Career Resources

Seattle Goodwill committed to making future employees primed for work

by Andrew Lang, Seattle Goodwill
April 12, 2017

Ellena Burke knew she needed to make a change. She had severed relationships and was dealing with a drug and alcohol addiction.

In order to get her life on track, Ellena needed a job and sought out Goodwill for help. After committing to sobriety she joined Goodwill’s Cashiering and Customer Service Program, which helped her develop invaluable soft skills needed to become a productive, successful employee.

“At Seattle Goodwill, I learned how to be assertive without being aggressive and how not to deal with things in a negative manner,” Ellena said. “I gained humility and how to keep my composure.”

Learning how to process adversity in a healthy manner, being assertive without being aggressive, having humility: those are all soft skills, which in today’s business world frequently get passed over in favor of technical skills.

But in all actuality 85 percent of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills, while the remaining 15 percent comes from savvy technical skills. Seventy-five percent of employers rate soft skills as more important than technical skills.

Seattle Goodwill through years of working with the hardest-to-serve communities—such as people suffering from mental illness and those new to the country searching for work—has identified the largest barriers obstructing those looking to find and maintain a job.

Soft skills such as integrity, responsibility, perseverance, work ethic and good communication, to name a few, are essential traits desired in the workforce. Particularly in the entry-level workforce, many job seekers lack these skills, and it’s a major underlying cause of unemployment.

So what does job success look like for those who are unemployed and facing barriers to better economic opportunity?

Success in the workplace is built off three pillars—soft skills, mentoring and guidance and overcoming logistical challenges.

When all three of these pillars are achieved, we consider prospective employees primed for work. At Seattle Goodwill, our programs seek to build our students’ soft skills. We connect students to mentors who can offer guidance, and we also offer resources to help students overcome logistical barriers.

Seattle Goodwill on a daily basis witnesses the impressive personal and professional growth that comes along with getting students primed for work. As part of our advocacy efforts, we have created a five-step action plan showing how you can help contribute to our community and help others become primed for work.

1) Ask what your organization is already doing, and then ask how you can help

Work with your HR professionals if you’re an organization leader to see how they are coping with the lack of entry-level employees being primed for work. See if there are places where you can provide more of the basic soft-skill knowledge to employees. See if you are hiring and training based on strong soft skills. Work with management to support entry-level workers.

2) Actively support the good work of others

Beyond Seattle Goodwill there are organizations such as Seattle Jobs Initiative, Venture, Seattle Colleges and The Prosperity Agenda that are placing an emphasis on training for soft skills and lobbying for more attention to be given to these barriers to employment and success. Find an organization committed to helping people be primed for work and support them.

3) Define what primed for work means at your organization and start measuring it

Promote ways to measure being primed for work. There are questionnaires and assessments that measure confidence, self-esteem and motivation. Lobby for their adoption, so these characteristics become key performance indicators for a company’s health.

4) Raise the issue, and talk about primed for work

Use your voice to increase awareness of the need to reduce the primed for work gap. Talk to you peers and colleagues about the importance of being primed for work.

5) Support legislation

Primed for work doesn’t only mean soft skills. It also means the non-tangible challenges that directly impact an employee’s ability to thrive. Legislation in support of primed for work could mean funding for soft skills training in high school nonprofits and community colleges, making transportation access more affordable, having affordable child care, etc.

Seattle Goodwill is committed to helping those facing barriers become primed for work. Please help us spread the word and share your ideas, thoughts and solutions with us. 

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Workplace Romance: To be together? Or to not be together?

by Kim Merrikin, Seattle Goodwill
March 25, 2014

Navigating workplace romances can be tricky. Most people aspire to finding love in life… and occasionally someone at work may spark some interest… but work may not be the right place to develop a romantic relationship. If you find yourself in a situation where a potential relationship is developing at work, be sure to think about how it will affect your day-to-day work life, as well as your employment status.

