Monthly Archives: June 2011

Top Elevator Speech Blunders


The term “elevator speech” has become widely used in the business world yet many job seekers are still unsure of its meaning. The idea of an elevator speech is to have a prepared presentation that grabs attention and says a lot in only a few words. Your core message should market yourself and/or your business in a way that makes your audience want to know more, rather than less about your professional endeavors.

With the pressure to craft something that conveys a huge impact in a short amount of time comes the opportunity for some mistakes. However, by being aware of these common elevator speech blunders, you’ll be well on your way to gaining the attention and respect of your next audience.

Not trying
The most common mistake is also the most simple to avoid; when it comes to elevator speeches, not trying is simply not good enough. Typically the thing that holds individuals back the most is their nerves. 

Nerves can be addressed by practicing your elevator speech as much as possible. Your speech doesn’t have to be the exact same each time, but it should include key points that captivate your audience. These points can be researched, prepared, and shaped as you progress in your career. Remember that you are not guaranteed a perfect elevator speech simply by practicing – but the more thought and time you put into your elevator speech, the more likely you are to yield successful results.

Not preparing
Oftentimes, when someone asks what you do for a living, the response is typically your job title or position, “I’m an artist – or a teacher – or a receptionist.” Your audience will most likely say, “That’s nice,” and discontinue conversation. Instead, use words that interest your listener and force them to ask more questions.

Instead of simply saying you work in IT, respond with something that highlights your accomplishments like, “I work with small businesses that are struggling with computer problems.” Your audience’s ears will perk up immediately. Make each line you deliver effective. Remember, you only have a few seconds with your audience, so make sure your time is well spent.

Not relevant
Although stating you work for a company that has been in business for 60 years and it’s located off Main Street may identify your business’ location, it doesn’t tell your audience what you do to bring value to the company or how the business impacts the community. Remember, you have a very limited amount of time during an elevator speech. Avoid details that don’t add value to your position or that are irrelevant to your job duties.

If you open your speech with broad, vague information, your audience is likely to tune you out and may potentially miss something of interest to them.

Elevator speeches are becoming more and more common in business’ fast paced environment. Although the idea of describing your career in a few short moments may be daunting, it is something that will be easier if you practice, prepare, and know the relevancy of your message.

The 5 Worst Things to Do During a Meeting


Whether they’re scheduled on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, almost all careers require at least some meetings every now and then. When acting purely as an attendee, it’s important to be engaged, participatory, and interested in the topics discussed. However, when you’re leading meetings, there are a few more responsibilities to keep in mind. The following examples are some things to keep in mind, and avoid, for the next meeting you run.

Don’t wing it
Olympic swimmer and champion Mark Spitz once said, “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” Walking into a meeting with no game plan could make you appear disorganized and uninterested in your topics of discussion. And, your teammates will feel like you don’t value their time.

Having some notes, points to highlight, and questions to ask is important to have beforehand. But should your meeting go in a different yet productive direction than you initially planned, go with the flow. Those in the meeting will be able to tell the difference between zero planning and necessary spontaneity that often comes with interactive meetings.  

Don’t over-share
There is such a thing as over-sharing in the meeting world. While you may have the best intentions at heart, telling your teammates every detail, thought, and plan is often unnecessary and boring.

During your preparation stages, establish the highlights of each topic. Make note of what is most relevant, interesting, and important for your audience to know and leave out all the extra details. If you’re worried you may have missed something, feel free to ask if anyone has questions when all is said and done. The majority of the time, if an audience member needs clarification or further instructions, they will ask you during or after the meeting.

Don’t get distracted
Answering a phone call, text, or email during a meeting may at times be an utter necessity, but the majority of the time, it’s just plain rude. Your audience will see your communication with others as a distraction and lack of commitment to your presentation. Make it a priority to silence your cell phone, put it away, and ignore it until the meeting has concluded. 

If for some reason you are expecting a call during a meeting (i.e.: you have a sick relative or are expecting a call from upper management) explain to your audience beforehand that you may need to step out for a moment but will return promptly. Your teammates will be much more understanding of your distraction if they know it’s for good reason.

Don’t run late
Be aware and respectful of your teammates’ time. If your meeting has a specified time restriction, honor it. Those in the meeting will be appreciative that you respect their time and, will in turn, respect what you have to say. Sometimes running a few minutes over is unavoidable, but consistently holding your audience late is disrespectful of their time and other job duties. Realize that although your topics of discussion may be important and relevant, there are other tasks your audience needs to work on throughout the day too.

