You wrote what?! How not to email

In this old Digital Age, we often find ourselves communicating through technology more than in person. Emailing is a great tool for work as it allows you to contact your co-workers, boss or clients any time, any day and from anywhere in the world. A word of caution, though; replacing face-to-face communication with computer screens can sometimes lead to misinterpretations.

Without being able to hear the other person’s tone of voice or facial expressions, it can be very easy to miscommunicate. Just think back to some of your emails - have you ever considered things rude or offensive? Chances are the writer wasn't intending for their message to be read this way.

To avoid sounding rude or a little abrupt when communicating via email, follow these two simple rules:

1. Avoid using ‘actually’ in your emails

It sounds a little crazy that this word (which seems on the face of it a pretty common, harmless word) shouldn’t be used when emailing, yet it can be read extremely different from how you intended! Actually can seem like you are correcting the person. We've all no doubt wanted to correct someone at work at one time or another, especially when that over-bearing manager is trying to pick you apart for something that wasn’t your fault. But we know it’s not the right thing to do in most situations. To negate the reader thinking we are being defensive and having a little attitude it's best to cut actually from our vocabulary.

An example of the power of the word actually is:

Your boss: “I don’t think that figure is correct, you might need to check it against the others.”
You: “Actually, I got that figure off the company’s website.”

Or

“I understand what you mean. I got the figure off the company’s website, but will double-check it.

 

2. Scrap the ‘sorry’

The word sorry is just as polite as your Ps and Qs, right? After all, it's been drilled into us from a young age to apologise when we are wrong, right? Well, this is all still true, however there are better ways to admit our faults, rather than saying sorry. The problem with the word sorry is that it is such a basic, common and convenient way to admit wrongdoing. As a result, when we say sorry (regardless of whether you are being sincere or not) it can come across as dismissive, non-genuine and sometimes a little sarcastic. The word sorry is so over-used that it has in some way lost it’s meaning and can be taken in other ways, especially over email. It's also important to attempt to explain in a direct way how you will improve or change your fault in the future. This provides the other person with some reassurance that the problem has been resolve, and allows you to demonstrate your sincerity and professionalism.

To avoid seeming careless and dismissive, replace sorry with a few of these phrases:

You’re right

Going forward I will ensure that doesn’t happen again

I understand why you’re upset

Now, let’s see the difference:

I’m sorry I forgot about the meeting.”

Or

“I apologize - it slipped my mind. I will make sure that from now on I check my diary every morning so it doesn’t happen again.”

The latter provides a much more mature, respectful response and allows a little bit of sincerity in your message.

 

3. Read your email aloud

One of the most crucial tips to remember when communicating through email is to re-read your email before you send it! Re-reading your message is a way of ensuring:

  • Your message actually makes sense (some Monday mornings are a little too hard and our emails can sometimes sound like gibberish!)
  • You haven't made any typos. While computers (and even smart phones) have spell-check, it’s easy to miss that tiny red line underneath your misspelled word, so double check!
  • The intention of your message. Reading your emails aloud before hitting the send button is a great way to ensure you haven’t used any language or words (remember actually and sorry are not your friends) which could potentially be considered offensive or a little rude. Re-read it, edit it then send it!

Most of us spend our working days firing off email after email without so much as a glance at the keyboard. By taking a bit of extra time to formulate our messages, we can ensure our reader interprets our message the way we intended it, actually

How to say no (without sounding lazy)

We've all been in the awkies position when asked to do extra work, help on a project or take on more responsibly -  even when these tasks are not part of our job description. There is a fine line between wanting to seem helpful and hardworking, and not having enough time or energy to take on these extra commitments.

But pushing back and saying no is often easier said than done. You don’t want to offend your boss. You don’t want to sound harsh or uninterested and, somehow, you want to seem apologetic and sincere - even if you aren’t!

Here are some phrases to help you with letting down that dreaded ‘favour’ of extra work…

Sorry, I can’t, but thank you for asking!

I can’t now, but maybe next time.

I don’t think I will be able to help for all of it, but let me help with a part of it.

Thank you for thinking of me, but I’m just too busy at the moment.

I’m not taking on any more jobs at the moment, sorry!

I wish I could help, but at the moment I just can’t commit to anything at the moment.

Let me try and work out a few things first, but it’s probably best to work without me.

