Category Archives: Career Resources

Avoid These Four Business Email Errors

There is a need to understand what is and isn’t appropriate to include in an email, especially in the business world. Here are some things that you definitely should not include in a business email.

Informality

Especially if you’re communicating with clients or those higher up in your company formality is very important. Using an informal tone, text-like abbreviations (lol), or emojis, is not appropriate. In fact, this may annoy people. When you use this kind of informality, it conveys a lack of respect for the person you’re communicating with, as well as the information you’re communicating. If you want to be taken seriously—and not receive a reprimand—don’t use any form of informality in your business emails.

Misspellings, improper format, missing subject line

Misspelled words are a quick turn-off to someone reading your business email. It is seen as very unprofessional, and it damages your reputation. Spell check is incorporated into email, but that doesn’t let you off the hook. Always, always, ALWAYS read through your email once, and then twice to make sure that everything is spelled correctly. Spell check can actually cause a mistake.

Re-reading will also help you to catch improper format or bad grammar. If it was necessary to copy and paste text into your email, sometimes that leaves the format looking strange, so be aware. Additionally, unusual fonts or images may translate into something completely different to the receiver. Make sure that your font is professional and business-like.

A missing subject line is a quick way to find your email in the recipient’s spam. The email software could automatically send it there, and if not, the recipient may just as easily do that rather than open an unknown correspondence. Make your subject clear and to-the-point. This keeps your email from ending up in spam and increases the probability of your email being opened and responded to promptly.

Angry or emotional messages

If a problem arises between you and a coworker, do not, I repeat, do not respond in an email. There is a disconnect between the brain and the keys that make you write things that would never have been said in public. Don’t give in to the urge to respond immediately in an angry fashion. Choose instead to let those emotions fizzle down, and then talk to that person either face to face or over the phone. Protect your reputation and keep from any embarrassment.

Quit Your Job

This is a deceptive way of avoiding conflict, but it will result in bridges being burned. When it comes time to quit your job, you owe your boss the respect of handing in your resignation face-to-face. Don’t take the easy way out—by quitting over email.

Those are four of the most common business email errors that you should avoid. Don’t let your reputation be damaged by this simple and useful tool for communication. Instead, start using proper email habits. Both you and your recipients will be glad you did.

Answering the Quitting Question

There could be many different reasons for why you left your last job, or currently looking for a new opportunity while still employed. In an interview, you need to be able to articulate those reasons well without digging yourself into a hole.

All About Perspective

Whatever your reason for leaving, don’t let the negatives become the focus. Explain the benefits of what happened. If you felt like you couldn’t grow any more in the job you’re in, emphasize how you feel the job you’re applying for would give you those growth opportunities. If you were laid off, hopefully it wasn’t because of any fault of your own. Talk about how you and your boss still have a good relationship (maybe they’re even one of your references!). But only do this if you actually do have a good relationship still. There are plenty of negative reasons for quitting a job, but you don’t want to air those during an interview. Instead, find the positives and draw their focus there.

Be Honest, Not Comprehensive

Be tactful and succinct. Express why you want to leave or have left your position, but again, don’t be negative about it. Industries can be interconnected, so you’ll never know if the interviewer(s) know your previous boss or someone in their HR team in some capacity. Plus, if you indulge in complaining about your current or past workplace to the interviewer of this new job, they’ll probably wonder how long it will be until you’re complaining about your new job.

Practice giving a to-the-point answer as to why you’re making this change. Don’t give in to the temptation to complain or point fingers at your workplace. Don’t over talk it.

Consider Your Response

What are some responses for why you’re quitting/have already quit your job? A few could be: a recruiter contacted you and the role sounding intriguing, your current company has limited growth potential, your current company is not investing in new technology and/or in their employees, you had to take care of a sick family member (only if this is true), the job you’re currently applying for was just such a good opportunity, or the growth of this new company is very exciting. All of these are acceptable answers and are much better than just saying, “I hated my job and wanted to leave”. Your next employer wants you to be honest with them, but how you phrase your responses will help them to see the validity of your choice.

