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How to Get Coworkers to Open & Respond to Your Emails

July 24, 2014

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This Email Will Change Your Life. Okay, okay. It’s probably not a good idea to write dramatic email subject lines in hopes that your coworkers will open it. But there are a few tips that will are almost guaranteed to increase your open rate and response rate. Think of yourself as a personal marketer who needs to re-work your strategy. Before anything else, ask yourself: Does an email even need to be sent? If the answer is yes, then move on to these steps:

1. It all starts with a headline.
Write a clear and concise subject line. Think about including a project title, a deadline, or a “RESPONSE NEEDED” call out. These days many people are opening their emails on their mobile devices, which might not have room to display an entire subject line. Be sure to include any important information — like a date or deadline – in the body of the email as well.

2. Open with attention-getting information.
The first sentence of your email should be the most important information. Think looming deadline, the missing information you’re looking for, or the overall objective of your email. If you have a journalism background, you’ll know of the inverted period — the most important information goes at the top. Then follow with the details from most important to least.

3. Use bullet points.
You’ve seen the articles that go viral these days — they’re numbered lists or bullet points. Why? Because they can be read quickly and easily. Save the paragraphs-long emails for friends or family. Even if you have a lot to say, it most likely can be broken down into small chunks of digestible information.

4. Don’t be afraid of a little style.
Feel free to highlight a deadline, bold an especially important sentence, or underline the items you need. In a long email, these style choices can be especially helpful. But don’t overdo them. Some may see this as a bit of hand-holding and feel they’re perfectly capable of reading the information without your help.

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What Do You Do When You’re Shy at Work?

July 22, 2014

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For an introvert, the telecommuting trend is a welcome one. Digital communication and the comforts of one’s home is about as good as it gets. But not every introvert is granted those luxuries. Working in a big corporate office can feel like a flashback to the halls of a bustling high school. There’s nowhere to hide. Especially with the trend of open workspaces that allow for little privacy.

But even in the world of cubicles and offices, there’s still the obligation to attend large meetings and show your face at after-work events as well as make an impression to the big wigs in the company. And those with the loudest voices are often the ones who are heard. So what’s an introvert to do? Especially if you’re looking to get noticed, promoted, and respected despite your anxieties? Here’s our plan of attack.

1. Keep your boss informed.
At the end of the day, your boss is the one who will make important decisions on promotions, raises, and new projects. Set up one-on-one meetings with your boss to make sure that you’re staying top of mind. Speak about your current achievements and goals for the future.

2. Take on smaller group projects.
Start with baby steps. Perhaps you can volunteer for a committee, take on a project, or mentor an intern. Sign up for something that involves only a few other people in addition to yourself. Once these coworkers see your talents, they’ll be able to speak about you positively and become a megaphone for your talents.

3. Practice speaking up.
Go into a meeting well-researched with something ready to contribute. Chime in early with your thought. If even this sounds too forward for you, practice your public speaking skills in the mirror or by joining a group like Toastmasters. Yes, it sounds horrifying to those who hate public speaking but it can also be a life changer.

 

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Speech Habits That May Prevent You From Landing a Job

July 17, 2014

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When we get nervous, we sometimes experience what feels like an out-of-body experience where we lose control of what we’re thinking and what we’re doing. Then the bad habits enter the picture. That might mean losing eye contact, tapping your pen, bouncing your knee, or any of the below listed speech habits. That’s right. There’s a whole slew of things that can go wrong with your speech alone. And it can distract an interviewer. Here are just a handful:

1. Talking too softly.
Interviews are the time for confidence. Speak up even if it’s out of character for you.

2. Ending your statements with a question. 
Don’t second guess everything you say. End your statements with finality.

3. Talking too casually.
You’re not having a conversation with friends. Your speech should take on a formal tone.

4. Using slang or regional phrases.
Save any informal nicknames or unusual sayings for another day.

5. Using improper grammar.
Pay attention to your vocabulary and tenses as you speak. It’s OK to speak slowly so you speak correctly.

6. Talking too loudly. 
It’s good to be confident but there’s no need to act like the most important person in the room.

7. Saying Umm…
Get comfortable with pauses and don’t feel obligated to feel them with a placeholder word like “umm…”

8. Giggling. 
Smiling is an interview must, but excessive giggling is not — it just makes you look nervous.

The best way to find out if you suffer from any of these ailments is to set up a mock interview. Have a friend or relative quiz you with tough interview questions. Ask them to observe your speech patterns and body language and jot down anything out of the ordinary, then do your best to rid yourself of those habits.

Another option for the brave at heart is to join a Toastmasters group. Toastmasters is a professional club that can help you master the art of public speaking. Sound scary? Then you should probably join.

