Chapter 5: Career Management: Retain, Gain & Maintain

Job Retention Strategies

Here are some strategies that you can employ to manage your career longevity more successfully. These suggestions are helpful for employment success, but also for successfully completing placements or maintaining volunteer opportunities. Mostly, they are very practical tips to survive your day-to-day professional life; these can be applied three days, three months, or three years into a job. You’ll notice after each strategy there are one or two questions. If you’ve had trouble keeping a job in the past, answering these questions honestly may help you identify areas that you could improve on.

Be Punctual and Courteous

Consistently showing up for work and showing up on time indicates that you’re serious about your job. It’s not only important to be punctual about arriving to work, but also to be on time for meetings and following the prescribed times for breaks or other scheduled work gatherings. If you know you are going to be late, be courteous: pick up the phone or send an email and let your employer know when you will be there (always offer to reschedule if that is more convenient for others). When you are able to meet your commitments, it tells an employer that they can depend on you.

  • Are you often late for work, meetings, or do you take longer breaks?
  • Do you generally take a lot of sick days?

Be Presentable and Dress Appropriately.

Always maintain a level of professionalism through your work attire and visual presentation. Take note of the workplace dress code; until you have a better idea of what it is, take a conservative and simple approach to dressing. Even if your workplace is more casual in nature, it is important to come to work clean, neat, and well-groomed. If you are representing yourself professionally, you are helping the employer to be seen in a professional light as well.

  • Do you take time to prepare yourself before work (hygiene, grooming)?
  • Are you able to identify work-appropriate clothing in your wardrobe?

Demonstrate a Positive Attitude

You may have experienced working with someone negative in the past, which is why it’s so important for employers to want their employees to exhibit positivity. If you have a bad attitude this may impact how well you do your job or how you communicate with other people. People tend to remember the bad things; you certainly don’t want your employer to remember you as the complainer. Positivity is a highly sought-after quality on the job, as it tends to be a morale booster and increase the enjoyment of a work environment significantly.

  • Do you find it difficult to show enthusiasm about the work you’re doing?
  • Do you catch yourself complaining about things on the job?
Positivity is a highly sought-after quality on the job, as it tends to be a morale booster and increase the enjoyment of a work environment significantly.

Clarify Expectations and Ask for Feedback

Sometimes an employer may not have the time or resources to review your job expectations with you in detail. To ensure you’re performing adequately at your new job, review your job duties very carefully, then identify your main responsibilities and how much time you should be spending on each. This is a fail-proof way to ensure you’re on target with what your employer expects, however, if you are unclear of what this looks like, don’t hesitate to clarify at any time. Along the same lines, if you want to make sure you’re on the right track, set up a time to meet with your manager and ask for feedback on your progress so far.

  • When you start a new job, can you clearly identify your roles and responsibilities?
  • Do you wait to be told you’re doing something wrong before asking for feedback?

Ask for Help

Many of us make the mistake of wanting to prove we can do something on our own, or sometimes we’re just scared to ask for help because we think it might be seen unfavourably by our managers. The opposite of this is true; employers want you to ask questions and ask for help when you’re unsure of how to do something. Employers would rather you ask the questions you need in order to do the job correctly, than potentially costing them time and money on careless, easily preventable mistakes. That being said, if you have a number of questions, collect them and schedule a time to meet with your manager to discuss them all at once – this will eliminate multiple interruptions.

  • Are you reluctant to ask questions about tasks you are unsure of how to do?
  • Do you feel comfortable approaching other colleagues or your supervisor for help?

Develop Yourself Professionally

Be open to learning new things; employers are interested in having skilled and knowledgeable workers. By showing your commitment to continual learning, you’re showing them that it is important for you to be able to do your job well, which reflects positively on the company. By training in something that makes you a subject matter expert, you will make yourself a more valuable asset to the team. Employers are often impressed when employees show an interest in growing their skills; from these ideas, concrete professional goals can be developed.

  • Do you take advantage of professional development opportunities when they
    present themselves?
  • In your previous jobs, have you taken the time to identify what you wanted to get out
    your experience?

