30 September 2007
I give two-weeks' notice and make myself available to help in the transition period as much as I can. If there is an overlap I offer to train the new person.
In one job I had I was laid off as a result of government downsizing, but that is still no excuse for being unprofessional. I want to leave on good terms and to be able to use the time I was in the position as a positive experience and a positive reference.
When you leave a position it is also a good time to ask for a reference letter for your records.
Here in an interesting article1 entitled 15 ways to leave your job and another article2 entitled Seven things NOT to do when you leave your job (no matter how tempted you are).
And what if you are fired? Here is an article3 that deals with that situation.
1 Lorenz, Kate, 15 Ways to Leave Your Job, http://www.careerbuilder.ca/CA/JobSeeker/CareerAdvice/ViewArticle.aspx?articleid=174&cbRecursionCnt=1&cbsid=2cffe559602d4f0d8e2580c6348a5ee0-244501006-JG-5&ns_siteid=ns_ca_g_leaving_a_job_on_good_, (accessed September 30, 2007)
2 www.sixwise.com, Seven things NOT to do when you leave your job (no matter how tempted you are), http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/06/01/25/seven_things_not_to_do_when_leaving_your_job_no_matter_how_tempted_you_are.htm, (accessed September 30, 2007)
3 Bruzzese, Anita, Gannett News Service, USA Today, How to Leave a Job Properly, http://www.usatoday.com/money/jobcenter/workplace/quitting/2002-11-20-leaving-job_x.htm, (accessed September 30, 2007)
"I was the type to stay in a job forever until a couple of years ago. The job I was in had become so mundane that I found myself wondering just how much longer I could stand it – and then I wondered "why was I even putting up with it". I was not being challenged and I was losing the skills that I had worked so hard at. I had to move on…
I wasn't going to jump into the first job that came along though, "The grass isn't always greener on the other side". I went on one interview only to find out at the end of it that it was not something I wanted to do, so I let them know I was not interested. I ended up getting the next job I applied for and was excited to start – although a bit apprehensive at the same time.
One of the hardest things I find about starting a new job is that dreaded "probationary period" and having to prove myself all over again. Even though you probably have been doing this type of work for years, it is a new position, in a new location with new policies and procedures to learn, and you are dealing with new people. It is easy to second-guess your abilities, especially when you think people are watching your every move. I have found you just have to dig in and get down to the new tasks in front of you, and not concentrate on that. Here are a few things I do when I start a new job:
- I start a Secretarial Manual! Every time I learn something new, I write it in the manual, ie. how to use the fax machine, information about the phone system, where the photocopier is located, who my contacts are in this position, who I can call for help, etc. If I write it down the first time, I probably won't have to ask again (which your new co-workers will appreciate).
- I set up my workstation in a way that will be convenient for me.
- I look over the filing system and become familiar with that.
- When I first open my computer I set up my Word toolbar in the way I am familiar and I do the same with Outlook.
- I try to meet with my new boss and get familiar with what projects are coming up and what will be expected of me."
Submitted by Lynn, Admin Assistant
I hope these tips will help you make the transition into your new position. But remember, they did choose you because they thought you were the best candidate. So be yourself and go and meet the challenges of the new position and enjoy the new people you will be working with.
Here is an article1 from the website about.com: Career Planning that gives good advice on starting a new job.
1 Rosenberg-McKay, Dawn, Starting a New Job, http://careerplanning.about.com/cs/firstjob/a/new_job.htm, (accessed September 30, 2007)
29 September 2007
I am always looking for shortcuts and I found a neat way to speed up my typing using AutoCorrect.
For example, if I type sbc and press the spacebar (or press enter) it automatically types SENT BY COURIER. Here are some others I use regularly:
sbf - SENT BY FACSIMILE
sbr - SENT BY REGISTERED MAIL
p&c - PERSONAL & CONFIDENTIAL
You can create an AutoCorrect for as many words as you like, but unless they are simple you will tend to forget what your shortcut was. I use mine so often, and because they are the initials, they are very easy to remember. So try and keep it simple.