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Why Venting Might Be Worse Than You Think

July 15, 2014

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The phrase “get it off your chest” might not be the best advice anymore. According to a recent article by FastCompany, venting about work frustrations can actually make you angrier. At the very least, it only makes you feel less bad. It does not make you feel better.

It’s not hard to believe. After all, anger is a negative emotion. Oftentimes, the bad feelings may have dissipated if it weren’t for a good venting session that brought all those bad feelings to the surface again. Think about it. You’ve probably said, “I’m getting all worked up again!” after explaining a particularly frustrating experience to a spouse or a friend.

So it sounds like anger shouldn’t be faced with more anger. But what should you do when you’re frustrated? Learn anger management skills? Not exactly. It turns out we need to get better at conflict resolution skills and communication skills in general. If we can deal with issues in a calm and collected manner, we might not even get angry in the first place. Here are a few quick tips:

  • If you are angry, give yourself a cool-down period.
  • If the person you are dealing with is angry, don’t address the problem until they have cooled down.
  • When discussing an issue, use “I” more than “you.” For example, “I am angry,” not “You made me angry.”
  • Listen to both sides of the story.
  • Identify multiple solutions together.

 

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How to Leave Work at Work and Enjoy Your Time at Home

July 10, 2014

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If only there were an “off” switch on your brain that shut down those work anxieties and stresses the second you walked out the door. How can you really “unplug” from work at the end of the day? It’s hard to switch from work to play during your commute, but that’s exactly what you need to train your brain to do. Here are just a few tips that have helped us move toward a better work-life balance.

1. Literally disconnect.
Turn off the push notifications on your phone. Leave the work laptop in your work bag. Don’t check your email. These are habits that are hard to break but they can be broken. Once you see that the world didn’t end even though you didn’t check your email after 5PM, you’ll feel less guilty about unplugging after work. If you do have to work from home, seclude yourself for a solid hour and get as much done as you can. Don’t drag it out over the entire night by checking emails and taking calls in front of the TV.

2. Leave the drama at the door.
As much as we want to vent about our terrible meetings, and annoying coworkers, and looming deadlines, just don’t. For one week, don’t bring up any work discussions beyond a typical “How was your day?” conversation and see how you feel at the end of the week. You’ll likely realize that all that drama is not so important and that it doesn’t deserve any more of your time.

3. Have an activity to look forward to each night.
Whether it’s making dinner with your family or learning how to play the guitar or calling your mom, focusing your efforts and thoughts on an activity will pull you away from the stresses of your work day. You might not even remember what happened at work today once you’re immersed in a hobby or activity you’ve been looking forward to all day.

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Remove These Words From Your Workplace Vocabulary

July 8, 2014

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Ever heard the phrase, “Fake it till you make it?” It means that even when you’re not feeling confident, you act confident. And part of acting confident is the choice you use in words. Time recently wrote a piece on the 10 Words People Who Lack Confidence Always Use.

These words appear daily in our emails and our conversations with coworkers. A lot of times we’re just covering our bases in case anything does go wrong. But other times we just insert these useless words into our language out of habit. They deteriorate our conviction and our purpose.

Here is the list. Memorize it. Then delete these words from your knowledge. Or save them for the very few instances when you actually mean it.

1. Might
2. Won’t
3. Usually
4. Suspect
5. Impossible
6. Worried
7. Confused
8. Need
9. Quandary
10. Likely

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Don’t Screw Up That Interview

July 2, 2014

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BusinessInsider did a great piece on the 17 Most Common Ways People Screw Up Tough Interviews. While we’ve covered some of these risks before — like the pitfalls of winging it and the importance of body language – we want to open up the interview discussion on a larger scale. A lot of the details we discuss are just that — details. But some interviews require you to think about your actions and responses on a big picture level. Here are a few interview tips we created inspired by the BusinessInsider article:

Don’t act like a robot.
The interview isn’t a multiple choice test that you can study for. Be sure that you can have well-rounded discussions about your industry, your experiences, and the the company.

Don’t use jargon unless you understand it.
There’s no quicker way to look clueless than to drop a few industry words without knowing their true meaning.

“Warm up” before the interview, not during it.

The morning of the interview, run through a few practice questions and get comfortable speaking out yourself.

Make sure you understand all questions.

Re-state the question back to the interviewer in your own words and then ask for clarification if you need it.

It’s ok to think out loud.
Sharing your thought process might be helpful to the interview as you try to work through a difficult question.

Get creative.

If you’re asked a question that involves brainstorming or thinking outside the box, just roll with it. There’s no right or wrong answer.

