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Entries in communication (4)

Tuesday
Feb032015

Stop Using These Words In Your Emails!

Do you know how you sound in emails?

Without the benefit of being able to hear people’s vocal inflections or see their faces, it can be challenging to interpret how the person on the other end of an email is feeling. Emoticons and exclamation points can only take you so far (especially in a business email), and in fact, sometimes formal business language can start to sound, well, negative without context.

Wall Street Journal article on enigmatic email tells the story of a consultant who sent a detailed project plan to her client by email and received only a one-word response: “Noted."

She feared he was angry or disappointed, when in fact, he was thrilled to be able to clear the issue from his inbox with so little effort.

So how can you ensure you get your message across without seeming negative?

Accentuate the positive.

Overall, the word choices you make add up to the tone of your communications. And when you consistently choose negative words and phrases, your emails will sound terse, condescending, or angry.

Negativity is never good and always sends out negative vibes. Even if you feel negative about a situation, you can still make an effort to turn your emails into more positive messages — which usually get better responses.

Words like cannot, damage, do not, error, fail, impossible, little value, loss, mistake, not, problem, refuse, stop, unable to, unfortunately, escalation, urgent, never, inability and unsound all have a strong negative connotation.

Take this sentence for example:

Unfortunately, it looks impossible to finish the project on time because of the problems some people are causing with submitting their work late.

That’s a lot of negative words for one sentence. But you could easily convey the same information in a more positive way, like this:

Can everyone please turn in their portion of the project by Thursday so that we can complete the work on time and hit the deadline?

As you can see, it’s all about the words you choose that conveys your tone. If the boss in the Wall Street Journal example above had even responded with, “Thank you!” instead of “Noted,” his employee probably would not have worried whether she had done a good job.

Try to phrase your message using more positive terms like benefit, it is best to, issue, matter, progress, success and valuable.

Dos and Don’ts

An easy way to fall into the negativity trap is to start listing out things people shouldn’t do. Don’t leave uneaten food in the office refrigerator. Don’t be late to the meeting. Even saying “don’t forget” is more negative than saying “remember.”

Instead of telling others what not to do, try telling them what they should do instead. Please take your lunches home at the end of the day. Please arrive for the meeting five minutes early.

People are much more likely to comply with a positive request than a negative complaint on their behavior.

When in doubt, spell it out.

If you find that people frequently misinterpret your emails, you might need to be more explicit. There’s no harm in actually saying how you feel when communicating with colleagues, especially those with whom you have a good relationship.

For example, rather than using terse, negative language in an email about project scheduling because you’re sick of the software you have to use to schedule meetings, you might come out and say, “This scheduling system is frustrating to me, but it looks like we can meet on Friday…”

That way, the recipient can understand that you’re feeling negative about something other than him.

Source: Bernard Marr, Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Leading Business and Data Expert; 
December 8th, 2014

URL: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141208072941-64875646-stop-using-these-words-in-your-emails?trk=mp-author-card


Monday
Nov102014

FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY TO YOUR BOSS

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Saying the wrong things to your boss can damage your career in ways that are hard to recover from. It’s important to think before you speak, even when you are upset or passionate about an issue. It’s the first step in keeping a positive relationship with your boss, and while it might sound easy, you’d be surprised how many struggle with this idea. Throwing away certain phrases that most bosses hate is the second step.

So to save you from sticking your foot in your mouth, here’s a quick list of five things you should never say to your boss.

1. “I can’t” or “That’s impossible.”
Never tell your boss that something cannot be done. Choose to speak about what can be done instead, and always think of how you can solve problems instead of falling victim to them.

“It can’t be done by Friday” can be turned into, “This may be difficult to complete by Friday, but I know it can be completed by Monday,” or, “We could meet this Friday deadline, but we may need to bring in extra help to do so.”

If you can create solutions for what seems like an impossible situation, your boss is more likely to help you achieve it.

2. “But, we’ve always done it this way.”
Don’t get stuck in the past. If you have a new boss who wants to do things a new way or an old boss who wants to try something different, meet the challenge straight away. If you say, ”But, we’ve always done it this way,” you run the risk of looking stale and combative.

