30 March 2009

When working isn't fun: Ho hum, ho hum, it's off to work I go...

Do you ever get that ho hum feeling about your job and know it is time to consider moving on? I do. After four years at my previous job I knew it was time to go. When an opportunity came up, I went for it.

I was speaking to someone on the weekend about that and she agreed. She felt in her current job she was not being challenged and used to her potential and was thinking about making a change. She told me that when she feels like that she asks herself, is this where I want to be in the next five years and if the answer is no, then she knows it is time to leave.

Working is something we all have to do, but when it loses our interest, it makes it pretty hard to get up in the morning and make the commute in. Job satisfaction is important.

Polish up the ol' resume
It is all right to send your resume out and see what kind of response you get. There are still jobs to be had, you just have to find them.

In this new age of not doing anything more than a quick spell check on documents, make sure you do not have any spelling mistakes in your resume. I was speaking to a manager the other day and he said when he gets a resume, that is one of the first things he checks. If you have typos in your resume, what does that say about your attention to detail and pride in your work? You would be surprised at the amount of errors I have seen in this very important first introduction to a company.

They are interested, now what?
If you get an opportunity for an interview you may as well go and try it. When you meet this potential employer, make eye contact and give a firm handshake. When I speak with someone I want them to look me in the eye. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul and it is true, you can tell a lot by someone's eyes so if you are not looking at me I wonder what you don't want me to know about you.

I also like people to show confidence by shaking my hand. I have had some pretty limp handshakes in my day that made me want to immediately take my hand back and shake it out -- Ewww! Other handshakes felt like they were trying to break mine. Ouch! A firm but short handshake is all it takes.

Be prepared in the interview with your own questions too. I always like the interview to be a conversation, with both sides talking. An interview can be as stressful on those conducting it as on the person being interviewed if the conversation does not flow. Nobody likes long pauses and awkward moments, but you don't want to talk when you shouldn't either.

HA HA, not funny
Be very careful about using humour in an interview. What you may find funny, someone else may find offensive. At one interview I was on, I was so relaxed and at ease that I told a joke. It could have gone either way, but fortunately they both laughed. Whew!

Nothing to lose
The best time to look for a job is when you don't need one. You will be more relaxed and if it works out -- great, but if not, you have not lost anything. You may even start to think your current job is not that bad afterall.

21 March 2009

How to get Office fat fast...

I've been gaining weight lately and couldn't figure out why until I started to look at my new office habits.

How to gain weight in six easy steps:
  1. Do not eat breakfast before going to work. You can always buy a quick croissant or sticky bun to get you through the morning;

  2. Never bring a lunch to work. The specials at the cafeteria in your building will certainly have something greasy and fattening for your enjoyment;

  3. Don't take a lunch break. Stay at your desk and continue to work (while quickly gulping down the above greasy fast food);
  4. Don't drink lots of water during the day, it will only make you have to leave your desk more often;
  5. When you need a quick pick me up visit the office candy bowl for a sugar high or better yet, keep a candy bowl at your own desk to save steps;

  6. Try not to schedule exercise into your work day. You don't have time anyway!

An ACE commissioned study found that secretaries, teachers, lawyers and police officers walked significantly fewer steps and less distance than other occupations. At the low end, secretaries were observed to walk only an average of 4,327 steps. The recommended goal being 10,000 steps a day.

Try to eat healthy, and please make some time for exercise. I know I am going to change my habits.

15 March 2009

When you need it later: The Bring-Forward System

My boss likes me to keep him organized and the way I do that is to have a system to bring forward items, which I then bring to his attention when he needs to see it.

The system I use is quite simple and has been around for a long time. They taught this system when I was in highschool and it is still being taught and used by many assistants today because it works!

Tried and True Method:
I set up 12 hanging file folders labelled January through to December. If my boss is going on a business trip in April for instance, I put his ticket, passport (if necessary) and any material he will need for his trip in the April folder, with a bf date on it i.e. April 6. If there are forms that need to filled in and it has a due date in June, I put those forms in the June folder with a bf date on it for a week before it is due.

Each day before I leave for the day, I go through the appropriate hanging folder and look through it for any items my boss will need the next day. I then put the items in a two-fold file folder with his calendar printed out on the one side and the items he will need for the day on the other side. This really works for us and is so easy to use.

Reminders for Me:
For reminders for myself I tend to use Tasks in Outlook a lot. Many of my tasks come from e-mail requests from either my boss or others so I want the e-mail to be in my Tasks so I can set a reminder. Depending on how you have your Outlook set up, below are the steps:
  • you can either *drag and drop the e-mail into the Tasks folder or open the e-mail and choose Move to Folder and choose Other Folder and scroll down until you find Tasks, highlight it and press OK
  • the e-mail contents will now be in your Task, but in the Comments section
  • in the Subject line I write whatever it is I need to do and put [OPEN] so I will know to open the Task to read the e-mail below
  • I set the appropriate date I need to do it by and set a reminder.

