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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
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.