Help Wanted Part 5: Ten Qualities of a Good Employee

Over the past few weeks of our Help Wanted series, we’ve focused on understanding the barriers between potential welders and employment. The industry job market is tumultuous and intimidating right now thanks to a looming national skills gap, present local gaps, an image problem that is causing employers to be especially critical of potential new-hires, and difficult non-welding course-work prompting students in degree and certification programs to drop out as soon as an entry-level job is available.

So this week in Help Wanted we’re changing gears and focusing on what exactly employers are looking for in their potential employees. These are traits that aren’t just meant to help you find an entry-level job, but also to help you determine what you can do to lay the groundwork for a long-term career. The more ways you can find to show employers you have these traits, the better your advantage over the competition.
Keep in mind that this list, although roughly arranged from most to least commonly requested employee traits, isn’t meant to depict a strict order. All of these traits are important and can help you find work. Think of this instead as a general guideline to help you improve the trajectory of your career.

1. Dependability
Above all else, employers want employees they can trust to do their jobs consistently and correctly. They’re looking for people who come to work prepared and on-time, and get their work done without constant supervision. Responsibility is another major aspect of dependability; employers want to know they can trust their employees to be safe, honest and concerned about the well-being of others. Recently, it’s also become especially important that employees be able to pass a drug test, as workforce drug use has become an increasingly prominent problem.

2. Sociability
Being an employee means being part of a team, so having good people skills is an essential trait in a good worker. You must be able to get along with your peers and supervisors. Being sociable is a trait that can also help you advance your career quickly. One of the primary reasons employers have become less willing to invest in apprenticeships and worker training is the fear that employees will take a different job after the company has already made an investment in an employee’s development. Maintaining a strong relationship with your supervisors can help demonstrate to employers that investing in you is a sound decision for them; and the key to a good relationship is good people skills.

3. Initiative
Employers are looking for self-confident individuals who are willing to volunteer new ideas, begin assignments without being asked, and demonstrate leadership abilities. Taking charge and being willing to go beyond minimum expectations are two of the most frequent traits employers mention when asked what they’re looking for in the worker pool. An employee’s initiative is a way for employers to gauge a workers passion for their craft and their ability to handle more complicated tasks. Moreover, as we discussed in part 2 of our series, a demonstrable passion for welding gives a worker a critical advantage over his or her peers.

4. Ability to Communicate
Communication goes hand-in-hand with sociability. A productive, safe workforce is a close-knit team that is able to effectively communicate both verbally and in writing. Effective verbal communication means using correct grammar, maintaining a confident, enthusiastic tone, and speaking clearly, concisely and with complete thoughts. Writing effectively also requires correct grammar, along with correct spelling and neat, legible handwriting. You should be able to write reports, instructions, and well thought out descriptions, as these are tasks you may be expected to perform, especially if you aspire to a supervisory position.

5. Ability to Read
As we saw in the blog post, Reading, Writing, and Welding Changes Lives, the ability to read well is as empowering as it is critical to finding work. Employers need workers who can read written information and instructions. You also need to be able to read industry specific terminology, measurements, and documents such as blue prints, graphs, charts and measurements.

6. Problem Solving Skills
Sometimes a complicated situation will come about in the field that requires you to improvise; to think on your feet and outside the box. It’s in these moments that you have the opportunity to shine by coming up with creative solutions to challenging problems. It’s also in these moments that an employer most wants a worker with strong problem solving skills. If you’re able to demonstrate to a potential employer that you have these skills, it will significantly improve your chances of finding a job. Then, when that moment of crisis arrives, you can use your skills to prove to your employer that you are a valuable long-term asset.

7. Math Skills
Determining welding angles, taking measurements, selecting the proper electrode diameter, calculating deposition rates; the list of math skill applications required by all welding positions is virtually endless. The stronger you are in math, the better your job hunt will go. Knowledge of math is among the skill sets most sought after by employers and it’s recommended that you take as many math courses as possible.

8. Science Skills
Like math, science is a skill coveted by employers. Employers are especially interested in job candidates with an understanding of metallurgy: the study of the physical and chemical properties of metal. Employees who know about metallurgy don’t just know how to weld metals: they know why welding works, what metals can be combined and how these metals will react to applications and environments. This not only gives employees with even a basic understanding of metallurgy an advantage in finding a job, but also an advantage in advancing their career later. Further, employers are interested in workers who are capable of solving problems by applying the scientific method. Taking science courses while still in school is an excellent way to get experience learning to apply this method.

9. Knowledge of Existing Codes
Knowing existing welding codes and code skills demonstrates your diverse abilities as a welder, as well as your dedication towards expanding your skill base. This shows potential employers that you have initiative, which we’ve already touched on as a desirable trait in its own right. Your knowledge of codes specifically needed by a potential employer will give you an immediate advantage over any other applicants for that job.

10. Knowledge of Welding
Knowing how to effectively use a welding tool is, of course, the most critical of all of the skills on this list. You can’t get a job as a welder if you don’t know how to weld. So why is it at the bottom of this list? Although the list isn’t intended to be in any precise order, knowing how to weld is in the final slot for a reason. Yes: welding is essential to find work, but that means it’s the one skill everyone seeking a job in the industry has. You need to know how to weld to get a job, but it doesn’t give you an advantage over your competition.
As we’ve discussed in earlier entries of our series, the industry is suffering from a number of problems that need to be dealt with by employers, educators and the workforce if a critical national skills gap crisis is to be avoided. Until this happens, however, it’s up to you to give yourself a competitive edge. This list is meant as a guideline, a tool to help you identify focus areas for self-improvement that will make you a more attractive candidate for the companies that are hiring.

AWS is committed to helping you improve your career opportunities. Next week, Help Wanted will continue its self-help direction as we dive into the ways that engaging in your education and choosing the right classes can better prepare you to dive into the industry’s job pool and obtain the traits we discussed today. Until then, we invite you to explore the AWO website, where you can find additional resources to help you improve advance your career, including podcasts, video lectures, online courses and more

Althouse, Andrew D. Modern welding: complete coverage of the welding field in one easy-to-use volume!. Tinley Park, Ill.: Goodheart-Willcox Co., 2004. Print.

Rice, Marty. “What employers expect from welders.” – N.p., 8 Nov. 2011. Web. 4 June 2014.

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