Other Tasks:
If you need to set yourself a Task further to a phone call request or just to set a reminder to do something at a future date, highlight the Tasks folder by clicking on it once and from your Outlook Toolbar press New and it will open a Task for you and you can then proceed as above to set your dates and reminders.

Where can I put this paper?
For paper things that I need to remember to follow up on, I put the letter or document in my Wait Bin (which is a tray for things I am waiting on). I create a corresponding Task reminder and write something like this: WAITBIN need to prepare form for production by March 23rd. Then I put a reminder for a few days before. Because I have WAITBIN in my Subject line, I will know that the item is in my Wait Bin when I go to look for it.

Waiting on someone else:
Sometimes I have a Task that I can't do anything with until I hear back from a co-worker. When I get my reminder for the Task, and if I haven't heard back from my co-worker, I follow up with an e-mail to ask them the status and depending on the response, I re-set my reminder for a later date or once the Task is completed, I delete it from my Tasks folder.

I don't want to miss anything:
I have access to my boss's e-mail account and usually schedule a time in my day to look through his Inbox, Sent Items and Deleted Items. I tend to do this at the end of the day, but depending on your boss's needs, you can do it first thing in the morning or beginning and end of day. I look for action items he has requested from someone or they have requested from him. I then *drag and drop these e-mails into my Tasks to follow up on or print them and highlight what he needs to do and by what date and put it in his bring-forward system. Unless you schedule a time to do this, you will be in the account all the time not wanting to miss anything, but that is not an efficient use of your time. My boss knows I just check his account once a day. He will forward or cc me on items he wants me to take action on sooner.

Depending on where you work and who you work for, you may use a combination of these bring-forward systems or may prefer one method over the other. When I worked for a law firm I found using the Outlook Tasks exclusively worked for me, but now that I work as an Executive Assistant to a CEO, the bring-forward hanging file folder system works best, along with setting Tasks as described above.

You have to find a system that works for you and your boss and then use it over and over until it is so routine that you will automatically know where to put something and know what to do to find it later.

I find communicating with your boss about how you are following up and what system you are using will help in how you work together as a team. They will have confidence that you have a plan and that things won't slip through the cracks and will be able to relax and let you do your job.

*When you drag and drop an e-mail from your e-mail account (or your boss's) into Tasks, it does not remove it, it just copies the e-mail contents into the Task Comments Section. The original e-mail stays intact in the folder you got it from. If you drag and drop an e-mail into a folder or subfolder however, it will move it from the one place to the other.

8 March 2009

I always have the perfect answer ... the next day!

Someone says something to you at work, but you weren't expecting it so aren't prepared with an answer. You want to say something intelligent and well thought out, but it comes out all wrong. When you go home however -- that is the time you come up with the perfect answer. You go over the conversation you had with your co-worker or boss, but this time you put in the answer you would have said if you had taken the time to think about it. Or at least that is what happens to me...

I recently went on a professional development day and one of the speakers spoke about the importance of respect for our co-workers and team members and how that should be reflected in our communications with them. He said we should take time before we answer and that it was all right to say, "I'll get back to you on that" or "Let me think about it."

He also suggested that you have something in your mind as a marker that will help you in your conversations. His was, "What would Jesus say?" He said it was not for religious reasons, but only because he wanted to make sure that what he was saying was going to be the most helpful and not something he would regret in the morning and this worked for him. Another one he suggested was, "How would I feel if someone said that to me?"

Wouldn't it be great if we the took time to think before we answered and instead of going over the conversation in our mind and thinking of what we should have said, we actually waited and said something we could be proud of the next day? It sure would save me a lot of lost sleep...

It can be the same with e-mail. We press Send and regret it.

Something I do if I am contemplating sending an e-mail when I am upset is send it to myself first. I leave my desk, cool down a bit and when I come back, I open the message in my Inbox and read my e-mail again. I then get the full impact my e-mail will have on the recipient and sometimes by doing that I have re-written the whole e-mail and toned it down or not sent it at all.

1 March 2009

Spring cleaning on the blog

It is a very sunny day today with a promise of spring in the air so I thought it was a good time to spring clean the blog. You will notice on the side bar I have put a lot of the reading sites (My blog list etc.) at the bottom and moved the My Favourites up so it would be convenient for your use.

Under My Favourites, I have added a Meeting section with some useful sites and combined many of my travel related links under one title simply called Travel. I have also combined all the tutorials, training and other education-related links under the title Training.

I have removed the Google Ads as I thought it took up a lot of space and wasn't very useful and included the index of my articles instead so you could easily scroll through and see a list of the articles that have been posted by date.

I hope this will be more user friendly and accessible to everyone. If you have any favourite sites that you think others would find useful, please send them along and I will add them to the sidebar.