How you present yourself and your position is a huge factor in getting a job. Being able to articulate why you left/are leaving a job in a way that shows respect for your previous employer can be key to you being selected for a job. Always show excitement for the opportunity and challenges ahead. With some practice (literally saying the answers out loud) and forethought, you can effectively answer the quitting question.

Grow in These 7 Areas to Become a Quality Leader

Do you aspire to be in a leadership position in your company one day? If you want to be a good leader, these qualities are essential to your success.

Communication

Could your current communication proficiency even be called a “skill”? Communication as a leader is key to your success because your team needs to understand your vision, know what you need from them and when. Articulating what needs to be done, and then motivating your team to do that is an important skill. Also, being able to communicate to your team what they’re doing well and what they need to improve on is key. You must be willing to have tough conversations without scaring off the person. You also need to know how to effectively and concisely communicate up to your management team

Consistency

Do your words match up with your actions? Are you someone that practices what they say? If not, then your people won’t want to follow you. No one respects or wants to listen to a hypocrite. You have got to be willing to do those difficult jobs that most would avoid before you can expect your team to do them. A leader that leads by example consistently is one that people will want to follow.

Vision

What does your company want to accomplish? What is your goal in making that happen? You’ve got to have this nailed down. What are your ideas? In what way can you implement them successfully? First, you need to understand your vision and how to make it happen. Second, you need to be able to communicate and share that with your people. Help them to catch the vision, and you’ll all go far.

Goals

Set goals. You want your team to feel a sense of accomplishment by reaching a goal, and that’s impossible if they don’t know exactly where that goal is set. Make clear goals, communicate those to your people, then help them work towards meeting those goals. Both you and your employees will feel a great sense of accomplishment when your goals are reached. Companies like to have measurable goals whenever possible, so keep that in mind when setting goals.

 Humility

No one enjoys being around a know-it-all. So, don’t allow yourself to develop that mindset. Just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean that you’ve “arrived,” so to speak. You’re still just as human and prone to error as the rest of your people. Be willing to admit your faults and learn from your employees. This helps them develop respect for you. Leaders who charge ahead and turn a deaf ear to the ideas and thoughts of their people won’t get very far.

Accountability

This one goes along with humility. Being willing to be accountable and setting that up is very important. You’re an employer, not a dictator. Let your employees know that they can bring up issues that they see to you. Establish that trust with them, so that they feel comfortable in approaching you respectfully with their concerns. It is very easy to become blind to things that are very close to you, so having those extra eyes on the lookout will greatly help in your success.

Learn

This is also tied in with humility, because you are always learning and growing. In this industry, there is always new data, new technology and new methods. If you’re unwilling to learn, grow and understand the new ways of doing things, you’ll quickly find yourself falling behind. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in a prideful mindset that inhibits growth. Instead, purposefully look for ways to grow and set an example to your people.

There are plenty of leaders out there, but the exceptional, quality leaders are the ones who practice and grow these 7 areas in their lives.

5 Ways to Make Your Boss Glad They Hired You

Your boss has a lot going on, whether it’s managing people or responding to those who are in charge higher up. With all that going on, there are things they want you to be doing that they might not express. Here are five action items that will make your boss glad that they hired you.

Express

When your boss presents an idea, look for ways that you agree or how it could be beneficial. You may not think the whole idea is the best, but there will be parts that you can get on board with. Reinforce those first, then later on, address your concerns with him or her. The best way to present those, however, is sandwiching them between compliments on the better parts of the idea.

On the other side of that, don’t be afraid to disagree with your boss. You weren’t hired to nod along with everything your boss says. Be willing to express your different opinion or opposing viewpoint in a respectful way that will result in a better project overall.

Inquire

Be willing to ask how your boss thinks you can improve. Your boss will love an employee who is willing to take constructive criticism and let it change how they do things. Use this to measure how you’re doing in your work projects, with your coworkers, etc. Just be willing to think about what they say and apply what fits. Nothing is more annoying than someone asking for advice and then never following through. Make sure to ask for a meeting on a consistent basis (every 3, 4 or 6 months), not just once.

