Most communication both during the job search and on the job will be done via email. As such, professional email communication skills are vital to securing and keeping jobs. It’s important to effectively communicate soft skills when crafting a professional email. You want to make sure your message is being delivered effectively and appropriately.
Emails are a way to set yourself apart from hundreds of other applicants. They can demonstrate good communication skills, professionalism, and a positive attitude. Writing professionally shows employers your ability to pay attention to detail. How many times have you sent an email that said, “see attached” and you have forgotten the attachment? It is this failure to show attention to detail that can be a major derailment if you were trying to attach your resume to a recruiter or hiring manager. Writing well shows your professionalism. It can show how organized you are. It can show your ability to communicate well. These are soft skills that can be conveyed through a well-crafted email.
It’s important not to churn out emails so fast that you forget to proof them. In addition to forgetting to attach documents, you could make embarrassing spelling and grammatical mistakes. The whole “to” vs “too”, “your” vs “you’re”, and “their” vs “there” might not seem like that big a deal to you, but to your boss or potential employer it can be a deal breaker. Remember that spell check will find misspelled words but it won’t catch typos such as Dear “Hiring Manger” when addressing a Hiring Manager in a cover letter.
Many of the other issues that can cause unneeded stress can be controlled if one just slows down and pays attention to detail. Make sure the attachment is the correct attachment. Don’t send a cut off message by hitting “Send” before you’ve completed the email. Don’t be that person that hits “Reply All” and sends your email to the whole company.
One should also understand the professional email is not your place to show your creativity. Don’t use an unprofessional email address such as an addresses that contains nicknames, numbers, or your birthday (why would you want to share that information in the first place in the professional environment?) Avoid typing messages in ALL CAPS. Stick with a professional font and color. The use of emoticons is fine if you’re texting your BFF but not if you’re emailing your boss or coworker.
These are just a few tips to avoid the most common email mistakes. The biggest takeaway is: slow down and proof read before hitting “send.” Remember, email is the most common form of professional communication. You don’t want to give a bad impression to the person you’re sending it to. Plus, it’s permanent. Never send angry, gossipy, or threatening emails. An email’s eventual use is out of your control once you hit “send.”
About the Author
Andrew R. Ko
Professionalism is a learned skill, not an innate quality. Often, recruiters can determine your level of professionalism within your first 5 minutes of speaking. Learning how to act professionally is something everyone must do at some point and is critical in today’s business world.
People dress and behave differently in different contexts. You would act much differently in your uniform on the field than if you were suited up in an office for a job interview. You wouldn’t high-five the interviewer, you would greet him or her with a firm handshake. Just as you would not do a victory dance in the manager’s office when offered a job (though it is perfectly acceptable to do this at home). A professional environment is governed by certain rules and codes of conduct just like an athletic game, a baby shower, and even a nighttime party. It would be extremely unprofessional, and not to mention awkward, to confuse “twerking” to be short for “networking” at your business networking picnic.
Professionalism is important as it affects hiring, retention, and promotion decisions. It’s about adapting to your environment and following the rules of the game. Being professional is about Being Your Best Self in your respective environment. The professional job seeker with a Bright Shiny Penny attitude is going to have much more success in the job search than someone who lacks professionalism and is constantly sad, tired, and or angry. They are more likely to retain their job and get promoted when they have learned to act professionally at work. A professional takes their job seriously, they can be trusted with responsibility and they respect the workplace and their co-workers. They keep their personal and professional lives separate. They wear clean, pressed, and appropriate clothing for their work environment, maintain good eye contact, and are polite.
Acting unprofessional can derail your career and impede your job search. This can include: wearing inappropriate clothing, speaking about inappropriate topics of discussion, using your cell phone on the job or during interviews, poor communication skills, and bad mouthing clients and coworkers. What does your behavior and mannerisms say about you? What messages are you giving others by the way to you act, speak, and dress? And in terms of appropriate attire, it is a good rule of thumb to dress one level above the job you are interviewing for. If you are going on for an interview for an office position then wearing a suit would be prudent. And if you’re interviewing for a restaurant, then business casual will do. Besides dressing right, acting professional during the interview is crucial. Small talk can be a good icebreaker because it will help to get to know your co-workers, but there are topics that should be off limits. These include politics, religion, and income. It should also be said that personal affairs should be left at home, and not be wandering around in the workplace.
