31 May 2009

Go with your gut feeling!

Have you ever had a moment's hesitation when you thought, "I should question that" or "I should take one more look" and then don't and later wish you had? Well, I have had two such incidents in the past two weeks. I read something that made me pause, but because I was in a big hurry and felt confident that the other person was covering that base, I let it go.

It is wise to take a moment and evaluate the situation.

In both of my situations, it would have been helpful if I had given my input. I am not sure if it would have changed the outcome, but at least I would feel confident that I flagged it for my boss.

Lesson learned and will now put me on high gut alert...

24 May 2009

Word and Outlook 2007 tips

I use Word 2007 at my new job and have never really had a chance to go through it to find the quick tips and how-tos that I had in Word 2003. Finally this weekend I searched out some of my old favourites and have listed them below in no particular order. I have also included some Outlook 2007 tips:

Word 2007:

Change Case
To toggle between upper, lower and initial caps. Highlight word and press Shift F3.

Change measurement for margins to inches (or centimeters if you prefer)
Click on the Office button, bottom middle there is a button called Word Options, click on it. Choose Advanced. Scroll down to Display Section,
Across from Show Measurements in Units of, there is drop down to change from centimeters to inches

Dot Leader
On the horizontal ruler, set the tab stop that you want (probably 6 on Ruler) On the Page Layout tab, open the Paragraph Dialog Box by clicking the arrow down. In the Paragraph dialog box, click Tabs (bottom left). Under Leader, click the leader option that suits your needs i.e. ……1 or -----1 Click OK
Type text you want i.e. Agenda as in example below. Then tab over and your leader will appear.
Agenda............................................... 2

Line Spacing
Highlight section you want to change spacing on. Choose Ctrl 1 for Single, Ctrl 2 for Double, Ctrl 5 for 1.5 spacing

To insert a document i.d. or a filename path to your document
Insert Footer, Edit Footer
On Insert Tab, click on drop down menu for Quick Parts. Choose Field.
In the Categories Drop Down Menu (top left hand corner), drop down and choose Document Information
Under Field Names (right below Categories drop down menu), click on FileName
In top right-hand corner under Field Options – Click on Add path to filename Press OK

Turn off check Grammar with Spelling
I like to check my spelling, but not the grammar at the same time. I find it really slows down the process and I have the Check Grammar While You Type on so feel that is enough. If you want to turn off the Check Grammar with Spelling and only enable the Check Spelling, here is how to do it. Click on Office Button, Word Options, Proofing, Scroll down to When Correcting Spelling and Grammar in Word. Unclick Check Grammar with Spelling. Press OK

To print the active window only, in PrintScreen hold down the Alt key and press Print Screen. Then open a new document and paste (Ctrl v).
To print the entire screen, press the PrintScreen key and then paste it into a blank document.

To continue paragraph numbering
Right click and choose either restart number or continue numbering

Outlook 2007:

To recall a message in Outlook 2007
Go in the Sent message you want to Recall. In the Message tab under Actions, you will see Other Actions in the Toolbar. Click on the arrow down and you will see the option to either Delete Unread copies of this message or Delete unread copies and replace with a new message. You should also click the box Tell me if Recall succeeds or fails for each recipient.

To set a recurring 9-5 meeting (as opposed to clicking all-day meeting)
I don't like the all-day meeting settings as they are out of sight at the top of the calendar and easily missed. If my boss is going to be away from Monday to Wednesday, I block off the day and set a recurrence for the three days. His calendar then shows blocked time and nobody misses seeing that he is away. To do this Open a New Meeting. At this stage the start and end date should be the same, but the time should be set for how many hours for that day i.e. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Set a recurrence. Recurrence should be set to Daily, Every 1 day. Range of occurrence should be set. Put in Start date and click on End by and put in End date. Click OK. Your bosses calendar will now show Monday to Wednesday blocked from 9-5. There is little chance that someone will miss that and double book them.

Send a Meeting Request, without getting replies
You know how it is when you send a meeting request to the whole organization and then get 40 replies in your Inbox. If it is not necessary to see the Replies then just turn off your Request Responses button. To do so choose Invite Attendees. Under Attendees tab, choose the bottom icon called Responses. Arrow down and unclick the Request Responses button.
Turn off automatic email memoryTools, Options, Preferences, E-mail Options, Advanced E-mail OptionsUnclick “Suggest names while completing To, cc and bcc…”

Turn off items being marked as read when your cursor sits on it
On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Other tab. Click Reading Pane button. Make sure there is no check mark in the Mark items as read when viewed in the reading pane and the Mark items as read when selection changes check box

To set your default reminder to 15 mins (or whatever you choose) Tools, Options, for Calendar Options, choose the time you want i.e. 15 mins, 30 mins. Etc. Click Apply and OK

To set your email to view b.c.c. in Send bar
Open a new message. Under the Options Tab, click on Fields and choose Show b.c.c.