Many employers have written policies for workplace relationships—and it’s important that you are familiar with them & understand them before entering a relationship. It’s likely that the policy includes some guidelines, and some strict rules. For example, many employers may allow peer coworkers to date (but discourage it), but very strictly limit relationships between staff & supervisors because of issues like favoritism (and what could happen when the relationship ends). If you’re thinking about initiating a workplace relationship, make sure you’re not violating company policy—and understand the consequences if you do.

One of the best moves you can make, if you decide to enter a romantic relationship at work, is to let your supervisor know. Whether you’re following company policy or not, honesty is always the best policy. Letting your supervisor know will put them in a position to help you appropriately navigate policies as much as possible. If you are “breaking the rules”, it’s better to “come clean” and face the consequences in lieu of your honesty, rather than get caught and face the penalties.

Once you’ve entered the relationship, and let your employer know about it, be sure to continue to focus on work while you’re at work. While there’s some overlap between your personal & work life with a workplace relationship, it shouldn’t affect your performance at work—even if it’s a bad day in your relationship, it’s extremely important to not let that interfere with your work. If the relationship ends, you still need to maintain professionalism and avoid hostility or unpleasantness. Even outside of work hours, you still have the responsibility to represent your employer well when socializing with coworkers. This includes how you portray your relationship & employer on social media.

If the situation arises where a coworker is trying to initiate a relationship, but you’re not interested, be sure to clearly say no & set defined boundaries. Likewise, if a supervisor ever tries to use his or her authority to get you to do something you don’t want to do—CLEARLY say “NO.” If the situation continues, bring it to the attention of the human resources department. If the unwanted pursuits continue, it’s considered sexual harassment, and has absolutely no place in the workplace!

At the end of the day, it comes down to this: Value your job. You were hired because you bring skills & value to the team—and engaging in a workplace relationship could jeopardize that. Don’t risk your job—or future employment—by engaging in a relationship!

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The Balancing Act: The Work-Life Balance

by Kim Merrikin, Seattle Goodwill
March 11, 2014

While your job is very important, it’s important to note that it’s not the only important thing in your life. You have family, friends, and… you… to think about as you carefully construct your life to maximize joy, success & fulfillment in all of the arenas in your life. We like the “buckets” analogy. You have a bucket for each area of life: family, friends, you, and work. But—each day, week, month & year, you have a limited amount of time & energy you can put in each bucket. The balancing act between keeping each of those buckets at a reasonable level is called the work-life balance.

It’s hard to know when you’re pouring too much into one bucket, and not enough into another—but a good way to help figure that out is to ask questions like: Am I exhausted all the time? Are loved ones around me frustrated with the time I’m spending in one “bucket” or another? Do I find myself missing my family? Do I ever feel refreshed? There are a ton of opportunities for distractions from what you need, but it’s important to know when to tune out those distractions and focus on you.

One helpful step is to set clear boundaries for yourself, loved ones, and your employer. Know when you need to go to bed to wake up, feel refreshed, and get to work on time & ready to do your best work. Know how much time you need to set aside for family & friends—and most of all: YOU. While it’s important that you work hard during work hours, make sure your employer knows that you need a balance. Remember: If you value your employer’s time (be on time, work hard, strive for healthy relationships in the workplace), it’s likely they’ll value yours & respond well when you create boundaries. A few good boundaries to set might be things like: Not working off the clock, limiting unplanned overtime, bringing it to your boss’s attention if he or she schedules you at time you’ve previously mentioned doesn’t work, and be sure to take your allotted breaks. In many cases, with family, friends or employers, it’s important to know when to say “no”—and you shouldn’t feel guilty when that need arises!

Focusing on yourself is important, too. Be sure to stay active, getting regular exercise (even if it’s going for a walk, stretching, or actively playing with your kids!), and stay healthy by getting rest, eating well, and taking appropriate you-time. Maintain relationships that help you grow, and try to minimize ones that are negative or waste time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There are lots of ways to balance the four buckets: you, work, friends, and family—so don’t be afraid to try different things if something isn’t working!

No one would ever claim that the work-life balance is easy—but it’s absolutely fulfilling on many levels when it’s achieved!

