Posted: Monday 20 December 2010 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Meetings

We have all been in attendance at business meetings that got out of control. The yelling, the droning on and on, the pointless discussions about nothing.   The list of pet meeting peeves goes on and on. In fact, I know a number of people who actually refuse to attend meetings, sending - you guessed it! - their virtual assistants in via Skype or their on-site administrators in their stead. While you may not be able to control other people's business meetings, at least you can exert some control over your own agendas.

Consider using these techniques to help you keep control of your meetings:

Carefully monitor your body language
Particularly if someone comes into the meeting expressing strong, controversial opinions, you will need to be careful that your body language does not convey an opinion - particularly approval - about the statements that they are making. Hopefully, you will be able to reign that person in by ignoring them or expressing tacit disapproval, but in some cases you may have to deliver some calm, clear criticism using plenty of eye contact.

Paraphrase other's statements
If you are moderating a discussion, then paraphrasing what someone else is saying can help them clarify their intent and help others better understand the concepts that they are expressing. It also can help limit angry overreactions to statements that may have simply been poorly phrased.

When things have gone far enough, call for action.
As the leader, it is your job to help your team complete its mission. This means that ultimately the group needs to leave the meeting with a plan for what comes next. Even if the conclusion is that more discussion is needed, at least you will end on a positive note and a consensus.
 

Posted: Tuesday 7 December 2010 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Soft Skills

Internet research can be tricky. While you can find information online about just about anything, you cannot be certain that the information that you are finding is correct. Even if you have ascertained that your information is coming from a reliable source, you still need to be sure that you are allowed to reproduce it, and to what degree. Failure to handle your internet research correctly can result in problems not just for your, but for your employer as well, so make sure that you check off each of these tips every time you do research using the internet.

1. Make sure you are using a legitimate source of information.

When you search for information online, you need to be certain that your information is coming from an informed source. Websites that end in ".org" or ".edu" are generally reliable, but you need to check the credibility of the author of the site. If the author is not listed or does not appear to have any reason for knowing the things that they are writing about, think carefully before using that source of information. Additionally, compilations of information like Wikipedia generally are not acceptable sources of information since anyone can write on just about anything.

2. Cite your sources if you are not covering common knowledge.

Somewhere in your materials, you do need to include the sources of your information. The easiest way to do this is with the automatic footnotes in Microsoft Word, which will insert footnotes for you. However, check with your employer to see if they prefer a different format.

3. Never copy word-for-word without quotes.

If you copy something and do not cite it and place quotes around any word-for-word replications, you are committing plagiarism. This is professionally irresponsible and can ruin both your reputation and that of your employer.

By carefully evaluating your sources of information when you do research using the internet and being responsible when you cite that information, you will be able to do sound research online.
 

Posted: Wednesday 10 November 2010 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

"Mama told me there'd be days like this.  .  ." We've all had that song echo in our ears at least once in the office on a day when the bad news and the irritable lines of people parading in and out of our office never seemed to end. It is part of the "lot" of an administrative assistant - virtual or on-site - to sometimes bear the brunt not only of our own bad days, but also of those of our co-workers and employers.

When this type of day happens, it can be all too easy to let it take control of your entire outlook on your job and even other parts of your life that are unrelated to your career. If you let yourself sink into the habit of thinking negative thoughts about how things are going, you could end up stuck in that habit long after that bad day should be over with. To fight off this problem, you may need to give yourself some moral support in the office from the only person that you can always count on to have your back at work: yourself.

To give yourself a more positive outlook, you will need to start to make a habit of finding the "bright" side of things. This does not mean that you need to turn into a Pollyanna. But it does mean that instead of saying to yourself "Oh sure, the copier always breaks when I touch it and probably the printer will next," you need to respond with a positive attitude: "Well, this has been that kind of day, but at least I know that in a few hours I be able to shut the door on it and start new tomorrow."
You do not have to be silly about looking on the bright side, but be sure to congratulate yourself for your hard work. If you are having a terrible day, remind yourself that you have been working really hard and that you will soon see that work pay off. Keep telling yourself that you are not only doing the best you can, but that you will be able to see your results in no time because you will be able to get all your responsibilities accomplished.

