As an assistant, one thing that I have found is that many times you will encounter employers who may not be as professional as you might expect. Early in my career, I encountered an employer who did literally everything wrong – and just plain did not care. It was embarrassing for me, since I had to handle the phone calls from disgruntled clients, and extremely frustrating since I simply could not do anything to control the situation.

As I continued in that job, I noticed that my own behavior was deteriorating. I tended to do as little as possible, feeling that it would not matter whether I kept up a schedule or not since my boss certainly was not going to. I started avoiding calls and trying to call back at times that I thought I would get a voicemail rather than a real person. Since my boss was not very reliable on the phone either, I found that I could actually go for weeks without speaking to him. Finally, I had had enough – and so had my family, who was suffering since I had developed a chronic bad mood and attitude from my toxic work environment (which was my own house!) I had to quit.

I ended up just emailing the guy and telling him that I would be unable to continue working for him. I gave 2 weeks notice, but never heard back so I went ahead and shut my end of things down and just didn’t invoice him for those last two weeks. While I definitely look back on that employer as one of the worst I’ve ever had, what really makes my skin crawl is the effect that his behavior had on mine. I have never in my life behaved so unprofessionally, and I never will again.

Even if your employer is terrible, you must make sure that it does not create problems with your own behavior. I imagine if anyone ever managed to reach him to ask about my performance, he probably would not have anything good to say – and I would deserve that negative feedback. Since then I’ve been more careful in the jobs I take, and I’ve never encountered that type of situation again. If I do, though, I hope I’ll handle it better the second time around. 

Category: Meetings

We all know that you should hand out business card to help you make connections and network, but did you know that there is specific business card etiquette in many countries that can impact whether forking over your card makes or breaks a future business relationship? In the United States, we throw our cards around, leaving them on chairs and countertops and pulling them out of our pockets and wallets with little regard for their presentation. However, in some countries, this “lack of respect” for ones accomplishments could be viewed as a preview to one’s approach to business in general, and may lead to a swift escort to the door if you do not handle your business cards with the proper etiquette and ceremony.

In Japan, for example, business cards should be given and received with both hands, a bow and an expression of gratitude for the meeting. The cards should not be shoved in a pocket, but rather placed on the table in front of you. Never right on a business card in Japan, and make sure that you have a special holder for the cards you collect.

In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, you can be relaxed with your business cards. While of course they should be clean and unfolded, you can simply hand them over in a regular exchange, then pocket them or put them in your wallet.

If you are in India, make sure to present the card so that the recipient would find it possible to read the text as the card is handed over. Always include your degrees and titles on your business card when networking in India and hand them over using the right hand, but it is not necessary to translate the cards into Hindi.

In China, always give your potential partner your card before requesting theirs. You may wish to translate your card into Chinese dialect. Like Japan, Chinese etiquette requires the card be presented with both hands and an expression of gratitude for the meeting and the cards should not be put away immediately or written on.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have racked up “bonus points” with my employer by knowing – and conveying in an email or in his travel itinerary – some basic business card etiquette for travel abroad. It can make or break a deal in many cases. 

Category: Miscellaneous

As an administrator, you will often be in charge of organizing groups of people in order to get things done at work. Even if you are not actually the official team leader, because you are the one with the calendar and all the phone numbers, you will likely function in a leadership capacity simply because – as you know – you are the one that “knows where everything (and everyone) is.” As a result, it will be up to you in many cases to help keep a team together and motivated even if you are not the acknowledged or appointed leader of the group.


One of the best ways to keep people motivated is to keep them connected, and this is where administrators like you can shine. Particularly if different team members are located in different geographic locations, it can be difficult to create a cohesive, functioning, productive unit. One way to keep people in sync with each other on various parts of the project is to send out periodic updates. These updates should let team members know where the team as a whole stands on various aspects of the project and also will give individuals an opportunity to ask for help, insight or assistance on a facet of the project that may be troubling them.


In addition to the updates, you may wish to provide some online training sessions for team members if they are engaged in distinctly different aspects of the project so that those who are not actually in charge of other facets of the project are at least familiar with the direction that the project is taking as a whole. Finally, consider maintaining a team blog. Of course, this blog should have an administrator – probably you – to prevent it from turning into a forum in which aggravated team members are able to fly off the handle in the event of a bump in the road. However, a blog can be a great way for people to interact and share ideas and for you to share updates, thoughts and insights on the way that the project is going.
By keeping your team in touch, you will find that all members instinctively are more timely, understand what is required of them and are more willing to work together on the project to create a cohesive, productive whole.
 