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Unique Ways to Use LinkedIn

July 1, 2014

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LinkedIn is every  job-seeker’s secret weapon. Whether you’re throwing the door wide open to any opportunity that comes your way or you’re highly targeting a specific position at a specific company, LinkedIn can help. We’ve written more than a few posts on the subject from basic etiquette to how to land a job, but now we’re going to cover some unique ways to use the network to your advantage. Here are just a few of our tips for getting the most out of our favorite social network.

Introduce others.
You find someone you’re dying to connect with and you see you have a mutual connection in common. Sure, you can ask them to introduce you via the social network. But you can only do this so many times without paying someone back in return. Why not get a step ahead of the game and introduce your connections — unprovoked? If you realize that two of your connections may have a lot in common, or may be helpful to each other, hook them up via the network. When they receive a message in their inbox that says, “Hey, I was thinking of you two and thought you’d enjoy meeting each other,” they’ll be sure to bend over backwards next time you need help with a connection.

Start networking offline first.
If you want to connect with someone but you have no one in common to introduce you, what do you do? Start off the network. Do they have a Twitter account? Will they be speaking at an event in your area soon? Do you share a real-life friend who could set up a coffee date with the three of you? Plant the networking seed first, and down the road it may be easier to blindly connect on LinkedIn later. Or at least you can send a worthy request that mentions seeing them speak in person or another unique detail you’d only know by doing further research.

Write a post — or two or three.
LinkedIn is slowly rolling out a feature that allows you to publish long-form posts. It’s essentially a self-published article that can easily be shared by others and commented on among your network. It can establish you as an expert in your industry and just get your name out there in a fresh way. To see if you have this feature, look for the pencil icon in your status update box on your home page. It’s located under the paperclip icon. Read more about LinkedIn’s long-form posts.

 

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3 Habits of Successful Employees

June 26, 2014

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You may be an underling now, but one day you’d like to run this joint. How do you get to be top dog? You work hard now. And a lot of that hard work falls on mastering proper business etiquette. Here are just a few tips that will help you look more professional regardless of your industry or profession. Learn these habits of the successful and soon you’ll be following in their footsteps:

1. They show up to work early.
No, you don’t have to be the first one in and the last one out. But if your manager can count on you to be at your desk every morning at 8 AM sharp, that won’t go unnoticed. Make sure you’re showing up “put together” though. Wet hair, bed head, and groggy yawning don’t look very professional — even in the morning.

2.  They ask for feedback — and accept it.
Even if your manager or company hasn’t established a formal check-up process, request that you start one. Be it weekly or monthly, these check-ins are a good chance to take a look at the big picture of your career and your performance. Whatever the feedback, accept it with grace and a positive attitude.

3. They talk the talk.
Learn the lingo of your industry and your company. You’ll seem like a seasoned pro — even if you’re a newbie — and the higher ups will respect your professionalism. All those internal acronyms might seem silly now but knowing them like the back of your hand is crucial to your career success.

What other successful habits have you witness at work?

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You’re Unemployed. Now What? Here Are Your First 5 Steps.

June 24, 2014

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Whether you were the victim of a layoff or you left a job on your own terms, a wide open schedule is starting you right in the face and there’s no paycheck in sight — and that’s scary. Hopefully you were able to negotiate a severance package if you were laid off or you were able to stash away some cash before you left your job. Regardless of your situation, stay calm. Here are the first steps you should take:

1. Update your online profiles.
You might be ashamed to admit your new status, but letting your network know you’re a free agent is the first step in finding a new opportunity. Change your LinkedIn title to something like “[Insert Industry Here] Professional Seeking Employment in [Insert Ideal Position].”

2. Notify your network.
Make a list of all the important contacts in your network who are willing to help you during your job search. Get in touch via LinkedIn message, email, or a phone call and set up a time for a coffee shop date, a phone chat, or an informational interview. Even if you just “catch up,” don’t think of it as time wasted. Building your network is always good for your career.

3. Reach out to a recruiter.
Partnering with a recruiter means there will be two of you searching for your next job — and there’s nothing wrong with that! Even if you just pass along your resume informally to a recruiter on LinkedIn, you never know when something could show up. That recruiter could contact you a year from now with a great opportunity. And that’s okay!

4. Start applying. 
The more you put yourself out there, the better. But don’t just blindly apply to jobs online. Do some extended research. If there’s a position you’re highly interested in — and highly qualified for — use your network and LinkedIn’s search tools to find a person you could speak with at that company. Think of job searching as fishing. If you want to catch the best fish, you need some good bait!

5. Repeat.
Repeat steps one through five until you’ve landed a new position. Remember that every time you update your LinkedIn profile, your network is notified. And every time you meet up with a contact or a recruiter, your network grows stronger. And every time you apply for a job, that’s one more egg in your basket. The job search is a long process but you the payoff is well worth it.

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