Monthly Archives: October 2012

Use Halloween for Team Building and Getting Noticed at Work

Celebrating Halloween at workIn many ways, Halloween isn’t just for kids. It’s a holiday that reaches across ages, genders, and cultures to give everyone a day to have fun and escape the mundane. It’s such a big holiday, the National Retail Federation is expecting Americans to spend nearly $8 billion in 2012 on Halloween décor, candy, and costumes. Naturally, this celebration usually makes its way into the workplace.

Every employer is different and will have different ideas and viewpoints on how to celebrate Halloween. If your company does have a yearly Halloween get-together or allows costumes during the workday, it can be a great opportunity to build a better relationship with co-workers and stand out among management. As long as you dress and act appropriately, doors of opportunity can open for you. Here is how enjoying the Halloween fun can help your career.

Let Down Your Hair
Barbara Morris, founder of the software company Laser Image, is a strong supporter of celebrating Halloween at work. Last year, she was astonished when one of her very quiet, hardworking, and introverted employees dressed up as Michael Jackson and began to sing during the company costume competition. Her opinion of that employee drastically changed and she soon promoted the employee to senior project director.

While this is an extreme example, it does help prove that participating in fun employer events can demonstrate that you’re a team player and investing in the organization. Most managers see you with a serious work face and rarely get to see the relaxed, fun side of you, which shows them you’re a well-rounded employee.

Think Outside the Box
Maybe your job is very mechanical or procedural. Even if your workday doesn’t give you the opportunity to change or try new things, Halloween can give you a chance to demonstrate your creativity and critical thinking. If you can turn some heads – respectfully and tastefully – you can get plenty of networking opportunities with senior leadership who heard about an employee’s funny, different, or outstanding costume. Your co-workers and supervisors will see you using skills they might not know you had.

Even if your employer doesn’t officially recognize Halloween and doesn’t allow dressing up for any reason, there are ways you can demonstrate your creativity and skills not normally seen. Just because you can’t dress up, that doesn’t mean you can’t make your workspace a little more spooktacular, which can increase traffic and exposure of you and your area.

The Other Side of the Coin
Managers won’t be the only ones who will notice your other side. Having fun with co-workers can give you a chance to connect and see other sides of them you haven’t seen before. Halloween festivities let you and co-workers see each other laughing and joking, which often helps you realize there are real people behind what you see typically at work. This kind of socializing can also help ease tension and stress from work, and help you and your team members be more productive.

There are several benefits to putting on a silly costume and having a little fun at work once a year. As long as you remain professional and courteous, celebrating Halloween at the office can improve teamwork and can help you build your career. What are some of your favorite Halloween workplace memories? Share them with some photos, and we’ll feature them on the blog!

First Day on the Job Checklist

You’re excited about your first day on the job. Here is an easy to reference checklist of things to help your first day run smoothly. Click here for a PDF of the list.

Task Explanation Completed
Work Eligibility Documentation Bring acceptable documents for proof of work eligibility. For example: a Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, or green card. Additionally, if you are going to sign-up for direct deposit, ask what is needed for that process. See the USCIS for more information in the U.S. and this link for more information in Canada.   
Appropriate Attire Ask for dress code specifics. Don’t be afraid to ask for an example. If you think a uniform is required, ask if it’s provided or where you should purchase the uniform.  
Necessary Equipment Clarify if you’re expected to provide any safety equipment, like a hard hat, gloves, or steel-toed shoes.  
Location Verify all of the necessary details for parking, getting into the building, and where you are supposed to report. Make sure to verify your arrival time.  
Supervisor Get the name of the person you will be reporting to. Also, get business and mobile phone numbers for that person.  
Schedule Obtain the start and end time for the work day and when breaks will be given. Find out in advance the options for meals, like if there are restaurants nearby, a cafeteria, or a break room.  
Orientation Have a notepad and pen with you to take notes on equipment, processes, team member information, and more. Make sure you ask how to work the phone, clock-in/out, log-on to the computer, use equipment, understand safety information, and ask for a copy of the job description.  