In today’s economy, many people feel like they have to take what they can get when it comes to employment. However, a truly bad boss can actually permanently damage your work record, depress you and stress you out until it impacts every aspect of your life in a negative manner. When you are interviewing, remember that you are not the only one being evaluated. Here are some characteristics of a “good boss” that can help you determine if the working environment that you will be in is one that will lead to a long, successful and mutually beneficial relationship.

  • Consideration for family
    Your boss should acknowledge your home life, rather than assuming you will be available at any time of the day or night at their convenience. This does not mean you will never pull an all-nighter, but your employer should be clear that these cannot be the “norm.”
     
  • Backbone
    You will do better at your job if you know that your boss is on your side. This does not always mean that the two of you will agree, but you need a support system that wants you to do well and makes an effort to make your good job performance achievable. If a boss appears to refuse to give locations or contact information or constantly is rescheduling and changing plans so that you cannot manage the office calendar, for example, this can lead to stress and a fair number of headaches on your part as it is likely you will take the fall for this lack of organization.
     
  • Encourages continuing education
    This seems like a “no-brainer” since the more you know, the better a VA you will be. However, not all employers see the point. A good boss will want you to learn and grow so that you can do more in your job and also stay motivated and interested in your occupation.
     

When you are considering taking a job, it is completely likely that your boss may not meet all of these qualifications – or that you may not know. This may not mean you decide to turn the job down. However, whenever possible you should look for these characteristics in employers to insure the best working relationship possible.

Category: Soft Skills

Here is some written a few yearsw ago..

Some days, it feels like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. You may feel like you will never get anything done. While the occasional overloaded day is one thing, if every day at work feels like you have too much on your plate, then you may need to analyze your workload to determine where you can lighten it up. Many times, a workload analysis will reveal that you are actually spending way too much time doing things that you really do not need to devote a lot of time to.

Here are some tips for analyzing your workload:

Keep a daily timeline
For a week, write down the time increments that you work each day. Chart not only the jobs you planned to do during a period of time, but also the things that you ended up doing, including things that might have distracted you or additional chores that you did during that time. This will help you determine how you are spending your time and show you where there are potential distractions that can be eliminated.
 

Tally the number of times you check your email
Some experts estimate that it takes nearly 20 minutes to recover from the “break” of checking email. If you check once an hour, that is a third of the hour lost – and most people check their email far more frequently. Try to schedule your email checks so that they happen on a regular schedule, and resist the temptation to check in the intervening periods of time.
 

Watch out for social networking
Even if Facebook is part of your job, it can quickly eat away at your day. Social network at the end of your day, not the beginning, and unless you need to check your profile for work, let it slide off the list completely unless you have free time later. Resist the urge to post the cute thing your dog did or the annoying thing your boss did; after all, if you’re posting, then everyone can see that you’re not working!

 

Category: Employment

A cover letter – or a cover email – is vital to your success when you apply for a job. Even jobs and employers who claim not to require a cover letter will give you more attention and are more likely to contact you for an actual interview (where you can truly shine and blow them away with your abilities) if your cover letter clearly states what they stand to gain by getting in touch with you.

As electronic communications dominate all aspects of the hiring world to an increasing degree, more and more employers are actually admitting that in many cases, they do not even read applicant’s resumes in the initial round if the potential employee has a good cover letter. So not only will a good cover letter get you through the door, but it can also help your future employer start out with a good feeling about you (not only because you’re great, but because you saved them time and hassle before they even brought you on).

To achieve this type of cover letter, the traditional “form letter” in which you describe your achievements and maybe fill in a few blanks for the title of the job and the employer’s name will not cut it. Your cover letter needs to be targeted directly at your potential employer, showing him or her exactly how you will fit the bill. Now, this can mean rewriting a cover letter over from scratch, but do not be alarmed. Worst-case scenario, you spend an hour in order to dramatically up your odds of getting the job you want. However, in most cases, you can still use the best parts of old cover letters as long as you clearly involve the new employer in the letter.