Be a part of the brainstorming process and be open to new ways of doing things. If you are gravely concerned about a new process, present it as a challenge by saying, “In order for this to work, we may have to…”

Don’t kill your boss’ idea with a stubborn or negative attitude. Show you are open to growing as an employee and willing to work with your boss, for better or worse. Who knows? You may just learn a valuable new skill or find a better way of doing something.

3. “That’s not my job” or “That’s not my department”
If your boss comes to you with an assignment or a request, don’t shut him or her down with, “That’s not part of my job description.” Your boss needs your help and has come to you, because he or she has faith you can do that task. If you’re concerned a new assignment is out of your regular responsibilities, ask who you can turn to for help.

By taking on an outside responsibility, you have the chance to not only shine in your boss’ eyes, but also learn a new skill set. It’s the perfect opportunity to show those in charge that you are a team player and a bold employee who rises to the challenge.

4. “It’s not my fault” or “It’s so and so’s fault, not mine.”
If you make a mistake, own up to it. If you didn’t make a mistake, explain that fact without pointing fingers or sounding petulant.

Never point fingers at another coworker or someone else. This is not only in poor taste, but makes you look unprofessional. If you believe someone else could clarify the situation, refer your manager to them directly.

Bosses know that mistakes happen. The sign of a confident and professional employee is one who can honestly admit to a mistake – and offer solutions to fix it.

5. “I don’t know…”
No one expects you to know everything, but saying “I don’t know” and leaving it at that can be a career-killer. If you don’t know the answer to something your boss asks, say instead, “I’m not sure, but I can find out.”

By offering to discover the answer to whatever question your leaders have, you show them you are eager, curious, a problem-solver, and committed. You’ll learn something new too, and by volunteering to find the information, you’ll end up as a vital resource to your company.

Saying the right things at the right time
No employee is perfect all the time. Everyone sticks their foot in their mouth in front of their boss now and again, but avoiding the career-killer phrases above will help minimize any damage.

Do you have phrases to add? Did we miss anything on this list? Let us know in the comments section below!

Tuesday
Sep232014

THE #1 SOFT SKILL EVERY JOB SEEKER SHOULD HAVE

softskills_Sept2014_web

When employers evaluate potential employees they look at two different skills sets – the applicant’s hard skills and the applicant’s soft skills. The hard skillsyou possess are skills you’ve acquired through education and experience, skills like your ability to operate a machine or a computer, for example. The second set of skills employers look at is your soft skills.

Soft skills include skills like how well you communicate with others or how well you manage your time. They are generally considered more subjective but are equally, if not more important, than the hard skills you have.

Every time you communicate with a potential employer whether it’s through your cover letter, resume, during the interview, or in your follow up, you are revealing some of your soft skills. But which ones help you stand out from other applicants?

The Top Five Soft Skills
In a recent survey of 115 Express franchises across the nation, Express found that the top five most important soft skills employers look for are:

  1. Dependability
  2. Communication
  3. Commitment
  4. Motivation
  5. Initiative

For the second year in a row, dependability was considered the most important soft skill to have.  Employers need to put a lot of trust in their employees, so they need people they can count on no matter what. You can teach people hard skills, but soft skills like dependability have more to do with who you are (your character) than what you know.

Demonstrating Your Dependability to Potential Employers
If dependability is the top soft skill employers are looking for, then it’s important to make sure you exhibit your reliability during the application and interview process. Here are some ways to do just that:

1. Update Your Resume and Cover Letter
Because resumes and cover letters are an important part of getting an interview it’s very important to ensure your resume illustrates your dependability as much as possible. Employers will look for signs of your dependability like the time spent at each job and the projects you were tasked with. You can emphasize your dependability in your resume and cover letter by using words like consistent, diligent, reliable, persistent, and improved.

2. Give Examples During Your Interview
If you go on to an interview, be sure to have some examples prepared of times that you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.  Whether you helped a coworker out or solved a problem for the company, think of times when your past employers relied on you and be prepared to share those examples in your interview.

It’s also important to remember that dependability isn’t just about what you do in difficult or big situations. It’s about what you do in the everyday, small things that matters most, like showing up to work early every day. With that in mind, remember that it’s so important to show up to your interview on time because that too will be a demonstration of your dependability to an employer.

