Email Dos And Don’ts

Someone ironically once told me via email, “you should write a blog about real-time communication.” This comment was in response to an email miscommunication. I couldn’t hear her tone or sense any sarcasm, and I took something the wrong way. It’s been a while since I last experienced this issue. This day and age, almost everyone communicates online. I assumed most of the “digital immigrants” had assimilated and learned the ways of us “digital natives.”

imageI was wrong.

So…for those of you fresh off the “real-time communication” boat, here’s a few pointers when communicating via email.

DO

  • Write clear and concise subject lines.  Your subject line should tell the reader what they’re about to read (go figure). Make them accurate but not rude. Short but not vague. Email subjects like “Do me favor,” won’t always go over well.
  • Start with the most important information first, when writing the body of your email. Nothing is worse than being surprised with a giant project or task after a friendly conversation about where to eat lunch.
  • Keep your emails short. If you feel the need to write a novel or can’t get your message across in a paragraph or two, then you’re using the wrong channel of communication.
  • Check your spelling and grammar. Nobody’s perfect, but there’s no excuse for not running a spell check at the very least. Set your email to do this automatically before sending.image

DON’T

  • Write an email you wouldn’t want anyone else seeing. Just ask yourself, “if a million people accidentally read this tomorrow, would I be embarrassed?” If you feel the need to gossip, complain about work or swear a lot, save it for later.

Emails are never private, so don’t use email to talk about private stuff!

  • Write the entire email in the subject line. Seriously, how annoying is it to get an empty email with all the information crammed into the subject? The reader will spend more time trying to decode the message than it would have taken the sender to just explain it in the body.
  • Use sarcasm if you don’t know the person. Cracking jokes and trying to be funny with strangers can go all sorts of wrong. Save your sarcasm for only those you truly know, and who truly know you.  Or blogs.  If your content requires a certain tone you can’t express with written words, pick up the phone (it’s that thing with the keypad that lives inside your pocket computer).
  • Use capital letters. CAPITAL LETTERS IN EMAILS = YELLING!!!
  • Send chain emails, spam or anything with naked people in it. Just don’t.
  • Use ridiculous backgrounds, fancy colors or anything that makes the email more difficult to read.

imageIf you follow these rules, you should be ok…even if you do a classic “reply all” on accident!

What email tips do you have? Horror stories?

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Access for Dummies

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Over the years I’ve had a lot of interaction with Microsoft Access. I’ve certainly entered a ton of data when I first started out and generated pre-made reports. However, it wasn’t until now that I really dove into the program to the point where I could create my own database from scratch and query my own information. To learn more about Access, I signed up for a series of free courses offered by my employer. If your employer offers these kind of services, I highly recommend you take advantage of them! If they don’t offer it, there are a lot of online options and Access For Dummies is a big help too.

For those of you who don’t think you need to know how to use Access, ask yourself the following…

Do you have large amounts of data?
Do you have no data?
Do you need to know specific things about the data you collect?
Do you need to save time and money?
Do you have multiple people who need access to the information you collect?
Do you create monthly reports using Excel?
Do you want a good resume builder?

Clearly I’m a right-brained, visual type of person. I like analyzing data and I consider myself a strategic thinker, but I like to look at it in a shiny graphical format, not globs of numbers in spreadsheets that blur together over time. I’ve wasted a lot of time in past positions entering data in Excel and then using that as a reference for some horrible Word Smart Art. Eventually I graduated to Pivot Tables and Pivot Charts (still very helpful) but nothing compares to Access in the Office family when it comes to collecting data and pulling information. I shied away from Access for a few years, simply because I assumed it was for more advanced data people…and because someone else was already taking care of that piece for me.

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I’m still somewhat of a beginner when it comes to Access, but I’m proud to say I learned (a big) something knew already in 2014. It’s so easy to fall behind with technology and even though I don’t work in data analytics or IT, I feel as a marketer that I need to know this stuff and keep up. I’ve been lucky to have IT and data people around me to assist throughout my career, but I know I can make all of our lives easier with this knowledge. It’s never too late to learn and I can’t see how it wouldn’t be useful to anyone!

Plus it’s free, so I mean, come on.

Cheers!