For more first day on the job tips, check out these articles.

When Do I Start? A New Job Brief Uncover the five questions you need to ask before your first day.

Prim and Proper: Basic Rules for Workplace Etiquette Check this post out for tips on how to get along with others on the  job and to help you make friends, not enemies, at your new job.

What to do When You’ve Got Big Shoes to Fill This post has advice on how to respectfully create your own path at a new job.

How to Succeed at Your First “Real” Job In this post, you’ll find advice for starting on the right foot at a new job. Perhaps you’ve always worked with friends or family or in more casual environments, and now you’re branching out and will need to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered.


Workplace Fashion Police – Just the Facts

The Workplace Fashion PoliceWorkers and job seekers, the advice you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the improperly dressed.

It was Friday, Oct. 26, and sultry day at Fashion Police headquarters. I was getting reports of neglected promotions, missing job offers, and lacking professionalism. I didn’t know why it was happening, but I had to try to stop it. Appearances can be deceiving, especially in this workplace-fashion lineup. According to Southwest Florida Business Today, 93% of executives across the country admit a person’s work attire influences his or her chances of earning a promotion.

This is a video. I carry a badge. I am the Fashion Police – I tell the difference between who gets hired and promoted, and who doesn’t.

The Dos and Don’ts of Business Travel

Dos and Donts of Business TravelIf you ever get the opportunity to travel for your company, it’s generally not the time to bust out the flip flops and shorts. Business travel isn’t the same as a road trip. When you do any corporate traveling, you are representing your employer in everything you do. But different employers have different rules on business travel, and they may even have unspoken expectations on what is acceptable behavior when traveling. To help point you in the right direction, here are some dos and don’ts when on a business trip.

DO Check Policies and Procedures
Most employers have rules and guidelines for business travel, and it’s important that you’re familiar with them before you go anywhere. It’s best not to claim ignorance and be ready to follow company procedures before traveling anywhere. If your company doesn’t have travel procedures, meet with your manager to find out if there is anything you need to know before you go.

DO Carry a Small Refresher Kit
You never know when a small accident might happen. If you need to look and feel professional while you are away, you need to be ready. Have a small bag that include items like floss, mints, aspirin, stain remover pens, and anything else you might need to look and feel your best.

DO Keep Your Receipts
It’s best to keep all of your receipts just in case your employer has any questions or concerns after you file for reimbursement. Keeping them organized in an envelope will help make your expense report easier and lowers your chances of mistakes. Check with your supervisor or HR director if you have any questions about employer reimbursements.

DON’T Pack Everything
When you pack everything you think you may need, your time going through the airport can take longer than expected. Going through security lines, finding storage space on the plane, and hailing a taxi or renting a car can be a lot more stressful and time consuming when you have to carry a 40-pound bag. Your trip will be quicker and less stressful when you pack lightly.

If all you have for a carry-on is your old sports duffle bag you’ve had for five years, you may want to consider purchasing a regular black rolling suitcase. It looks more professional and fits better in airplane compartments.

DON’T Assume Everything is in Writing
There may be actions or attire that may be allowed, but is generally frowned upon. You may be off duty after a certain time where you can wear casual clothes and be free to do what you want, but it may be considered inappropriate to stay out too late enjoying the night life.

DON’T Forget the Thank You
Most people associate sending thank-you cards to a job interview, but you should also consider sending them after your business trip. Depending on what type of business you’re doing, it makes a big impact to send a thank-you note to a client, potential customer, new partners, or conference leader. It’s also a great way to build relationships and carry on the conversation after the trip.

While business travel and regular travel have many similarities, there are also key differences that you should know. Are there any tips you’d like to give regarding the first time you traveled for business? Share them in the comments below.