Having coached and interviewed many clients in my professional career I can tell you the candidate who lacks in professionalism does not progress, no matter how qualified. For example, I had a client who looked amazing on paper; his resume outlined his skills perfectly; his cover letter was the perfect supplement to his resume by explaining why he wanted the job, why he was the best candidate, and it showed his skills with relevant examples and was a great sample of his writing ability. Where he had trouble was his lack of soft skills. Professionalism is one of many soft skills employers look for when making hiring and promotion decisions. He looked great on paper but when speaking to him in person he was not selling himself well. He would go into long diatribes regarding the government, and his demeanor was lethargic. When I brought up ideas to help him, he became cynical. These are not qualities of a professional and will not win over a hiring manager. Be aware of your mindset when going in to meet an employer or client. Mentally check yourself, are you putting your best foot forward? Are you being your best self?
All the different forms unprofessional behavior would present roadblocks in one’s professional development but there is one thing they all have in common, you can control them. This ability to develop professionally is inherent within everyone. I teach this topic along with many others in my professional career and I am delighted to see my clients grow empowered to move ahead in their careers.
-Andrew R. Ko
Quite possibly one of the most difficult things to do in your professional career is to change careers. It’s been said a person changes careers an average of 3 times in his or her lifetime. This may be by choice, often time it’s not, but nevertheless, navigating the difficult road on how to do so can be tricky. I will discuss some of the best practices that I have found helpful in my own experience and in my client’s.
1. Take inventory
What are you good at? What resonates with you? What are you passionate about? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself when deciding how you want to move forward. Think back on the times in your previous professional experience when you felt most fulfilled. What was it exactly about what you did that you liked? Maybe it was not even part of your job but you did it anyway because you liked doing it. You found it rewarding. You felt fulfilled doing it and you were happy to do it despite it not being part of your job description. In short, what would be the one thing you would do for free if you could? Therein lies your sleeping passion waiting to be brought to life.
It’s a good rule of thumb to have at least 6 months of salary saved up when you’re in job search. This is even more important when you are transitioning careers. Because you are transitioning into a new industry, in most cases it is going to take more time to develop the necessary connections and resources. Before you enter into the unknowing job search, ask yourself these pivotal questions: Are you in a place in your life where you can make this kind of move? Do you have the resources you need? If you don’t, what do you need to do to get the resources you need or to get to a place you need to be?
Follow the age-old adage said by Robert Kiyosaki, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work”. Essentially, the more people who know you, the better. Of course you would want to tap into you own personal network which includes friends, family, and connections you have made professionally thus far, but you also want to get out there and make new connections, as many as possible. People can’t help you if they don’t know what you’re trying to do; one of the best ways to get help is to offer your help without asking anything in return. Others are more willing to help those who have helped them in the past.
4. Just do it
Volunteering can be a great way to bridge the gap of having no experience in a particular discipline or industry. Getting out there and just doing it, learning about it, and gaining valuable experience is a great way to know if the transition is right for you. For example, if you want to get into the graphic design industry, start volunteering your time shadowing a graphic designer at a non-profit. You will both gain the experience and make contacts in that industry.
These are just a few things to consider before making the jump into a new career. Above all, you must come to terms if transitioning is the right move for you. Use the resources available to you. Because in the end, doing something you love to do is the difference between “you have to get up and go to work” and “you want to get up and go to work”.
-Andrew R. Ko
Here is a great article on coaching I found and thought I would share with everyone. A lot of people I run into have questions about coaching this is a great source of information as shows how valuable it can be for people seeking develop both personally or professionally. “Wellness programs have been shown to provide approximately a 300% return on investment (ROI). In other words, companies who spend $1 in a wellness program (e.g., exercise clubs, personal trainers, smoking cessation workshops) earn $3 as a result of decreased turnover, fewer sick days, reduced health insurance costs, etc. It’s no wonder wellness programs have experienced such tremendous growth — it makes financial sense.”
This is a bit off topic of this blog but in light of this morning’s 4.7 magnitude earthquake I wanted to address the importance of being prepared.
When I was working in corporate I had given a presentation on Emergency Preparedness due to my background in Search and Rescue. We’ve had a lot of training to be first responders if and when a big earthquake should occur. It went over well and I was happy to share my knowledge. Sharing this information became even more important when I learned that some executives thought it was a smart idea to evacuate our office tower and run out side after an earthquake. This is a recipe for disaster. Office towers that are constructed these days are built to withstand quakes. Simply put, you are safer inside than you are outside. Once you leave the building, should you decide to do so, you are running right into broken glass on the ground not to mention additional falling glass and debris from above. Stay put. While images of collapsed structures in earthquakes around the world are frightening and get the most attention from the media, most buildings do not collapse at all, and few completely collapse. In earthquake prone areas of the U.S. and in many other countries, strict building codes have worked to greatly reduce the potential of structure collapse. However, there is the possibility of structural failure in certain building types, especially unreinforced masonry (brick buildings), and in certain structures constructed before the latest building codes. Of course you do want to consider if your building is in danger of collapse, if there is fire, or a gas leak do evacuate carefully but as a rule of thumb if you are in a large office tower when an earthquake occurs, stay there if you can.