A targeted cover letter still shows exactly why you are the best. It should give a good summary of your history and your accomplishments. However, as soon as you are done with that history, draw a clear line for your future employer from your job history to their new job. For example, if you were applying for a job as a PR consultant for an internet marketer, but your background is largely in technical writing, then you might, for example, need to say clearly to your reader, “My background in technical writing will enable me to promote your company to potential clients in a way that not only shows them how they can benefit from your products and services, but also makes it clear that you are with them every step of the way.” While this type of thing may seem obvious to you, you cannot rely on your reader to see everything that you see. Spelling out how you will benefit a company in unique ways is critical to targeted cover letters and to getting the jobs and attention from employers that you want and deserve.

 

If you have ever seen the movie Mean Girls, then you have heard the term “word vomit.” In the movie, the teen heroine uses the term to describe what happens when she spills the beans about her manipulative actions in trying to get a guy to like her to said guy. She talks about how she knows she should stop talking, but she just can’t. Not surprisingly, the guy is disgusted by all the information and takes off.

Some of us have a word vomit problem at the office. This can be a severe professional handicap since people who talk too much are generally perceived as not capable of maintaining company discretion and may also be looked at as gossips. Here are some tips on how to know when to stop talking so that you do not develop a word vomit habit of your own:

  1. Evaluate your information’s value
    If you are not contributing to a positive atmosphere or conveying business-related information, then think twice about talking. It may be that your information does not actually need to be disseminated.
     
  2. Eliminate negative personal observations
    There is no reason to make public your personal opinion about another individual unless you are praising their efforts. All negativity does is make you look bad and hurt other people’s feelings. It also can hurt your credibility because people may perceive you as a gossip and be less likely to trust you.
     
  3. Don’t air your dirty laundry
    At some point in your professional career, you are likely to have an issue with someone that you work with. Don’t tell people about it! Not only will they get sick of hearing it, but they may actually think you are requiring them to get involved. This can create all sorts of unnecessary “office drama” that you will be better off without.

Your ability to keep your tongue in check will prove valuable to you personally and professionally. Don’t be a victim of “word vomit!”

 

Category: Soft Skills

You probably have noticed that you tend to “slow down” after lunch, but did you know that most people get the majority of the work that they are going to accomplish in a day done before they head out for their lunch break? If you work at home, then this lunch-pitfall can be an even bigger issue since you may not have a set lunch break or may have a variety of other factors that interrupt your morning work time so that your productivity levels are even further lowered.

Fortunately, the after-lunch lag is not inevitable; it’s a habit. And habits can be broken. Here are some ways to get the most out of your mornings, then keep on getting results all afternoon if you wish or need to do so:

Get right to work
Whether you stumble out of bed and straight to your computer or drive into work, once you arrive you need to be on task. This gives you more morning hours and lowers the likelihood of distraction. This means that while you need to be pleasant to co-workers, you need to avoid the morning coffee-room chatter and any more than a basic exchange with adjacent colleagues.
 

Set up a routine
A routine that helps you get started in the morning can be used after lunch – or after other interruptions – to jump-start you back into productivity. If you are at home (or you have a private office) then stretching is one of the best ways to focus and relax. Five to ten minutes of stretching is a great way to limber up and focus on your mind on the tasks ahead of you. Do it in the morning before you sit down to work, then repeat the exercises after lunch. As you continue this habit, your body and mind will begin to respond to the stretching by being ready and open for work once you finish the stretches. This will enable you to use your stretching routine any time you start to feel fuzzy, lazy or lose focus.
 

Keep your electronic communications limited
Each time you check your email, that is an interruption. Keep the window closed except for certain times during the day that you designate to check and respond to emails. Like it or not, most employees multitask (even if they do not mean to and do not realize it) by checking email, IMing, Facebooking or reading news feeds throughout the day while they are working. Keeping these windows closed except for designated times will dramatically up your productivity level immediately. And if you need to always be accessible by email, that is fine. Just check it every 15 minutes. Even giving yourself 15 minutes where that little “mail” icon is not popping up to let you know that you have made contact will dramatically increase your focus during that 15 minutes.

Category: Miscellaneous

One of the biggest advantages that you can give yourself in both your personal life and your professional life is positivity. You probably know someone who is always positive. They may appear to waltz through life without ever encountering any problems. You may even be jealous of them because things always seem to “go their way.” Even when things are bad, these people tend to find a solution and remain upbeat throughout the process.

So do you have to be born with that kind of energy to be that kind of person? Absolutely not. While some people are born with naturally sunny dispositions, most people who use the power of positive thinking to their advantage have done at least a little self-training in the past to help them stay positive in the face of adversity. You, too, can develop habits to help you remain positive and think good, creative thoughts when you would rather be banging your head against a wall so that your every action is pro-active and positive, netting you a positive outcome even in the worst situations.

