How to be a valuable employee?


Dear Working Wise:

My brother can’t seem to keep a job. He keeps getting let go before his probationary period expires. Do you have any advice for him?

Signed Baffled Brother

Dear Baffled:

It’s hard to guess why your brother is having a hard time holding onto a job. The best thing for him to do would be to ask his past supervisors for feedback.

If that is not possible, try giving him this list of characteristics that employers look for in all their staff.

Be Reliable

  • Be on time and maintain good attendance.
  • Call if you’re going to be late or can’t make it to work.
  • Keep your promises and complete your tasks on time.
  • Be honest and trustworthy.
  • Stay healthy – physically and mentally.

Be Professional

  • Dress appropriately—professional and up-to-date.
  • Keep your skills and training current.
  • Double-check the quality of your own work.
  • Stay organized and keep your work area tidy.
  • Take responsibility for your mistakes.
  • Know your job and how to do it properly.
  • Respect your boss and co-workers – avoid distractions (e.g., cell phone) and side conversations during meetings.
  • Avoid excessive gossiping, personal e-mails, phone calls and web browsing.
  • Don’t share colourful stories from your personal life at work.
  • Don’t complain about your job, boss or co-workers on your Facebook page or blog.

Be Proactive

  • Learn all you can about the organization and how you can contribute.
  • Offer your boss ideas on how you can contribute more.
  • Look for things that need to be done and do them, but check with your boss first to ensure he/she agrees notices your initiative and agrees that it is a priority.
  • Try to make your boss’s job easier by anticipating what they will want or need.
  • Learn more about the jobs of the people around you.
  • Learn a skill that will help you stand out.
  • Earn a new credential/license/ticket/certification that makes you more valuable.
  • Ask for help if you need it—recognizing your limits is a sign of personal strength and maturity.
  • Work safely.

Be a Team Player

  • Help your co-workers with their projects if asked by your boss. You will learn something new and gain a reputation as a helpful co-worker and employee.
  • Be willing to share information.
  • Support and encourage your co-workers.

Be Positive

  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Be flexible and open to taking on new tasks and learning new skills.
  • Keep learning—new skills and tasks make you a more marketable employee.
  • Ask if you don’t know how to do something. Asking shows that you want to do things right and that you’re willing to learn.

For more tips on how to be a valuable employee, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) web site at and check out the tip sheets on:

  • Are you job smart?
  • Adding Value: Giving back to your employer
  • Getting and keeping the work you want
  • New job: How to make a good first impression
  • Six ways to stand out at work

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Human Services. This column is provided for general information.