3 Tips on How to Ask Someone to be a Reference

References are a vital part of your job search because they can attest to the quality of work you do and your work ethic. Your references should usually be individuals who are familiar with your work history and know enough about you that they can give valuable and detailed feedback to a potential employer. When possible, your references should also be people who are influential in your industry. Some examples of possible references you could use include former bosses, professors, supervisors, co-workers, and customers.

Once you’ve compiled a list of people who meet the qualifications and you are sure they will represent you well, you need to ask them if they’d be willing to be a reference for you. If you’re a little unsure on how to approach a potential reference, check out these tips to help get you started.

Contacting them? Phone calls, e-mails, or lunch meetings are all great ways to contact someone to be your reference. But, consider your relationship with a potential reference when deciding the best way to ask them. For example, if you aren’t on a first name basis with a former professor, or if you know their schedule is very busy, then meeting for lunch might not be the best option. Sending an e-mail and following up with a phone call might be a better option.

If you have a mentor, consider making a phone call to them rather than sending an e-mail because chances are you know them well and a phone call allows you to be more personable. There are many ways to contact a potential reference, so be sure to pick the one that’s right for the relationship you have with the individual.

What do I say? When asking someone to be a reference, there is specific information you want to make them aware of. Tell them why you chose them as a reference, what career choice you have chosen, and which potential employers might be contacting them. Give them a copy of your résumé and go over it with them. Be sure you have their correct contact information, company, and title. Also make a sidenote of how they prefer to be contacted. Inform them about what you have been up to and what you’re currently doing. Remember, the more information you give them the easier it is for them to recommend you to a potential employee. And make sure you thank them if they are willing to be a reference for you.

How do I follow up? After you’ve gotten permission to use someone as a reference, send them a thank-you note. This simple gesture will show them how thoughtful you are and will let them know you are grateful for their influence and impact in your life.

A good reference can go a long way to helping you land your dream job. So make sure you provide them with the information they need to give you the best recommendation possible. And, be sure you follow up to let them know how much you appreciate their willingness to be an advocate for you.

Other Resources:
Top Ten Go-To People For a Good Job Reference
5 Steps to a Brilliant Reference List

3 Areas to Improve your Health at Work

If you notice you feel stressed, bored, weak, or tired in the workplace, you may be experiencing the effects of your health habits. If this sounds like you, it may be time to boost your energy on the job. Follow these tips to improve your health in the workplace to help you feel energized, focused, and ready for whatever the day brings.

1. Eating Habits. Whether you’re looking to lose weight or just maintain good health, your eating habits can have a strong impact on your wellness and health. Before you head out to your favorite joint for lunch, keep these tips in mind for a happier, healthier you.

  • Don’t skip breakfast.Many of us skip breakfast because we don’t schedule enough time to eat in the morning. Eating a healthy breakfast can help you start the day right and avoid getting hungry before lunch. Also, it can help you stay focused and energized. Some great ideas for quick and easy breakfasts include: peanut butter and waffles, oatmeal, fruit and cheese, yogurt, or a strawberry smoothie. Making time for a healthy breakfast is also a great way to stay satisfied and avoid the usual office doughnuts.
  • Pack a healthy lunch and avoid eating out. Although eating out can be fun, only do it once in a while, and save the opportunity for a special occasion like catching up with a friend or celebrating a colleague’s birthday. On other days, pack your own lunch for work. Doing so allows you to pack healthy food options. Pick foods like salads and fruits that are packed with nutrients to help you function well in the workplace and not leave you feeling heavy and sleepy. And, as an added bonus, packing your own lunch can help you save money!
  • Snack healthy.Snacking doesn’t have to be bad, as long as you’re eating the right things. Be careful to avoid vending machine snacks at work. Although they are tasty and easily accessible, they are usually full of sugar and saturated fats. If you like to munch on food while you work, bring healthy foods from home. Nuts are a great choice because they contain unsaturated fats that help decrease bad cholesterol levels. And, if you do give in to the vending machine’ call, look for the healthier choices like animal crackers instead of chips.
  • Drink plenty of water. Drinking plenty of water will keep you feeling hydrated and refreshed. It will also help regulate your body temperature and avoid harmful effects from dehydration like headaches, dizziness, and tiredness. Many experts recommend drinking six cups of water daily.