Thought Leaders Shmought Leaders

Admittedly, as a marketer, I often advise people to position themselves as a thought leader in their field.  What better way to attract new vacuum customers than giving off the appearance that you know EVERYTHING about cyclone technology and suction thingamajigs.  Obviously I’m going to buy my vacuum from the guy who knows the most about the biz, right?  He seems smart and trustworthy.james-dyson-with-vacuum

But what happens when all of a sudden everyone in the vacuum industry starts leading thoughts? Who’s the leader now? Who do I trust?

I recently read an article in Forbes, “6 Ways Thought Leadership Will Take Your Marketing to New Levels,” by John Hall.  Hall explains how PR and consistent content marketing will help put your offering in a more positive light and keep your company top of mind.  While reading the article, I totally agreed with Hall’s points.  What concerned me was when Hall said:

“As a Forbes contributor, I look for sources who are leading their industries. I don’t want to do a ton of homework to determine if you’re the real deal. If you release content consistently and it’s quality work, you will be rewarded by attracting your own PR relationships.”

Nobody wants to do homework and everyone defines “quality” differently. So who is really the expert? The company that has the most active Facebook page? The most white-papers? Hosts the most webinars?  How many garbage webinars are out there and yet we still see these contributors as thought leaders? How many useless white-papers have you read?

We are being conditioned to think more content = expert.

There is now an entire industry that churns out content that talks about creating content and gives you a bunch more content to educate you and prove to you that content marketing works (yeesh)!  The scariest part about content marketing?  It really works.

Marketers have already infiltrated traditional channels like newspapers, tv and radio. Now they are saturating digital channels like mobile ads and social media. Are our thoughts next?  Ahhhhh!!!

At some point, I fear that thought leadership will be less about trust and quality and more about quantity and speed.  For now, content marketing and the idea of thought leadership is still new and effective.  I guess we’ll see what comes next!

In the meantime, don’t be dull and stay human.

4 Tips For a Smooth Job Transition

career changeAs many of you know, I recently changed jobs and moved to a new city.  Changing jobs can be tough, even for “experts”, but I’ve learned a few things over the last month or two you might find helpful.

Here’s a few of my tips for making a smooth career transition…

1. Be confident and patient.  You may not know everyone or everything right off the bat, but they hired you for a reason.  Don’t forget that reason.  Learning a new environment, organizational structure and culture takes time.  Nobody expects you to move mountains on day two.  If they do….more confidence, less patience 😉

2. Listen.  Take in as much information as you can.  Educate yourself and take notes.  Eventually the pieces will start to come together and things will make a lot more sense if you can put them in some context.  Also, you don’t have to do all the talking to look confident.  People will appreciate your input and expertise more when you know where they are coming from.

Changing-careers_433. Stay organized.  Perhaps you’re coming in at a slow time.  Or maybe you walked right into chaos.  Either way, identify your priorities and create an agenda.  Maybe nobody is telling you what you need to do, or maybe you have a million things to do and don’t know where to start.  Regardless, you need to take your job into your own hands and organization will help guide you.

4. Bring candy! My former coworker and good friend gave me a bag of peanut butter cups as a parting gift…not for me, but for my new coworkers!  Genius.  Bring some goodies to your new job, one week in.  The goodies will help you meet (and remember) new people, plus who doesn’t like the person who brought candy?

What tips do you have for a smooth career change?

Are You Moving? Don’t Use UHaul

For those of you who don’t personally know me, you may have been wondering where I’ve been the past month!  I recently got a job as the Coordinator of Recruitment Communications and Admissions Services for the Graduate School at the University at Buffalo (sorry that title is a mouthful)!  So, over the last few weeks I’ve been apartment hunting, packing my life away, moving from Rochester to Buffalo and starting and new job.  Although I miss my friends and former colleagues back in Rochester (very much), I’m excited about this new opportunity and I’m ready to explore a new city!

ed-moving-boxes_480I cannot even begin to tell you how crazy the last few weeks have been.  My boyfriend and I are still in the process of unpacking, but thankfully I think most of the chaos is behind us now.  The worst of it was when, the day before we were scheduled to move, our moving truck changed the date and time on us!