Don’t disregard common courtesy
Eating during a meeting is not only disrespectful, but off-putting. If you are in a boardroom setting with nine teammates and decide to open a bag of chips while delivering a message, it becomes a distraction and not very pretty to watch. Of course, some meetings occur over breakfast and lunch where eating is, obviously encouraged, but for the majority of the time, it’s best to eat while on your lunch break.

If your meeting is expected to take up the majority of the day, coordinate snacks or meals for everyone in attendance, with specified break times allotted in the agenda. The only thing worse than watching someone eat is watching someone eat when you’re hungry. This simple gesture will show your teammates you have their best interests at heart.

Meetings are an everyday occurrence in the business world, no matter what your field. And most likely, you will all have to participate in them in some capacity. Keeping the preceding five tips in mind will help you deliver a message without distraction, offending your audience, or embarrassing yourself.

Learning from “The Office”

OfficeCharacters_June2011_web Co-workers and employers are two aspects of work that add to company morale, fun, and sometimes challenges. Whether your office is a close-knit group who thrives off of collaboration or one that encourages independent work, there is much to be learned from those you work beside day in and day out.

One of NBC’s most popular shows features a cast of unique and entertaining characters that represent what full-time work can sometimes be like. “The Office” follows Dunder Mifflin Sabre, a paper and office supply distribution office based in Scranton, Pennsylvania. While each episode depicts a mundane storyline, countless viewers have found comfort and humor in the familiarity that is “The Office.”

Although each character on the sitcom has their faults, they each have some qualities we can emulate. Whether you showcase your individuality, love for life, or strength while at work – there’s an office character out there for you to learn from. 

Dwight Schrute
Known for his love of bears, crime fighting, and leadership, Dwight is by far one of the most eccentric of the Dunder Mifflin Sabre crew. Dwight is the top salesman and former acting manager for the office. Despite his achievements, he receives little recognition from his co-workers because of his lack of social skills and common sense. However, Dwight does an excellent job of remaining true to himself. He holds a specific set of personal and professional standards, rarely straying from them. While it’s always a good idea to leave the throwing stars and other weapons at home, there is one lesson we could all stand to learn from Dwight. Know what it is you stand for and don’t back down from it. Dwight’s antics are unpredictable but always very “him.” While his odd interests sometimes isolate him from the office, he doesn’t allow his individuality to hold him back. His stability and openness with who he is forces his co-workers to know the true Dwight – no matter how different he may be.

Michael Scott
Michael served as manager for the Scranton branch for seven years. His zest for life, though admirable, often gets him in hot water with his corporate office and employees. Michael’s tendencies to pull inappropriate pranks, offend his employees, and create awkward situations are only outweighed by his love for life and his employees. Michael takes a vested interest in the well-being of those around him; throwing birthday parties, teambuilding events, and seminars. Michael’s heart is in the right place and his employees know his interest in their lives is sincere. His approach to work reminds viewers that life is meant to be enjoyed, even while at the office.

Pam Beesly Halpert
Pam began her time at Dunder Mifflin Sabre as the receptionist, often indicating her desire to move ahead in the corporate world. She spent the first five years during her stay at Dunder Mifflin Sabre hoping for a promotion, while never voicing her goals to upper management. Eventually, Pam gained her voice as well as a new position as the office administrator. Pam is perhaps one of the most relatable characters as she struggles with developing confidence and authority in the business world. Her transformation into a leader in the office is one we can all look to for guidance and encouragement. Although it took her years to develop courage, Pam eventually took control of her own career by developing her leadership skills, asking for promotions, and taking charge.

“The Office” is one of television’s most successful shows and for good reason. It follows characters we all can relate to while inspiring viewers to have a more meaningful office life and career. Although each character on the show has serious faults, they all also have positive beliefs and behaviors we can glean from. 

Let’s be honest, our co-workers have the ability to make us better or drive us crazy during the work day. Different personalities alongside deadlines, projects, and stress can bring out some challenging scenarios. Remember to look for the positive in each person who you encounter at work. Sure, your cube mate may have an odd fascination with crime fighting but at least he’s true to who he is and gets his work done.

Ramp Up Your Stalled Summer Job Search

Summerjob_June2011_web Today marks the official first day of summer with many individuals still looking for that perfect summer job. The national unemployment rate has risen to 9.1%, leaving many seeking seasonal or part-time jobs feeling frustrated and lost.

So, what can you do to reignite your stalled summer job search? Whether you’re looking for a seasonal position, or a career in your desired field, keep the following tips in mind.

Your job hunt is your job.
When on the lookout for a job, treat your job hunt as if it’s your full-time job. The majority of job seekers send out a number of résumés and then wait for companies to contact them.