2. Mental Health. The way we think can determine the way we function. When you’re stressed at work, it can be hard to concentrate on the task at hand. So, help relax your mind with these tips.

  • Get enough sleep.How much sleep you get can determine how your body and mind perform throughout the day. So, get enough rest to help you function at your best. Experts recommend that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each day.
  • Listen to music.Listening to music can have a soothing effect and can enhance your mood at any given time. So, plug in your headphones and listen to your favorite tunes to help you focus and block out any distractions. Music that is uplifting and relaxing is a better alternative than music that evokes anger and stress or makes you feel sleepy. Also, be sure to use headphones so the music itself doesn’t distract those around you or prevent you from hearing a phone ringing or someone asking you a question.
  • Read a motivating quote. Quotes can be inspirational, wise, or even funny. Pick a quote a dayand reflect on it. It may just change your outlook on things!
  • Use your vacation time. Make use of your vacation days when you can. If you have the time and your work schedule allows, take a break from work to do something fun or relaxing. This will enable you to come back to work feeling energized and refreshed.

3. Personal Health. According to a survey by the University of Arizona, the average desktop has more bacteria than any bathroom surface. And, when working with others, you’re sure to come in contact with germs. Guard against sickness like the common cold or flu with this advice.

  • Wash your hands and use hand sanitizers.Your computer mouse, keyboard, and phone can harbor huge numbers of germs. Protect yourself and others by washing your hands and using hand sanitizers in the workplace. This will help eliminate germs that can make you sick.
  • Clean your work area. Although many companies hire custodians to clean office space, take the responsibility to also clean your deskand pick up after yourself. If you don’t take the necessary precautions to clean your work area regularly, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Use disinfectant wipes to wipe the surface of your desk, keyboard, monitor, telephone, and anything else you may use while you work.
  • Take vitamins. Multi-vitamins rich in Vitamins C and D can help build your immune system. If you’re not sure what to take, ask your doctor which one is suitable for you.

When work and life get busy, it’s easy to get your health off track. But by following these easy tips you just may even outlast the energizer bunny to keep going and going at work.

Disclaimer: These general guidelines do not constitute medical advice. Please consult with a physician to determine best health practices for your needs.

Meeting Notes: How to Write them Well

Have you ever been overwhelmed during a meeting because you couldn’t keep up with the discussion and still take notes? Or, have you gotten frustrated because you couldn’t understand or even read your meeting notes afterwards. If you’re not accustomed to taking notes, it’s important to learn how to write clear, organized, and detailed notes for every meeting from brainstorming sessions to board meetings.

Note taking is important because it helps you keep track of tasks and important information you’ll need to remember later. But, it can also be a little frustrating, especially if you aren’t a fast writer or if you don’t know what information to write down. To help you get the most out of the notes you take at your next meeting, follow these easy tips.

Remember the 5 W’s. Your notes should contain general information you can use as a reference when necessary. So, think like a reporter and don’t forget the 5 W’s when you take meeting notes.

  1. Who. Write down who was present at the meeting so you know where to go if you have questions or follow up information.
  2. What. Write down what the meeting is regarding.
  3. When. Take note of when the meeting took place, including date and time. This is especially important when you know you’ll have multiple meetings for an ongoing project.
  4. Where. Briefly note where the meeting was held to help jog your memory for details about the meeting later.
  5. Why. State why the meeting is important, including the purpose and determined goals.
    Having the following information may also be useful to you in case you have to give an account of the meeting, need to inform an absent team member about the details discussed, or when you need to refer back to the goals and objectives.