Thank you, but I’m not the right person for the task, at the moment. Have you asked Maria*?

I’m sorry I just have a bit too much on my plate at the moment.

I’m really sorry; I just don’t think I will be able to make it work at this point.

These phrases will help the person asking for the extra work to understand why you can’t/won’t help on the project. It will also prevent them from believing you just don’t want to help them, or don’t like doing extra jobs. Try practising these phrases by saying them politely and kindly - but also firmly.

Fear not - the art of public speaking

It's no secret that public speaking is pretty much Public Enemy Number One in the professional sphere. However, in a lot of jobs public speaking or presenting to a team of people can be a necessary part of the job. If you find you dread the idea of speaking in front of others, read these tips to overcome these fears and deliver a successful speech!

1. Inspiration

Taking inspiration from others can prove to build confidence within yourself and your speech. Try to watch speeches from great public speakers (YouTube is a great tool for this). Watch their mannerisms, posture, and tone of voice, LOOK AT IT ALL. Then, practice! Try to re-enact these speeches, using some of the great parts of these presentations to make yourself look and feel more comfortable, and engaging.

2. Become a Storyteller!

The oldest profession in the world is storytelling, otherwise how would the men in the pub know out about the other oldest profession?! So when it comes to delivering a cracker speech, become a storyteller! A great way to approach public speaking and presentation - in the face of sheer terror -  is to think of the task as telling a story to the audience. The words “public speaking” or “pitch” can sometimes cause fear to set in and that's when we become our own worst enemies. MIND OVER MATTER PEOPLE! Putting yourself into a positive mindset can sometimes make all the difference, and can stop the fear and panic from setting in. Write your “speech” like you are telling a story. This not only limits that performance anxiety, but it can prove to be a more compelling and engaging presentation. 

3. Practice, practice and more practice!

A key to getting over that sheer terror of public speaking is practice. The more familiar you become with the content and its delivery, the easier it is to eliminate the anxiety that can sometimes be felt when having to publicly present. When practicing your presentation, try filming yourself. Filming your speech can allow you to get used to having to direct your presentation to an “audience” (even if it is just a camera) and then you can watch it. Watching yourself on camera is a great way to see how your audience will view you when you present. It allows you to make improvements and fix problems before the day, thus allowing for a flawless presentation and less nerves when it's time to step on stage.

Overall, it’s easy to be afraid or intimidated at the idea of presenting or speaking in front of others, whether they are peers, co-workers or strangers. However, these steps can help to reduce those ill feelings, build your confidence and enhance your presentation skills.

Sorry, what's the salary?

So you find the perfect job advertisement, it is everything you want. So, next step? Obviously, you have to apply! You spend hours editing your resume to make it just right, then comes the cover letter… You need to sound intelligent, personable, professional and you also want to demonstrate your experience, education and interest in the role. All done right? Wrong! Now you need to complete the selection criteria form the company has so nicely prepared for all applicants. So, you power through the questions (for a few hours), making sure your spelling, grammar and answers are extraordinary.  Done? For now!

Then comes the waiting game, dreaming and thinking about this perfect job, hoping for that call or email for an interview. You get a call! You go in for the interview. Filled with general interview-type questions, you get a great vibe and you answer everything to the best of your ability. You leave the interview really confident, feeling positive about this job opportunity. The only problem is, you don’t know the salary yet?!

It sounds crazy, some people wouldn’t be that interested in a position without knowing the potential income for the job, however it’s a great company, a great position and exactly what you were looking for so you applied anyway. You went to the first interview; it went well, but still no idea about salary. You didn’t want to bring it up and look money-focused to your potential new boss, but your curiosity of the supposed income is starting to itch…

A few days later you get another call, inviting you back for a second interview! Apparently they could not decide yet, you’re still in the running (YAY). However, this means another hour and a half round trip and taking the morning off your current job to make the interview, again. You attend the interview (make the relevant sacrifices and efforts necessary) and it goes really well, again. Still, no discussion of salary…. What do you do? Do you wait incase you receive an official offer to see the remuneration agreement? Is that too far away? What if the salary is much lower than your current job and you can’t afford to take the position?

