Wa­ter­cooler

Young labour An early-on­set work ethic can be a ca­reer builder

The Australian - The Deal - - News - Story by: Ver­ity Ed­wards Ver­ity Ed­wards is editor The Week­end Aus­tralian’s Week­end Pro­fes­sional

Ver­ity Ed­wards on why it's never too early to build a work ethic

Michael Dell, the founder of the multi-bil­lion dol­lar Dell Com­puter Com­pany, be­gan his work­ing life wash­ing dishes in a Chi­nese res­tau­rant at the age of 12. For­mer West­pac chief ex­ec­u­tive Gail Kelly was a teacher be­fore go­ing into bank­ing. Bil­lion­aire War­ren Buf­fett had a pa­per round, and filed his first tax re­turn when he was 14.

An economist I know worked in a hair­dress­ing sa­lon on Satur­day morn­ings un­til the dyes kept mak­ing her faint, and a high-pro­file ex­ec­u­tive, who did not want to be named, was a trol­ley­ol­o­gist at a lo­cal su­per­mar­ket.

Each of these ex­ec­u­tives had a strong work ethic, which em­ploy­ers say can be sadly lack­ing as Gen-Y work­ers grad­u­ate from high school or univer­sity, and look for ca­reer lad­ders to climb.

It can be dif­fi­cult for young peo­ple to gain ex­pe­ri­ence with high youth un­em­ploy­ment and fewer com­pa­nies hir­ing. With bet­ter eco­nomic con­di­tions than 30 years ago, there is less pres­sure from par­ents for teenagers to find their first job. Labour laws mean kids no longer work at fast food joints at 12 or have pa­per rounds.

In­foTrack’s Stephen Wood says the first thing he looks for in re­sumes is whether an ap­pli­cant has worked at McDon­ald’s, KFC or Baker’s De­light. He sees it as teach­ing com­mit­ment, build­ing a strong work ethic, learn­ing cus­tomer ser­vice and com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies. Fast food staff learn from an early age the value of earn­ing money and be­com­ing task-ori­ented.

Adecco mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Rick Khinda started vol­un­tar­ily in the mail­room at his first com­pany, show­ing he was pre­pared to put in the hard yards to get a job.

He learnt dif­fer­ent roles, met peo­ple from all lev­els and turned up ev­ery day, un­til he was of­fered a paid in­tern­ship up the lad­der.

Young peo­ple with a good work ethic, who give up week­ends to stock su­per­mar­ket shelves, are the ones who usu­ally suc­ceed. They get jobs straight out of univer­sity be­cause they did un­paid in­tern­ships and were happy to start at the bot­tom.

For the record, my first job was also a pa­per round, aged 10. I wrapped the lo­cal pa­per, The

Mes­sen­ger, and rode my bike around the streets, throw­ing copies on to 300 lawns for $5 a week. I have not made quite so much money as Buf­fett, but it was a good les­son in com­mit­ment in the rain, hail or shine.

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