Focus on what’s important. In order to take clear and detailed notes, you need to understand what works for you. Being conscious of your writing pace will help you record the more important things as opposed to irrelevant things. It is impossible to catch everything that is discussed in a meeting, so you should listen more than you write. By carefully listening, you will ensure that you take down the most relevant information. Be sure to write things you know you will need to act upon later or specific information like dates, times, names, and places.

Use action words to write your notes and symbols. If the notes are for your personal use only, you don’t necessarily have to write full sentences. As long as you can understand them later, you’re successful. For example, if you were reminded of a task you were previously given via e-mail, instead of writing the task all over again, you can make a little note to yourself to check your e-mail. This will save you the time of writing too much down and becoming overwhelmed.

In addition to using action words, come up with a group of symbols to highlight information you don’t want to miss. Try using a star to mark information you need to remember or a checkbox or action items that you need to attend to. This will make your notes more organized and easier to understand later.

Don’t forget your ideas and questions. When taking notes, write any ideas or questions you may have in a designated section. This is important so you don’t forget what you want to say. It will also prevent you from interrupting or cutting somebody off during the meeting. By making notes of questions and ideas, you will remember them when it’s your turn to speak.

Create a to-do list. Have a to-do list in your notes. Specify who is responsible for accomplishing what tasks and the deadlines for each task. Don’t forget to add your action item symbol when the task concerns you. After the meeting is over, make sure to insert your tasks into your calendar or schedule so you can keep track of your to-do list in one location. This will help you actually remember to accomplish them.

Taking notes doesn’t have to be a pain. Just remember to cover important topics and write in a clear and succinct manner.

The Fundamental Office Tasks No One Teaches You

FundamentalOfficeTasks In an office environment, everyone is responsible for accomplishing specific tasks that generally require training. But, knowing how to accomplish basic tasks in the workplace that everyone is responsible for is important and will help you get your job done more efficiently. However, employers don’t always spend a lot of time training new employees on the processes and procedures for common office tasks. No matter your position at your job, learning basic office chores like making copies and filing documents is essential to your work. Basic office responsibilities may seem simple, but every company differs in the way they answer the phone to the way they distribute office mail. If you’re already in the workforce or soon will be, the following are basic information you should know about general office tasks.

Electronics. Almost every office uses various types of electronics. Whether it’s a photocopier, fax machine, or printer, be sure to find out how to use the equipment in your office. Learn how to add paper and fix basic paper jams. If your office uses one, know the code required for your photocopier or fax machine. Have a supervisor or co-worker teach you how to use the office equipment to help you avoid lost productivity and the frustration you feel when you can’t make the quick copy you need. Since administrative assistants perform tasks like these on a daily basis, they can be a great resource when you have questions about equipment in your office.

Timecards. Timecards are used in most office environments, and it’s very important to know how to fill them out correctly. So, when you start a new job, make sure you learn the right way to complete your timecard. Find out the deadline to submit timecards and who to submit them to. If your office submits timecards online, make sure you add the website to your list of favorites and keep the correct login information on file.

Filing systems. Filing systems are methods of storing and organizing files and their data in an office. Every business and employee has different methods and systems for filing information. While you may be allowed to organize your files to your preference, other documents in your office like legal papers and contracts should be filed according to company standards. Some businesses use job jackets, hanging file folders, notebooks, specific computer programs, or a combination of filing systems to file important documents, so make sure you follow your company’s system when filing information digitally and in print.

E-mail and meeting management tools. Computer software like Microsoft Outlook a very useful tool to help you manage your e-mail and meeting appointments. If you’re not familiar with your team’s e-mail management system, check out the software's free tutorials to learn the ends and outs for the program. You could even learn a few tricks like flagging e-mails or scheduling tasks to utilize this tool to its full potential. But, whatever software you use to manage your e-mail, if you don’t purge your e-mail inbox on a regular basis, it can get clustered fast. Be sure to keep your inbox clean and perform regular maintenance. Also, follow the company’s policies on using company e-mail and other electronic communication devices.