This is a problem many people face during the job-hunting process, feeling awkward and confused as to how to bring up the conversation about the ‘pay’. Your potential employer has not raised the issue, you don’t know how, and you don’t want to come off the wrong way. Here are a few factors to think about when you want to bring up the conversation of income, without tarnishing your image and employment opportunity:

  • You have already had one interview with the company
  • You know the company is quite invested in you, and interested in you for the position (maybe not many other applicants still in the running for the job can be a good indication for this)
  • Don’t let it seem like it’s your deciding focus or only interest in the position
  • Make sure you sound tactful
  • Try to say, “So what are your thoughts for the salary range of this position?”

Remember, as long as you follow these steps and you know the company is seriously interested about you, and you have been able to build a type of relationship or comfort ability with the interviewer, you shouldn’t be too scared to ask about salary. It is important after a while and as long as you approach it correctly, it shouldn’t be a problem!

Email requests you should try to avoid (at all costs)!

In our technologically savvy world, emails seem to have taken over our channels of communication, especially at work… And, why not? Emails have allowed us to communicate with our bosses, colleagues and clients from anywhere and at any time, with the option for efficient replies and results. The good old email trail also keeps information documented and accessible. But due to our reliance on these technological devices, it seems some bad habits and unrealistic demands have begun.. And you might not even realise you are doing it.

Here are some key requests you should try to avoid when emailing… and why!

1. Requests for a change in your work routine

These days our work can often provide us with flexibility and choice within our working schedules. If you find you prefer to start a little later, come into the office earlier, work from home or at a different office, that’s usually fine! However, asking your boss for these changes in your work routine is necessary. Now comes the issue of asking for these desired changes….. Email? NO! Asking for something like a routine change at work is not something that should be communicated through email. Why? Well, your boss will most likely want an explanation as to why you want or need this routine change. He or she will also potentially want to hear the reasons behind how this change will benefit not just your work, but also the overall teams’ work and goals. A face-to-face conversation will also allow you to seem sincere and respectful and will allow for a more positive outcome between you and your boss.

2. Is it time for a raise?

Asking for a pay rise can be a tricky task, and not because you don’t necessarily deserve it. It is just a difficult conversation to bring up with your boss, usually because you are scared or nervous of the reply, or because you really, really want this raise and want everything to go perfectly. This type of request needs to be asked in person. The tone of voice, the mood, situation and your delivery of the request are all extremely important factors when asking such a large request. An important note to remember is that these factors cannot be portrayed or received through email (even if you found a bunch of email templates for “asking for a raise” on Google).

3. Please reply ASAP!!

One of the positive attributes of email is the efficient communication route and speedy results. However, due to these fast-past interactions we have become somewhat accustomed to automatic responses, whether it is on email, text message or a phone call. This technological age has caused us to expect radically quick responses, and sometimes these are unrealistic requests. When communicating through any channel, we have to remain realistic, logical and fair in terms of the response time. We have all experienced that frustration when we have not received a reply, that file you were after or that information you needed for a presentation from your co-worker. However, we usually don’t stop to consider whether that co-worker is in a meeting. Or at home due to illness. Or driving. There are many reasons that person hasn’t replied in 20 minutes. The major problem is that we are requesting (well, more like demanding) something from them over email with a tiny timeframe for a result. If you need something from a co-worker it is always best to allow 24-48 hours before you need the result, as it is not our co-worker’s job to be glued to their iPhone/computer waiting for an email from us.

Even though emails only require a click of a button to be sent, we need to think about what content and requests we are sending to people. Some times it is better to get up, walk down the hall and knock on that person’s office door.

 

Four types of employees you don’t want to be!

Without trying to be stereotypical, every workplace has at least one trying employee - and we all hope we aren’t one of them!

They are the type of employee and colleague that draws whispers and sighs when they walk into work. The type of employee that you avoid at all costs, even in the staff room. The type of employee you do not want to have work closely with.

So, with all that said, we want to make sure we are not THAT employee. Here is a description of the types of dreaded employees at a workplace, as a guide, to make sure we do not become one of them.

1. But that’s-not-my-job employee!

Everyone has encountered that one employee, the one who only wants to complete, perform and assist on tasks and jobs outlined in their contract. Oh, yes. There are some unions and work right communities that try to provide detailed accounts of what is expected of employees, however there are those employees who take these words… LITERALLY. The area on the contract or job description that can say “other duties if required” or “general office help/maintenance” actually means you can or do need to assist your working team, in some situations. Obviously, taking on other peoples’ work loads is not what we are asking, however to be a good team player and employee there are times when you just have to shut up, and help your colleagues.

