how to advance your career at the office party

It’s that time of year when the holiday parties start popping up on your calendar. Some parties are going to be times to relax and let it all hang out (whatever your particular group of cronies likes to hang out and do), but the office party is a different kind of festive occasion.

Corporate Celebrations Are Career-Oriented

Don’t make the mistake of forgetting about Monday morning when you are in party mode. It’s important to know your etiquette for office holiday parties because everything that happens is remembered and discussed. The party is the company’s way of expressing appreciation for your hard work, but it isn’t an excuse to get drunk or act in ways you will regret.

If you are interested in improving your career, the office party is a great place to make connections with people you would not be able to talk to during normal business operations.

Office Parties Are Networking Opportunities

Think of this occasion as a fancy networking session.

  • You are dressed up — but make sure you still look like a professional rather than a party animal.
  • You might be drinking alcohol — but make sure it doesn’t negatively affect your behavior.
  • The rules are relaxed — so you can talk to the boss or others higher in the organization without an appointment.

You know that there will be memories of the party, so make sure the memories of you are good. Think about that classic 80/20 ratio and plan on listening 80% of the time.  You don’t want to wake up the next morning, remember how you acted, and groan. Ask questions, make connections, but don’t monopolize the evening trying to get the boss to notice how great you are. This is a time to be enjoyed, but it also is a time that can be good for your career.


Some industries tolerate a lot more colorful language than others. But even in fields known for cursing, having a foul mouth can cost you big time. Pro football’s Rex Ryan, coach of the Jets, was recently “stunned” that the NFL fined him $100,000 for profanity toward an official. He says he didn’t expect what he thought was a private conversation to result in such a big penalty.

The Things You Say Have An Effect

Probably the language Rex Ryan used was to emphasize what he wanted to say. Then again, maybe he talks like that all the time because he hears it all the time. That old saying, “garbage in, garbage out” definitely comes into play when it comes to our words. So how do we discern when the cost of letting it fly is too high?

  • Figure out if you have a tendency to use words like the F-bomb without thinking about it. If you don’t realize what your language is like, you already have a problem because your brain isn’t in gear when your mouth is in motion. While it can be argued that an occasional curse word will emphasize a point, that same word littering your sentences is meaningless pollution.
  • Listen to the way upper level management speaks. If your industry doesn’t condone salty language, your saltiness will keep you from advancing. Swearing around the boss is far more offensive when the boss doesn’t ever swear at work. There might be lots of it tossed around the cubicles, but if management doesn’t do it, then you shouldn’t either.
  • How do you express frustration or anger to a colleague? A raging rant full of expletives might be a venting mechanism, but it isn’t solving any problems. If all you do is curse the darkness, your contribution is negative. But lighting a candle — working on a solution — shows you have something valuable to offer.

The language we use is part of who we are, but it can give the hearer a negative impression of how you will be in a higher-level position. That false impression is why the language of our lifestyle can ruin a career opportunity. It would be a shame to let it happen to you.


Did you know you can set up your day to have a quick opportunity to improve yourself? One of the nicest things about the internet is the opportunity to learn, and improving your language is going to make a difference in your career.

Here’s why language is important: the things you write online stay there. The impression you make with your speech and writing doesn’t fade too fast, either. If you are consistently using language the way that “everybody” uses language online, then you are automatically closing the street to opportunity.

Learn A Little Every Day

I like Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips because they are funny, memorable, and short. You may prefer another source, and there are certainly plenty out there. I also use the Gregg’s Reference Manual. It’s the bible for grammar geeks. What you need is a regular reminder of common mistakes and how to avoid those mistakes that you will enjoy reading. I’m always surprised at the things I learn. Something new every day!

That small, daily dose of language skills is a regular reminder of the importance of language. It might not seem like much, but the proper use of language moves you past barriers that keep your career from flourishing. It might be true that a top executive dictates letters to a secretary instead of writing them personally, but it’s also true that the executive still has to use language competently.

Learning a little every day is part of being a leader. Looking for life-long learning opportunities keeps your brain active and your attitude flexible for the challenges of being an influence both today and in the future. If your language skills are inadequate, you may have the greatest ideas in the world, but you can’t communicate those ideas very well.

Adding something like a daily grammar feature takes less than five minutes to read and enables a lifetime of opportunity.



Did you know that introverts can be great networkers? They just go about networking in a different mode than the extrovert, and since a lot of the advice you see on networking for your career seems to be geared toward those extroverts, the combination of introvert/networking has to be redefined.

Search Engine Journal usually is a site visited by marketers and webmasters, those interested in tech-savvy networking of the internet kind. But a recent article by Mindy Weinstein looks at 5 Networking Tips for the Tech-Savvy and Introverted, because even internet gurus have to do interpersonal networking for their career.