To create an AutoCorrect shortcut in Word:
Go under Tools > AutoCorrect > Replace: sbc With: SENT BY COURIER
Create as many as you like, then press OK and you are set.
I use sbc instead of sc because SC is a shortform for South Carolina and if you don't pay attention you may have SENT BY COURIER in an address where you really wanted the state SC. So I add the b to avoid that.
28 September 2007
"When I first got back into the workforce, I quickly realized that a computer course was something I needed since I had never used a computer before. And yes, I know I am showing my age here...
Initially, I could not see how the lessons they were giving me on font sizing, margins, tabs, etc. were going to help me type a letter quicker than what I could do on my trusty typewriter; I could have finished that letter in two minutes! Of course, I quickly changed my mind when I saw the many advantages of using a computer.
Even when I was first learning, I found that I wanted to know more than what they were teaching me, so I started to investigate the various menu options myself and I started using the "Help" command. There's nothing wrong with asking for "Help"! A "Help" command is included in the Microsoft Office program menu bar. The more specific you can be with your question, the better your chance of getting answers on what you need. Here are a few ways you can get help.
Using the Office Assistant:
On the menu bar, go to Help > Show the Office Assistant. Your Office Assistant will show up on your screen usually in the lower right-hand corner…maybe as a paperclip, a cat or a dog. Click on your Office Assistant and you will get a pop-up that says, Type your question here. Do as it says…i.e. type in "How do I draw a curve in Word" or "Using Shortcut Keys in Word" and then click Search. You will get several results to choose from – choose the one that is closest to what you want to do and try it out.
Using the F1 key command:
Press the F1 key and type in your question.
Another way to learn more about your word processing program is to do tutorials. There are several tutorials available on the Internet. Even if you are at an "advanced level", you likely don't use all of the advanced features on a daily basis and the old saying holds true, "if you don't use it…you lose it". It's up to you to keep your skills up to date. The tutorials give you a good overview of what various programs can do.
Microsoft Office have their own tutorials that are very helpful. Click here1 and type in the name of the program you want information on.
There are several other good tutorial sites, for example: Internet4classrooms2 and bettersolutions.com3.
Basically, if you search on the Internet and type in the word "tutorials" and whatever program you want to know about, something will come up… Good idea also to just go to a University site4 and see what they are teaching…this will give you an idea of some of the many things your program can do.
And last but not least, keeping a "network" of secretaries is the best resource. You don't have to know everything…you just need to know others that do! My network is invaluable as one of my main "Help" resources."
Submitted by Lynn Crosbie, Administrative Assistant
For a quick way to get help, if you look in the top right-hand corner of Outlook, Word, PPT and Excel there is a Help box with the words Type your question here.
1 Microsoft Office Online, http://office.microsoft.com/, (accessed September 28, 2007)
2 Internet4Classrooms, http://www.internet4classrooms.com/on-line_word.htm, (accessed September 28, 2007)
3 Better Solutions.com, http://www.bettersolutions.com/word.aspx, (accessed September 28, 2007)
4 Florida Gulf Coast University, http://www.fgcu.edu/support/office2000/word/index.html, (accessed September 28, 2007)
There are many good blogs and websites for helps on the different software programs and my blog is not intended to duplicate that. My intention is to give quick tips on things I have found useful and share it with you in the hopes it will make your work easier.
27 September 2007
"If you are in a document and you press Ctrl F2, it brings you to "Print Preview". Press Ctrl F2 again and it brings you back to your original view.
Here is a control key for line spacing... Highlight the text and then press Ctrl 1 for single space, Ctrl 2 for double space and Ctrl 5 for 1.5 spacing... I like to use this one..."
Submitted by Lynn, Admin Assistant
I love using the Control keys. Your hands never have to leave the keyboard.