You should keep an emergency bag in your office. You should also have one in your car, and your home. The following is the presentation I did a few years ago to educate the office folks so they don’t run into trouble when the “big one” hits. In this I go into detail about what to have in your emergency bag(s).
Are You Prepared for the Next Earthquake?
California is one of the most seismically active regions in the world. As such, we have long been a leader in the measures taken to prepare for such an event and ensure that all Californians remain safe whenever a quake rumbles through.
But preparedness is a collaborative effort that begins with every individual. To help get you started, there are countless resources available to all Californians providing tips on quake safety and preparedness.
Please take the time to review some of the resources listed below. By taking some simple steps, you will be ready the next time the earth starts shaking.
Steps to Take…
…Before a Quake
Assemble or replenish an emergency supply kit to sustain you and your family for at least 72 hours.
Kits should include:
- First aid kit
- Prescription medications
- Consumable medical supplies such as catheters and diapers
- Portable, battery operated radios
- Extra batteries
- Manual can opener
- Comfortable clothing
- Sturdy shoes and work gloves
If you’re a person with a disability or elderly and may need assistance, establish support teams of people who can assist you at home, work and school.
If you need assistance with transportation, pre-identify options such as paratransit, dial-a-ride, taxi, a friend or a neighbor to transport you to evacuation centers or shelters.
If you’re dependent on equipment that needs power, regularly charge devices and have back-up options available.
Copy deeds, insurance policies and other vital records and documents. Store them in a safe deposit box. Make sure the originals are also stored in a safe place.
Compose a list of valuables. Supplement the list with photos or videos of each item. Store the list and copies, as well as photos and videos, in a safe place.
Contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross to learn their plans for emergency shelters and temporary medical centers.
Conduct a home hazard hunt
- Identify “safe” spots in each room
- Sturdy tables
- Interior walls
Identify “danger spots” in each room
- Areas near windows
- Hanging objects
- Pieces of tall, unsecured furniture
Identify potential exits in each room and keep areas around them clear.
Check chimneys, roofs, walls and foundations for stability. Make sure your house is bolted to the foundation.
Develop a family emergency plan
- Identify an out-of-town contact
- Identify a place to reunite if you and members of your family are separated
- Learn the policies of schools and day care centers your children attend regarding their release after an emergency
- Identify someone to pick up your children if you are unable to do so
- Consider the needs of infants, seniors, persons with disabilities.
- Develop and provide each member of your family with an emergency evacuation plan that includes a floor plan and at least two ways out of each room
Include plans for seniors, infants and those with disabilities
Include plans for your pets and large animals since they are NOT allowed in shelters
Develop a family phone tree or other mechanism family members can use to contact one another if they are separated
Identify at least two evacuation routes and provide them to responsible family members
Identify important documents to take with you if you have to leave
- Insurance policies
- Medical records
- Driver’s license
- Mortgage information
Find the shutoff valves for gas, water and electricity. Teach responsible family members how to shut off all utilities. Contact your utility company if you have any questions.
Secure water heaters, major appliances, tall heavy pieces of furniture, hanging plants, mirrors and picture frames to the wall studs.
Store breakables, heavy objects, flammable or hazardous liquids, including paints, pest sprays and cleaning products, in secured cabinets or lower shelves.
Organize your neighborhood to be self-sufficient after an earthquake.
Conduct practice drills every six months
…During a Quake
- If you’re inside, find a desk or sturdy table and “Drop, Cover and Hold On”
- Take cover against an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms if no desk or table is available
- Avoid windows and exterior walls if you’re in a high rise. Do not use the elevator.
- If you use a wheelchair or have other mobility impairments and cannot drop, cover and hold on, protect your head and neck with a pillow or your arms, and bend over to protect yourself as much as possible.
- If you’re in bed when an earthquake strikes, stay there and protect your head with a pillow.
- If you’re outside, find an open area, away from trees, buildings, power lines, signs and other objects
- If you’re driving when an earthquake occurs, pull over to side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses, signs, power lines. Stay in your car until the shaking stops.
- If you’re in a public assembly area (ie stadium, theatre, crowded public place, etc.), crouch down and cover your head and your neck with your hands and arms. Do not rush for the exits.