U-SuckI had reserved a UHaul truck a couple of weeks prior for last Saturday afternoon.  The plan was to pick up the truck and pack my apartment and a few large pieces of furniture from my parents’ house on Saturday night. We coordinated this plan with three different families and friends that were helping us move (I was moving my stuff from two places in Rochester and my boyfriend was moving his stuff from two places in Lockport). The plan was to wake up and drive the already loaded truck Sunday morning and get unpacked in Buffalo early so that my boyfriend could use the truck to get his move done.

Turns out all of this was just wishful thinking…

UHaul called me Friday to inform me that no trucks were available on Saturday at all.  The only truck they had available in “the entire Western New York area” was on Sunday at 1pm and it was two sizes larger (and much less fuel-efficient) than the truck I requested.  I immediately started scrambling to call any and all other moving truck options but it was pointless. Nobody was available on such short notice!  After a lot of arguing with UHaul reps both on Twitter and over the phone, I surrendered and was forced to take the Sunday reservation.  We rearranged everyones schedule at the last-minute (which made for a lot of grumpy movers)!

By the time we were done unpacking and getting everything moved into our new place in Buffalo it was after 11pm!  My poor family had to make the hour and a half drive back to Rochester after that and work the next day!  It was a bit crazy and super stressful but with the help of our amazing families and friends we got it done.

Later that week, I contacted UHaul to get my “$50 Reservation Guarantee” refund since they totally screwed us over at the last minute and didn’t have my equipment on the day I had requested.  After all that craziness, a $50 dollar refund (which they promise on their website) is the LEAST they could do right?  UHaul “customer service” doesn’t seem to think so.  Apparently their guarantee only applies after you confirm your reservation 48 hours prior!

WhhhhhaaaaaattttttTF?UHaul

What this means is say you book a UHaul truck 2 months prior to your moving date.  UHaul can call you the day before to “confirm” your reservation for a completely different date, time, truck and/or pickup location…and once you agree to that, you don’t get a $50 refund.  This is UHaul’s way of trying to make you feel like it’s safe to book with them, when really there is no guarantee at all.

My advice? DON’T EVER USE UHAUL!no_uhaul-thumb

I’m really not sure what other companies are better out there, but I’m sure it’s worth spending the extra money for an organization that actually guarantees reservations or at least notifies you of any changes more than a day in advance.

Normally I’m not one to bitch and complain about these things…my bitterness towards UHaul probably wouldn’t have lasted long had I received my rightful $50. But as it turns out, I’m not the only one UHaul has upset.  Their customer service (or perhaps how they run their business in general) is so bad, there’s a website called dontuseuhaul.com and another called uhaul-Sucks.com.  The sites are dedicated to persuading people not to choose UHaul by sharing horror stories similar to mine.

If you don’t believe me, just check out the @UHaul_Cares Twitter handle to see how poorly things are going.  The vast majority of tweets @UHaul_Cares receives are complaints just like mine.  Via twitter they are kind enough to apologize, but still no problems are ever solved.

uhaul-1UHaul, for their own sake, needs to start paying attention to what their customers are saying.

4 Not-So-Great Resume Trends

hiringI recently had the opportunity to play HR Manager at my current job.  As an assistant to the HR Manager for many years, I was excited to step up and help out my organization while my manager was out on leave for a few months.  I couldn’t wait to sift through resumes and see what had changed and what trends had emerged since I was last in the job market. Although I see plenty of resumes in my role, it is usually further along in the hiring process.  In the past, I never had time or much reason to read them.  Now that I’ve had this rare opportunity to see the entire hiring process from beginning to end, I’ve never been more shocked.  Here’s a couple of “trends” I noticed…

1. No address listed.  I know we live in a digital world and all, but in my opinion there is still a need for addresses on resumes.  Why?  So I know where you live! Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I think it’s helpful for employers to know your physical location, even if all communication is through phone and email.  If an applicant needs to fly in from somewhere or drive a thousand miles to get to an interview, it may be easier for everyone to do a video or phone conference first.  If things progress, an address also helps with travel accommodations and scheduling.

2. Vague objectives.

“Objective: To obtain a position where I can utilize my work experience and education to improve the company’s operation.”

