Archive | August, 2014

4 “Productive” Things That Aren’t Really Productive

August 28, 2014


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Productivity is a tricky thing. We could spend hours and hours reading about it when in reality our to-do list is only growing longer. But every so often we need a good reminder on what is the most efficient way to spend our work day. The most important thing is to do what works for you. Don’t get caught up in productivity trends or absolutes — everyone works differently. That being said, there area a few “productive” things we find ourselves doing that end up hurting us in the long run. Here they are:

1. Multitasking.
Multitasking is a myth. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Yes, you can chew gum and walk at the same time but that’s about as far as multitasking goes. Doing things like responding to emails on your phone while you’re supposed to be listening and contributing during an important meeting will only make your day harder, not easier.

2. Obsessing over your to-do list.
Write it down, then get it done. If you’re a procrastinator and like to avoid what you’ve written at the top of the list, start your day by working on something small and simple. Once you’re feeling confident and motivated, move on to that big project. Cross it off and continue. If something takes longer to write down on your list than to actually do it, just do it. In short: less talk, more action.

3. Writing an email.
Sometimes a phone call or a quick meeting can wrap up a project or solve an issue much faster than a long and detailed email. Think about the best ways to use your time before you sit down at the computer.

4. Doing it yourself.
Part of learning how to manage your time is learning how to delegate. Sometimes that means you need to change your attitude especially if you’re the kind of person who feels that nothing can be done well unless you do it yourself. Just give it a try and see how it goes. You’ll likely be surprised.


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Don’t Just Re-Read Your Resume

August 26, 2014


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During the interview process, you have three chances to “tell us about yourself.” Your resume, your cover letter, and your interview. Each of these experiences should be viewed as a unique opportunity to expand upon your story, not a time to rehash what we already know. Since your resume is the first step in this process, assume we already know the basic timeline of your career. So what else can you say on a cover letter or in an interview? Instead of saying, “I meet all my deadlines” or “I’m great at multitasking,” you need to share experiences that illustrates these claims. These prompts should help get your mind moving and inspire you to share some quality stories about your career:

1. Jot down a list of your strengths.
Open a Microsoft Word document  or pull out a notebook and start jotting down your strengths. Circle the ones that are especially important to the current position and company that you’re applying for.

2. Dig through your memories.
In the same document or notebook, write down some great moments of your career. If you’re a recent grad, focus on brainstorming experiences that highlight your best skills. Circle the top three experiences that are relevant to this position and this company.

3. Show don’t tell.
Now take these bits of memories and weave them into a narrative. Decide what you want your narrative to be based on the requirements and qualifications needed for the position you’re applying for. There’s always more than one way to tell a story so make sure you’re telling it in the way that makes most sense for this job.

4. Rehearse.
The biggest interview tip we can give you is this: practice makes perfect! If you have three detailed narratives memorized — think of them as mini elevator pitches — you’ll be able to pull them out during a relevant part of the interview and wow your audience.



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Headline Tricks That Will Get Coworkers to Open Your Email

August 21, 2014


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There’s not one magic trick to get your coworkers to open and respond to emails (though we’ve written a post on how to do it in the past). There’s one thing we can all agree on though — headlines matter. Think of your own inbox and the amount of content you receive each day. Some is junk, some is important, some is interesting, some is from important people, and some is from strangers.

So what makes you open the emails that you do open? Often an intriguing headline. “Hey” is going to get looked over if “Are you available for lunch?” is sitting right beneath it. “Monday morning meeting” won’t get opened as fast as “Monday meeting cancelled,” and “A friendly hello” is not going to be read before “Introduction from our mutual friend Katie Smith” is. FastCompany wrote an awesome piece on subject line tricks and we’d like to share our favorite bits of advice from this article:

  • Subject lines with 41 characters or less have the highest open rates.
  • Include a call to action or a verb whenever you can.
  • Avoid words like help, buy, sale, and free if you want to avoid the spam filter.
  • Turn your subject line into a question.
  • When emailing a stranger, name drop someone you have in common.