…After a Quake
- Check for damage to your building, including the foundation, roof and chimneys.
- Evacuate immediately if the building shows signs of partial or imminent collapse or is threatened by a fire.
- Check the building for fires, gas leaks, electrical shorts, broken water lines, spilled flammable or hazardous materials.
- If there is damage, turn off the utility at the source
- Evacuate immediately if the building is threatened by a large fire or if you hear or smell escaping gas.
- Report gas leaks to your utility company.
- Stay aware of your surroundings. Don’t enter damaged buildings or sleep in locations where large, heavy items could fall on you.
- Clean up overturned furniture, broken glass and other nonstructural hazards.
- Don’t use candles for lighting. They can topple over easily during an aftershock, causing a fire or an explosion if there’s a gas leak.
- Don’t use a charcoal grill or generator inside your building or garage (due to the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning)
- Wear a dust mask or avoid prolonged exposure in areas where there’s a substantial amount of dust.
- Check for hazards outside the building.
- Assume electrical wires that have fallen are live. Don’t try to touch or move them
- Avoid contact with any surfaces that are touching fallen electrical wire.
If you are forced to evacuate and must go to a shelter, you will need to take the following items:
- “Go kit” with basic supplies, including non-perishable food, snacks, water, first-aid supplies, prescription medications, a portable radio and consumable medical supplies.
- For each person, a change of clothing, jacket, sturdy shoes, personal hygiene supplies, wash cloth and towel, pillow, blankets or sleeping bag
- Personal identification, credit cards, house keys, cell phone and charger, list of important phone numbers and important documents, including copies of insurance policies, birth certificates and other important documents.
- A few books, toys and games for children
- Special food or support materials for infants and elders who require those items.
If you have pets and need to evacuate, you will have to take them to separate shelters set up especially for them and provide the following items:
- Feeding dishes
- Pet carriers
- Vaccination records
- Prescription medications
Use the phone only to report life-threatening situations:
- If you have a life-threatening situation and your phone does not have a dial tone when you first pick up the receiver due to system damage and overload, wait for several minutes to see if the dial tone returns instead of handing up and calling again immediately.
Once telephone service is restored, call your designated out-of-area contact to update them on your condition and location.
- Have them contact the rest of your family and friends to update them on your situation
- Continue to limit your calls to emergency situations until advised otherwise by emergency officials.
If there is a power outage and you don’t have to evacuate:
- You can safely use food stored in your refrigerator for up to four hours after the power failure.
- You can safely use food stored in the freezer section for up to two days if you minimize the number of times you open the door.
- Portable battery operated radio
- Extra batteries
- Signal Mirror
- Paper pad & Pencil
- Change for pay phone
- Back up battery charger for cell phone (if there is electricity)
- Lip Protection
- Toilet paper
- Light weight jacket
- Insect repellent
- Extra clothes adequate for climate
- In a Water proof bag
- Flash Light w/ extra batteries
- Cyalume sticks (glow sticks)
- Water – 2 weeks
- Food – 2 Weeks
- Can opener
- Personals meds
- Space Blanket (heavy)
- Emergency Blanket (light)
- Water proof matches or bic type lighter
- Pocket knife
- First Aid kit
- Water purification tabs
- Plastic trash bags
- Disposable camera
- Drop ladder
- Duct tape
- Sterno or Stove
- Metal cup or pot
- Bags various sixes zip lock
- Paper pad and pencil
- Flash light
- Spare batteries & Bulb for flash light
- Map Book ( Thomas Brothers Guide)
- Tennis shoes
- Leather gloves
- Dust mask
- Rain gear
- Jumper cables
- Tow cable
- Show chains (winter)
- Fire Extinguisher (10ABC min)
- First aid kit
- Water & Food non-perishable (2 days)
- Toilet paper
- (2) Pairs of Gloves
- (4) Gauze Pads
- Gauze Roll
- Assortment of Bandages
- Triangular Bandage
- Adhesive Tape
- Antiseptic Wipes/Towelettes
- Antibiotic Ointment
- Cold Pack
- Elastic Bandage
- CPR shield
- aspirin / pain reliever tablets
- Band aids cotton swabs
- Razor blade, single edge safety type
- Safety pins, large
California Emergency Mobile Patrol www.CEMP.org
California Emergency Management Agency www.oes.ca.gov
I decided to write about time management for this post because it seems to be something that many people grapple with. We all have so much to do whether you’re a busy professional, a student, or in job search. Being in job search is a job in of itself if not even more demanding.
One of the ways you can effectively manage your time is with goal setting. I wrote about goals in my previous post. Having a buddy system can keep you accountable for the things you have to do. Let them know what your short term or long term goal is.