Some of my favourites are:
Ctrl U for underline
Ctrl S to save
Ctrl N to open a new document
Ctrl i for italic
Ctrl B for bold
Ctrl P for print
Ctrl F for find
Ctrl C for copy
Ctrl X to cut
Ctrl V for paste...and there are many more
The more you use Control Keys the easier it becomes to remember them.
Here is a link1 to other shortcut keys.
1 Florida Gulf Coast University, http://www.fgcu.edu/support/office2000/word/shortcuts.html, (accessed September 27, 2007)
Submitted by Lynn, Administrative Assistant
23 September 2007
Many of the professionals from my office work from home on occasion, and I believe the assistant's role can be even more important as we are the contact for the professional and the client to keep things running smoothly at the office.
But can the assistant work from home? I have a few friends who are hooked up to work at home and do so on occasion. One person I know works full-time at home as an assistant, but in her case she runs the office of a volunteer organization and her home is actually the office: All couriers are sent to her home, the business phone, fax and computer are all at her home. In her case she has a unique situation and I know she loves the freedom she has working at home, but I also know she is very, very busy and still has to accomplish a lot in one day. She said the challenge she has is to get her family to understand she is at work. She also confessed that sometimes she wakes up at night thinking of something she needs to do and ends up going down to her office and doing some work in the wee hours of the morning.
Although the idea of working at home sounds appealing to me, I am not sure I would have the discipline to do it. I think I need the structure of the office environment to keep myself on track. It also would not work in my working situation with my professional and I think that is the deciding factor. I would also miss the social side of working with my co-workers.
But times are definitely changing and it will be interesting to see how the future unfolds for the business office and for the assistant.
For those who may be interested in looking into working at home if that is an option for you, here is an article I found on the Canadajobs.com website entitled Working At Home? Five Things You Can't Be Without. 1
1 Canadajobs.com, Working At Home? Five Things You Can't Be Without, http://www.canadajobs.com/articles/viewarticle.cfm?ArticleID=1211, (accessed September 23, 2007)
22 September 2007
Remember to put an Out-of-Office voicemail message on your telephone when you will not be in the office.
I always identify myself and give my title. For example, "You have reached the voicemail of Patricia Robb, Assistant to [insert your professional's name]". If it is a business call don't assume they will recognize your voice. By leaving your name and title this will give them the assurance that they've called the right number. I let them know when I will be back in the office and the name and contact information of someone to contact if they require immediate assistance. (Of course, be sure to check with your co-worker first before providing his or her information). If they need immediate assistance I also give them the option of pressing '0' to speak to the receptionist.
I take advantage of the temporary voicemail message option and set an expiry date and time so my Out-of-Office message will automatically expire an hour before I am due back in the office. This is just one more thing I don't have to remember to do when I am back from holidays; I know my voicemail will be set back to my original message automatically.
21 September 2007
With the increasing use of email as the first choice for business correspondence it opens a whole new world of dos and don'ts for the assistant.Here are Some Good-Sense Email Etiquette Tips:
Although email is less formal than writing a letter it is still polite to open with a greeting. Your company may have a policy on how they want you to address people in external business email.
Jane Watson of J. Watson Associates, author of Business Writing Basics, The Minute Taker's Handbook, and Biztips — Grammar Collection 1, gives the following email tips for Email Salutations in her e-bulletin Business Writing Updates:
“There are several options for starting an e-mail in North America as our business culture is not as formal as other areas. You can use “hi,” “hello,” “good day” or any other variant – including just the first name. I usually tell people to use whatever they would say when they are greeting someone face to face. I recommend staying away from “good morning” or “good afternoon” as the person may not open the e-mail during that time frame. You could use “greetings” or “hello all” when sending a message to a group. If I didn’t know the person, and it was my first communication to him/her, I would use both names: John McDonald.
Not putting a salutation on the first message of the day to someone is often considered impolite. As you e-mail back and forth during the day, you can drop the salutation when it feels comfortable.
“Dear” is considered too formal in North America for an e-mail and is reserved for letters. Note: “Dear” in an e-mail is considered appropriate in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, France, Japan and Indonesia.”1
Be Courteous With Email
Are you There?