Read the full article at FastCompany.

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3 MORE Huge Career Mistakes We Hope You’re Not Making

August 19, 2014


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We’ve already covered three career mistakes we hope you’re not making, but there are three more we’d like to add. Like we said, the smallest missteps can have much larger consequences than you think. The good news is that each step baby step in the right direction can have a big payoff. Do the opposite of what’s listed below and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll find career success. Here are three more career mistakes that you should avoid:

1. Acting too modest.
Your career needs a little self promotion. Don’t be shy. Make sure your boss knows when you had a great meeting with a client. Make sure your coworkers hear about the project you just blew out of the water. There’s a fine line between sharing and bragging so make sure you don’t cross it. But do’t feel guilty about sharing your career successes with your peers and those above you.

2. Being too scared to ask for feedback.
You do things — that you probably don’t realize you do — that are both good and bad. When you ask for feedback, you’ll only learn. And learning from your mistakes and your successes is what’s going to fuel your career forward. Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to get an outside perspective on your work from someone you trust. Don’t ever let it discourage you — only let it make you stronger.

3. Not networking within your company.
Some people think networking is limited to people in your industry at outside events. But networking each and every day at work can be supremely helpful to your career. The more people that know you are the better. The more you understand the business the better. Having people who know you and can vouch for you is a good thing. You never know when one of those people will end up running the company and could give you a big break.


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3 Huge Career Mistakes We Hope You’re Not Making

August 13, 2014

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Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. It’s amazing how one word or action could totally change your career path. And once you’ve landed that great job the fight is not over. Every day is a step towards a better future as long as you play your cards right. Here are three career mistakes that seem small but can actually have huge effects:

1. Saying “No.”
You can be known as a “Yes” kind of person or a “No” kind of person. Which one do you think is better? In work and in life, people will stop asking if your answer is always no. While saying “Yes” to one small, boring project might not seem that exciting, it could lead to something bigger. Giving the “Okay” to a networking lunch might seem insignificant until that person who sat next to you gets promoted and becomes your boss. Agreeing to join the social committee might seem like a waste of time until you get on a first-name basis with your company’s vice president. Get the picture?

2. Throwing a fit.
Your work life and your personal life are two different things. If you didn’t get invited to a lunch with your friends, you might get upset. But if you didn’t get invited to a meeting with your coworkers, don’t take offense. Perhaps they didn’t want to waste your time. Perhaps your expertise wasn’t needed yet. Perhaps your boss has another project for you in mind. Don’t read into things too much. Work is work. If you’d like to say something, do so in a positive way. For example, “I’m very interested in that project you guys are working on, so if you need any additional help please let me know.”

3. Acting self-centered.
You work on a team. It’s success depends on the success of each individual person — not just you. Praise your coworkers’ successes, support them along the way, and offer help. They’ll do the same to you in return. Along the same lines, don’t forget that you’re not the only person in the room. Be it in a meeting room or in the lunch room, engage all of your coworkers in conversation and treat everyone equally.





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The 3 C’s of Trust in the Workplace

August 12, 2014


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If you’ve ever lied about the work you’ve done on a project, showed up late to an important meeting, gossiped behind a coworker’s back, blew a budget, or missed a deadline you’ve probably experienced a loss of trust. When you lose someone’s trust — whether it was with your boss or your coworkers — you lose opportunities. And that’s not good when it comes to the future of your career. The good news is that you can earn that trust back.

Although we might think all trust is lost once we’ve committed one of these trust faux pas, the truth is that trust is often viewed in parts. For example, I might not trust you to get the project done in time but I trust that you’re not going to poison the cupcakes you brought for my birthday today. If you’ve dropped the ball at work, there are a few steps you can take to fix your misstep. But first we must understand how trust works.

U.S. News and World Report wrote a recent piece on trust in the workplace. It turns out that there are three C’s of Trust: competence, character, and consistency. Competence means you have the ability to undertake a task, character means that you have integrity and are dependable, and consistence means that you are repeatedly reliable. In other words it’s talent mixed with reliability and dependability.