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End Well: Leaving A Job Right

by Kim Merrikin, Seattle Goodwill
February 25, 2014

When the time comes to leave a job, no matter what the reason, it’s important to do it well—so as to avoid “burning bridges.” If you’re leaving under good terms, you’re going to want to keep those relationships intact. If you’re leaving under… less-than-good terms, it’s still a good idea to keep relationships as intact as possible. You never know when you’re going to need to rely on past references, relationships, and networks. In fact, it’s highly likely that you’ll need those things in future employment pursuits. If it’s time for you to move on, for any reason, read through some tips to make the transition out of your current job as easy as possible!

The first step to leaving a job well is giving notice. You should let your boss know first (before other coworkers!) and at least two weeks before your last day. You should also inform your boss in private—schedule a meeting to let him or her know if possible. Once you’ve let your boss know your intentions to leave, be sure to discuss how they’d like to handle announcing your departure. Some employers don’t mind you immediately telling coworkers, whereas others might like to develop a plan to accommodate your departure before sending your coworkers into a “Well who’s going to do such-and-such?!” panic. Also, while two weeks is the standard timeline to give an employer, in many cases, it’s helpful to give as much notice as possible so he or she can make a plan, shift workloads around, find a replacement, and train the new person! While you may be phasing out of the position, it’s going to take some work to fill your shoes!

Once you’ve told your boss that you’re moving onto the next chapter in your employment, keep a good attitude about your job. You’ll likely get good-natured “short-timer” jokes from colleagues & coworkers, and you might even start to lose motivation to do your job well. Don’t give in! Keep up the good, hard work that helped you get & keep the job. Focus on doing your job, and preparing the company for your absence—that might mean training a new employee, or helping transition your regular tasks to a coworker. Your first impression got you the job, and your last impression will likely determine how that employer will handle reference requests & recommendations. Remember: how you leave your job CAN effect your future employment.

If you’re leaving a position because you’re unhappy or there are workplace issues that you need to get away from, don’t vent to coworkers or on social media. No matter what your privacy settings are, you never know what connections others have that might affect you—and your connections with coworkers from the past… and future… may be important down the road! Keep it civil, don’t criticize, and certainly don’t attack bosses, coworkers, or the company you’re leaving on any social media.

Finally—be sure to say goodbye to the people you’ve been working with. If you have access to company email, send an email briefly letting folks know where you’re going & how they can contact you. You may need them as references down the road—and they may want to use you as one!

While your past does not dictate your future, with a little care, you can certainly build a past that will help, and not hinder, your future! Keep in mind—ending well can be just as important as starting well!

Best of luck on your new adventure!

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Water Cooler Conversations – What Not to Say

by Toni Emerson, Employment Specialist, Seattle Goodwill
March 6, 2013

What's a water cooler conversation? It's a casual conversation you might have anywhere at work. You might be on a break, at lunch with a co–worker or meeting a co–worker after work. Even though these conversations are casual and friendly, it is important to be careful with the things you choose to say. What you talk about affects what your co–workers, especially your boss and team members, think about you.

Let's talk about what conversations you should steer clear of:

Working together in a close environment encourages people to talk about the workplace and fellow employees. Stop yourself from discussing things that you haven't checked out in advance. Talking behind someone's back is a dangerous habit to develop. Never repeat anything negative about your co–workers, supervisor or the workplace.

Complaining about your work reflects negatively on you and others. Plus, it does not solve the problem. Distancing yourself from negativity will help you feel happier and will encourage a positive relationship with your co–workers. If you notice something that you would like to change at work, don't complain. Instead, come up with a solution and present it to your supervisor.

Politics and Religion
Everyone's entitled to their own opinion and way of life. The best rule of thumb is to keep your beliefs to yourself. Expressing strong beliefs might turn people off and cause your co–workers to avoid you. It is also important to be flexible and open to all of your co–workers, and to respect their beliefs.

Having a job means that you spend 20–40 hours a week at your workplace with other people. Personal conversations will happen. Aim for positive talks that encourage teamwork and make people want to work with you.

Toni Emerson, Employment Specialist

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