Who hasn't been annoyed when you email someone and are waiting for an answer, only to find out the person is on vacation, but didn't put their Out-of-Office Assistant on. It is important to let people know when you will not be in the office.For those who are unfamiliar with Out-of-Office Assistant, go under Tools, Out of Office Assistant.The following information should be included in your message:
1) The start and end dates of your absence.
2) A message to let your contacts know you’ll answer messages when you return.
3) The name, contact information, and office hours of someone to contact if they require immediate assistance. Of course, be sure to check with your co-worker first before providing his or her information.
Who are you?
Be sure to add your signature to your business email with your coordinates. Your company may have a strict policy on what they want you to include in the signature line and what it should look like, but generally you would include your name, title, company name and address, telephone and fax number. They already know your email address if they have received an email from you so no need to put this in your signature line unless your company policy states you should.
To set an email signature file:
1) From the Tools Menu, choose Options
2) Select Mail Format
3) Select Signatures
4) Select New and follow the instructions to add your email signature. You can make more than one signature to use for different e-mails
5) If you want your signature to be applied automatically to new messages and for replies and forwards. Go back to Mail Format and you will see a drop-down menu for Signature for new message and Signature for replies and forwards. You need to select the signature you want applied to these functions or leave at None if you do not want this set.
Saying Thank you
It is always correct to be courteous, but not annoying? This is a great tip from Jane Watson of J. Watson Associates for Saying Thank You in an Email:
“In our recent poll on pet peeves regarding emails, a number of respondents expressed irritation about receiving messages that contained only the words thank you. They reasoned that opening these short messages wasted their time. They were merely doing their job and didn’t need to be thanked. I understand their rationale; however, sending a thank you indicates the receipt of information and a close of the requested action.
My suggestion – to keep the process short but to acknowledge the receipt of information and your appreciation – is to put the thank you on the subject line along with the indicator END. END on the subject line means there is no need to open the message as there is nothing in the body text…” 2
Writing all in caps is a form of email shouting. Is that the message you want to send to your recipient?
If you are visually impaired and need to use all caps and large font and don’t want to offend the reader, my suggestion would be to state that in your opening sentence. That way the reader can relax and continue to read the email knowing you are not shouting at them.
Does it matter what colour of font you use in your email? Colour blindness affects a significant number of people, especially men, when it comes to distinguishing the colour red and green. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) report that, “some 10 million American men – fully 7 percent of the male population – either cannot distinguish red from green, or see red and green differently from most people. This is the commonest form of color blindness, but it affects only .4 percent of women”.3
If you want something to stand out, rather than using a colour you can always use bold or italics for emphasis. I would not recommend using underlining for emphasis in an electronic document as it usually means it is linking to something else. Because it has taken on this new meaning you may have some confused readers trying to link to another site.4
And what about all that pretty wallpaper that is available for your background? Be sure to check your company email policy: Having butterflies flutter across the screen on the opening of the business email may not be the image your company is looking for.
Reply to all
If you are copied on an email and want to respond to the sender is it really necessary to Reply to all and have every one of the recipients receive your email? If your message is an answer to the sender then just pressing Reply is appropriate or if you are only copied, do you need to reply at all?
Be Angry but Send not!
It is too easy to press Send and then regret what you have written or find yourself in some legal trouble.
If you need to vent, try sending yourself the email you wanted to send. Take a few moments to calm down and then go to your Inbox and open your message. You will get a greater sense of what impact that email will have on the recipient. But it is never a good idea to send an angry email in business correspondence.
Good Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation:
The rules still apply for using good grammar and punctuation in email: Are you starting that new sentence using a capital letter? Are you asking a question or stating a fact? Is this a new paragraph?
Your email will be easier to read if you follow some basic business writing rules.
Read the email over for completeness and accuracy. SpellCheck never replaces proofreading your email.
