Fix These Communication Mistakes Now

Career & Workplace

fix these communication mistakes now
The Muse is a good site for workplace advice and recently gave us 8 Communication Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making. It’s a compilation of suggestions from various sources and, really, it’s common sense. Here’s the quick list of these common mistakes:

  • Keeping an old subject line for a new topic — start a new subject line if you change the topic in an email chain.
  • Emailing when the issue is urgent — call, text, or talk directly to someone you need an immediate response from.
  • Using big hand gestures when speaking — makes you seem less powerful.
  • Using buzzwords & phrases — just say it in plain language.
  • Only speaking to a group one way — use a variety of styles to get the point across.
  • Asking questions that get a short answer — get past “yes” and “no” to the real stuff.
  • Apologizing when it’s not your fault — express sympathy without taking the blame.
  • Finishing other people’s sentences — it’s rude.

These mistakes are easy to make when you are busy or thinking about a project instead of the people around you. But if there are too many instances where you make these types of mistakes, you may be creating a reputation you don’t want. Reputation management and your career are intertwined. he way others in the workplace view your ability to communicate will affect everything from being on the next team project to getting a promotion. It also affects the references you are given.
It isn’t difficult to make mistakes in communication, but it also is easy to fix them. All it takes is being mindful of the ways you express yourself and aware of the way your communication efforts are being received. If you suddenly realized you do something on the list, start working to change that and see what happens in your workplace dynamics. Good things happen when communication is good.

How To Dress For Business Casual

Career & Workplace

how to dress for business casual
One of the more flexible definitions in office wear is “business casual”. This is because there are so many variables in acceptable clothing for an office environment. So, how do you decide what the new workplace will define as “business casual” when you are told to show up for your new job? It really depends on where you work, and who you work with.

  • Pay attention to how people in the office are dressed when you come in for your interview.
  • Aim high…you can take off a tie or jacket but it’s harder to amp up your professional look in flip flops. (By the way, flip flops are generally not considered office wear. Really!)
  • Wear your interview outfit the first day and ask for the dress code. Many businesses will hand that out with the paperwork to be filled out in training. Some establishments have a more casual dress code for the summer, some have “Casual Fridays,” and it’s better to see it explained in writing/pictures if possible.
  • Projecting a professional image is never a bad idea. Dress for the job you hope to get promoted to someday.
  • Invest in good quality basics like solid-colored pants, skirts, and jackets. These can be mixed up with several shirts to get a week’s worth of outfits that will be acceptable anywhere. Add the jacket to create a suit for special occasions. Don’t forget good shoes!
  • If you are just entering the job market, ask for advice on your wardrobe. Many of the things you already have may work just fine when mixed with those basics.
  • It’s OK to add your personality into your office wear, but go slow and pay attention to your environment. That means one touch of individuality per outfit until you know what is expected.
  • Know the regional quirks. Cowboy boots in Fort Worth, Texas are part of a formal outfit, but not in Philadelphia.

The majority of jobs are not paying you to express yourself; they are paying you to represent their company. It isn’t hard to go conservative for a bit to get the feel of what your new position’s “business casual” attire actually entails, if you keep that in mind.

Don't Kill Your Career: Attitudes Change Your Workplace

Career & Workplace

don't kill your career: attitudes change your workplace
Your attitude at work can change your career in ways you may not expect. Just as workplace gossip is seen as a problem, so are rudeness and apathy. These attitudes may not be overtly hostile, but they cause damage all the same and can stop your career in its tracks.
Call centers train their workers to smile when they speak on the phone to customers. This is because a smile is heard in the voice even when you can’t see the speaker and will influence the hearer. If something so simple as a smile will change the way you are heard on the phone, imagine how much your attitude changes the way you interact with your co-workers and customers!
Gossip is a trap many fall into because it is so easy to talk about other people. The long-term effects of gossip are seen with strife in the workplace, time-wasting, and the gossip being considered untrustworthy. Don’t listen to gossip and don’t pass it on.
Rudeness will cause folks to back away and go somewhere else. Why be treated like that when it is easy to find an alternative? There are many reasons given as an excuse for rudeness, and not one of them changes the initial reaction. You may win someone back by apologizing, but it’s better to avoid the problem by thinking about how your attitudes and actions affect other people. Treat others kindly, just like you’d like them to treat you.
Apathy is like quicksand. The longer you sit in it, the harder it is to get out. If you feel like what you are doing every day is worth little, then apathy sets in quickly. No matter where you are in life, apathy changes the way you see your life and the way you interact with others. A wise man once noted that investing in something makes it precious to you. Start putting effort into a task or a person and that task or person becomes important.
My earlier example of the smile over the phone left out one important factor: that smile did not have to be “felt” by the smiler in order to be heard by the caller. Your voice changes when your lips are shaped into a smile. In the same way, your attitudes are not at the mercy of your feelings at the moment. Choose to have a good attitude and see how your workplace changes around you and your career opportunities open up.