One of the easiest types of training that you can do when it comes to cultivating a positive outlook is to practice the art of the compliment. This does not mean that you have to walk around telling everyone you like their ugly shirt or their tacky hat, but it does involve silencing some of your inner criticisms to help you look for something positive.

For example, if you have someone on your team that is chronically late, instead of berating them for their tardiness, try to turn it to your advantage. Find out if you can help. This will usually result in your getting an explanation for the tardiness. Based on this explanation, you can turn the tables on the person, who is probably feeling defensive because technically they know that they are not supposed to be late, and get the result you want: their on-time arrival.

For example, if the person explains that they are late because they never have time to prepare ahead of time, compliment them on how much they do each day for the company or the project. Then offer to send out notes the night before so that they can just grab them and go without having to develop their own outline. By complimenting and then offering a positive, thoughtful solution, you have placed the person in a position where they will feel that they really should try harder to arrive on time because you are putting effort into helping them achieve that goal.

 

Category: Advancement

One of the best and easiest ways to simultaneously improve your job qualifications, make yourself more marketable and boost your professional reputation with your employer is to cultivate a basic, directed thirst for knowledge.
 

You can add to your knowledge base in a variety of ways:
 

• Read
Look online for free resources that will give you an idea about the options out there for organizing and communicating online. Check out advertising and promotional options and strategies as well, since many internet marketers use one or more way to help keep themselves informed. There are many tips and tricks out there that can quickly render you invaluable. For example, you might be able to suggest a way for your employer to get more emails through to people with Yahoo! accounts. Even if he or she does not end up using the tip, it adds to your knowledge base and shows that you are actively focused on helping out the company.  Linkedin, Twitter and other social media platforms can keep you up to date on a wide variety of topics just by browsing groups and a few key hashtags.

• Direct your research
Look at the things that your employer is trying to accomplish, then research in these areas. For example, while reading about giraffes may be fun and add to your knowledge base, an exhaustive repertoire of giraffe facts will not do much for your professional reputation if your field is engineering. However, do try to streamline your research efforts along the lines of things that you find interesting so that you will enjoy the work.

• Keep up with the news in your arena
A daily news feed is easy to sign up for can help keep you abreast of things important to your job and your employer. Simply having a passing acquaintance with daily events will show your employer that you are aware and concerned about your position and your company’s position in the marketplace.

As an executive assistant, it may be your responsibility to keep a number of calendars and schedules in addition to your own. While this can be an enjoyable and productive activity that helps keep people on time and where they need to be, you must be careful with your “power.” While you may be thinking, “That’s just silly. I’m the lowest on the totem pole. I have no power at all! Everyone orders me around,” in reality, the knowledge of where people are and what they are doing is a serious and sought-after commodity in many offices. Do not be careless with this information or it could end up costing you your job.

 

The best rule of thumb when it comes to other people’s schedules is to say as little as possible. This means that if someone calls for Jen, the associate down the hall, do not say, “One second, I think she has run to the doctor but I’ll see if I can catch her.” That is way too much information that the person calling simply does not need. Instead, simply say, “One second and I’ll see if she is available.” If Jen has, in fact, already left for the doctor, then do not convey all the details. Just let the caller know that Jen is unavailable and offer to take a message or transfer them to voicemail. How Jen handles the call from that point and how much information she divulges about her absence is up to her.

 

In many cases, you will receive direct requests for information from one employee about another employee’s whereabouts. While this may seem harmless, you must remember that the employee in question may not want the office to know what they are doing. Unless the question comes from a supervisor with the authority to ask these questions, you should simply pleasantly remind the questioner that you could lose your own job for disclosing other people’s calendars and refer them to the employee in question or human resources, if appropriate.

 

The key to successful and effective office calendar etiquette is simple: keep your mouth shut. In time, you will find that your employers and co-workers respect you for the respect that you show their private affairs and your position in the company will likely benefit as a result.

 

Category: Miscellaneous

Although everyone seems to be in agreement that Facebook should play an important role in your business, the sad fact of the matter is that most people just do not understand how to use it effectively. Even the best email marketers out there who have thousands and thousands of “friends” and “fans” have publicly expressed frustration at their inability to turn those individuals from acquaintances into clients and sales. Having the ability to effectively utilize Facebook in your business is one of the best ways to make yourself stand out from the rest of the crowd and is often worth a hefty pay hike in the bargain. You will find that it will pay off for you fast in just about any administrative or other position if you can make money for your business using Facebook.
 