Get organized. Clean up the clutter around your desk, office, house. These are distractions, you want to eliminate distractions. This also includes TV, email, video games etc. One needs to focus on the tasks they have that are on the list. It’s important to do, that is why it’s on there so eliminate the “stuff” that is going to make you lose focus.
Block out time on your calendar to do certain things. Maybe it is only checking email at certain times a day or put your cell phone away and on silent and only check it at a specific time (this is another distraction).
Take time to check in with yourself mentally each day for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and unplug from what you are doing. Are you on track with what is on your list. Where are you in what you want to get done? Take additional 30 minutes a week to do the same thing to reflect on what you have accomplished that week and what you still want to do.
The last key point to make in time management is an exercise I learned a few years ago. We all have a lot on our plate with things we need to do or want to do. Imagine a clear container, a large rock, some pebbles, and some sand. If you put the rock in the container first followed by the pebbles then put the pebbles in the container, they fall around the rock. Lastly, add enough sand so that the container is filled to the top. Putting these items in the container in this order, everything fits perfectly but if you remove the items from the container and put them back in the container in any other order, your container will overflow. These items represent the things you need to do in your day (your list). Imagine the tough items to do on your list as big rocks, do them first. Then the rest will be easier to do, they fall into place. If you don’t, you’re throwing your day out of balance causing your container to overflow.
Let’s talk about setting goals as it applies to professional development. Setting goals is like having the light at the end of a tunnel. They give you a target to aim for. Once you have hit your target you can celebrate your successes. I’ll break down the most effective way to set a goal with what is called a SMART goal.
SMART Goals are:
Specific – As in what is the specific action.
Measurable – Can it be measured? Completed a self-study coarse? Took a test? Got certified in something etc.
Aligned – Is it relevant to what you want to achieve?
Realistic – Is it feasible? It’s great to have ambitious goals but make sure they are something that you can manage and then celebrate when you achieve them.
Time Bound – Set an end date. For example I will have read my book by the end of the month.
In order to set a goal it is helpful to take inventory of one’s self and really know one’s self. What is it that makes you want to achieve this? Is it to be financially secure? Is it to gain credibility or additional knowledge in a particular field? Or is it to accomplish something you’ve wanted for years and you have yet to do it? It’s about one’s mindset. Where are you right now mentally? While you’re reading this blog what else is going on in your head? If you’re like me you have a lot of different thoughts and ideas racing around all at the same time. Sometimes you just need to slow the >insert expletive here< down, clear your thoughts. What does success look like to you? An exercise you can try is to make a success collage. Grab images from magazines or whatever you have available and select the images that represent your goal or the success of that goal. What do you see? What stands out to you? Sometimes having this visual representation in front of you can bring some clarity to what you need to look at closer. What is your short-term goal? What is your long-term goal? If your goal is a big one try breaking it down in parts or different stages.
What are your relevant skills that you can apply to reach you goal? If your goal is to go into sales, can you sell? If your goal is design clothing, do you know graphic design? Be optimistic what are you good at? What are you strengths?
If your goal is land a position in a certain industry, what is going on in that particular industry now? If it is company specific, research the company. Have they just had a lay off or are they hiring? Do you know how well they are performing? Did you research the company? Do your homework: Google them, follow them on Twitter, check them out on LinkedIn.
What is your financial plan? How long do you have to meet your goal? Do you have the financial resources to meet the goal? If you’re making a transition in to a new industry it’s a good rule of thumb to have at least 6 months of salary saved in order to give you time unless you have other financial resources available.
Learn to be patient. One must be tolerant so as not to get frustrated and feel defeated. Stick to your plan. For every door that closes another one opens.
Have a support system. Look to your friends and family. Let them know what you are doing. Even have someone to keep you accountable and on track of your goal. Check in with them or give them a status of where you are in achieving what you set out to do. Having someone to keep you accountable is a very good way to keep you on track. I ran a marathon once. It took 6 months of training and it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. If I were in it alone I would have never finished the race. I had a team to keep me getting up at ungodly hours in the morning to train and keep me training. We were in it together. Even during the race I had friends that would not let me give up no matter how bad the pain got. They kept me on target, they wouldn’t let me quit, and I finished that marathon. It was difficult, painful, and took over 6 months to do it but now I can say I did it and I have my medal to show for it. Having a support system to keep you accountable is very helpful and they can give you feedback if they know if they know what you are trying to achieve they can even help introduce you to other people who can help you. This can be key. I’ll talk more about this “hidden job market” later.