The Tricky Business of Keeping in Touch with Exes

When you leave a workplace, you may also be leaving behind friends and mentors. With three out of four people putting in more than 40 hours a week at work, it’s likely that a few co-workers have turned into friends. Or, perhaps you’ve developed a strong mentorship with someone at your workplace. So what happens to that relationship when you leave your job? Here are two situations where the relationship may stick around without the tie of the workplace. 

Common Ground
Making friends as an adult can be hard. It’s not like college or high school when the typical weekend party, sports activities, or family gatherings fostered new friendships. If you’ve made a good friend at work, or created a circle of friends, you may not want to give that up so easily. This can be especially true if you’ve found common ground with a co-worker, such as being newly married, raising kids, or caring for senior parents. Support in handling these stages of life is invaluable, and it’s possible that your friendship outside of being co-workers can continue because of your commonalities.

To help continue your friendships after you’ve left a job, remember these few invaluable tips. Keep your focus on your friendship, and avoid discussing workplace gossip which can only end badly for both sides. Once a co-worker is longer a team member, the trials and celebrations of your workplace should really not be shared since they no longer work there. Likewise, if you’ve left a workplace, but have remained friends with a co-worker, don’t pressure them into telling you the details of the latest staff meeting. Of course, you might be reaching out for support in creating work/life balance or celebrating a promotion, but the daily grind should be left out. Additionally, announcing to your co-workers that you are spending time with a former employee isn’t necessary. Your personal life is private, and it’s not really important for you to broadcast who you are spending time with, whether they are former co-workers or not.

Professional Development
If you’ve found a great mentor at your current workplace, one of you leaving could be one of the best things to happen to your relationship. No longer will your mentorship be tainted with company politics. You can seek advice about the best direction for your career without having to worry about how that plan fits into your mutual workplace or aligns with company goals. Plus, it makes your mentor an objective third-party bringing fresh perspective to your situations. And, now that one of you is doing something new it may be a chance for you both to learn something new.

You may also want to stay in touch with past co-workers because you work in the same industry and if you’re in the same town, you’ll likely cross paths again. You don’t need to have frequent lunch dates or constant emails, but if there are a few former co-workers that you know are great networkers, keeping ahold of their contact information isn’t a bad thing. You never know when you might be searching for a job again, or looking for help with a project. Be careful not to burn any bridges you may need to cross later, you never know where life may take you.

How have you handled relationships when you’ve left a workplace, or had a friend leave your workplace?

Don’t Clock Out Until You’ve Done These 3 Things

End your DayHave you ever been at work when you notice there’s only 30 minutes left in your shift? It’s usually not enough time to start a new project, but it’s also too early for you to go home, so you watch your clock as it slowly ticks away until it’s time to leave. This happens more often than not, but what can you do to finish out your workday on a positive and productive note?

How you finish your workday is critical as it holds a large impact on your work, productivity, and attitude. Take time at the end of your shift to get you ready for tomorrow. So here are three ways you can end your workday better and stronger.

Review and Plan
The first thing you to do is look over your to-do list to find out if you’re where you need to be. There might be some assignments you’ve overlooked or a reminder of what needs to be finished before you leave. If you don’t like your progress, plan what you need to do and when you’ll get it done so you don’t get further behind.

This is your chance to reflect. Think about what you’ve accomplished and how good it feels to be productive. If you’ve fallen short on some tasks, take the time to make a new to-do list. Determine what needs to be finished tomorrow and how you’re going to do it. If you have a new to-do list, you’ll have a head start the next day and be more productive.

Check-In and Check-Out
Depending on the type of working relationship you have with your manager, visit with one or all of your supervisors to discuss the progress of any tasks you’re working on. This way, you can get caught up on any updates or changes that need to be made. Check in with co-workers to get any updates from them and to make sure everyone is one the same page.

Talking to your boss and colleagues will not only help everybody stay on task easier, but there are real emotional benefits from saying goodbye to people before leaving. Most people think it’s important to say hello in the morning, but it’s just as vital to say goodbye instead of silently heading out the door. By giving proper farewells or even an honest compliment, you are showing co-workers and managers that you care and can improve everybody’s mood throughout the day.