Office phones. As simple as using a phone may be, office phones may have a lot of buttons that can be a little tricky at times. Get a list of the different codes and extensions for co-workers so you can reference them when needed. Also, make sure you know how to transfer a call, place a call on hold, and join conference calls. Find out how to program your voicemail. Learn the phone protocol for leaving the office at lunch or for a meeting. Be sure you know the proper phone etiquette your office requires when answering a call.

The mail system. Since you may occasionally have to send out mail, make sure you’re aware of your team’s mailing procedures for regular business mail, shipping services like FedEx and UPS, and inter-office mail. Some businesses assign individuals to pick up and deliver mail from department inboxes. Or, you may have to take items to be shipped directly to the mail room. Find out where the mail room is located and where you can get supplies like shipping boxes, business and inter-office envelopes, and shipping tape so you don’t waste time looking for them when you need to get something in the mail fast.

Ordering office supplies. Most offices have a policy for ordering supplies, so find out how to request the supplies you need and when they submit orders so you don’t have to do without your much needed Post-it notes or white out. Some companies only provide certain items so make sure you ask what supplies you’ll be able to access. Also, make sure you know who’s responsible for ordering.

Remember, all offices differ in one way or another and the best time to ask questions about basic tasks is when you’re still new to the job. Don’t sit back in your chair waiting for someone to teach you how to make copies, take the initiative and learn how to make them now. Then, you’ll be ready to tackle whatever projects come your way.

Saving Contacts for a Rainy Day?

Have you ever felt awkward calling someone you haven’t spoken to in months? The task can be especially daunting if you have to ask for a favor. Just the thought of it can cause your stomach to flutter with butterflies, your palms to sweat, and a large lump to grow in your throat. So you put off making the phone call or hope for the answering machine to pick it up. If you dislike the “sorry it’s been so long” phone call, the best way to avoid this is to maintain the quality relationships you’ve built with individuals in your industry. Instead of storing business cards in your wallet to gather dust while you save them for a rainy day, put them to good use and strengthen your business connections right away.

Networking is a very important tool for being successful in the professional world. Whether you’re looking for a job or trying to land a contract, making connections with people in your field can help open doors. Career fairs, networking seminars, conferences, or even volunteering at a local charity are all great places to network, but what you do after making those connections is what really counts. Maximize your networking relationships with these tips.

Connect with social networking: After you meet a new contact, find out if that professional has an account on a social networking site like LinkedIn or Twitter. If they do, make a connection with them. Following a contact on Twitter, for instance, is a great way for you to continue building a relationship with them, and vice versa. If they have a blog, leave comments and contribute to the conversation. And, remember that although you want them to know who you are, you don’t want them to think you are a creeper or a stalker, so leave comments or messages in moderation and always be professional.

Send e-mails or make phone calls: A good time to make a phone call or send an e-mail to a new contact is after you run into a person that can help enhance the success of your career. Either call or send an e-mail a day after meeting them, letting them know you enjoyed getting to speak with them. Also, inform them of your current status in the industry. If you are unemployed, they may refer you to a company looking to hire someone with your qualifications.

Send greeting cards: Greeting cards are a thoughtful way to stay in touch with someone. Depending on the relationship you have with the person, sending appropriate greeting cards can be a considerate gesture your contacts won’t forget. Send birthday cards, notes, or congratulations cards when you notice they’ve received an award or their company has an achievement. Also, keep in mind that hand-written cards will probably be more appreciated and memorable, since they’re not as common as e-mails. Most people communicate via e-mail because it’s more convenient. So hand-written notes help you stand out from the crowd and keep you top of mind. Always send a thank-you note whenever your contact helps you. Though a thank-you note may be short, the thought goes a long way!

Share industry articles: Sending industry articles or interesting materials you find that your contact could benefit from is also a thoughtful way of being helpful and staying in touch. You’re providing them with relevant information that shows you’re well informed about what’s going on in their industry.