One of the most important things to remember when you are using Facebook or other social networking sites for business is that they are, at heart, social. While you may not actually consider every single person on your friend list a personal friend, you need to provide a social context for your communications. To some degree, you need to have a real relationship and rapport with the people that you are targeting via social networking in order for your efforts to be effective. This means that you need a picture of a person rather than a logo, for example, as your profile picture. It also means that you should generally post in the first person and post periodically throughout the day, in real time, instead of just once or twice on a schedule.

Next, remember that the big advantage of social networking is that you can elicit action. However, that action may not necessarily be making a purchase. What you can do in a reasonably predictable manner is move people – literally. For example, some retail companies offer their “friends” extra coupons or special sales that take place only if you work through Facebook. Sometimes you even have to go to the store in person at a certain time and show you are a friend by displaying a coupon. This might get you a free item or a good discount. The important thing is that the people are inside the store and exposed to the merchandise.

Social networking and social media are highly effective forms of advertising in addition to being great ways to stay in touch. However, you have to have a light touch or people will feel that their trust in you as a “friend” has been violated. Always tread lightly with social media and take care to be considerate and your marketing will have greater effect.

Category: Miscellaneous

We’ve all met this person. In fact, there is one in pretty much every office. Sometimes it’s the lady with the twenty pictures of her dog and the gilded stature of her dog’s paw print and the 3 stuffed dogs on her desk. Other times it is someone who is a little too loud, a little too nosy or a little too outspoken. Regardless of what this person’s personality traits are, they fall in the category of quirky. However, since they do a good job or haven’t done anything terrible (depending on how the employer runs the office), they continue to work there and do quirky things.

 

While some people make their idiosyncrasies work for them, generally as an administrative assistant it is best to avoid falling into the “quirky” trap. While it will make you easy to remember, it also diminishes your professionalism. As the first line of contact with the outside world – and all the customers and potential clients in it – being quirky can be a greater liability for you than it can be for people who do not work as directly with clients. In fact, if you are overly quirky, it can even prevent you from being lined up for projects or getting a job in the first place.

 

This does not mean that you should not show any personality whatsoever. Having a picture of your family or even your dog on your desk does not hinder your professionalism. Even letting some of your slight eccentricities show will not hurt you – as long as you keep them in their place. The important thing is to make it very clear that you are fully professional when it matters, and not be one of those people who the rest of the office warns people about before they ever set foot inside. If you let your “funny” habits get the best of you, then you could find that they end up getting the best of your job as well.

 

As an administrative professional, you will often be the first contact for people who wish to work with your employer or with whom your employer wishes to do business. As a result, you will get a wide amount of exposure and likely have a number of contacts – or at least contact information – that many people would kill for. Now, ethically – and legally in many cases – you are bound contractually not to reveal that information to other people, and if you leave the company you may not be able to take that information with you. However, this does not prevent you from doing some highly valuable networking for you and your boss while you are doing the company’s work as wel

When it comes to initial contact, first impressions are everything. This is obviously not news. However, what you may not have considered is that you can make just as good an impression of yourself on someone while you are promoting your company as you can for the company. A professional demeanor should, ideally, cement a company in a new or potential client’s brain as an asset. However, if you are friendly, knowledgeable and interested (within the bounds of reason, of course) when you are working with clients, then they will appreciate this individual touch and remember you and your company fondly. As a result, you will be able to develop contacts who think as much of you and your administrative or networking abilities as they do of your employer.

Ideally, you will never have to leave an employer until you decide to do so. However, there will be instances in which you may lose your job due to economics or other factors. When this occurs, your networking and positive people skills will not only guarantee that you will be missed when you are gone, but that a number of other entities are just waiting to snatch you up off the job market before you have even had time to get your resume out there. Never forget that every connection you make is personal as well as professional, and you will find that your reputation is solid in every aspect.

Your relationship with your boss will be critical to your happiness and success in your tenure in a position. While there are times when you will immediately “hit it off” with a new employer, there will be many other times where you simply coexist at first. While this may be just fine with you and your boss, ultimately you will both get more out of your working relationship if it is a strong, trusting one rather than simply a relationship based on proximity to each other.