Tidy up and Shut Down
It’s rather defeating to walk away from a big mess after a busy day, which confronts you in the morning or after a fun weekend. Before leaving, clean your workplace by organizing your desk, throwing away trash, or cleaning and storing your tools. When you come to a clean workplace in the morning, it gives you a feeling of starting the day off fresh.

If you work in an office setting, you can use the last of your time to clean your email inbox of forwards, newsletters, and any other old messages. Emails can back up quickly increasing your chance of missing important information.

It’s also important to shut down when leaving. Leave your stress and worries at work. Turn everything off and disconnect yourself from your network. Turn off your smart phone or disable email alerts and enjoy your time off to recharge.

If you use your last few minutes to end your workday right, you’ll be more productive and will be less likely to feel drained and burned out. What are some ways you have made the most out of the end of your workday?

Now You See it, Now You Don’t Without Eye Safety

Eye SafetySince October is Eye Injury Prevention month, it’s important to keep your eyes protected. You only have one pair of eyes. Those are the last two you’ve got. Even with the advances in modern medicine, doctors and surgeons won’t be able to give you new working eyes.

With an estimated 2,000 U.S. workers suffering a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment, accidents aren’t always caused by big, sharp objects that cause one big blow. Most of the time, eye injuries occur from tiny specs of metal, particles of dust, or traces of chemicals that can cause irreversible damage.

To help you steer clear of dangerous eye activities, here are some useful tips to make sure your eyes are properly protected so you can see in the days ahead of you.

Not Any Coverings Will Do
Different jobs and industries need different kinds of eye protection. Your employer should have provided or informed you about the kind of eye protection you should wear, when you should wear it, and where you should wear it. If your employer isn’t enforcing or instructing you on what kinds of eye protection to use, do not start on the job until you are properly equipped. You can check with the Occupational Safety and Health Association for a guide on proper eye and face protection.

It’s important to remember that contact lenses were not designed to provide eye protection. Also, it is a good idea to have a pair of prescription glasses ready if you need to take out your contact lenses. Contact wearers will find getting particles in the eye is a painful annoyance that distracts them from their job, which can lead to more dangers.

Fit to Prevent
It’s important that your protective gear properly fits your eyes and face. If they are too crooked, tight, uncomfortable, or loose, you’ll be more inclined not to wear them. While you may have a busy schedule, there is always time to properly adjust your protective equipment. It’s also important to keep your eye protection clean and properly kept. Scratches, smudges, and dirt can impair your vision and possibly put you in even more danger. Therefore, it’s important to store the equipment in a case to avoid scratches and stretching out the elastic in most headbands. Wash your gear with warm, soapy water and dry with a soft cloth or tissue.

Two Wrongs Don’t Help Your Sight
Never try to remove foreign substances, other than contact lenses, from your eyes. Also, refrain from removing a foreign material from the eye of a co-worker. Playing doctor generally makes the condition worse. Contact your employer’s medical department, a doctor, or an ambulance right away for treatment of an eye injury. You should also familiarize yourself with the company policies and procedures should any accident occur and follow those to the best of your ability.

Mean Computer Screens
Eye injuries can happen to anyone, even in an office setting. While injuries may not be immediate, constant viewing of a computer screen causes eye strain that can lead to serious injuries in the long run if not properly taken care of. It’s even more dangerous today since many people who work all day in front of a computer screen generally go home to spend personal time in front of a computer or television screen.

That’s why it’s important to give your eyes a break throughout the day. When you get up every few hours, make sure you blink your eyes or use eye drops to keep them properly lubricated and refocus your eyes on different objects at different distances to give them a rest.

If you have any doubts about whether you should be wearing eye protection, talk to your supervisor. Your eyes are the only two you will ever have. With these guidelines, you’ll be better equipped to avoid injury and enjoy the beauties of eyesight.