2. The special employee!

No phones at work? They are on their phone from 9.00am till 5.00pm. Starting work at 9.00am? They stroll in at 9.15am, every day, some times 9.30am? Unapologetic, for sure. But, what’s worse than these employees? Their boss. Their boss allows and encourages their bad behaviour, and their lack of effort and work, because chances are their boss believes they are special too. Make sure you always follow the rules as others do, we are all equal at work.

3. No-boundaries employees!

Everyone has work-friends, sometimes you click with certain people and it develops into a personal friendship outside of the office. However, while at work there are certain people who think that over sharing with their colleagues at work is fine (I mean you spend five days a week together). Remembering to keep things professional at work is a must! Not everyone in the office needs to know the gory details of your date.

4. The drama king and queen employee!

The person who makes everything a HUGE deal at work. The employee who takes everything PERSONAL. The employee who is always reading WAY TOO much into everything. Yeah, there is always one drama king or queen at every office. And no one is that thrilled about them being there! Always remember to tone down the dramatics at work and the angry/emotional reactions to things. It’s not always the greatest way to earn points at work or how to be the most efficient, levelheaded worker. 

How to Talk About Your Strengths and Weaknesses

When gearing up for a job interview, there are many types of questions you can easily prepare for. You know who you are, your aspirations, and your career history to date. The most dreaded of all interview questions however, will ask the candidate to analyse their strengths and weaknesses, and on the surface this style of question can seem like a trap. While self-analysis may seem intimidating, the interview panel is really just interested in getting to know you better, finding out more about the way you think and seeing whether you are able to learn from your experiences.

How do I talk about my strengths?

There are probably lots of things that you are good at, but in this situation you need to choose a strength that will help you win over the panelists. Have a look at the position description, and see how  the most important elements of the role align with your own skills. If they value communication skills, find a way of talking about your own without parroting their exact language back to them. You could talk about the way you interact with clients, or your passion for writing. Remember that an interview is all about presenting the best version of yourself, so take this opportunity to really show off your skills. Talk about your strengths, times when you have used them, feedback you have received and any efforts you have made to progress in this area.

Example of a good answer:

“I would say that one of my strengths is my ability to work well under pressure. In my most recent role we often had to deliver products to our clients within very narrow time frames which meant that there was the potential for a lot of stress in the workplace. I came up with a great system for managing these projects which is used by the entire office now, and my boss actually  asked me to talk to my colleagues about some of the other methods I use to keep calm in the face of a deadline.”

How do I talk about my weaknesses?

Talking about your weaknesses can be a little more difficult. Many people will try to mask a strength as a weakness such as being a “perfectionist” or “caring too much”, however you won't find many interviewers who haven't heard these answers hundreds of times before. Try for more sincerity, think of something which you may not be amazing at, or a skill you may be missing, which will not directly impact your abilities in this particular role. Demonstrating that you are aware of this weakness and have been taking steps to better yourself will also impress the panel, much more than if you appear to be acknowledging the weakness for the first time.

Example of a good answer:

“I've actually spent a lot of time working on my public speaking skills.  I used to be quite shy in front of crowds, but I have had to speak at several conferences in the past two years so I started taking advantage of any opportunity to practise with lower stakes. I spoke in front of several staff functions and then moved on to speaking in front of bigger crowds. I am still working to combat my nerves and hone my skills, but I'm actually starting to enjoy it.” 

Category: 
Interview, Job Search

How to make yourself more employable (and stand out from the crowd)

Most people have, at some stage in their careers, been passed over for a job or promotion because the other candidate had that little something extra. There are times when this is unavoidable, but there are also plenty of things that you can do along the way to make sure you are the one who stands out next time an opportunity comes along.

1. Do your research

Have a look at position descriptions for roles or promotions that you might be interested in down the track. Ask yourself honestly which of the boxes you don't tick, or which areas you could become more competent in. You should also take any available opportunities to speak with current, or past direct reports and ask them what areas they think you could work on to move forward in your chosen field.

