First Job Survival Skills: White Paper

First Job Survival Skills White Paper

With today’s teen unemployment rates at triple the nationwide unemployment rate in the US, we began to raise the question; “Are schools readying students with the skills needed to succeed in the workplace”? If 3 in 5 students lack the soft skills needed for work success, are educators teaching them anything about soft skills?  What exactly should students be learning in order to be prepared and ready for the job market? To find the answer, we conducted months of research and had over 2,500 employers tell us what they wanted from an employee.  Ultimately, we used all this information and created our own personal guide of the MOST First Job Survival Skills - school to transition skillsIMPORTANT skills/attributes needed for the workplace.

The First Job Survival Series illustrates the interpersonal skills and personal qualities employees must have to survive and grow in the workplace. These skills and attributes can be more important to employability than technical skills or even hard work. The U.S. Department of Labor’s SCANS 2000 report referred to these as Soft Skills and included them in a list of competencies that translate to “relevant workplace know-how”.


Soft skills have been defined as the nontechnical skills, abilities and traits required to function in a specific employment environment. These include personal or character qualities, and being able to: deliver information or services to customers and co-workers; work effectively as a member of a team and understand and adapt to the cultural norms of the workplace. Surveys of employers in large metropolitan areas reveal that soft skills are crucial for workplace productivity. When polled, employers in Canada and England replied with nearly the identical viewpoint as in the US: employees with strong soft skills are in demand! They are the ones who are more likely to get hired, be retained after their initial probation periods, and be considered for promotion.


The Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) was first chartered in 1990 by the US Department of Labor. SCANS’ mission was to define the necessary functional and enabling skills that society must provide to every child by the age of 16 (SCANS 1991).  It sought to accomplish this by identifying precisely the competencies that everyone needs in order to succeed in the workforce and, more importantly, in life. Called the “SCANS skills,” these competencies were then compiled into a report in called “A SCANS Report for America 2000.”


There have been many studies validating the competencies described in the SCANS report, including a large study by the New York State Department of Labor. Over 2700 firms from across the state responded to a survey based on the SCANS competencies. The employers were asked to identify the most desirable skills they sought in the hiring, the retaining, and promoting employees. The survey results were then ranked according to the most frequently selected SCANS skills. The top 11 employee skills (excluding public  speaking and written communication) that employers ranked as MUST HAVE ATTRIBUTES for job retention and promotion are illustrated throughout the First Job Survival Skills Series. 

The Top 11 skills employers chose as essential to employee retention and promotion (excluding public speaking and written communication) are, in order of frequency of selection and listed with their corresponding SCANS code:

1.   Trustworthy (F-17) can be trusted, chooses an ethical course of action

2.   Cooperative (C-9) is helpful and can work in a team

3.   Appropriate Appearance (F-15) understands the workplace culture and is dressed and groomed appropriately

4.   Focus (F-5) gives full attention, listens attentively, and comprehends to enable follow through

5.   Social  (F-15, C-11) is friendly, understanding, polite, recognizes appropriate workplace boundaries

6.   Responsible (F-13) exerts high level of effort toward following through and reaching goals. Dependable, reliable, can be counted on to do what has to be done, when it has to be done, whether he or she wants to or not.

7.   Self-esteem  (C-7) believes in own self-worth, has positive view of self, is aware of impact on others

8.   Customer Friendly (F-15, C-11) exhibits appropriate behavior when dealing with customers

9.   Tolerant (C-17) works with diversity

10. Appropriate Language (C-7) recognizes that there is a workplace culture and adapts speech accordingly, doesn’t use slang or profanity, can be understood by all co-workers and by management

11. Self-control/self management (C-16) able to control behavior and the expression of strong emotion, especially anger, in the workplace

The lessons in First Job Survival Skills are indexed to the SCANS codes. Unit 2 directly references each one of the aforementioned SCANS codes.

Unit 1: Surviving The First 90 Days

The First Job Survival Series is a work skill resource that illustrates the interpersonal skills and personal qualities employees must have to survive and grow in the workplace. Experts consider the first 90 days to be the most important periods of any employee’s time on the job. Unit 1 focuses on teaching your students the work skills needed to survive the first 90 days, which include many of the must have attributes related to the SCANS codes, such as:

• Avoiding common pitfalls
• Knowing what the boss is looking for
• Proper work ethic
• Workplace manners and conduct
• Following directions
• Going the extra mile
• Being a team player
• Interview tactics
• Job-killer behaviors
• Work appearance

Unit 2: Character, Attitude, & Moving Up

The First Job Survival Series illustrates the interpersonal skills and personal qualities employees must have to survive and grow in the workplace. Surviving the first 90 days does not guarantee that he or she will become a permanent employee. Unit 2 teaches students the aforementioned TOP 11 skills needed for workplace success, which is directly derived from the SCANS codes.

Unit 3: Surviving Workplace Delusions of Grandeur

The First Job Survival Series illustrates the interpersonal skills and personal qualities employees must have to survive and grow in the workplace. Unit 3 addresses the very core of the causes for work failure-perceptions that new employees have in which they believe work is about them- their needs, their schedules, their egos, and their personal agendas. Unit 3 focuses on correcting these mistaken perceptions and expectations of entitlement that young people often bring to the workplace.

Many of the soft skills featured throughout First Job Survival Skills such as the character traits of trustworthiness, responsibility and being ethical, were once thought to be the exclusive purview of family life. However,  in our rapidly changing marketplace, where new technologies surface almost every other day, there is not only a greater emphasis on soft skills due to their strong relationship to workforce readiness, but also due to the vast numbers of students lacking them.

Therefore, as the Specialists In Special Education our goal is to ready your students for the workplace by teaching them vital work skills and soft skills needed for workplace success. Which is why soft skills and work skills are the center theme of our video modeling series, First Job Survival Skills.

The Stanfield Way

The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.

Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.

Stanfield Special Education Curriculum

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VideoModeling® is a ground-breaking teaching concept originated by the James Stanfield Company that’s used in thousands of public and private schools across America and Canada for special education needs.

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Susan Simon, Principal

Using Humor to Teach Social Skills

Humor = Retention

We believe you learn best when you laugh. By making the classroom experience more comfortable and enjoyable, humor can make teaching and learning more effective, especially for the K12 segment. At Stanfield, we use humor as an integral part of our curricula.

If you as a speaker don’t help your audience to remember your lessons, then you’re wasting everyone’s time. Humor… can help accomplish that needed retention…

Gean Perret, Screenwriter
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