NOOOOOoooooo.  Ugh, c’mon people!  This is so boring.  I can tell by reading the very first line in your resume that you took no extra time applying.  In my head I’m thinking, “I bet they sent this exact same resume to 100 other places.”  It takes two seconds to write a real objective or goal that actually applies to the position you’re applying for, so get specific.  Or, leave the objective out altogether and just tell me about yourself and why I should like you if you have a lot of positions to apply to.  This is the first thing employers will read so whatever you write, make it good. HR experts, please chime in here and tell me your thoughts on this.ability-to-smell-fear-cartoon-sm

3. No cover letter. I know, cover letters are a pain.  They take time.  But let me tell you, the people who write one are going to get my attention.  I know how long I’ve spent writing them in the past, so I appreciate anyone who takes the time to write me one.  This is not to say you won’t get beat out by someone who has better experience and no cover letter, but it definitely ups your chances.  In my limited experience, the majority of applicants don’t submit cover letters. Writing one could make all the difference.

Get-Hired-Fast-Social-Media-Job-Search4. Stalking.  This HR experience was the first time I saw the full picture from the employer’s perspective.  It was also amidst an era of social media.  A little following up is always a good thing but don’t cross that line. The line will be different with every employer.  As an applicant, it is your job to figure it out and stay on your side.  Once you cross it, there is almost no going back.  One recommendation I will make is to contact only one person, two at the very most if you don’t hear anything at all.  Don’t email me, call two other people and connect with someone else on LinkedIn within 24 hours of an interview.  I hate to break it to ya, but employees talk to each other and sooner or later we’ll realize you’ve contacted all of us multiple times and that’s just crazy.  If you decide to engage via social media, don’t choose them all!  Just pick one medium and one person and be patient.

Ok HR experts, what are your thoughts?  What resume trends have you seen emerge over the last few years?

5 Networking Tips for Noobs

Networking is such an important part of life.  It helps you makes friends, learn new areas and land great jobs.  It also helps boost confidence and, if done properly, will make you actually appear interesting to others!  The problem so many people face is finding the courage to get out there and do it.

Networking-for-latino-mbas-LAM-Social-Club1I have been part of Rochester Young Professionals (RYP), a networking group in Rochester, NY for about a year now. “Rochester Young Professionals is a group that coordinates, collaborates, and promotes events around Rochester that are either, social, volunteer, or informational” (RYP, About Us).  Over the last year I kept tabs on RYP activities, but never managed to make it to any events until yesterday.  I’ve attended plenty of events in the past, but never one that was meant specifically for professional networking. I have to admit, part of why I wanted to go was just to check out a cool new bistro downtown.  I had no idea what to expect, but I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised!  I attended the event with my good friend/roommate and her co-worker.  The three of us were a little shy at first, but after we realized everyone else was in the same boat (and after a glass of wine), we dove right into the scene and met a handful of really great people.  After my first professional networking experience (in true non-expert fashion), I can confidently offer up the following tips for others who may be thinking about going to a networking event:

1. Look nice.  Personally, I would suggest going business casual.  I know every company has different dress codes and many people attend these events right after work, but don’t look like a slob!  Even if your employer thinks that’s peachy, other people will judge you first based on your looks (we all do it, don’t pretend you don’t). Put your best foot forward. One man who attended wore a flannel shirt, gym shorts and a lot of accessories.  I remember him quite well, but not for the right reasons.

2. Go with friends.  One reason it took me so long to attend one of RYP’s events, aside from being short on time, was that I didn’t feel like I had anyone to go with.  I was completely surprised to find out that my roomie has been wanting to attend an event for as long as I have.  All this time I was LIVING with a friend who wanted to go, and I didn’t even know it!  Don’t be afraid to ask your close friends or coworkers to go.  At least tell them about the drink specials and fancy places first before mentioning the networking bit ;).  I would recommend going with a group of three.  Four people is too many and you’ll end up just talking amongst yourselves instead of meeting new people. Two might feel a little awkward during the times you’re not talking to anyone else.  Three is just right! With three people, you don’t look like losers while still remaining approachable to outsiders.