2. Brush Up Your Skills

If you are currently employed, this is the perfect time to start preparing for your next role. If you think your knowledge in a particular area is below average take some tutorials, do some research or speak to someone who knows more than you. Ask your employer if there is a way you can incorporate this skill into your daily tasks to help you to practise and learn more. If you aren't currently employed these options are still available to you, instead of using the skill at work find other ways to use it on a daily basis. Every extra skill looks great on your resume, and being able to talk about it confidently in an interview can only help your chances.

3. Further Study

Not everyone can take the time out of their career to go back to school and earn another degree, but this doesn't mean you can't add extra qualifications to your CV along the way. There are plenty of TAFEs and online providers who offer short courses which you can fit in around an existing role. Many employers encourage professional development, and may even have a budget to help you out financially. Workshops and training courses offered by your workplace should also be taken advantage of and listed on your resume when relevant. Make sure you remember that all of these little things add up when presenting the best you possible.

4. Perfect Your Resume

You might be perfect for the role, but if your resume isn't up to scratch then you won't even make it to interview stages for many roles. Make sure it looks professional, and contains all details of all relevant skills, experience and education. If you aren't sure how to do this, download our free resume template now or call The Institute of Careers for more advice.

5. Look The Part

Make sure you have at least one nice suit, a crisp white shirt and polished shoes. Practise answering interview questions in front of a mirror. Back up your skills with confidence and good presentation to sell yourself as the complete package and be the most employable you that you can be!

Category: 
Interview, Job Search, Resume

How to get a handle on your new job

It’s only natural to feel some initial pangs of uncertainty in the early days of a new job.

Ordinarily you’ll have a few weeks between the job offer and start date, which gives you plenty of time to start thinking about the new role and prepare for your first day. Make contact with your new boss before you start to obtain as much information as you can about the organisation and your position, including annual reports, strategic plans, mission statements and organisational charts.

If possible, have a decent handover with your predecessor. Ask for any information you haven’t previously received to help you determine current practices, products, policies and procedures. Make notes – even about the most basic of things – and don’t be afraid to ask questions and for help if you need it. It also pays to write down people’s names and titles as you go – remembering someone makes that person feel important, and also remember you.

Once you have absorbed all the information about your new position and have gathered initial impressions of the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, you can begin to list preliminary thoughts on the short and long-term objectives.  Make a habit of consulting your colleagues before doing anything drastic and avoid making rash decisions.

When determining your plans for the future, keep in mind you don’t have to do everything on your first day, week or even month. Research shows it can take months for some organisations to see a return on its investment of a new hire. While noone is expecting you to move mountains on your first day, some jobs will however expect you to hit the ground running. Probation periods can often be up to six months but you need to prove you were the right person for the job long before your probation’s up.

As a final tip, don’t ditch the job description. It’s an important document that you can use when preparing for a performance review, applying for a higher duties allowance or requesting a review of your current job scope.

Be healthy (and happy) at work

Being chained to your desk is not just a sure-fire way to end up despising your boss – it can also be bad for your health.

Some people in office jobs sit at their computers for hours on end, forgetting to step outside for fresh air even once during their eight-hour workday.

The key to longer lasting energy throughout your work day is to be active. Walking to work or getting off the tram, train or bus a few stops earlier is a great way to boost your activity level. Many organisations offer lunchtime gym classes or corporate challenges, giving employees the flexibility to squeeze in a sweat session during their working day.

If you do work in an office, make a conscious effort to get off your chair every 30-60 minutes, whether it’s for a bathroom break, to fill up your water bottle, speak with a colleague or simply walk to the printer.

Eating lunch is not a desk job either – go outside to eat, or in a shared space within your office environs. One of the healthiest and hip-pocket friendly ways to enjoy your lunch is to bring it from home. But before you start walking from the fridge back to your desk, consider heading outside to a local park or communal area to eat. Leaving your desk for lunch can also be a good opportunity to socialise with your workmates and make the most of the fresh air.

Limit your drinks at work to coffee, tea and water. One or two cups of coffee, copious amounts of green or herbal tea and at least 2 litres of water means you’ll be healthier at work and avoid the sugar crash that comes from consuming sugary drinks.

You could also follow Learoy’s approach to creating a healthy, happy workplace and take it in turns to bring in fresh juices for the office to enjoy. Or you could dedicate one day a week for each team member to bring in something healthy for everyone to munch on. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet, super expensive lunch either – it could be homemade muesli bars for mid-morning tea or a grain-free, sugar-free loaf to beat the afternoon slump.

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