Be Honest and Own Your Mistakes

It’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake on the job,
it just makes you human. The worst thing to do is to lie about it. If you take responsibility for your mistake and avoid making excuses, it will show a great deal of maturity. Employers will appreciate your honesty and your ability to handle a situation like this. If you show them you’re willing to learn the proper way to do something, to avoid this happening again in the future, you will be more likely to build a trusting relationship.

  • Are you scared to admit when you make a mistake, out of fear that you might get in trouble?

Develop Positive Workplace Relationships

There are so many benefits to developing strong relationships among your team members. When you are able to get along with your colleagues, work gets done more effectively and efficiently. Don’t get caught up in water cooler conversations or office gossip. Remember to show respect to all members of your team, and listen attentively without interrupting. Your employer will be relieved when they don’t have to spend their valuable time resolving petty interpersonal issues.

  • Do you have strong relationships with the people you have worked with or gone to school with?

Be Visible, Show Initiative, and Offer to Help

Take opportunities to volunteer for upcoming projects or committees. The more visible you are in the work activities you’re taking part in, the more valuable you will be seen to your employer. Likewise, employers appreciate when employees offer to help and recognize when something needs to be done without having to tell them to do it. Look for opportunities to show your initiative by doing something you think may be helpful for the company, to improve a process, or to assist a colleague, and your employer is guaranteed to be impressed.

  • Do you ever volunteer to be part of different opportunities that come up at work?
  • Are you someone who recognizes when something needs to be done and does it without instruction?

Follow Through on What You Say

Be a person of your word, if you can be relied on to do what you say you’re going to do, an employer is eventually going to see you as their go-to person. When your words match your behaviours, it makes it easier for an employer to trust you and they will ultimately be more likely to recommend, praise, and invest in you. On the contrary, not actively following through on what you say can paint a negative picture of you to an employer; they may assume you are undependable or even uninterested in the job.

  • Do you tend to follow through on your promises in your personal and professional life?

Adapt to Change

With changes happening all around us, you’re bound to experience a number of work-related changes in your time. Being flexible and open-minded to those changes will help to reduce the amount of stress you are experiencing and allow you to navigate unexpected changes in your work environment in a more positive and constructive way. Work changes can take their toll on morale, when employees are more adaptable, they will help set the tone for a more seamless transition across the team.

  • Do you get flustered when faced with change?
  • Is it hard for you to get back on track when things fail to go according to plan?

Be a Problem Solver

Regardless of the job, we can’t escape day-to-day problems, whether they are personality differences between colleagues or roadblocks in our daily tasks or projects. What’s important for an employer to see is how you’re able to handle it when the situation is appropriate. An employer is seeking those that can manage conflict through effective negotiation and communication skills in a diplomatic, respectful, and calm manner. Furthermore, when you are able to manage unforeseen problems by identifying a plan and proposing possible solutions, you are taking this off the employer’s plate and allowing them to spend their time managing more pertinent concerns. When an employer has to frequently intervene in these situations it can take away from how competently they view you in your role.

  • Are you able to effectively manage conflict without calling in the assistance of your superior?

Remember, It’s a Small World

Oftentimes, we forget how small the city we live in is, or how intertwined the job market can be. A best practice is to avoid talking about any work-related issues with people outside of your closest family and friends, and even then, you should be cautious. Word can spread like wildfire and you wouldn’t want to lose your job over hearsay. Refrain from complaining about work and posting negative work-related content on social media. Despite your privacy settings, you can’t be sure that that information won’t get back to your employers or colleagues.


If you have a personal problem impeding your ability to maintain employment such as; anger, substance abuse, child care, housing, transportation, or other more pressing issues:

  • Reach out to Counselling Services to develop more effective coping strategies and identify community resources.
  • Make an appointment with the Employment Support Centre to discuss appropriate ways of discussing these issues with your supervisor.
  • Inform someone close to you and ensure you have a support network
    in place.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Be the Boss of Your Career: A Complete Guide for Students & Grads Copyright © 2021 by Lindsay Bortot and Employment Support Centre, Algonquin College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book