Use Your Strengths To Advantage

Many in the tech industries are introverted because the strengths of the introvert work well in this innovative, complex, problem-solving field. The problems most introverts have with standard networking advice is that it goes against their natural tendency to take things at a slower pace and process what is happening. It’s like being at a crowded all-you-can-eat buffet when you want to savor each bite in a quieter setting.

Once you understand your strengths, it’s a lot easier to prioritize the way you will do the networking that is so necessary in your career. These tips are a compilation of the advice given by successfully tech-savvy introverts to the rest of us:

  1. Pick and choose your networking events. Plan on only attending a select few and maximize your efforts by inviting those you connect with to a follow-up meeting.
  2. Be one of the first to arrive. This allows you to meet people at a slower pace and you know that the people who choose to sit by you are friendly, right?
  3. Don’t work the room. Your goal is to meet a few people instead of everybody there. Success is connecting, not touching.
  4. Ask questions to uncover someone’s story. Have an idea of the questions you want to ask, and share about yourself since this isn’t an interrogation. Introverts are great listeners, so use this strength to your advantage.
  5. Find out more about attendees before you go to the event. This helps in a couple of ways; you can think about what you’d like to ask, and you can connect before the event on social media if it’s appropriate. Then the networking event is a chance to meet someone you have already interacted with online.

Stretch Yourself

Some of us are more natural at networking than others, but we all need to be part of a supportive network. The idea of networking is really that of support. If networking isn’t working for you, then maybe you need to change the way you do networking. Is networking working for you? If it is, your career is being cultivated and it will grow.

how to do voice mail professionally

Are you one of the people they were talking about on NPR recently? Please Do Not Leave A Message: Why Millennials Hate Voice Mail is taking a look at the way that leaving a message is fast falling out of favor as a communication mode. You don’t have to be part of the Millennials to hate voice mail because it can be a sudden challenge you don’t do well. But there’s a problem with refusing to deal with voice mail because it is used in business all the time.

If you are searching for a job, there’s a good chance you will need to leave a voice message. If you are contacting your manager or a client, there’s an equally good chance that voicemail will be involved. The game of Phone Tag came about because of the way busy people can’t always pick up the phone and being able to text doesn’t exactly replace it.

Deal With It & Do It Right

If you know you struggle with sounding professional at the sound of the recording beep, you can learn how to deal with it and do it right. Think about the goal of your call and have a message prepared if you have to leave a voice mail. If you have to write it down before you make the call, that’s practice for the next time you need to use the skill.

The same basic rules that apply to a phone interview apply to a business call, and therefore also apply to a business voice mail.

  • Don’t make a call from a noisy environment. Go to a spot that is quiet and allows your voice to be heard.
  • It should be obvious that nothing is in your mouth, right?
  • Be prepared to state your name, phone number, the reason for the call, and repeat the name & number. Keep it short.
  • Speak clearly and don’t try to cram too much into the message. You can tell them more when they call you back.

Whether you are leaving a message for business or as part of your job search, this is one business skill that you really do need to make sure you can do even if you hate voice mail.


a simple tool to compare salaries by state

When you are looking at a job change there are lots of variables complicating your task. One of the challenges is getting an idea of how far your current salary would stretch in another state. Living costs can be quite different and the same dollar amount may translate into the equivalent of a nice raise — or an unwelcome pay cut.

Rasmussen College has a nice tool for comparing your options. Salary by State: Where Can You Really Earn The Most? is part of their Career Research Hub and this looks like it can be useful for more than a graduating senior.

Get An Idea Of Your Living Costs

The way the Salary by State tool works is simple. First, you select your occupation from the drop down menu at the top of the page. Then, you can choose up to 5 states to compare the average salaries in that career and the average salary adjusted for the cost of living. Here are the numbers for an executive in a random selection of states:

  • Connecticut: $211,850 becomes $193,647 when adjusted for cost of living
  • Pennsylvania: $180,950 becomes $183,333 when adjusted for cost of living
  • Minnesota: $160,750 becomes $164,872 when adjusted for cost of living
  • South Carolina: $141,290 becomes $155,777 when adjusted for cost of living
  • West Virginia: $96,280 becomes $108,668 when adjusted for cost of living

Those are some big variations for the same basic position of an executive, and it makes relocating a bit more adventurous because of the changes. A tool like this calculator is a good way to get an idea about what you could expect. It’s important to include any benefits offered by a potential employer in your calculations, too. Before you change jobs, make sure you are looking at all the data, including adjustments for location.



don't give up

It stings when you are not hired after an interview for a job you really wanted. It stings even more when you are sure you are well-qualified for the position and have worked hard on your resume and interview skills. What you do with rejection is going to make a big impact on what happens next.