Initiate

An employee taking initiative and getting things done without the boss having to get on their back…now that’s a person the boss would love to have work for them. When you see something that needs to be done, do it! Don’t wait around for your boss to have to ask you or another employee. If you’re not sure about it, then you can ask. Most managers would agree, they would rather have someone who would take the initiative and not get it 100% right than to have someone who never made the effort at all. This especially applies when new technologies are introduced.

Volunteer

Your boss is going to have projects that most team members probably aren’t going to want to be involved in because they see no benefit to themselves. Rise above this mentality of self-seeking and volunteer to help your boss out. Remember that they’re a person too, and as such, they have bosses that they answer to. Show some camaraderie in assisting your boss. This can also benefit you because their estimation of you will instantly go up. Next time there’s a job opening further up, they’ll also remember your initiative and willingness to work on projects that were outside of your job description.

Own

Don’t keep playing the pass-the-blame game. If something happened that shouldn’t have, and you were at fault, own up to that. No matter how uncomfortable it makes you, be willing to take ownership for your mistakes. This shows that you’re responsible, and if your attitude is humble, that you’re also willing to learn from them. No one likes to make errors, but we all do. How you respond after you make an error tells a lot about your character and will stand out to your boss.

Keep working on these five things, and your boss will definitely be glad that you’re on their team. Rise above those around you who are only interested in their own careers and strive to be a team player, your boss included in that team.

Deal With It, Handling Conflict at Work

Unless you’ve got your head stuck in the sand, you know that conflicts happen at work. Maybe you’re embroiled in one now and that resolution isn’t always easy. However, just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. See conflict as an opportunity to grow as a person, develop better communication and foster an open environment at your work.

Get To The Root Of The Issue

Why is this conflict happening? Is it really all on the other person, or do you have some responsibility to take? You need to be able to sincerely and truthfully look at yourself. Have you contributed to the problem in any way at all? If you can’t admit your fault, then you really can’t expect the other person to do so either. Once you’ve identified any area where you may have been at fault, address that with the other person.

There are two biggies for why conflict may be happening in your workplace:

Miscommunication

Often miscommunication is the culprit for why you’re having issues. Did you say something that the other person took in a completely different way? Or are you missing some of the facts for the conflict? Lack of information and miscommunication is a major drawback. Clarifying miscommunication often can help resolve the conflict. However, if not, getting a fuller understanding of what is happening and why will be hugely beneficial.

Emotion

As you spend more time with people and get more comfortable with them, emotions can start to run higher. Home life and stress at work are also big contributors. Are the emotions that are being expressed because of other factors? Is the problem the other person, or is it something at home that has you—or them—on edge?

Be Direct

Generally, people don’t want to address the issues they’re facing with another person. It’s uncomfortable and all-around not fun. However, your workplace will continue to vibrate with tension until the issue is resolved.

When approaching the other person, be careful how you phrase things. Admit to your responsibility in contributing to the problem, then respectfully bring up what you believe their part was. Do so in as non-confrontational a way as possible. If this means leaving work and having a lunch together and discussing the situation, by all means, do so. Just don’t allow the conflict to continue to simmer. Act as adults in the workplace and take care of the problem.

Make sure that by addressing the conflict that you’re talking with the person the problem is with. Don’t go around the office, asking everyone their opinion and subtly gossiping with those people in the process. If the problem gets out of hand or you need a mediator, that’s one thing. But spreading it around will not be helpful or conducive to fixing the issue. Sometimes co- workers can lose respect for you not handling an issue and having to work in a tense environment, so take action immediately.

No matter how much you enjoy your workplace and your colleagues, you will have a conflict at some point. Whether you observe it happening with others or it happens to you, you’ll have the chance to deal with it. Choose to do so in a smart, considerate way, and everyone at the office will thank you. Don’t let emotions or continued miscommunication get in the way. Address the problem promptly, and then get back to work at that job you love.

4 Simple Ways to Express Your Strengths

One of the single most dreaded questions during an interview is: “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” The weaknesses part is a discussion all by itself, so today we’re going to look at your strengths.

  1. Be specific

“I’m a hard worker” is not specific. That’s a very general answer that everyone would claim. Instead, saying “Once I commit to a job I do whatever needs to happen to get it done,” is a better option.

Whatever strength you say you have, follow it up with a short, 1-2 minute story. How did this strength play out at your last job? In what way did you use your strengths and develop them?

