What Are Employers Looking For? — Insights from Alumna Gera Stewart
BY SIXUAN LI
As the director of operations at ALDI, Westminster alumna Gera Stewart, ‘06, has participated in many interviews and has gained lots of valuable experiences and skills, both as an interviewee and an interviewer. She was invited to Westminster on Tuesday to share with students some key competencies that employers are looking for, from the standpoint of a director.
First, Stewart addressed leadership, which she defined as the ability to leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals and to use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others.
“Leadership is very essential, and I am still learning,” Stewart said. “Westminster actually affords students so many opportunities to become a leader. It is difficult to hide, and if you get involved, you can become a leader here.”
Stewart used to be involved in many activities and societies on campus, including Kappa Alpha Theta, Blue Blazer Investment Committee and the Alpha Chi Honor Society, among others. “One thing I felt the most proud of was that I used to be a member of Skulls of Seven,” she laughed.
Stewart then talked about the importance of having a strong work ethic and being punctual.
“Work ethic is critical,” she said. “It demonstrates personal accountability and effective work habits, such as punctuality, working productively with others and time-workload management.”
Punctuality, Stewart explained, means more than arriving on time. “Being on time — that actually means being early,” she said. “Every time when we have a meeting, it begins on time and our boss will shut the door. There is no excuse for being late.”
Third, Stewart discussed the value of communication skills, both oral and written, in the workplace. The individual should have public-speaking skills, be able to express ideas to others, and be able to write or edit memos, letters and complex technical reports clearly and effectively, she said.
Stewart also emphasized the importance of listening during communication. “I actually listen more than I speak,” she said. “When I listen, I can get tremendous information and learn a lot of things as well.”
Another competency that employers are looking for, according to Stewart, is “teachability.” Stewart recalled a time when she interviewed a young woman from Canada and, after asking her what her motivations were for the position, the woman answered, “money and promotions.”
“Well, it’s okay to say that, and I could totally understand,” Stewart said. “But as I tried to dig it further and kept asking questions, she was so driven and I could hardly lead her and get a response from her … I realized that this person is not teachable, so I passed over her.”
Lastly, Stewart said that employers want to have people who take initiative. “He or she should be a self-starter, a goal getter,” Stewart said. “I don’t have time to hold their hands [during] every single decision.”