3. Know why you’re there.  Try to go with a purpose in mind.  Are you there to advance your career or are you just looking for new friends?  Knowing why you’re there will help you ask better questions and make connections that are more valuable to you.  A salesperson trying to connect with potential customers will need different questions to ask than a person who is just looking to make friends.  We ran into one salesperson who clearly wasn’t prepared and came off very “sales-ey.”  Had he asked the right questions, he would have realized that I wasn’t interested sooner and moved on to better candidates.  Don’t worry though, these events aren’t littered with salespeople by any means!

awkward3-300x3004. Know when to leave the conversation. You know that awkward moment when you run out of things to say or can’t find anything in common?  That’s your queue to leave! You don’t have to talk to someone for 10-20 minutes to make a good connection.  Sometimes the best connections only require a 2-3 minute convo.  One gentleman we spoke with yesterday stuck around for a solid 10 minutes for NO REASON.  It was really obvious he didn’t know what else to talk about.  Maybe he came alone and didn’t want to walk away only to stand by himself, I don’t know (this is why you go with friends), but he just lingered.  It made things really awkward and it wasn’t until I bumped into someone else that he made his exit.  When you feel that awkwardness approaching, simply say it was nice to meet you and bow out. Don’t stand around in silence like a weirdo!  Honestly people.

5. Follow up! Take note of the people you connected with and follow up with them on LinkedIn or via email.  You don’t need to do this with everyone (you stalker), but I recommend following up with important connections a day or two after the event just saying how nice it was to meet he/she.  This lovely little act will do one very important thing, if nothing else: it will keep a written record of people’s names and how you met them! I guarantee a week after the event you’ll forget that person’s name unless you had some magical moment.  On LinkedIn it’s important to limit connections to people you actually know and have met face-to-face.  In the event that you need that connection down the road (to help land a new job, for example) you’ll be able to recall that person and say, “Oh, I met Dave through Rochester Young Professionals and bla bla bla…”

Oh social media, how I love thee.  Just don’t forget to stay human.  Networking events are for face-to-face interaction, so if you begin attending just to boost your virtual connections you’ll turn into a big annoying robot.

My friends and I plan on attending more of these events, now that we’ve gotten the first one over with.  I had a blast and it helped get me out of my comfort zone, which is always helpful when trying to ditch being dull!

What networking groups do you belong to?  Please feel free to share your networking tips!

When Did Being Well-Rounded Turn Into Being Boring?

Marjorie+Kebbie,+Chair+of+Community+Council+from+Dull.+The+village+of+Dull,+that+is+to+be+twinned+with+the+US+town+of+BoringI’ve been thinking about starting a blog for quite some time now.  Like so many others, I put it off and put it off. Blogging is a big commitment and there’s not much I commit to for free.  Unless it’s something I really care about (like family, friends and Starbucks rewards).  However, I recently graduated with my master’s in marketing and one of the most important things I learned (after dropping another 30K on education I can’t afford) was to KEEP LEARNING.  And the best way for me to keep learning is to keep doing…hence deciding to write a blog.

My next challenge was deciding what to write about.  I read a million tips and tricks and they all said something like “write about what you’re interested in,” “provide value to your audience,” “solve a problem with your expertise,” and so on.  Well guess what…I’m interested in a lot of different things, so this was no easy task!

Months went by and I still couldn’t decide on any topics or focus for my blog.  Why would you want to listen to me?  How can I be interesting?  I’m not a thought leader.  I’m not an expert in anything.  Sure I have a lot of great skills, but expert?  Hardly.  The dictionary defines an expert as: “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.”  The key word here is “special.”  Take a second and try to think about what it is that really makes you special…

Seeing my dilemma?

Marketers will say they have special social media skills or they are strategic planning experts.  Lawyers will say they are expert litigators.  Salespeople will say they are expert speakers and have special networking skills.  If all of these people are “experts” and have special skills, how come so many others can do the exact same thing?

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Most of us aren’t experts at all.  We just say we are.

It was this realization that finally got me blogging.  I was never going to find a topic to write about that provides you with expert advice because I’m not an expert!  What I can do is relate to all you other skillful self-doubters out there and attach positive meaning back to the term “well-rounded.”  Somewhere along the line, being well-rounded turned into being boring.  Having a lot of great skills isn’t nearly as valuable as being an expert in one particular thing these days (try job hunting), but I decided not to let this stop me.  Not being an expert doesn’t have to mean being dull and (hopefully) this blog will prove me right.

The purpose of this blog will be to share what I’ve learned from super interesting and boring experiences, to become a more interesting person and to provide value and insight to others by being myself: a well-rounded expert in nothing.