If you’re having trouble figuring out what your strengths are, ask a friend or a coworker you trust. You can also go back and look at performance reviews or compliments from your boss. What stood out to them? That’s probably a strength you have.

  1. Be relevant

Since you’ve already discovered what your various strengths are, consider the position you’re applying for. Does it require a certain skillset? What descriptions about the job carry subtle cues as to what will be needed? Part of being able to sell yourself and what you can do well is knowing what the company needs. How do you fit this job with your unique strengths? If you can first understand that, then communicate it to the interviewer, you’ll leave an impression. Rather than just another interviewee wanting a job, you’ll be someone who knows what the company needs and knows how to fit that need to a ‘T’.

  1. Be realistic

Don’t come up with a strength that you don’t have. If you claim to know French fluently but don’t, you’ll be in big trouble if you’re asked to communicate with developers or vendors there. Google Translate will not serve you well for long.

You have specific talents and abilities. Don’t sell yourself short—or prove yourself a liar—by claiming a strength that’s not your own.

  1. Be yourself

Your greatest asset for getting this job is knowing you. You are a unique individual and no other candidate is exactly like you. That’s what you need to express. In what way do you stand out from the crowd? Let your personality show as you explain your strengths and weaknesses in the interview. Don’t allow stress or nerves to turn you into a robot.

With that said, you can also practice expressing what your strengths are. Write out what you would say, and practice saying it out loud. So many people are surprised how it sounds when they say it out loud compared to in their head. Know how to communicate what makes you a valuable asset to their company. Develop your skills in this area. You may be like many others who don’t necessarily feel comfortable tooting their own horn. However, this isn’t a pride issue. Unless you ramble on and on about how you’ll be this company’s greatest asset ever, the interviewer will welcome you explaining more about yourself. After all, they won’t know unless you tell them.

Interviews can be a big blank spot for a lot of people. That doesn’t have to be you. When you learn what your strengths are and have the ability to communicate those properly, it will get you a long way, and could even land you that job.

How to Deal with an Overly Controlling Boss

Have you ever had a boss who is always peeking over your shoulder, constantly needing to be involved in your work, or sending you a detailed-to-the-max list? If so, you know how it feels to be micromanaged. As much as you would wish the situation would just go away, you may have to learn how to deal with this kind of boss.

Understand the Cause

There are several reasons why a boss may micromanage. None of them is an excuse for this behavior but knowing “the why” may help you in dealing with them. Basically, this kind of person is a control freak. The need for control can come from a lot of different areas, the principal one being fear. Are they getting a lot of pressure from their boss to produce at a certain level? Are they feeling the stress of a competitive workplace? Whatever it is, knowing this can help in resolving the issue.

Maybe part of the cause is yours or your coworkers’ behavior. Examine your own work. Have you been turning projects in late? Are there things you’ve relaxed or that you need to tighten up? It could be that your manager took the fall for a project for which you or one of your coworkers were responsible. First, be willing to check your work and habits, and if you’ve got an area for improvement, start there!

Think Ahead

Are you constantly reminded to do things that are on your regularly scheduled to-do list? Get ahead on some of those, so that when you’re reminded of them, you can go ahead and tell your manager you’ve already completed it.

Communicate with your coworkers what you’re working to accomplish. If you’re all working to show that you can do your jobs well, this will help your micromanager understand that they don’t need to be controlling.

You can also keep track of what you’re doing so that if your manager asks you about it, you can show them right then and there. This may also help if they require updates on what you’re doing. By showing that you’re aware of what you’re supposed to be doing and that you’re getting it done, you’ll boost their confidence in your abilities.

Talk to Them

It may come down to confronting—in a gentle, respectful way—your manager about this issue. This can be very difficult to do, especially if you’re in a workplace where you don’t know your manager well. If possible, try talking to them and letting them know how their actions are impacting you. They may not even know what they’re doing.

If you can’t necessarily approach them in that way, then see if you can get them to agree to letting you work on a project on your own—without any day to day interference. Let them know that at the end of the project you’d welcome a meeting with them. Then you can talk about what you did well and what needed improvement. When you excel, your manager will see that you, at least, don’t need such constant supervision.