If you say in your email you have an attachment, is the attachment actually there? And please verify to make sure the attachment is the correct attachment, it is easy to drag and drop the wrong attachment.
Check the name of the recipient and make sure they are the actual person (people) you want to send to. Some names are similar in your contact list and it is easy to choose the wrong person, which, depending on the sensitivity of the email, could be embarrassing or worse.
If you are changing the subject, please do not reply to the old email with the same subject line. This can get confusing for the recipient. A good rule of thumb is if you change the subject, start a new email message.
In our fast-paced society email is a quick way of communicating and used properly can be a effective business tool, but email can also be impersonal and is not always the best form of communication. Sometimes a better way to communicate would be picking up the phone or meeting someone face to face.
So think twice before pressing Send: Is email the best way to communicate your message?
Tip for filing emails:
If it is necessary to file a hard copy of the email. File emails chronologically by date and time. This will make it easier for the reader to follow the chain of emails.
1 Watson, Jane, J. Watson Associates Inc., Copyright © 2005 All rights reserved. Tel: 905-820-9909, Email Salutations, http://www.jwatsonassociates.com/newsletter/jwa_086.htm, (accessed October 22, 2007) (Used with permission)
2 Watson, Jane, J. Watson Associates Inc., Copyright © 2005 All rights reserved. Tel: 905-820-9909, Saying Thank you in an Email, http://www.jwatsonassociates.com/newsletter/jwa_073.htm, (accessed October 22, 2007) (Used with permission)
3 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Color Blindness: More Prevalent Among Males, (1995 report) (Accessed February 2, 2008) (Used with permission)
4 Gaertner-Johnston, Lynn, Business Writing "Talk, tips, and Best Picks for Writers on the Job", Underling: A Bad Choice Online, http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2008/02/underlining-a-b.html
A version of this article appeared in OfficePro Magazine, January/February 2008 edition.
20 September 2007
She said what she did was take a legal-sized accordion bellows and insert tabs from A to Z. In the short term she would put individual filing in alphabetical order in the appropriate tab. This got the filing off her desk and put in a place she could easily manage. Then when she had a down time she did her filing from the bellows.
The good thing about this system is if your boss needs something quickly, you can go to the bellows and easily retrieve it from the appropriate tab as opposed to going through the pile of filing on your desk and hoping you find it quickly.
This has been a great help in keeping my desk organized and I hope it will be a help to you too.
16 September 2007
As I was doing research for other articles on this blog I came across the International Association of Administrative Professionals' website ("IAAP") and was reminded of the advantages of being part of a professional organization.
This article is not intended to be an endorsement of any one particular organization over another.
I was previously a member of IAAP when I was at another firm. I went to their dinner meetings and conferences and felt it was a good investment. At my previous employer they paid for the membership and, if work schedules permitted, would allow you to take time during office hours to go to meetings and luncheons in the area. It would be worthwhile to check with your HR Manager to see if this benefit is offered at your office.
The advantages I found in being part of a professional organization are:
- It is a great place for networking with other admin assistants. I think it helps to have people in the same profession you can interact with and get ideas and helpful insights from.
- I found that by belonging to an association you have access to job postings in the area.
- The dinner meetings and conferences had very useful topics and information that I could use in my daily work.
- Most associations include a subscription to their monthly magazine which have great articles on subjects that matter to us.
- I found they encouraged members to participate and advance their skills in areas like public speaking, chairing a meeting, taking minutes, etc. A woman I worked with was a shy person who would never speak in public but through the encouragement of her peers she ended up chairing a conference and doing a wonderful job. It helped to have that support system.
- I found the resource section on the website to be very good and up to date. I recently ordered two books from the IAAP website: Work it Out,1 which is a book on working with your colleagues and resolving conflict relationships; and a second book, Email Management,2 which I believe is very timely as the constant influx of emails can be a daunting task to manage and organize.
If you are interested in ordering these or other books, please go to the IAAP website under Education & Training: Educational Products/Bookstore.3
- If you are a member, put it on your resume! I think it would show any employer that you take your career seriously and that you are a professional.
