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  • Career Building Stand out from your peers and maximize your chances for success. By Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)

    In the hit musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a window washer climbing the

    corporate ladder asks, “Be patient? Don’t you realize

    I’ve been working here, well, 2 whole hours now?”1 A

    meteoric rise to the top doesn’t seem so farfetched in

    American business. Working in a busy laboratory day-in,

    day-out is a grind of a different nature, but opportunities

    still exist to stand out from the crowd.

    This article explores elements of career building to

    help you stand out from your peers and maximize your

    chances for success.

    ➤ Keep up Momentum Even if you love your job, keeping that momentum of

    the first day’s thrill can be difficult. Our current eco-

    nomic crisis has soured attitudes, creating for many a

    love-hate relationship with their work and stunting their

    careers in the process.

    The business research firm the Conference Board

    found in 2008 a 12 percent drop in worker satisfac-

    tion since 1987 from 61 percent.2 One reason is that in

    1987, more people found their jobs interesting (71 per-

    cent compared to 51 percent).2 But the economy could

    be a bigger reason. Wages adjusted for inflation

    Ph o

    to d

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    for Medical Laboratory Professionals®

  • have been shrinking since 2000, and more workers are

    making bigger contributions to health insurance.2 The

    hardest hit attitudes belong to workers younger than

    25—you, the new graduates.2

    These findings are echoed by a gallup-Healthways

    Well-Being Index that has recorded a steady drop in job

    satisfaction since 2008.3 Staff reductions and concerns

    about job security heightened by unemployment are

    among the reasons.3 Even if your facility’s workforce

    has not been greatly hurt by the economy, friends and

    family members may be.

    ➤ Know What’s Expected To build your career on a solid foundation and gain

    the valuable experience you need to succeed, and

    to be happy in your career, you need to first know

    what’s expected.

    When you are hired for a position, you may have a

    legal contract of employment or be

    represented by a third party such as

    a labor union. While this can broad-

    ly define negotiated issues such

    as pay, hours and benefits, it often

    doesn’t define implicit obligations

    between you and your employer.

    You’re on your own to learn what is

    expected or hope to be told in plain,

    clear language.

    The term “psychological contract,”

    from the work in the 1960s by orga-

    nization behavioral theorists Chris

    Argyris and Edgar Schein, is used

    to describe mutual perceptions of

    what employers and employees ex-

    pect from each other.5 Breach of this

    implicit contract (e.g., ignoring extra work above and

    beyond colleagues, can seriously damage this relation-

    ship). Elements of this contract as summarized by one

    human resources consulting firm are summarized in

    Table 1. While some of the elements of a psychological con-

    tract are implicit (e.g., work hard and be recognized) and

    others specified (e.g., shift volunteers are not chosen at

    random for less desirable assignments), expectations

    will sometimes not align.

    A recent survey shows that what employ-

    ees want and what employers think they want are dif-

    ferent.6 Hr professionals focus on benefits and com-

    pensation—the legal contract of employment—while

    employees cite a lack of opportunities and recognition—

    elements of the psychological contract—as reasons for

    leaving.6 Top factors are summarized in Table 2.

    ➤ Stand Up and Stand Out When it comes to upholding an implicit psychological

    contract that includes unspoken elements, standing out

    and succeeding is easier than you might think. Seasoned

    or fresh to the workforce, it can boost or lay the ground-

    work for career success. Being a standout amongst

    peers will also improve your mental health and make

    you happier in your job. Here are a few dos and don’ts: n Do be on time. This includes the start of your shift,

    breaks and lunch. Employers notice these little things. n Do go the extra mile. If it’s within your ability to do

    more, you should do more. Doing what everyone else

    is doing will make you look like everyone else. n Do be the employee you would like to hire. We

    all think we know more than the boss from time to

    time. Put yourself in that position and see what the

    boss sees. n Don’t gossip. When colleagues vent and complain

    about the boss, walk away. Whatever you say will

    eventually get back to those in charge. n Don’t waste your employer’s time. If you’re mak-

    ing personal phone calls and chatting about matters

    outside work, you are not giving your employer your

    undivided attention and will be seen as less of an as-

    set and more of a liability. n Don’t use personal days. Sure, your benefits


    Table 1: employer and employee Commitments to Meet expectations5


    work hard pay commensurate with performance

    uphold company reputation opportunities for training and development

    maintain high levels of attendance and punctuality opportunities for promotion

    show loyalty to the organization recognition for innovation or new ideas

    work extra hours when required feedback on performance

    develop new skills and update old ones interesting tasks

    be flexible an attractive benefits package

    be courteous to clients and colleagues respectful treatment

    be honest reasonable job security

    come up with new ideas a pleasant and safe working environment WhAT EMPLOYERS ThINK EMPLOYEES WANT WhAT EMPLOYEES WANT

    •  adequate benefits •      friendly coworkers

    •  friendly coworkers •   good managers

    •  fair compensation •   desirable commute

    Table 2: employer and employee expectation6

    for Medical Laboratory Professionals®


    package includes a few days a month, but saving

    them for an emergency or planned vacation is a bet-

    ter idea.7

    In fields such as medical laboratory science, employ-

    ers hire and even promote based on technical skills.

    But as one career resource site points out, “soft skills,”

    such as professionalism, proactive communication and

    a positive attitude can give a competitive edge when

    employers are considering people for promotion and

    make your career economy proof.8

    Your technical expertise, while valuable, is one dimen-

    sion of what builds your career. By developing skills

    and attitudes that make you stand out from the crowd,

    you’ll be seen as an asset, have more opportunity, and

    be more productive and happy in your work, leading to

    better patient care. n

    Scott Warner is lab manager at Penobscot Valley Hos-

    pital, Lincoln, ME.

    References 1. IMDB. Memorable quotes for How to Succeed in

    Business Without Really Trying. Available at: www. last accessed

    Feb. 22, 2012.

    2. n.Y. Post. Poll: Most in uS don’t like their jobs.

    Available at:

    p o l l _ m o s t _ i n _ u s _ d o n _ l i k e _ t h e i r _ j o b s _

    4irFvxrVqlk3mxtMVmCulO. last accessed Feb.

    22, 2012.

    3. Mendes E. uS job satisfaction struggles to recov-

    er to 2008 levels. Available at:


    2008-levels.aspx. last accessed Feb. 22, 2012.

    4. lee MS, lee MB, liao SC, et al. relationship be-

    tween mental health and job satisfaction among

    employees in a medical center department of labo-

    ratory medicine. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm. last accessed Feb. 22,


    5. Vital-Hr. Employee vs. employer expectations.

    Available at:

    ee-vs-employer-expectations. last accessed Feb.

    22, 2012..

    6. Business library. Employer perceptions about job

    satisfaction factors do not match employee real-

    ity. Available at:

    mi_m0EIn/is_2006_Jan_30/ai_n16033302/. last ac-

    cessed Feb. 22, 2012.

    7. Morris T. Most valuable employee: how to stand out

    to your boss. Available at:


    html?cat=31. last accessed Feb. 22, 2012.

    8. Smith A. How to stand out at work. Available at: