Monthly Archives: June 2010

The iPhone Versus Workplace Etiquette: Take the Poll

Smart phones are once again the talk at the water cooler as co-workers chat up the recently-launched iPhone 4's features (and bugs) and compare notes on the latest in smart phone technology – from Android to Blackberry to iPhone and beyond. According to a recent ComScore study, over 45 million people in the U.S. own smart phones, the largest-growing segment of the 234 million-strong U.S. mobile phone market.

Now that mobile phone technology has advanced to the stage that people are carrying small, hand-held computers around with them on a day-to-day basis, the culture is definitely changing. From impacting e-mail habits to altering the way our brain processes information to changing the intrapersonal communication styles of a generation, mobile technology plays an important role in the digital age.

So this month, we want to know how smart phones affect etiquette in the workplace. Let us know your thoughts by voting in the poll below:

Surprising Facts About Workplace Friendships

EntryLevelLifeButton_A When you’re in the workforce, a large part of your day – and your week – is spent on the job. And having friends in the workplace can help make your workday more enjoyable. When you have friends in the workplace, it gives you somebody to talk to, brainstorm ideas with, and generally helps improve your overall productivity. According to a survey in Business Wire, 70 percent of all individuals surveyed said friendships create a more supportive and friendly environment to work in, while 56 percent said it increases workplace morale.

Although some workplace friendships can transition into lifelong friendships outside of the office, other times they can backfire and cause more harm than good. When that happens, it can lead to feelings of awkwardness between those involved and have a negative impact on careers and office environments. When it comes to developing friendships in the workplace, you don’t have to avoid them. But, it is important to be a little cautious. So here are a few words of advice to help  keep your workplace friendships happy and healthy.

Remember there’s work to do. You and your co-workers have tasks and duties to perform throughout the day and you have goals to meet. Make it a point to not spend your day around the office cooler gossiping about what company news you’ve heard. If you want to talk and catch up on what’s going on with your office buddies, reserve a few minutes at the beginning of your day, go to lunch together, or talk at designated break times. Just keep in mind that too much socializing throughout the day, especially when there are deadlines to meet, can cause strain and stress on your team, your job, and your friendship.

Be careful about what information you share. If you hang out with co-workers outside of work, be careful about what personal information you share, especially if you don’t want that information shared with other co-workers. Also make sure you don’t talk about other co-workers, supervisors, or the company. Depending on how well you know that person, what you say could get back to the office.

Don’t let the friendship take advantage of you. With friendships in the workplace, you might run into a situation where a friend wants some help with their daily tasks. It’s fine to help them out, but within reason. If they need help with some software, want to bounce an idea off you, need to switch lunch hours so they can leave a little early for a doctor’s appointment, these are examples of when it’s OK to help. But, if they’re wanting you to help cover up a mistake for them, wanting you to give them less constructive feedback, or slacking on their productivity and asking you to take on some of their work, these are examples of no-no’s. Being friends does not mean playing favorites at work. You have a job to do and so do they.

Friends are great to have at work. Just remember that at work, you have to keep your actions professional because you have a job to do first and foremost. Apply these tips to your job to ensure you develop quality relationships with others in the workplace without adding to workplace frustrations.

Things Your Mom Didn’t Tell You About the Work World

Think back to when you were in elementary school and got jitters on the first day back from summer vacation. Maybe it was your mom or another loved one who helped calm your nerves. They probably gave you advice like, “Don’t worry, just be yourself and everyone’s going to love you.” Now, fast forward to today and your working career. Does that advice still apply? To help you gain some perspective and clarity during those times when you need it, here is some advice your mom didn’t tell you about being in the workplace.

Not everyone’s going to love you. In the workplace, everyone has different personalities. Not everyone is always going to want to be your best friend, and that’s OK. You’re going to run into people you don’t get along with. But, be nice and polite with everyone you work with and focus on being a good employee who produces great work.

Be responsible for yourself. In the working world, you are responsible for you. No one else is going to baby you. You have to pick up after yourself and keep your workstation clean and organized. Also, your manager will provide you with direction on your projects, but getting them done is up to you. And, you need to prioritize what’s important as a worker and manage your time wisely to get your work completed on time. Check out these tips on organization and prioritizing. And, remember that It’s OK to talk with your co-workers, but keep the chatting to a minimum so you can be productive throughout the day.

Don’t just do the best you can. Workplaces today are competitive and many are looking for employees who are willing to go the extra mile on projects. Your mom might have been fine with you getting a C on a project or in a class when you were in school, but employers are looking for A+ effort when it comes to work. 

There’s no nap time or recess at work. Gone are the days when you got to take a nap at noon or go outside and climb around on the monkey bars to work off some energy. Your employer pays you to be productive throughout your work day, so make sure you get enough rest prior to coming to work. Set a time each night to be in bed and a time each morning to wake up. When you’re rested, you will have more energy, allowing you to cross more off your to-do list.

Life’s not fair. In your working career, you will probably run into events that aren’t fair, but in some situations, you won’t be able to do anything about them besides just accept them. Titles, raises, salaries – these are a few things in the workplace that sometimes seem unfair. Instead of dwelling on things you don’t have, look for the positive in what you do have. Continue working hard and don’t let “unfair” things slow down your progress or cloud your vision.

Everyone has those days when they wish they could have mom or someone else there to lend some advice when it’s needed. Instead, keep these tips close by for the next time you feel you need a reality check.

Your Job Search Elevator Pitch – Communicate Your Value in these 7 Easy Steps

Imagine you’ve walked into a networking event only to meet a potential employer you’ve been dying to snag an interview with. This is your chance. You need to make a good impression, and quickly. But you’re not sure what to say.

Wouldn’t it be great if you already had a short, targeted message ready to grab interest of your potential employer before he walks out the doors, taking your opportunity with him? What you need in these situations is a job search elevator speech, and not just your typical, “My name is Jane, and I’m an XYZ professional, nice to meet you.” So, here are seven tips to create a powerful job search elevator pitch that will hit the mark every time and help you spark the interest of potential employers.

Keep it short and focused. Of course, you should be able to go into a full-blown pitch on all you have to offer. But, this isn’t the time or place for that – yet. Experts suggest keeping your elevator pitch to 10-15 seconds. A sentence or two is perfect. Keep it focused on achieving your desired goal – such as to land an interview.

Brainstorm words and images. Think about what sets you and your skills apart from other people looking for a job in your industry. Then, come up with words and images that illustrate these ideas.

Lead with the benefits. A stranger doesn’t care about you or your need for a job. They don’t care how much experience you have or what your passion is. They care mostly about themselves. If you’re going to interest anyone in yourself and what you provide as a potential employee, you have to tune prospective employers in to what is referred to as WIIFM, or what’s in it for me? So, open your elevator pitch with how your work would benefit a company and its customers or clients.

Be real. Though you’re in the midst of a potential employment opportunity, don’t treat your elevator pitch like a sales transaction. People don’t typically enjoy interacting with pushy salespeople, so avoid acting too aggressive. Instead, focus on building a relationship first.

Tell a compelling story. People love stories and storytellers. They engage us and let us feel free to interact and converse. Telling a story with your elevator pitch is a great way to interest the listener and ensure the conversation moves forward into the details of what you do.

Don’t tell too much. Rather than divulging every aspect of who you are and what you do, create an elevator pitch that compels the listener to ask more about you. The best elevator pitches transition into conversations driven by the listener’s curiosity. This has the dual impact of engaging your new contact and enabling you to go into greater detail on your skills and expertise.

Stay flexible. No matter how much time you spend developing the perfect pitch, you’ll have to adapt it to each person you meet. Also, it’s vital to keep it updated and practice it regularly so it comes off naturally and sincere.

At some point in your job search, you’ll run across people who may benefit from your skills and background. It’s up to you to be able to communicate what that is in a way that catches their interest and leaves a lasting impression, making them curious to learn more about you.

Meeting Myths Revealed: Common Mistakes to Avoid

EntryLevelLifeButton_C Meetings are a common occurrence in the workplace. And, they are usually looked upon with the same excitement as a visit to the dentist. If the mention of a meeting makes you cringe or scream out of boredom, you’re not alone. Whatever your thoughts are about meetings, throughout your working career you will definitely sit in or lead your fair share of meetings. But, meetings don’t have to be boring or unproductive. When it’s your turn to lead your next department or team meeting, keep these common mistakes in mind and make sure you do the opposite to save your co-workers from another painfully bad and unproductive meeting wasting their time.  

I don’t need an agenda for every meeting. Don’t bother with an agenda if you want to have an infective meeting that doesn’t stay on track. But, if you want a good meeting, having an agenda is a must. In order to get where you want to go, you have to know where you’re going. Come to the meeting prepared with how it’s going to flow and what topics need to be discussed by the team. This will help keep the meeting focused, give it direction, and help it begin and end on time.

It’s not necessary to schedule a meeting on the calendar. Your co-workers will just remember that you want to meet with them in two weeks, won’t they? Wrong. It’s important that you use Outlook or software your company uses to book your next meeting on every attendee’s calendar. If you just send attendees an e-mail alerting them of the meeting, there’s a good chance it will get lost in their inbox and never added to a calendar. This means you might have co-workers forget to attend the meeting. Always be sure to get the meeting on their calendar so that they can be reminded of it. 

The meeting room is always available. Don’t assume there will be a space available for you and your team when it comes time to meet. When you’re creating the meeting and inviting attendees, be sure to check for conference room availability. Go ahead and reserve that room for the correct day and time. Include yourself as the contact person in case any questions or conflicts arise.

The attendees know what the meeting topic’s about. It’s important to remember that people can’t read your mind, so they don’t know what you’re thinking. No one likes to attend a meeting where they don’t know what will be discussed. When scheduling your meeting and creating the invitation for your co-workers, let them know in advance what the focus of the meeting will be. Also, let them know if they need to bring anything specific to the meeting or if they have a specific task to perform at the meeting or beforehand.

Everyone has to be in attendance. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “the more the merrier,” but in meeting situations this is not always true. When you have too many people attending a meeting it can turn into a nightmare to manage. When you schedule a meeting, keep in mind that not everyone has to or needs to attend. Only invite those individuals who absolutely need to be involved in the discussion. This will help you get the greatest outcome out of your meeting time and your co-workers will appreciate you for valuing their time.

It’s OK to start the meeting a few minutes late. What’s just a few minutes going to matter? Just know that those minutes are valuable. When you’re leading a meeting, always start on time. When someone sets a meeting, it’s important to show up and start on time – not five or 10 minutes late. When meetings don’t start when they’re supposed to, they usually don’t end when they should either. Time is a precious tool for many these days, and there is usually not a lot to spare for late meetings.

Meetings don’t have to be horrible. You can break the “awful meeting” mentality by being great at leading your meetings. Remember, you don’t have to lead a meeting because your boss has always led them a certain way. Everyone leads differently, but follow these tips along with the 5 Ws of Successful Meeting Management to showcase your great leadership abilities and be the meeting manager your workplace can’t live without.

5 Interview Questions You Need to Be Ready For

From the straight forward to the ridiculous, some interview questions can be difficult to answer. And, apart from federal, state, and province prohibited questions – like inquiries regarding your race, religion, nationality, marital status, or age – the sky’s the limit for employers on job related questions to ask during an interview. To keep you on your toes and to learn more about your ability to be creative and thoughtful under pressure, some employers have even been known to ask hypothetical questions about what type of superhero or animal you would be. So, it can be hard to anticipate the types of questions you’ll be asked. But, preparing in advance by staging your own Q&A could help keep you from being caught off guard in your next interview.

While you can’t anticipate every question, there are a few questions you should expect to hear during an interview. They may be asked in different ways, but these common questions are a staple in every company’s interview process, so be sure you’re prepared to answer them.

Can you please share a little bit about yourself? Often the go-to opener for interviewers asking you to describe yourself, this question gives employers an opportunity to break the ice, ease into the interview, and get you talking. When asked, just give a brief summary of relevant facts about your education, work experience, and your reason for applying. Be sure to demonstrate an attitude of enthusiasm and confidence when you’re telling about yourself. Be engaging, positive, outgoing, and let your personality shine through.

What are your strengths? In your spare time, you may be an excellent baker or candlestick maker, but when asked, make sure you discuss strengths that would complement and benefit the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re interviewing for an administrative position, expound on your organizational skills or your can-do attitude – and be sure to give specific examples of times you demonstrated those strengths at work or during a difficult situation. Potential employers need to know what you can do for their company and strategically sharing your strengths is a great way to communicate your abilities.

What are your weaknesses? Sharing your weaknesses is a little more intimidating than sharing your strengths, but you can still show employees your good qualities by being honest about your weaknesses and letting them know how you’re working to improve them. Make sure you pick only one or two weaknesses to discuss. Keep them brief and relate them back to your job. Avoid character flaws like anger issues or an inability to work with others, and remember to explain how you’re actively remedying your weaknesses.

Where do you see yourself in five years? For some, questions about future goals and plans can be difficult to answer. But, by putting some thought into your answer, you can show your drive, ambition, goals, and interests. Just make sure your answer also shows you’d be willing to grow with the company you’re interviewing with.

Do you have any questions? At the end of an interview, most employers will ask if you have any questions for them. So, be sure you do your homework and have some questions of your own prepared. Having thoughtful questions to ask your potential employer demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm for the position. And, it will help you close the interview with confidence. Not sure what questions to ask in your interview? Check out these seven great questions to get you started.

You can’t plan for every question you’ll be asked in an interview. But, you can practice answering common interview questions most employers ask to better prepare for your next job interview.

Does Your Boss Respect Your Ideas? How to Pitch Ideas Effectively

EntryLevelLifeButton_E Do you have a great idea for a project or one you think might make your work better, help generate profits, solve an issue, or improve workplace productivity? A brilliant idea that doesn’t go anywhere is a lost cause. That’s why it’s important to know how to pitch your ideas to your boss and co-workers to help get your plans implemented. But, pitching an idea isn’t always an easy process. You have to sell it! To help you amaze your boss with your genius and creativity, here are a few tips to pitch like a pro.

Identify a need. The greatest ideas are the ones that help solve a need or problem. Discover what value your idea has and be able to highlight the benefits in your pitch. An employer wants to know what’s in it for them, their business, and their team, if they were to implement your plan into action. Clearly explaining the advantages and potential impact of your ideas to your boss will definitely help improve your chances of getting the green light on your ideas.

Create a sales pitch. After you’ve identified a need, outline exactly what you want your boss to know about your idea. Take a tip from a reporter – for any story they write, they answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. Outline your answers to these questions for your idea. For example, describe what your idea is and who will benefit from it as well as who will need to be involved to help implement it.

Pitch to trusted colleagues first. Before you run your ideas by your boss, take some time to share them with a few co-workers you know will give you honest feedback. Practice your pitch on them and see what they think. This will allow you to receive tips on what presentation style elements work and what concepts can be tweaked to make your idea more solid. The more solid your idea, the stronger your chances are of seeing it move into action.

Also, think about some possible objections your manager might have, and consider what you would say in return. It’s always better to be over-prepared when pitching your ideas rather than winging it. The better prepared you are, the more confidence you can exude when you meet with your manager.

Pitch to your boss. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for, so give it your best effort! Believe in yourself and what you’ve created. If you’re not confident about what you’re trying to sell, why would others believe your project is a winner? Stand tall and let your boss and co-workers see your excitement. And, even if your boss doesn’t think it’s the right time to implement your idea, they will respect you for the time, effort, and thought you put into your idea. They will remember this the next time you have something to pitch.

Don’t oversell. Don’t say your idea will accomplish things it won’t. There’s nothing worse than underperforming on a project that you promoted. From the beginning, be open and honest with what your idea can accomplish.

Accept the outcome. Sometimes your ideas will pass with flying colors and sometimes they won’t.  If you have an idea that your manager doesn’t think will work, see if there’s another solution to help improve it. Sometimes all that needs to be done is a little tweaking. But, if your idea absolutely doesn’t get approved, it’s not the end of the world. Be glad that you gained some experience with pitching your ideas, and head back to the drawing board to come up with your next brilliant idea.

Pitching ideas might be a little more difficult than the actual brainstorming, but you can have your boss saying “eureka” to your new idea with just the right pitch. With these tips in mind, you have a great starting point. You never know what the future holds for you or your ideas until you pitch them.