Don’t Assume That You Are The Reason For Rejection

A company has to conduct interviews even if they already know someone inside the corporation is getting a position. It may be that you are well-qualified for the position, your resume is stellar, and you were impressive during the interview, but the person who is getting the job has the advantage of experience.

Getting into a downward spiral of dejection in this case is a mistake. You aren’t the reason for rejection if someone else is a better choice for the job because it isn’t your failure that determined the choice here.

Admit What Is Wrong

Sometimes you actually are the reason for the rejection. It might be that you didn’t seem like a good fit for the company culture, or you didn’t look the interviewer in the eye and that came across as sneaky. Maybe you were sloppy or had too much makeup or wore perfume that made their nose itch. Perhaps you checked your cell phone for messages during the interview or some other automatic habit was a problem.

The only way to know is to work on honing your interview skills and getting help identifying your blind spots.

Be Willing To Change And Learn

If you got to the interview stage, your resume and cover letter are probably not the problem. It’s not a bad idea to go over them to make sure your qualifications are evident for the next submission, but they were good enough to get you in the door for a face to face talk. Congratulations! An interview is still a good thing even if you didn’t get the job.

You have the experience of that interview to build on, and the knowledge that you were impressive enough to call in. Now it’s time to analyze what happened and learn from it. Appreciate all the advice you can gather, apply it analytically without letting your feelings get in the way, and let rejection be the catalyst that makes your success a reality.


look at your resume with new eyes

One of the best ways to fix your resume is to look at it like the recruiter or HR person will be looking at it. Do you think they read every word of every one of the multitude of resumes that cross their desk? I doubt it.

Most of the time a resume submitted online will be filtered through an applicant tracking system (ATS) that will break down the formatting and assign relevancy to the content so it can be searched using keywords that match what they are looking for. Once the resumes are filtered for relevancy and they have the applicants who are most likely to fit their specifications, it’s the human’s turn.

Here’s What Happens When Your Resume Is Read

Imagine you are that weary reader of resumes, picking up one more and hoping this is the last. What do you look for? You look for the answer to your questions:

  • Who is this person?
  • Will they be able to do the job?
  • Will they fit in the company dynamic?

How long will it take you to skim the pages and find the answers to your questions? Not long — professionals skim pretty quickly. Most estimates of time spent looking at submitted resumes are measured in single digit seconds. That means your resume needs to be easy to read. If you look like a good fit, they will call you in for an interview and find out more about you.

There are many ways to write a resume (here are some samples) and they all are easy to skim quickly. They are written for both the computer (ATS) and the human who will be reading the information. Look at your resume with new eyes, thinking about how it will be read when you submit it to that next job. Make those changes necessary and hopefully you will be called in for an interview soon!



One of the things that a resume is used for is getting a quick idea of what all your assets are and what you can contribute to the position you are applying for. This is good; you want your resume to be an introduction that leads to a longer relationship. But resumes should not show your age, because it is far too easy to assume certain ages have certain characteristics. This is one reason that “age discrimination” is one of the unlawful practices in the job market.

Even though age discrimination is unlawful, it still happens. People naturally do make assumptions about others based on initial information. But the resume that is professional, appealing, and updated gets past attitudes and showcases what you can do. That’s a good argument for making sure your resume does not show your age.

Avoid These Signals Of Age & Resumes

It’s true that age discrimination can be against the “too young” as well as the “too old”, and I don’t want to pretend it doesn’t happen. But, most of the time, the older job searcher is using a resume from years ago, or has updated their resume according to what they needed the last time they went job hunting.

Age and your resume can be as obvious as listing your birth date or as subtle as putting a double space behind the period like they taught when typewriters were the latest technology. It’s hard to stop doing something like the double space because it’s habitual and you may not realize it’s not used in this setting. Some college professors insist on a double space, so younger resume writers actually get caught here, too, but if the double space is accompanied by other signals, it’s a count against you.

Those other signals can be things like listing your jobs from the earliest on with dates included instead of the last ten years with all your skills. Skill-wise, it’s a good idea to keep it contemporary unless you are applying for a job that needs that particular ability. Being able to cut galley pages apart and do paste-up on a page spread isn’t needed any more in printing, but being able to lay out a page with a computer program is.

If you aren’t sure that your resume is age-neutral, get a critique from someone who looks at resumes all the time. You could try asking why the last company you applied to turned your application down, but it’s hard to get someone to admit they discriminated against you because of your age. By this time in your life, you have so much to offer that it’s worth taking the time to make sure your resume reflects that fact.


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