Be proactive in your search and follow up with organizations you haven’t heard back from. Sometimes all it takes is a simple phone call to check on the status of the open positions to get the hiring process started.

Treating your job search like a full-time job will encourage you to build momentum, become more invested in the process, and even get a few offers from interested companies.

Revamp your résumé.
Reassess your cover letters and résumé to highlight specific skills you’ve developed in previous positions, rather than just listing work history. Tailor each cover letter and résumé you send for the specific position or company you are applying for. Taking a little extra time during the application process will add a touch of sincerity employers will not take lightly.

Quantify your achievements on your résumés. For example, if you helped reduce costs or increased sales at your last position, say so. Naming your achievements will be far more impressive than only listing former employers.

Work on your online presence.
Broaden your networking contacts online to ramp up your job search. Having a LinkedIn profile can be an excellent tool to refer hiring managers to during the interview process. However, know that your online presence will be viewable by potential employers so manage it closely.

Use social media to expand your contacts, but avoid the pitfalls that typically come with it. Don’t publish suggestive pictures of yourself, offensive tweets, or even status updates complaining about your current employer. Remember that anyone interested in hiring you has the ability to find your online presence, so use social media with caution.

Summer is associated with relaxation, heat, and seasonal jobs. Knowing that employers will have many candidates to choose from, it’s important to not allow a few stalls in your job search to keep you down. Persevere throughout the bumps and trials that come with job hunting and you’ll have much to celebrate this season.  

Mentor Up: How to Pick the Right Mentor


Whether you’ve been working for several years or are just preparing to enter the career world, traveling the path alone can be risky and hard. Surrounding yourself with people who can directly and positively impact your career is one of the key steps to take in any employment opportunity. Research shows protégés report more promotions, higher incomes, higher job and career satisfaction, and greater job involvement and commitment to a company than those not being mentored. Considering the benefits of having a mentor, the next question is how to get one. But, before asking someone to be your mentor, you need to know what to look for. So, here are some important aspects to consider in your quest for a great mentor.

Finding the right mentor.
A mentor is meant to challenge you. Do some research and find high-level managers or peers with more work experience than you. These individuals should be successful in their field, highly respected, and an all-around positive role model. Although it may be intimidating to approach such an esteemed and experienced professional, it’s important to surround yourself with people who have more knowledge than you do. The purpose of a mentor is to teach, counsel, and guide you to intelligent and beneficial career moves. Find someone who can help do just that.

Asking to be mentored.
Obviously, when selecting someone as your mentor, you need to ask them first. Begin by sharing with your potential mentor how they’ve already impacted your career, how you respect them, and why you want to learn from them. The more interest you take in a potential mentor, the more likely they will be to return the favor. However, you aren’t just asking them to guide you – you are asking for a major commitment. Make sure your mentors are willing to share their skills, knowledge, and expertise with you. Select people who seem to take a personal interest in helping you succeed rather than people who will toss you aside when their schedule gets hectic.

Having multiple mentors.
Because you’ll be choosing mentors for different qualities that put them at the top of their field, choose several. Leaders, although they may tell you different, have very little spare time to devote to full-time mentorship. Consider looking for someone in your own department, someone in another department of your company, someone in your field but with a different company, or someone that leads a charity organization you’re involved in. Having diversity in your mentors will provide you with relevant, yet different, opinions. Consider your group of mentors as your very own board of advisers.

Giving back.
Finally, remember that people don’t mentor just to be friendly. Mentoring can take a considerable amount of time, energy, and effort. Ask your mentor what you can do to help them. For some, simply seeing your appreciation and loyalty may be enough. For others, they may want to see you volunteer your time to mentor someone too. What’s most important is showing the initiative to give back to the mentor rather than simply taking from the relationship.

Moving up in an organization is increasingly challenging, however, having the right mentors by your side can help you climb the corporate ladder to success. Surround yourself with the highest quality people to create your own network of professionals.


To Date or Not to Date


Chances are you have had a crush on a co-worker at least once during your career. According to a recent survey conducted by, four out of 10 workers say they’ve dated a colleague at some point in their careers, while three in 10 say they married the person they dated at work.

Journalist and co-author of Office Mate: The Employee Manual for Finding and Managing Romance on the Job, Helaine Olen, said “The office has turned into the village of the 21st century. Where else do you spend 12 hours a day?”

For many working singles, Olen’s take on the office is entirely accurate. Many see the workplace as the most convenient place to find a mate, as it is the place we spend the majority of our time. Although workplace romances are more common than they were five years ago, they are still met with some skepticism. Keep the following tips in mind when considering a current co-worker for a future partner.