 

Posted: Monday 25 October 2010 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Soft Skills

Your attitude impacts everyone around you, and it can actually affect things that you might not expect, such as your ability to get job promotions or your phone voice and email etiquette. On days when the going gets tough, you may find it difficult to keep a sunny smile on your face. Studies indicate, however, that if you can do this successfully your professional life will benefit.

So how can you sincerely turn that frown upside down when the entire world seems to be conspiring against your productivity? Should you just grin and bear it? Absolutely not. While grinning and bearing it may be better than hurling things at your boss's head, for example, ultimately toughing it out will not have the desired impact on your attitude and can make you even more negative and discouraged in the long run.

Instead, take several deep, calming breaths. The first time that you do this, it may be quite hard. You may be angry, depressed and feel hopeless. However, you must not only leave those feelings behind, but actually talk yourself into changing your outlook on the situation. Once you have taken a few moments to distance yourself from the problem, try to minimize any hurt or slight. Our attitudes are largely impacted not by actual events, but by the way that our emotions affect our perception of those events. As a result, it is a much bigger deal when an employer appears to be taking our work for granted than when our work actually turns out to have been ignored or unproductive. Try to look at the situation objectively, focusing on the actual good that you accomplished rather than how you feel about how your efforts were received. Remember, you cannot change how other people behave, but you can change the ways in which you react to their behavior.

Once you have achieved a more objective, less emotionally tangled viewpoint on whatever may be bringing you down; you will likely find that your attitude has lightened up as well. Call a friend for a minute or two to see if they can detect trouble in your voice. If not, then you have likely accomplished your attitude adjustment and are ready to continue with your day in a productive, professional manner.
 

Posted: Tuesday 24 August 2010 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Miscellaneous

When the cost of living spikes and inflation sets in, the economy is generally in the worst shape to take these kinds of developments. This is not Murphy's Law, but just the way that business works. After all, if business is good, then your raise is pretty likely to mirror the state of the economy and be enough or more than enough. On the other hand, if a business is suffering then it is less likely to be in a position to hand out good raises even when employees deserve them, and your lifestyle may suffer as a result.

Here are a few ways to deal with the problem without forcing a confrontation with your boss or leaving your current position:

Look for additional ways to provide service
If you are a contractor, then expanding your role in the company generally will lead to an expansion of your pay as well. Consult your boss to see if there are places that you could help out for additional hours or for extra pay since you are performing at a higher level. This can be a big advantage for both of you since if you can take over needed roles in the company, your employer will not have to spend the time and expense on hiring another contractor or a permanent employee.

Check out your benefits package
It is possible that you are paying for benefits that you could get cheaper elsewhere. As more and more people start working on a contract basis, individual health insurance rates are falling. If you are young and healthy, investing in catastrophic health insurance could be a way to save money and add some needed dollars onto a paycheck.

Make sure you are not withholding too much
While it is good to withhold money over the year so that you do not owe a huge amount of taxes in April, there is really no need to wait on a huge refund check when you could be saving and using that money throughout the year. Work with an accountant to make sure that you are withholding enough - but not an excessive amount - on your taxes. Your monthly income could rise dramatically when you repair this situation.

 

Posted: Wednesday 2 June 2010 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Career

If you are like me - and, I think, probably most other people as well - then you likely believe that the simple act of setting a goal is automatically productive. After all, it gives you something to look forward to, something to aim for, something to focus your efforts and your endeavors and to keep you on track when you otherwise might get distracted.

However, I have found through my own experiences that goal-setting is not quite that simple. After all, there are many different types of goals. There are short-term goals and long-term goals. There are goals about how much you want to get done at work today, goals about accomplishments for the week, and goals for a lifetime. And if you leave any of these goals out, you have a gaping hole where a goal should be that can sideline all your efforts and prevent you from ever reaching the seriously lofty heights in terms of professional or personal accomplishments that we all have hidden in our hearts.

When you are setting goals, it is important to make sure that you hit every single aspect of the goal and how it impacts your behavior in order to set a goal that will actually help you be effective, efficient and productive in the long term.

