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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Confident Self-Starters - The world's most attractive employers and what they want

For the last of the traits required by the world's most attractive employers, I combined Confidence and Self-Starter into one.  I did this because, being a self-starter requires confidence.  Confidence that you will succeed and confidence that if you don't, it is not the end of the world.  If your child does not have some confidence, he or she will never have the courage to start anything.

Why do companies want confident self-starters?  If my daughter is confident, she will be more likely to bravely take on new jobs and responsibilities.  This is important since when your son or daughter starts their first full time job, everything is going to be new.  A self-starter will not need 9 to 5 supervision in order for them to get their job done.  They will tackle problems and obstacles themselves before pestering their boss.  A new grad who sits around waiting to be told what to do is a not only a drain on resources but will have a negative affect on morale in the office.

How do interviewers judge whether your son or daughter is confident and how do they know they are a self-starter?

There are several attributes that indicate confidence in a person.  Eye contact is important, a firm handshake is great, showing that you are relaxed, calm in the face of criticism, tone of voice, and others.  However, confidence is not something that you either have or don't have.  Everyone is confident about something.  My son could be confident about his soccer skills but start sweating and panicking when he has to speak in front of other people.  Certainly helping our kids to be confident in an interview situation would be great for getting them into the job of their dreams.  But that seems a bit too limited.  Perhaps the best approach is to help our children develop confidence in handling new situations.  Confidence that they are worth something, even if not everyone else can see it.  This could be applied to the interview as well as many other situations in their lives.

To show an interviewer that your son or daughter is a self-starter, it is best to have a few examples.  Along with the part-time job stocking shelves at Wegmans, it would show initiative if they also built and sold Yule Logs (something my Mom had us do) during the holidays managing time, money and resources.  Continuing with the Wegman's job, an example where your son suggested a change in how the creamed corn was stacked resulting in increased sales is another way of showing to the interviewer that not only can your son claim to be a self-starter, he can point to actual situations were he self-started!

Here are a few ideas on how to build up your kids confidence and encourage them to be self-starters.

Some experts suggest that giving your child choices will help them to learn to motivate themselves.  I tend to agree with the alternate opinion which is that kids have too many choices, especially when very young.  I learned of an approach when my son was about 3 years old and find that it works well for us.  Rather than forcing him to make a choice, we try to let our son tell us when he is ready to take responsibility.  In the morning I will tell him that we are having oatmeal for breakfast.  He can accept that or he can reply with his preferred alternative.  Saying, "I don't want to eat oatmeal" and waiting for me to come up with an alternative is not an option.  My willingness to consider his request, "I would rather have toast and jelly" gives him a sense that he has some control over his life (confidence) and that he can make his own decisions.

Overlooking honest mistakes or not making a big deal out of them also helps.  The opposite, screaming when your daughter (accidentally) drops her full glass of milk on the new carpet will lead to her feeling that all mistakes are reasons to feel down about herself.  Please don't tell your kids they are bad or stupid or worthless. If we put them down often enough they will start to believe they really are bad, stupid and worthless.  Aside from this making them feel miserable, it is also making them unattractive to future employers.   You would be hard pressed to find a job description asking for dumb kids with no self-confidence.

As always setting an example is great.  If we as parents are taking on a new challenge (regardless of the size), share it with our kids.  Let them know that we are nervous too but that we won't let that stop us from trying our best.  Since most kids want to be just like Mom and Dad they will emulate us and what begins as mimicking will soon become habit and part of their own personalities.

Saying yes to your children's offers to help more often will inspire self-motivated thoughts and also increase their confidence.  The next time you are changing a light bulb or raking leaves in the yard and your son asks if he can help too, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is an opportunity to help your son, not the other way around.  Sure it will take longer with him helping, did someone tell you parenting was going to be easy?

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