If an employer asks you when you’d be available to work and you’re currently employed at another company, be sure to let them know that out of respect, you want to give your current company the standard two week notice. They would want the same courtesy shown to them if the tables were turned, so this is just another way you can demonstrate your reliability.

If they ask you not to share information about their interview process for privacy or security reasons, as tempting as it may be to talk about it with your friends and family, be sure to respect their wishes and keep it to yourself. You never know how it could get back to someone if you’re not careful. The more trustworthy you are in the small things, the more trustworthy you will be in the big things.

3. Your Follow Up
After the interview, if you were assigned a task or project to submit as an example of your work, be sure to complete it as soon as possible and get it back to the perspective employer on time. This is an important opportunity to display your hard and soft skills at the same time.

These are just a few of the ways you can demonstrate your dependability to an employer. Share some of the ways you demonstrate your dependability in the comments section below.

Thursday
Sep112014

Resume Selfie: What Your Resume Says About You

resume_selfie_web

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, selfies don’t appear to be going away any time soon. Those sometimes cute and sometimes in bad taste self photos that say “look at me” are still a growing trend, so much so that The Oxford Dictionaries named “selfie” the Word of the Year in 2013. There are good things and bad things to say about selfies, but as a job seeker there is one aspect of the selfie you would be wise to emulate.

 

Just like those images attract attention, your resume should be doing the same. And just as those pictures can tell you a lot about the person being photographed, your resume tells potential employers a lot about you. With that in mind, it’s critical that what your resume says about you is positive, accurate, and intriguing. As Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, a career and workplace adviser at Glassdoor, tells Forbes, “Resumes are the heartbeat of a career search. If done well, your resume will tell your story and sell you.”

Capture Your Good Side
There is a lot of good advice out there on what not to say in your resume and how you can make it better. However, you also really need to specifically consider what you want it to say – what kind of impression you want your resume to give. Every job and employer is different, but there are some basic characteristics that are desirable in every position or company, and you want to ensure your resume highlights those.

So check out these five things you want your resume to say about you and how to get the message across.

I’m Detailed
The best way to say you’re detail-oriented is by displaying it in your resume. Start by ensuring that there are no spelling mistakes within your resume and that your formatting is consistent throughout. Based on the position’s job description, include only the most effective information in your resume, and that means quantifying, not just describing, your accomplishments. As another Forbes article states, “We live in a metrics driven work culture and it’s no longer enough to state that you increased sales or productivity, you need to back it up with quantifiable data whenever possible.”

I Have Skills
Don’t confuse job responsibilities with skills. You want employers to have a full picture of what you can do and all the skills you bring to the table. Matt Tarpey, a career adviser with CareerBuilder, tells Forbes, “A list of hard skills and examples of how you put those skills to use in previous positions is a great way to stand out from the pack.”

I’m Driven
Learned a new skill on your own time, taken on a leadership position within a professional organization, or working toward an advanced degree in the evenings? Include it in your resume. As US News explains, “Employers seek people who will take upon themselves more than what is actually expected or required.”

I Work Well With Others
Employers don’t want drama between their employees, so highlight your interpersonal skills. Include any experience you’ve had in a leadership role, successfully working on a team, or acting as a mediator between clients and vendors. This can also include experience outside the workplace, such as industry associations or non-profit organizations. “Employers want to hire people who can play well with others in the ‘corporate sandbox,’” another US News article says.

I’m A Good Communicator
Your resume will tell an employer very quickly whether or not you can communicate well. Providing succinct information that makes sense and uses proper grammar is vital. And, since communicating is also about listening and understanding, show that you understand what the employer is looking for by tailoring your resume to the specific position.

While the written resume may seem old-school compared to the selfie, it’s still very much a part of the job search. “Even as technology has advanced and changed the way job seekers find open positions, the resume remains an integral part of the hiring process,” Tarpey reinforces. And, as the ultimate selfie, you want your resume to scream, “Look at me!” for all the right reasons.

What else do you want your resume to communicate to employers? How do you ensure that your resume represents an accurate, positive picture? Share your thoughts on your own resume selfie in the comments section below.