First, when you set a goal, always set another goal on top of that one. Otherwise, once you achieve that goal, you could find yourself stalled. For example, if you set your goal today to be to finish "that project" by the end of the day, if you finish at 11AM instead of 5, you will likely find yourself tempted to relax for part of the day, rewarding yourself for a job well done. While you deserve the reward, wasting hours at work will not make you feel better about yourself or help you accomplish bigger goals like professional advancement.

If your goal is to finish that project by the end of the day, give yourself an addendum about what you will do next. For example, you might say "My goal is to finish that project by the end of the day so that I can get started promoting it for the meeting next week." This way, you have provided yourself with a goal for your goal and avoided accidentally ending up wasting time as a result of a job well-done.
 

Posted: Tuesday 11 May 2010 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

When it comes to the business calendars, I keep them all online. You do not really have a choice anymore, since fewer and fewer people actually carry their own personal calendars with them. While I have been an administrative assistant long enough to remember the days of a paper calendar fondly (and wish that my current employer would keep one in his back pocket instead of just calling me to pull it up online!) I have bowed to the inevitable and now keep all of our business calendars online.

However, I admit, I have a "dirty" little secret. It is one of those 18-month calendars that you get from the office supply store with 3 days on each page. It's about an inch thick, and I love it. Honestly, I don't think that I could keep track of everything without it. The virtual calendars are great, but my master calendar is still on paper, and I've found that everything runs smoother when I can just thumb through and find any information I need right away.

I still transfer all of the info to the online calendars, but this is my completely private master calendar. It lets me see how every little thing I know about the workday and my own personal life will work together to keep me productive (or not), and it also lets me put in notes about things to check on that I don't actually want on the official calendar.

For example, a few weeks ago the boss was having a serious tiff with his former wife. Of course, this was none of my business. However, it will impact his work schedule since they share custody of their kids and were squabbling over when he would see them for the holidays. I know he takes days with the kids off entirely, so I marked down on the calendar to check in with him in about two weeks to find out when he will be off. Given the stressful nature of their relationship, I know from experience he'll forget to tell me ahead of time - if he even knows until the last minute. That's the sort of thing a good assistant keeps up with, but never lets you know she's paying attention to.

My paper calendar is like my "little black book." It's got all my trade secrets and contact information that I want to keep quiet inside.  I'll never put it online, and, except for here, I'll never tell...

Posted: Monday 26 April 2010 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

You have probably heard and read plenty of articles and advice about how in order to succeed in the corporate world on any level, you have to have tough skin. However, talking about toughening up and actually achieving a skin-thickening are two very different propositions. Several years ago, I worked for a man who ran a great company, had a great sense of ethics and was totally devoted to his customers and his company's integrity. He was also a jerk.

No way around it: that is the only way to describe him. He may have had a heart of gold, but he was a total drain on the emotional state every time he entered the office. He had no patience with me as his assistant, and he had even less with the other people who worked with him. Needless to say, this made my job pretty complicated on a number of levels.

Fortunately, one of my dear mentors gave me a hint to dealing with this kind of behavior that I will now pass on to you. I realize that basic human nature makes us want to say, "If so-and-so can't treat me with respect, then I cannot work here." However, sometimes basic human nature also says you need to eat and clothe yourself and your family, so you need to keep working in your position. And I have found that many times learning to deal with the intractable and the impossible makes you a truly desirable assistant - virtual or otherwise - because this is a skill that most people do not have.

So next time your employer is ranting and railing, hollering and screaming or just plain in a bad mood and taking it out on you, follow this action-series:

1.    In your head, say "Thanks for the help! You brightened my day!" I'm going to recommend against saying it out loud because it probably will come out too sarcastic.

2.    Thank them aloud for their input. Keep your face as impassive as possible.

3.    Ask for a suggestion on how you can improve their experience in the future, and whatever they say (this is important) - write it down right in front of them.