3 Ways Clutter Affects Your Career

Career & Workplace

Cluttered office
Clutter really does affect your career: there have been studies that prove it affects the way employers and coworkers view your ability to do your job. Forbes ran an article called “The Dangers Of A Messy Desk” where a study clearly showed that co-workers judge other’s work habits by their cleanliness, and Office Max did a similar study with similar results.  Here are three ways that those piles bring your life to a halt:

  1. You lose important information. The argument that it has to be in your view in order for you to remember to do it loses its power when you stop seeing the item that is in front of you. Honestly, what important piece of paper have you frantically looked for in the past few months?
  2. You get overwhelmed. How many times have you said, “I can’t deal with that right now, I’ll get to it later”? How many times did you actually get to it and do it the way you should have?
  3. You look inefficient. People assume that you are just like they are: overwhelmed by piles of papers and stuff while you stop seeing what’s in front of you and lose important information.

This isn’t just a workplace problem. UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families came out with a book on our clutter culture in America that is kind of fascinating and appalling and convicting all at the same time. But we don’t have to be handcuffed by our clutter habits!
Get real and start small. Take ten or fifteen minutes (set the timer) and work on one pile…and stop at the end of that time. Do this every day and you will begin to see a big difference. There’s all sorts of decluttering advice out there, but the big thing is doing it; if you wait until you have time to do it all, you probably will never do it.
If you are looking for a job, be professional about it and keep your surroundings professional. Make your job hunt a priority and respect your time job searching. Create a desk area, keep track of your papers and appointments, do the electronic weeding of your emails, etc.
Take a picture of your desk, cubicle, office, or work area, and look at it. Be honest, now. What would you think if that were a coworker’s space? If you were the boss, would you want that person working for you? If you like the way it looks, then maintain it. If you don’t like the way it looks, you have the ability to change it – a little at a time.

Change of Plans

Career & Workplace
What to Do if you Don’t Know what you Want to Do       
I was talking to my sister recently about her son who is a freshman in college. Now he not so sure he wants to keep his major in Mechanical Engineering, even though it has been his dream for years to design and work on cars. I think college kids have it tough because it is a hard decision to make at 17, “What do you want to do for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?” I didn’t even realize what I wanted to do until I was about 26, so I feel for the younger kids who are pressured early on to ‘pick a major’.

So, it got me to thinking about our choices when we are adults. What happens if we change our mind? What if I don’t want to write resumes anymore, but I’m not really sure what I want to do? What would my next step be? Here are a few simple ideas to help you get started:
1) Well, for starters, if you really have no idea WHAT you want to do, I would suggest enlisting the help of a Certified Career Coach. A career coach is trained in helping people figure these things out! The will gather your likes/dislikes from you, coach you on possible positions, and work you through the pros and cons.
2) Take an assessment. The internet is loaded with lots of free sites where you can take behavioral, career, and personality assessments. I just recently took one and was surprised by what it said. It was so true, but the info it contained hadn’t really occurred to me. An assessment will highlight your strengths and weaknesses, and also may offer insight into which jobs might be a match for you. They are quick and easy to take. Fun, too!
3) Do what you love! There is a saying that goes, “Do what you love and the universe will support you”, or in other words, do what you love and success will follow. I did not love sales and I was not good at it, therefore success didn’t follow me (not one bit). However, I always loved writing, always loved helping adults with career transition/job search, and discovered I had a knack for resume writing. Presto! I love it and I make a nice living by doing it. What is your hobby? Can you make money from it? Give it a whirl. You never know.
4) Research Occupations. Do your homework and look up jobs that have always sounded interesting to you. Go on an informational interview or shadow someone whose occupation you would love to be in. Don’t feel embarrassed about asking; people love to talk about themselves and what they do! I always felt that another calling of mine would be event planning. I know my organized, anal retentive, attention-to-detail side would be perfect for it, and who knows? It could be a back up job. I did my research on the different characteristics and strengths needed for the job and found a match. Look up occupations that interest you online, read the details and see if you match up.
Figuring out what you want to do is no easy task for most of us, so go within yourself and find out what you would truly enjoy. Look it up online and see if there is a calling for it anywhere. This is the fun part. The world is full of possibilities, so go grab yourself some!
Erin Kennedy, CPRW, CERW

My 10-Year Rez-i-Versary!

Erin's Musings
MY 10 YEAR Rez-I-Versary!