I'm sure there are many other good reasons for joining a professional organization, but these are my thoughts on it.
Here is a website for another Administrative Assistant association that I found:
Association of Administrative Assistants: whose motto is Professionalism through Education4
1 Krebs Hirsh, Sandra and Kise, Jane A.G., Work It Out: Using Personality Type to Improve Team Performance
2 Flynn, Nancy, E-Mail Management: 50 Tips for Keeping Your Inbox Under Control
3 International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), http://www.iaap-hq.org/, (accessed September 16, 2007)
4 Association of Admnistrative Assistants, http://www.aaa.ca/index.htm, (accessed September 16, 2007)
5 September 2007
It ended up I did get the job. They mustn't have noticed my roots or wrinkled suit, or I completely wowed them with my skills and humour, but this definitely was not the way to go to an interview.
How important is it what you wear to the interview? The first thing the potential employer will see when you walk in the door is what you are wearing and first impressions do count. A business suit is always appropriate.1
In order to do well in an interview you need to make that very important first impression and know how to conduct yourself during the interview. Are you relaxed and confident or uptight and nervous? Which is all well and good to say, but how do you get to the place where you are relaxed and confident and how do you make that good first impression.
I have found the key is to be prepared. Go over some possible interview questions and answers. There are some websites that give sample interview questions. Check them out. Go over the questions, no matter how silly some of them seem, believe me, they ask them. Get a friend or family member to ask you questions and practice your answers.
Dalhousie University has some good sample questions and possible answers on their website, but try and make the answers your own. Click here.2
It is also good to be familiar with what the company does. Research the company where you are applying. Most companies have a webpage that will give you a good idea of what they do.
Probably most importantly, you need to read the job posting and determine if your skills match the requirements for the job and if you think you will be able to meet the challenge. If you think you will, then you can go confidently into that interview knowing you can do the job and that will come across to the people interviewing you. If your skills fall short of what is required for this particular job posting, you might want to pass this opportunity by (at least this time around), but you can always take courses and learn the required skills or upgrade your present skills for the next time.
One thing I think people forget when they go for an interview is that the company has to sell you on the job as well. I ask questions on any interview I go on. I want to know if I want this job. Have a list of questions prepared. You need to interview them as well.
Before you go into the interview, take a few deep breaths. When you walk into the room greet the interviewers, give a firm handshake and have good eye contact.
Anything you can do to set yourself apart from everyone else will help. Send a thank you note or card to those who interviewed you. It will be noticed.
I never feel an interview is a waste of time whether I am successful or not, I can always learn from the experience and see what the expectations are and what the job market is like.
Louise Giordano, a career advisor, says, "There is no one "best" way to prepare for an interview. Rather, there are specific and important strategies to enhance one's chances for interview success. Every interview is a learning experience, so learning that takes place during the preparation and actual interview process is useful for future interviews".
For the complete article please click here.3
Click here 4 for a good overview on interview preparation.
Click here 5 for the Service Canada website on Interview Preparation.
1 Career Services at Princeton Unversity, Dress for Interviews and Career Fairs, http://web.princeton.edu/sites/career/Undergrad/JobSearch/dress_code.html, (accessed September 5, 2007)
2 Dalhousie University, Possible Responses to Some Typical Interview Questions, http://staffingservices.dal.ca/Interview%20Preparation/Responses.php, (accessed September 5, 2007)
3 Giordano, Louise, The Ultimate guide to Job Interview Prepration, http://www.quintcareers.com/job_interview_preparation.html, (accessed September 5, 2007)
4 Dalhousie University, Interview Preparation, http://staffingservices.dal.ca/Interview%20Preparation/, (accessed September 5, 2007)
5 Service Canada, Prepare for the Interview, http://www.jobsetc.ca/content_pieces.jsp?category_id=303, (accessed September 5, 2007)
See the link list on the right "Job Search Helps" for a summary of helpful links.