4.    Summarize your interaction in a brief email: "Dear Mr. Jones, I was disappointed to learn that you were inconvenienced this morning because of X. I have taken note of your recommendation that I do X (whatever you wrote down earlier, minus profanity if they were really on a roll), and will work hard to implement this strategy in the future. Thank you for your time and your advice on this matter."

By the time you have finished this four-step series, you will find that not only are you calmed down, but in many cases your employer will watch their "feedback" more carefully when they are compelled to read about it later. Your skin will thicken as you realize that everything is not your fault and that you are taking proactive steps to improve the situation, and you will likely develop a better working relationship with your boss in the process.
 

Posted: Wednesday 24 March 2010 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Soft Skills

I was reading this article, would be angry if some one tried some of these, insulted on others and on number 3 would just irriate me to make a quick hang up.  I thought it would be fun to post and see what others think: 

The Top 7 Ways to Get Past Gatekeepers
Posted: Wednesday 17 March 2010 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Miscellaneous

I noticed there are some blank blogs and I have found a way to get past having all your text disappear.   Type it into a text document such as notepad (or copy and paste into notepad).   Then copy and paste paragaph by paragraph, once it disappears you know something within that paragraph is goofy.  I have found " in a wrong format can do it, simple  ...  (3 periods in a row).   What ever it is, I fix it and then move on to the next paragraph.   I have heard from DeskDemon they are fixing this.  In the meantime, there is my fix and how I get posts up.

 
Posted: Tuesday 16 March 2010 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

I will never forget the worst joke I told at work. I was laughing with a friend of mine who worked upstairs about how swamped we were. We were both cackling and giggling and carrying on, and I said to her, "I swear, the next person who walks in here and asks me to do something is going to get a punch in the nose. " Sounds pretty harmless, doesn't it? In fact, you're probably thinking to yourself that it doesn't even sound like much of a joke, and maybe that I'm not very funny. Well, as it turned out, you're right: I'm not very funny at all. 


I didn't think much else about what I had said that day, or even that week. I just kept on working as hard as I could, hoping that soon I would get some more interesting work to do. There had been several projects coming up at work that I had my eye on, and I was pretty sure that thanks to my dedication, hard work and willingness to do whatever was necessary to get the job done, I would get at least one of them. I waited for my boss to bring it up, but she never did.

I worked at that job for several more months and watched several more projects go by that I thought I would have been perfect for. Since I was an administrator and technically those projects did not fall in my job description, I finally decided that the only way to make sure that I was in line for one was to speak to my supervisor directly and make sure that she knew that I was interested and willing to put in the extra time and effort in order to get the experience under my belt.

I bet by now you can see where this is going

Well, when I talked to her, she looked at me with total surprise. Literally, her mouth nearly fell open with shock. She told me that she had wanted to assign several projects to me already, but shied away because it always seemed like I was so swamped and that my "attitude" indicated that I couldn't handle anything else. Well, it took me some time, but eventually we got to the bottom of it. She had heard my feeble "joke" and taken me at my word. I lost out because I was running my big mouth around people who didn't know me well enough to take me with a grain of salt, and I'm lucky that I had a boss understanding enough to accept my apology for my unprofessional behavior and assign me the extra projects I had been wanting.

Moral of the story? Simple: Watch your mouth in the office, because not everyone is guaranteed to know that you are joking.



 
Posted: Monday 22 February 2010 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

When I first started working at a big company as an administrative assistant, I actually was looking forward to the politics. I had watched so many movies and read so many profiles about ambitious young assistants who knew where to place their loyalties and how to make connections to skyrocket them to the top that I could not wait for my first personal chance at making those life-changing connections myself.

In our division, I had plenty of opportunities to politic. In fact, when I arrived, it soon became evident that my boss and her counterpart were going to be going head-to-head in short order for a big promotion. It was pretty well understood that whoever got it was going to make the other's life miserable, so we were all pretty invested in making sure that our "side" had everything going for them possible. Unfortunately, this included some fairly serious informational sabotage in some cases as both sides tried to make sure that the other missed meetings, deadlines and lost materials.