I woke up this morning and thought, hmmm, what’s different? Then out of nowhere came a flash of memory– 10 years ago this month I started at the Career Center and everything in my career life changed.
Up until then, I had been in college and worked as a manicurist at a salon (and at home). It was great money and put me through school… well that, and many, many, thousands in student loans. Not saying college wasn’t worth the money, because it was. That is where I discovered my interest in careers, job search, and resumes. It’s just a lot of money, as many of you know. But I digress.
So, January of 1999 is when I started writing resumes. I admit, when I first started I was not great at it. It was a good thing that I was working for a non-profit center and no one had to pay for my services. I helped people, or “walk-ins”, who had just been laid off from their jobs and had to come in and put their resume on the “talent bank” in order to get compensation from the State. Most didn’t have resumes, so we started from scratch. I was great at putting everything in order chronologically, but not great at career summaries–still in the mindset of “objectives”. Ewww. I would then go very heavy on bullet points. Bullet after bullet of whatever they did. Not great, but learning. This process grabbed my interest, so I started rifling through our many resume books we had at the Center. I was “wow’ed” by so many of the resumes that I saw that I just devoured the books, joined the PARW/CC (Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches) and was off and running, honing my skills and practicing like crazy.
One day a fellow came in and showed me his resume. He said, “I just paid $250.00 for this and the one YOU did for my friend for FREE was so much better!”. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I could GET PAID FOR THIS? OHMYGOSHHHHH! Those weren’t my exact words, but you get the drift. $250 was big money for a resume in 2001. I set up a website, quit my job at the career center, put out my shingle, and here I am today. I’ve earned my certifications, gotten my work published in various best-selling career books, been nominated for several awards, and have written thousands of resumes since then.
So, that’s my story. Happy Rez-I-Versary to me! Hmmm. How shall I celebrate? Maybe I’ll start by finishing up this CV for a Professor that I have been working on, and then get started on the VP of Business Development resume that is next on my list… and so on.
Still learning, still loving my job, and still helping job seekers land the jobs that they want.
I’ve always felt like I sort of “fell into” writing resumes. Many of us fall into our jobs, or they fall into us. Do you have any upcoming Job-I-Versary stories you’d like to share? Did you fall into your job? I’d love to know.

Today the United States of America made history. We elected the first black President.

In the 1860’s, President Lincoln said it would take 100 years to undo the crimes of slavery and he was right. In the 1960’s Martin Luther King took our country down a new path, a path of change– promoting, no, demanding equal rights for all races. And now, today, 40+ years later, here we are. Our great country proved we could change and we could savor the taste of hope again. Despite our splits, despite our different views, today we made history. I am so very proud to say I live in the U.S. Especially now. Change is a good thing. Sometimes it is painful or uncomfortable, but it also helps us to grow.

What changes have you made in your life lately? Have you left your comfort zone, even a little? For me, it is this blog. It is painful to me to be anything but immensely private about my life, but I have realized that it is in sharing that you build relationships. I have always been very, very private, so believe me when I say that even blogging about this is pretty uncomfortable. This is one of my “Small Attainable Goals” for 2009– to get out of my comfort zone and open up a bit. I know I can grow from it. I know it will create deeper relationships with friends and clients.

Another thing I did, which is equally as big of a deal to me, is I cut my hair. OK, guys you may be groaning here, but for women, IT’S A BIG DEAL. I cut 8 inches off my hair. I’ve always had long hair, but this year felt different. Something was in the air and I kept hearing, “A New Year, A New YOU” in my head. So I did it. It was pretty scary, seeing 38 years of my life floating down, gently drifting toward the floor, but it was also a feeling of, “Ahhhh!”. Now, here is the new me… sassy and stylish. The best part is, I feel really good about it. I walk past a mirror, expecting to see my staticky hair down past the middle of my back, but WHOA! who is that fun-looking person? Oh yea, that’s me!

Think about something you would like to change. It could be as big as quitting smoking or as small as taking a new route to work. Change is good. It helps you grow and learn new things about yourself, “Hey, who knew I would get up my nerve to stand up in front of 22 students and teach a night course in Economics?” Great things can happen when you change. You will meet new people, experience new things, and take a different path perhaps leading you to something new and exciting.

What change would you like to make? I would love to know– and to know how you feel now that you DID IT (or at least made up your mind to do it). Talk to me…

Unusual Jobs– A-Z

Career & WorkplaceJob Search

A special thanks to Laura DiCarlo of Career Directors International (CDI) for sending this over to me. Thought I’d share it with you!

+++++ released a new survey on Unusual (and Fun) Jobs A to Z. They asked 8,700 works and the following are the top entrants, A to Z:

A – Autopsy assistant
B – Bartender at the Liberace mansion
C – Cat nanny
D – Donkey trainer
E – Elf at Santa’s workshop
F – FBI fingerprint examiner
G – Grave digger
H – Hurricane hunter
I – Ice sculpture carver
J – Junk mail machine operator
K- Kitty litter box decorator
L – Laser tag referee
M – Magician’s assistant
N – Nuclear electrician on a submarine
O – Opera singer
P – Parachute tester
Q – Quality control/taster for chocolate factory
R – Romance specialist
S – Scratcher (scratched backs for patients)
T – Turkey wrangler
U – Undercover vice decoy
V – Video game tester
W – Wallpaper peeler
X – X-ray technician for zoo animals
Y – Yawn counter at a sleep clinic
Z – Zamboni driver