 

To this end, here are three ways to strengthen your relationship with your boss:

  • Report on yourself
    Make sure that your employer knows what you are up to all day. Even if they do not ask, provide timely updates on projects and deadlines so that they know where things stand. This not only keeps your boss informed, but it also shows initiative and demonstrates that you are taking the role that you have been assigned seriously.
     
  • Keep things in confidence
    Even if you have not been directly instructed to keep things quiet, do not talk about work at work. Your boss will appreciate your discretion and come to perceive you as a person who can be trusted with information rather than someone who talks a lot about work-related minutia that may not be able to keep their mouth shut when it matters.
     
  • Remember details
    Keep up with the little things. For example, if you are an assistant, then make sure you remember personal details like anniversaries and birthdays when that information is available to you. Format correspondence with your boss in the ways that he or she most prefers for easy, pleasant reading and make sure that you remain conscious of how he or she likes to receive information.

 

By carefully cultivating your end of the relationship between you and your boss, you will find that you are able to establish a stronger bond between the two of you that will help you remain happy and productive in your position.

Category: Miscellaneous

When it comes to organization, it is hard to beat a good color coding system. It is one of the best ways to quickly access information and to set up a system that others can use even when you are not in the office to find items that you need. Color coding is a great tool, but you must use it effectively or you may find that you are spending more time deciphering your color code than you are finding your target information.

Here are three different ways to color code your files:

  • Code by number
    When coding by number, you assign a color for each number 0 through 9. This is a great system if your files are organized by number or if you use a lot of different dates to sort your files. However, if you have a complicated numeric system for your files, you may need to assign additional colors in the spectrum beyond the initial nine to help identify misfiles.
     
  • Code by letter
    If you categorize your files by letters – either names or other alphabetical designations – then color coding by letter can be useful. In this instance, you will need a spectrum of 26 colors in order to color code by letter. Some offices actually make the letters themselves large and colorful, while others opt to use the file folders to create the color spectrum. Color coding by letter can be combined with color coding by number to create a more elaborate system, but in this case the main benefit of this decision is that it creates a system in which misfiles are easily apparent. It can still be quite difficult to navigate.
     
  • Code by topic
    If you have a manageable number of topics of types of files, then you may choose to color code by topic. You simply need to assign a color to each type of file, then alphabetize within each color.

You will need to take a close look at your file contents to determine what is needed for your personal color coding system. Color coded filing prevents misfiling since an out-of-order file is immediately apparent, and you will love the ease with which you can file things and find things at your fingertips.

As an assistant – your job is to make things run smoothly. However, if you are good at your job then your boss may end up not “seeing” your hand in things at all, which can be frustrating for you and lead not only to a lack of appreciation, but a lack of salary-related compensation.

When I first started, I took great pride in my ability to make things run so smoothly that my boss actually thought he was in charge. I chuckled to myself that he had no idea it was me, behind the scenes, who had taken his schedule in hand and arranged it in such an organized and efficient fashion. I chuckled right up to the day of my first review, when he gave me all “adequate” scores for my, quite frankly, incredible ability to keep that man on time and in the places he was supposed to be.

I was livid. I almost quit on the spot. However, one of my good friends saved me from that mistake of temper. “How is he going to know what you do if you don’t tell him?” she asked me. “After all, you talk all the time about how he thinks he’s the one in charge.”

Well, that made me stop and take a few deep breaths. I had to admit she was right. I had basically done my job “too well,” and rendered myself invisible on my employer’s radar. I decided then and there that I would make some changes.

You may be thinking that I let him foul up on his own a couple times to show him how important I was. I was tempted, but I knew that would only make me look badly for not keeping the schedule and the boss on track. So instead I tracked my successes and kept notes on exactly what I accomplished each day. As the days passed, I developed quite a portfolio of achievements, so when my next review came around, I was ready to show my employer just exactly what it is that I do all day. I got my raise and almost more importantly, I got my recognition. Now even though I need to be invisible on a daily basis – if I’m doing things right – I know that my employer recognizes just how active I am behind the scenes.

Category: Miscellaneous

While generally you read about how you need to keep social networking out of the workplace, in one instance my ability to navigate Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and the like actually snagged me a job over some pretty tough competition. As more and more employers start focusing on the internet as a source of business, you will find that a careful and strategic presentation of your ability to connect with people via social media can actually enhance your resume rather than hinder your chances at getting a job. In some cases, your time online might even be all the employer is really looking for.