As you can probably imagine, this all ended quite badly. There was a pretty serious fiasco when all of the maneuvering finally came to light thanks to a lot of missing links and wasted meetings. Ultimately, both parties kept their jobs and neither got a promotion. And - I guess this shouldn't have surprised any of us - their teams pretty much got sacked.

And honestly, we deserved it. Administrative assistants' entire job is to make things run smoothly, and when you deliberately fail to do that, you have basically elected not to do your job. I should have done my best to steer clear rather than thinking my so-called "loyalty" would be rewarded later. I would have gotten a lot farther just doing my job.

In the end, things could have been a lot worse. I was able to land a new job within a few months, but money was definitely tight in the interim. Several of the people I worked with who were more integral to the entire process never did find new employment because they could not get a good reference from the company. I, at least, was new enough that they did not hold me too responsible for the chaos. I squeaked by on that one, but I can guarantee you I will keep my nose to my desk next time any office politics come up in my office. The rewards - if there are any - are not worth the irresponsible behavior and the potential cost of my job!


Posted: Thursday 14 January 2010 - 6 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Miscellaneous


Potlucks seem so easy. Invite people, and instruct them to bring food. Add a fun atmosphere and, voila, instant party!  But there are some hidden pitfalls behind potluck planning. Overlook them, and while you may have food, family, friends and festivities, you may also have nothing but green bean casserole for dinner. Follow these simple potluck planning rules to insure a successful - and varied - potluck dinner.

Take control of the main course.
As the host of the event, you are responsible for insuring that there is one main dish. This can be something simple, like a large ham, or something more elaborate, like vegetarian lasagna. The important thing is to know ahead of time what that course will be and let others know so that they can tailor their offerings appropriately. By taking charge of the main course, you insure that there will be a real dinner rather than just a bunch of side dishes.

Do not be shy about handing out assignments.

You do not have to tell people what to cook, but it will result in a better balanced menu if you give them a type of item. Note who you have instructed to bring what, and make sure that you are keeping things in perspective. For example, while 5 side dishes and 5 desserts may be entirely appropriate, it is not likely that you also need 5 people to bring crackers. One or two people in charge of breads will likely be plenty.

Do not forget the flatware.

Because everyone is contributing, it can be easy to overlook simple necessities like napkins, utensils and paper plates. Either assign these to someone in place of food, or resolve to provide them yourself.

Provide structure.

Plan ahead a little for how the event will go. When will you start eating? Will there be foods that people can munch while they are waiting for everyone else to get there? Will you need someone to say a blessing? Establishing a timeline for yourself will help you keep the entire event running smoothly and prevent your potluck from collapsing into bedlam.

Posted: Sunday 3 January 2010 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: Career

As a professional, it is vitally important to have your own set of goals. After all, having a clear view of what you want to accomplish is the best way to insure that you remain focused and productive regardless of your area of expertise. However, sometimes your goals may not be exactly in sync with those of your employer. While it is perfectly acceptable to have personal goals, you also need to make sure that you are keeping your company's goals in mind as well in order to be the best employee possible and create a positive work environment.


When you are setting your own goals, be sure to align them with those of your employer as well. You may even wish to keep a copy of the company goals on hand while you are setting your own. For example, if your own personal goal is to advance in your levels of responsibility, which will result in more valuable work experience and a higher salary, then you might consult your employer to find out how best to achieve this goal in terms of the company's aims. It may turn out that there is a project that has gone unfinished because no one had time to complete it or another specific task that could accelerate the accomplishment of your personal goals while benefitting the company as well.


It is always wise to ask your employer outright how you can support their goals. This leads to improved communication between the two of you and also will make it clear to your employer that you value their success as well as your own. In addition, an immediate supervisor probably also has personal goals in addition to the company goals. Helping that person achieve their own personal or professional aims can aid you in your own professional climb and help you establish a reputation as a truly helpful and valuable member of any team.


Once you have set your own goals and aligned them with the company's goals and your immediate supervisor's goals, re-evaluate your target one more time. This is important because it will help you insure that you do not allow your own goals to be lost in this process. You will feel most fulfilled - and be the best and most productive employee possible - if your aims and those of the people you work with all work together for a positive end result.