In order to earn this trust back, try these steps:

1. Acknowledge the problem.
Say, “I know you don’t trust that I can meet this deadline based on what happened during the last project.”

2. Offer proof that you’ve changed.
If you’re discussing a deadline, show your scheduled plan of attack and the mini deadlines you’ll meet along the way. Now you can say, “I know you don’t trust that I can meet this deadline based on what happened during the last project, but I want to share with you the timeline I’ve mapped out and the deadlines I’ve set for myself.”

3. Get someone to vouch for you or oversee your work.
For example, “Barbara is going to check in on me weekly,” or “Barbara offered to jump in and help if I feel overwhelmed.” This shows that someone else is willing to work with you and has earned your trust back.

4. Follow through.
Now is not the time to fail. Be true to your words or it will be even harder to start from step 1 again.


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5 Work Behaviors That Say “I Don’t Care”

August 8, 2014


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Actions speak louder than words, right? That saying applies in the workplace immensely. Even during our most grueling and challenging days, it’s important to pay attention to what kind of vibes our actions are giving the people around us. It can impact your personal happiness and your career success. Here are a few behavioral red flags that scream “I’d rather be somewhere else:”

1. You walk in the door 30 minutes late every day.
Late arrivals are not only disrespectful — perpetual tardiness reflects poorly on your lifestyle. What is it that prevents you from managing your time better in the morning every day? It might be as simple as setting your alarm too late or hitting the snooze button too many times. Don’t give people a reason to wonder why you’re so unorganized.

2. You don’t respond to emails on time.
These days everyone is inundated with emails and we absolutely have to ignore our inboxes for periods of time or we’d never get work done. But delaying a response is different from radio silence for days. If you only have time to say “I got this and will get back to you by the end of the day tomorrow,” do it. That’s better than giving no response. Also, don’t forget that sometimes it’s quicker to just pick up the phone and have a chat or leave a voicemail.

3. You miss meetings or show up late. 
If you can’t attend a meeting, decline it. Don’t accept it and then show up 15 minutes late — or not at all. Especially if you’re meeting with only one or two people, you’ll only make work enemies when you blow off a commitment. It’s a waste of time for everyone.

4. You’re glued to your smartphone.
It may be socially acceptable to carry around your smartphone at work but no matter what anyone says, it’s rude to pay more attention to your smartphone than your coworkers — especially during a meeting. If you’re always glued to your phone, you better be responding to emails and not just checking Facebook.

5. You don’t ask questions.
This applies to two parts of the workplace: professional and personal. Ask the appropriate questions that will help you get your job done correctly and on time. But also don’t forget to strike up a friendly conversation every day and learn a bit more about your coworkers. It will make your day more enjoyable and having coworkers on your side is always a good thing when you’re in a pinch during the workday.

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4 Rookie Personal Branding Mistakes

August 5, 2014

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Whether you like it or not, the job search is about creating your own personal brand. You need a consistent and professional online footprint so even the nosiest of recruiters who Google you will find only good things. Here are a few rookie mistakes that hopefully you’re not making. And if you are, fix them immediately.

Mistake #1: Your online presences haven’t been updated in years.
If you haven’t used your Twitter feed in three years, just delete it. It’s better than someone finding it and diving into your history only to find conversations and opinions that you don’t even remember having.

Mistake #2: You have no personality.
Yes you must be professional, but lay off the business jargon a little bit. Somewhere in your correspondence, resume, interview, or cover letter you must break down the professional wall and crack a smile at the very least.

Mistake #3: You aren’t taking yourself seriously.
A beach vacation photo does not make a great LinkedIn photo. Neither does a selfie. Get your act together and ask a friend to take a professional-looking photo. Browse your Facebook photo security settings as well and make sure it’s either locked up tight or rated G.

Mistake #4: You’re not focused.
If you say marketing is your passion but you also apply to a finance position and a sales position at the same company, you’re going to come off as completely unfocused. Decide what you want your career path to be and stick to it.

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