Soft Skill: Work Ethic

Back in my day, they didn't give us free energy bars!

ARRHY3 Woman wearing eyemask in the office  Woman; wearing; eyemask; in; office; laziness; female; one; person; indoors; office;
Alamy

If you're going by the Internet alone, you'd be forgiven for thinking the last thing anybody does at work anymore is, well, work. We live in an era of distraction, where blog posts are labeled "not safe for work" and whole industries have risen up around 30-second puppy videos. That's why it's more important than ever to demonstrate a strong work ethic when you come into the office, and prove that you're not just living for the weekend.

But what is work ethic, really? The term itself seems sprung from another, more industrious era. That's why AOL Jobs is here to help with the best advice about this essential (but oft neglected) quality.
Developing a strong work ethic

What is work ethic?
Having a strong work ethic isn't the same thing as being a workaholic. It's a way of describing a number of qualities that, together, create value in an employee. Does your grandpa ever complain that kids these days don't know anything about buckling down and getting the job done? Take a look at the five key qualities listed here, and you might just prove him wrong.

Building a reliable work ethic
Okay, so you understand what a strong work ethic entails. But putting a plan into action is a whole different story, especially if you're the kind of person who blows an hour trying to decide whether you want to order Thai food or sushi. Here's the good news: there are a number of simple tests you can try on yourself to ramp up your work stamina. It's not so different from taking a jog every day (aside from the fact that you'll be sitting at your desk, typing).

18 people with excellent work ethic
Sometimes we need a little inspiration to get ourselves in gear. Take a look at these living models of work ethic--seriously, if you looked up the word "industrious" in the dictionary, you'd see one of these guys' pictures. This isn't to say you need to be just like the dude who didn't take a vacation for seven years, or the woman whose nickname is the Portuguese word for "armored car." But they're inspiring nevertheless.

Finding the right role model
Maybe the lady who routinely worked 130-hour weeks isn't doing it for you. Maybe you need the influence of someone a bit closer to home. Why not look to your family? Creative director Doug Jaeger found a role model in his dad, who never went long without a new project for home improvement. Take a look. Also, Jaeger's haircut here is pretty choice.

> Find a job as a restaurant manager

Applying work ethic on the job

Make yourself essential
As humans, we never see ourselves as we truly are, and it can be particularly difficult to reach an understanding of how we're perceived in the workplace. Do people see you as a valued employee, or a slacker who watches cat videos all day? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to get a better idea of your professional reputation--they're the next best thing to seeing through somebody else's eyes.

Don't confuse work ethic with over-working
In our changing work culture, value and workload are closely aligned. Perhaps too much so--does arriving first and leaving last every day really prove that you're a better employee than the guy who takes a two-hour lunch? If you're the kind of person who likes to help out with other people's tasks, make sure that your handiness isn't interfering with your own work. There's nothing wrong with stepping up and putting out fires, but make sure your own house isn't burning down while you have your back turned.

Lessons in work ethic from a former motel maid
You don't have to be a CEO (or the armored car lady) to gain an understanding of what makes someone a strong worker. Author and personal finance expert Jennifer Openshaw learned her most valuable lessons as a 15-year-old motel maid. Since then, she's written books, started and sold successful companies, and worked alongside some true American luminaries. The Don Carlos Motel may not be around anymore, but the lessons Openshaw learned there are truly timeless.

Starting a side business while holding down a full-time job
The concept of work ethic goes beyond the confines of the office, especially if you're someone who freelances outside of your regular job. But even if you have dreams of starting your own company (or writing a book, or building a hovercraft in your garage), you need to make sure your ambitions aren't interfering with the work you're actually getting paid to do. Still, we encourage you to keep plugging away--we're sure that hovercraft's going to be awesome.

> Find a job as a service technician


Photo source: Getty Images

Check out more quotes on the virtues of having good work ethic here.

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