There’s no easy way to deal with micromanagers, but it can be done. If you’re willing to put in the work, you may be able to help change their attitude towards you and you will enjoy your workday more.

How to Use Effective Humor to Improve Your Workplace

Humor at your workplace? Bite your tongue!

But really, humor has great benefits, if done well. People who laugh together create a bond. When you’re enjoying some humor at the office, you’ll generally be more productive and enjoy being at work. However, if humor is done the wrong way or taken too far, you can quickly crash and burn. Here are some ways to properly use humor at work.

  • When in doubt…

Your idea of funny may not exactly line up with everyone else’s in your office. Something funny to you could be offensive to the next person. When you’re considering a joke, if you’re not sure if you should say it, then don’t. Better to err on the side of caution. Your goal may be to lighten up the atmosphere, but if your joke goes south, it’s going to make that atmosphere even worse.

  • “And then I…”

Being able to laugh at yourself is a great trait. Seeing the humor or irony in situations you find yourself in assures that you’re not offending someone by poking fun at them. Also, being able to laugh at yourself is a good way for people to see that you don’t take yourself too seriously. As with all jokes, just don’t go overboard. You still want your colleagues to respect you.

  • Train yourself

Start to train yourself to see the humor in certain situations. Irony or seeing the absurd is a great chuckle-inducer. Even if you never voice what you find funny, being able to have a lighter perspective on your environment can be helpful to you personally.

  • Stop the passive-aggressiveness

Humor or making jokes about someone is not the way to go if you have an issue with them. Rather, talk with them directly. Mean-spirited joking really isn’t funny, even if people go along with it and give it a chuckle. If you have to say, “I was only joking!”, or you find yourself complaining that “they don’t know how to take a joke,” then you’ve got a problem.

  • Just be you

Can you tell a joke? Can you really? Let’s be frank, there are just some people who can’t tell a good joke, and that’s okay. Contribute with a smile or a laugh! Be who you are, don’t try to force something when it isn’t natural. Just remember, you can learn how to develop this aspect of yourself.

  • Think outside the ordinary

The opportunities are limitless for you to come up with a unique way to use humor. From personal choices to office-wide interactions, you can come up with some crazy good ways to have fun. If you’ve got an idea, see if you can get your manager on board. The more support you’ve got, the greater chance the rest of your colleagues will want to join in on the fun.

Not nearly enough workplaces employ humor well, or at all. Be the change at your job and see if you can bring some levity with you to work. The health benefits are numerous, the camaraderie building is beneficial, and it just makes life better.

 

5 Keys to Building Relationships at Work

Influencing people is the key to getting people to do something for you when they don’t directly report to you. You can be a developer, network engineer, project manager, or an executive and if you don’t have solid relationships with the people in your organization you won’t be able to influence people and your career will become stagnant.  Just because you haven’t “clicked” with your team yet, doesn’t mean it can’t still happen. There are ways to figure out what makes the people around you tick and see how that links you both. With some thoughtfulness and strategy, you can build relationships with your peers, leadership and business stakeholders.

Be an Active Listener

Part of what breaks down relationships between coworkers is a lack of understanding about the other person. Why is this? A huge reason is that no one is really listening. Oh, we hear others just fine. But there is a huge difference between hearing and listening. When you practice active listening, you’re listening to understand, not to respond. A way to convey this to the other person is by asking intelligent questions about what they said, to clarify what they’re communicating. You want your coworkers to really know you, right? Well, start by trying to really learn who they are. Listen to what they’re saying and pay attention to the subtle inferences. You can learn a lot about a person by what they’re not saying.

Know the Facts

What’s their name? If you can’t get this basic information down, you’re in major trouble. Know their name, remember information about their family, be aware of what is important to them in their lives. You may have too many people at work to go in-depth with all of them, which may not be a wise move regardless. At least know their names and then find out something of significance about each of them. Note their name, their partners name, kids names, areas of responsibility or any other facts about them in their contact in your phone so you don’t have to only rely on your memory.
When someone has the thoughtfulness to ask about something that’s important in your life, it makes you feel like they see you as important. Create this bonding feeling in others.