Check the handbook.
Some companies have strict dating guidelines, while others have no rules whatsoever. Before committing yourself to a new relationship, see what your office thinks of it. In some cases the required steps may be as simple as notifying a superior. Although this process may seem a bit awkward and unnatural, just remember it is better to cover all the bases to protect both you and your crush’s working situation. If your company doesn’t have a specific policy regarding inter-office dating, it is still wise to be especially cautious and forthcoming with management – especially if your relationship involves a supervisor/subordinate. Being open about the reality of your relationship will help you avoid the appearance or reality of sexual harassment, favoritism, and other risks that come with dating in the workplace. 

Weigh the costs.
As cynical as you may feel, consider what will happen if your new relationship doesn’t work out. Breakups are difficult enough without the added stress of having to see your ex every day at the office. Consider how you will feel when faced with working alongside your ex daily and if that is something you can work through. Although planning for failure may seem counterproductive, knowing how you’ll handle a potential situation may help you make important choices regarding your office romances.

Proceed with caution.
Although this piece of advice should be applied to all new relationships, it is especially important when it comes to inter-office dating. One of the largest benefits of dating a co-worker is the fact that you are able to establish a friendship prior to dating. You will have the opportunity to observe how your potential mate handles pressure, and also how he or she treats others during stressful times. Caution is necessary because it maintains professionalism in your office. If you enter into a romance carefree and spontaneously, your co-workers may view you as a serial dater. However, if you enter a relationship with purpose and thought, your teammates will see your commitment to a professional work environment.

Maintain professionalism.
Whether it’s fair or not, the moment your new romance is made public, co-workers will begin to judge your work more critically. Teammates are waiting for your relationship to interfere with your productivity, focus, and ability. It is imperative you show your teammates your continued dedication to your work, avoiding all distractions including those that come with romance. Avoid common mistakes like fighting in the office, public displays of affection, and cutesy nicknames. Although these things are all normal outside of the office, allowing them to become routine in the workplace will decrease your professionalism in the eyes of your team. Also, depending on the exact nature of any of these behaviors you could face repercussions, even if you are interacting with a loved one.

Finding love in the office is no longer a taboo subject. In fact, it is becoming more and more common. However, the way you choose to conduct yourself when in an office romance is vital. Carry yourself with the utmost professionalism, avoiding the typical pitfalls many couples make, and you will be sure to be voted the cutest couple of the office.

Recover From a Bad Conversation With Your Boss


Perhaps this happened to you. You’re enjoying a typical day on the job when suddenly things take a turn for the worst. Tempers flare, words are exchanged, and regret sets in. You had a bad conversation, maybe even a fight, with your boss. Thankfully, these regrettable conversations are not always a deal breaker. You may be given the opportunity to redeem yourself, move forward, and continue to wow your employer. The trick is, how do you begin the recovery process?

Cool down.
During any argument it is natural to turn on our defenses, however, entering a resolution while feeling defensive is rarely productive. Take time to cool down and collect your emotions and thoughts. For each individual this time is different; whether you need five minutes or an afternoon, take the time you feel is appropriate and necessary.

Admitting fault is never fun. If after taking some time to cool down you realize you were in the wrong (yes, you actually did snap at that customer), approach your boss with humility and a resolution. But, apologizing is simply not enough. Be able to tell your boss why what you did was wrong and how you plan on avoiding similar situations in the future. Show initiative in taking steps toward a better you. Admitting fault when you still believe you were in the right is especially difficult, but it is vital in moving forward. When you’re having trouble finding fault in yourself, apologize for the way you reacted. Most of us say or do things we regret in the heat of the moment, so, if nothing else, apologize to your boss for your “momentary lack of professionalism.” Acknowledging that you were wrong, in at least some way, will show your employer you are taking some of the responsibility.

Move forward.
Unfortunately, many of us like to bring up situations that should be left alone. After apologizing, don’t continue bringing up the argument. Making light of the situation may seem like an easy way to get over the awkwardness but keep in mind, each time the conversation is brought up, your teammates are reminded of your moment of weakness. If co-workers, or even your boss, continuously bring up your meltdown, simply remind them the situation has been addressed and you are taking the necessary steps to move forward. In this case, the less ammunition you give your peers, the better. 

Arguing with an employer is undoubtedly awkward and even scary. The true test will be your ability to recover from the situation professionally. Showing the maturity to move forward will prove your ability to conduct business respectfully and graciously.