your career. To impress your boss, wow the client, win the customer, and change lives—especially your own. But you can’t do any of that, with a negative attitude. You will never get to the next level by wallowing in this one. If you’ve ever heard the expression “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” you’re already familiar with this idea a little bit. Express for the job you want, not the job you have. Here are a few suggestions for showing up with a positive attitude, or showing off the one you already have:
1. Don’t be the problem. First of all, don’t be the problem—don’t be the person who is always socializing and keeping himself, and everyone around him, from getting things done. Don’t be the person who “doesn’t know how” and keeps turning to everyone else for help. Learn. Do your job, and do it well, every day. Once you know how to do the job, you’ll start to see where the “pain points” are. These are the things that drive you crazy. The things you want to complain about. The things you go home and complain to your best friend about.
2. Don’t complain. Yeah, I know I just said you’re going to. At home. ONLY at home. At work, don’t complain. Don’t commiserate with your co-workers, even when they’re complaining. Listen. But don’t add your own tales of woe. You never know who else might be listening.
3. Don’t bring the problem. This next one seems a little counter-intuitive at first, but it ties nicely into number four, so be patient: Don’t bring the problem to your supervisors or superiors. Odds are, they already know about it. If they don’t know about it, you’re just the bearer of bad news, which is never a good position to be in.
4. DO bring the solution. See how I did that? It is absolutely, one-hundred percent okay to bring a problem to a supervisor or a superior IF and ONLY IF you can also bring them a solution. What does that look like, exactly? Well, for different jobs it will be different things, but let me share an example from my office life experiences… We had this printer. Yep. THAT printer. Everyone in the history of office life knows this printer. It never works. It eats paper like billy goat, smears ink all over the fancy proposal, and then runs out so you can’t print another one. THAT printer. You spend more time with your head buried inside it than anything else. EVERYONE hates this printer. EVERYONE complains about this printer. NOTHING ever happens. Until one day, someone has a brilliant idea. He listens to what his co-workers are saying. He starts monitoring the printer. He counts how many times things have to be re-printed and adds up how much time is wasted dealing with a printer that is way past its prime. Armed with this data, he sets out on a new venture: to find a better alternative. He researches, prints reviews, reads and highlights the important points about each of the prospective options, and one day, approaches his supervisor. It’s a short meeting in which he explains that the printer seems to be causing a lot of frustration among the team, shows quickly the data he collected about time and resources being used on it, and hands over a small folder with the printer options in order from “most economical and highly rated” to least, along with the business cards for a couple companies that sell and lease office printers. And less than a month later, a nice man in black pants and a red shirt came and delivered a shiny new printer that worked like a dream. And everyone lived happily ever after. Oh, also, that guy—the printer guy—the one who brought his supervisor some solutions to a problem she hadn’t had time to address… well, he got put on several other “special projects” and became an invaluable asset to his boss. And a raise. And eventually, a promotion. Why? Because he wasn’t the problem. And he didn’t complain about the problem. And he didn’t bring up the problem (which it turns out the boss was, in fact, acutely aware of). He brought the solution. And that made all the difference.
5. Be a cheerleader. Encourage your peers. Be aware of what’s going on around you, and make a point to congratulate others on their successes. Ask them for advice, and also offer helpful tips you’ve learned along the way. Mentor newer employees and subordinates you may have, and be grateful to your superiors. Express enthusiasm for new programs, products, and processes. Be sincere in these things. Don’t just “brown-nose” your colleagues and coworkers. If you’re having trouble finding thing to be encouraging, enthusiastic, and supportive about, you aren’t looking hard enough. This doesn’t mean wear rose-colored glasses and ignore the flaws—those flaws are always an opportunity.
6. See the opportunities. When I worked in advertising, one of the things we looked at with new products we were pitching was called a SWOT analysis. We looked at a product or company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You can look for these all the time, in everything. But here’s a little secret: the weaknesses, are opportunities. And so are the threats. And so are the strengths. Everything is an opportunity. So make sure you see the strengths of the new promotion your boss wants to roll out next month. And when you see weaknesses, or threats, be sure to present them as opportunities. For instance: • I see this product is marketed heavily toward older women. • I think this is an excellent strategy because of A, B, and C reasons. • However, I think there is an opportunity to cast a wider net by adding X. Try to couple your “opportunities” with at least 3 strengths. Focus on the positive first. Then show how the negative can become a positive.
7. Smile. This one is simple. Be pleasant to work with. Smile at people. Open doors. Say hello in the hallway. Bring candy to work. Be the one that lightens the mood and cheers other people up. Make it your mission to control the atmosphere, and make sure it’s a positive one. A single person CAN make an enormous difference. Be that person.