Be Willing to Share

No, this isn’t about being willing to lend your stapler to the guy two cubicles over, though that would be nice. This is more about participating in another’s life. Did someone you’ve spent some time talking with get promoted or scored that big contract? Share in their excitement. Congratulate them. Don’t even allow jealousy or envy to brew. Also, the reverse. Maybe they’ve suffered a family setback, and they share that with you. You may have no idea how they’re feeling but be willing to express a response.

Look for the Best

Probably everyone can think of that one person at the office who rubs them the wrong way. Rather than dwell on his or her annoying traits, do your best to discover something positive about that person. Maybe they’re good collaborators or are willing to do the jobs that others aren’t. You can always find the bright side and changing your attitude about them will help you out a lot when interacting with them. Who knows, maybe there are those at work who you unwittingly annoy. You’d certainly want them to recognize the good qualities you have, rather than only focus on that one thing.

Be Patient

You’re not going to walk into the office tomorrow and find everyone eager to shake your hand and share about their lives. In fact, that would probably be a little weird. The key to building relationships, for the first time or continuously, is time and effort.

The office isn’t your social playground, but it doesn’t have to be a cold, unfriendly, lonely place either. If you’re willing to take that first step and start working on developing relationships, others will be much more interested in meeting you halfway. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find your next good friend at work or get a promotion because of your ability build relationships and influence others.

Taking Down the Big Four: Bad Habits that Need to Go

Whether they show up at home or on the job, everyone has at least one bad habit. Those that keep creeping up at your job can actually derail your chances for success. Though these habits probably won’t result in you being fired, they may cause others to dislike you. While you don’t have to try to please everyone, here are a list of things that you should change.

These are the big four bad habits and how to change them.

  1. Always Coming in Tardy

There are multiple reasons for why this is happening, and many ways to fix it. Showing up late for work or a meeting doesn’t only affect you. When you’re late, that throws off the rest of the day’s scheduled meetings. It also shows that you devalue other’s time, which is a sure way for coworkers to dislike you. Whether you intend for this subtle message to be communicated or not, frequent tardiness can be very damaging to others and to your reputation.

How to fix it: If you’re late because you keep hitting the snooze button, set your alarm for earlier than usual. Maybe part of your routine is setting you back. Adjust that and make the necessary change. By putting in the effort to eradicate this bad habit, you’ll communicate that you do care about others.

  1. Never Having Anything Good to Say

Do people avoid you because of your frequent negativity and bad attitude? This probably isn’t something that will get you fired, but it will become an issue before too long. When you consistently complain or only point out the negative aspects of an idea, people will avoid you, because it sucks the life out of their day too.

How to fix it: You’re going to have issues at work, and it’s not always going to be hunky-dory. Bring ideas for solutions to problems to your peers and/or boss. You may find out that your suggestions not only improve your situation but could also help you get a better raise or even get promoted faster. If you have tried offering suggestions and it did not work, rather than voicing your many, loud complaints, leave them at home. Express yourself to a friend or family member if needed. If they’re major concerns, then take them to your manager or HR. You don’t, however, need to air those all over the office.

  1. Indulging in Gossip

Nothing can damage your reputation faster than trying to tear down someone’s character. Don’t lower yourself by talking badly about someone behind their back.

How to fix it: Consider how you would feel if someone was talking badly about you. A good check for this bad habit is also imagining if you said this to their face. Would you? If not, then don’t say it to anyone else. This includes online or electronic communication too.

  1. Using Improper Communication

When communicating to your superiors, please do not write an informal email peppered with text message abbreviations, inappropriate language and emojis. This includes grammar, spelling and tone. If you would not want it posted in the newspaper, don’t write it!

How to fix it: Pay attention to those red lines and do a little work brushing up on basic spelling and grammar rules. You’ll be glad you did. Also, when communicating professionally, keep that same mind set. Don’t allow yourself to slip into an informal way of communicating just because you’re using electronic means.

If you need help in identifying your bad work habits, ask a trusted office friend or your boss; just make sure you’re able to accept the response. Put in the effort to fix your bad workplace habits; and see how people respond. You—and your reputation—will be glad you did.