When you are presenting yourself and your job skills, however, be judicious. Do not simply announce that you spend hours a day on Facebook, for example. Instead, point out that you are fluent in “Web 2.0” or that you have experience in social media and marketing. You can use the number of friends that you have on Facebook or the number of followers you have on Twitter to help back up your claims that you network effectively in these media.

If you want to use this type of social networking to your advantage, then you need a professional, “work profile” as well as your personal profile. The work profile should be used for building a base of clients and potential clients as well as friends. It generally will not include the pictures of you with a lampshade on your head in a bikini at that beachside pool hall last spring break, although you should include pictures of yourself having fun and enjoying life because research shows that you will likely accumulate more friends if your profile is not “all business.” Just be careful not to post anything in this profile that you would not want a prospective employer to see, and remember that if they can find one profile, they can find another – so keep your personal profile private!

Make sure that if you are hired for your social networking abilities that your employer is very clear with you about what he or she expects from your networking. Some employers really just want you online building a rapport with potential customers. They may want a certain number of posts or a certain number of friends added each day. You need to know how your progress is being measured so that you can adjust your social media habits accordingly.

Whenever you start out at a new job, getting used to the new environment can be a bit intimidating. However, there is nothing more important to your success in a new position than settling in smoothly, efficiently and effectively into your new role. One of the best ways to accomplish this in short order is to take some proactive steps to get to know your new boss.

 

For starters, you may wish to set up a “getting to know you” meeting with your new employer. Let them know that you would like to familiarize yourself quickly with their working habits and preferences and that in your experience, the best way to do this is to take a little time to simply set them out in a straightforward manner. This probably should not need to take more than about 30 minutes. During the meeting it is important to remember that the meeting is about your boss, not about you and your working preferences. Ask simple, straightforward questions about how they like things to be handled. Examples might include, “Do you want to be notified immediately of all messages or do you prefer an itemized hourly (or other interval) summary via email or written on paper?” and “How do you prefer your appointments to be handled – with the traditional 30-minute break in between each or do you like them scheduled back-to-back or with more time in between?” Getting clear on these things up front will help you make your employer’s work life smoother and more pleasant, which will, in turn, lead to your work life also being smoother and more pleasant.

 

Next, find out (gently) if your boss has any pet peeves. For example, I once worked as a receptionist in a large office building. For much of the day, I had little to do as the phones did not ring often and handling calendars and sending visitors to various workers’ personal receptionists was about the extent of my duties. I was pretty bored, and often read or did class work for a continuing education class during this time. My employer happened upon me engaged in these activities once and demanded that I cease immediately. I offered to take on more work so I would have something to do, but his exact words were, “I just need you to look busy. You can play games online as long as it looks like you are working if someone walks in. No reading!” Needless to say, that job was not a permanent stop for me, but it does clearly illustrate a surprising peeve that I had not been expecting. You need to be aware of any unusual things that may upset, annoy or embarrass your new boss so that you can avoid them.

 

Once you get settled in at your new job, you will find that taking the time to get to know your new boss early in your relationship has established your reputation as a professional, knowledgeable employee. Your future efforts will benefit from this and you will likely find that you advance more quickly due to your early groundwork.

Category: Etiquette

We all know that our clothes play a very important role in how people perceive us. However, while you probably know not to wear a mini-dress to a job interview at a law firm, you may not have considered what the colors of your clothes could mean for a job interview or even in terms of how you are perceived on a daily basis. There are some surprising connotations – both positive and negative – for some popular “work colors” that can actually undermine your professionalism. Here are a few examples:

Blue and gray are great for focus

Blue and gray are actually the most popular job interview colors, according to employers. This is because they are not distracting (avoid turquoise and edge toward the darker blues) but do help you project an image of calm, stable control. Color experts also believe blue can make you seem more trustworthy, which is always desirable during a job interview and after.
 

You can wear too much black

While the “little black dress” and the “sharp black suit” do help you appear commanding, in control and representative of authority, did you know that black also connotes drama for many people? If you overdo on it, you could actually be subconsciously implying that there is a little more drama to you than meets the eye. Avoid this by accenting with this popular color (an unusual touch) rather than drenching yourself in it.
 

Red and white aren’t just for tablecloths

While both red and white should be used in moderation to avoid projecting too much aggression or simplicity, respectively, these are great accent colors because they represent things to interviewers such as energy, precision and positivity.

Ultimately, whether you are going to a job interview or going into work for the tenth year, it pays to think about what your clothes might be “saying” behind your back.


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