Be a connector: Even as you look for influential contacts who can help you succeed, you should also be influential in helping your contacts to network. Find out how you can assist those you’re networking with and who you know that would benefit them. Introduce your contacts to other people you know to help make great connections, too.

Don’t become the awkward person who only calls when they need a favor. This can make you appear selfish and often leads to one-way relationships with your contacts. Ensure that both you and everyone you are networking with benefit from the relationships you share. You may be surprised how much of a difference you can make in the lives of those you help, not to mention the help you will get in return.

How to Excel on a Phone Interview

Have you ever had a phone interview? Every interview can be a little nerve wracking, but a phone interview can be particularly terrifying. Like calling a crush for the first time, it can put your stomach in knots. If you’re nervous about this type of interview, don’t panic. The following tips will give you a head start on how to be a success.

Be prepared. The first thing to remember is you have to treat phone interviews like you would face-to-face interviews. Be sure to research the company ahead of time and practice answering interview questions beforehand. A great advantage is that when you are interviewing over the phone, you can have a cheat sheet of important facts right in front of you. In addition to a cheat sheet, keep your resume or an outline with different points you will like to cover close by during the interview. Having the right information in front of you can be a great reference to help you answer potential employers’ questions.

Dress the part. Just because you’re not going to be seen during an interview doesn’t mean you should stay in bed during the call. Take a shower, get dressed, and present yourself as though you were expecting a guest. Your appearance will determine the way you communicate during an interview. If you interview looking like you just rolled out of bed, chances are, you will sound like that over the phone.

Conduct a sound check. Just like you should dress the part for an interview, you also need to sound the part. Also, warm up your voice with a phone call to a friend if your interview is early in the morning so you sound awake and alert. Remember, you can’t communicate non verbal cues over the phone, so having an enthusiastic and professional tone in your voice will go a long way to make a great impression. Be sure to enunciate, speak audibly, and exaggerate voice inflection when necessary. Since you’re probably having a conversation with this interviewer for the first time, don’t speak too fast. Take your time to get your message across, and ask for clarification when you don’t understand something. And, don’t forget to smile. A smile will enhance your mood and can be carried through the phone to sound warm and friendly.

Choose a good location. Location is key to any interview. Your location for your interview should be free of distraction and noise. Find a quiet place where you can concentrate. To be sure you have a good location, call a friend ahead of time from this quiet location to ensure they can hear you clearly and audibly. If they can’t, make adjustments. If you’re conducting your interview over a cell phone, make sure your phone service has good coverage in your chosen location to prevent the call from dropping.

Be respectful. Except in absolute emergency situations, never put an interviewer on hold. Value the time they are taking to interview you and make the best of it. Also be sure charge your phone in advance. You don’t want your phone to die mid-conversation! You want to show the employer that you are very interested in the position and that you are a responsible individual. In addition, follow the lead of the interviewer. Don’t rudely cut him or her mid-sentence, and take time to pay close attention to what he or she is saying. Also, let the interviewer hang up before you do, because you don’t want to accidentally hang up before they’re ready.

Ask questions. It’s important to ask questions during this time, because you may need to clarify certain things. By asking questions, you show you’re really interested in the position you’re interviewing for. You also want to make sure the position is the right fit for you, not just practice your conversation skills.

Follow up. Since you will not receive business cards after your phone interview, be sure to ask for contact information and how the interviewer prefers to be contacted. Just like with face-to-face interviews, send a thank-you note. Ask if they need you to take any other actions or send any necessary documents. Lastly, find out when you should expect to hear back from them about the decision and show your gratitude for the interview by thanking the interviewer for their time and willingness to speak to you. Also, be sure to send them a thank you note via e-mail or in the mail immediately following the interview. This will help you stand out from other candidates for the job.

Phone interviews don’t have to make you nervous if you follow these helpful steps. On the upside, these interviews are actually more convenient and time efficient than face-to-face interviews. Your personality is something that sets you apart so, just relax and let yourself shine!