How to set Out-of-Office Assistant
Tools, Out-of-Office Assistant. Click on I am currently in the office/or I am currently out of the office. Type in message (when you will be away, who to contact in your absence, when you will return). Press OK

Hope these are helpful.

23 May 2009

Grrr! moments

We all have them. You know those times when you just have to shake your head and wonder why something that seemed so simple had to get so complicated. My boss calls them Grrr! moments. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Well here is one of my Grrr! moments...

At one office I worked in we had a mail cart with slots for everyone's mail, but it was filed First name, Last name. Each time I went to get my mail I would find my mail in the other Patricia's slot or vice versa. Or if I was delivering mail to someone I had to stop, re-think and look for their first name. Of course there were four Karens and three Bobs. See what I mean? Grrr!

Which do you prefer, First Name, Last Name or Last Name, First Name? I grew up in a world that used Last Name, First Name (i.e. the phone book, standard filing practices etc.) so that is my default and I find it very user friendly. In some offices however they have First Name, Last Name as their default and I find it confusing and think it leaves room for error. If you go by their last name, errors are less likely to occur as not as many people have the same last name. Hey, I don't like errors and anything I can do to make it harder for me to make them, I will go with that.

This goes for filing and also how your contacts are ordered in Outlook. I was on another site recently and someone wanted to know how to globally change the way their contact cards were ordered. Unfortunately, they were hoping to change them all to First Name, Last Name, but aside from that choice, here are the instructions below (HA HA):
  • Tools, Options, Choose the Preferences tab, in the middle on the left-hand side there is a button called Contact Options. Click on this. You will see at the top there are two places you need to change it to first name, last name or last name, first name.
  • Then you need to go into Tools, Options again, under Account Settings. Choose the Address Book Tab at the far right. Click on the "Change" icon and you will see at the bottom there are radio buttons to click on your desired preference.
  • To make the changes come into effect you need to close Outlook and reopen it and all your contacts will be re-ordered in the way you prefer.
  • Please note: This may not work on your work Outlook account as these settings are set by your IT Administrator and even though you change it, the changes may not take effect.
  • You do have the option of individually getting them to display as whichever way your prefer. If you open the contact card you will see in the first section File As. Type in the way you want it displayed.
How can I remember all these instructions?
To help me remember these kinds of instructions that I only need on occasion, I have created a sub-folder in my Contact Cards called Helpline. Under that sub-folder I have opened new contact cards with names such as Outlook - Last Name, First Name; Photocopier - Compressed Scan; Word - Generate Table of Contents or anything that I may need to know. In the Notes section of each contact card I write down the instructions on how to do it so the next time I run into that problem, I will have it handy. I try to keep it simple and so far I have easily been able to find things when I go looking.

The problem I find with new technology is sometimes there are so many layers to doing things (like the instructions above) that there is no way you are going to remember the next time you need to do this. Just recall what it's like when you start a new job or if your computer crashes and you lose all your settings. Grrr! This way, you always have it at your fingertips in a quick easy-to-find system.

18 May 2009

Public speaking...

I spoke for the first time to a group of about 40 administrative professionals at a local hospital on Administrative Professionals Day. Well...I had spoken to a group of teen girls at a camp once and I did speak at my daughter's shower, but this was different. I was the keynote speaker at a professional event and had to speak for 45 minutes. Yikes!

I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be. Nobody there knew me so they would have no idea if this was my first time or the hundreth time so that made it a bit easier. I had my material prepared and knew what I wanted to share, but I wasn't sure about delivery.

I am happy to report it went very well. Whew! At the end of my presentation I told them it was my first time presenting and there was an audible gasp in the audience. I think that meant they were surprised.

I wrote an article some time ago called "Just Say Yes" and told about my decision to not let fear stop me from doing things that I really wanted to try. I have always wanted to speak and felt I had some good things to share, so when a former employer asked me if I would speak to their admin group, I didn't hesitate and said Yes.

Here are some things that I learned from this experience:
  • Know your topic well. If you don't, your audience will pick up on it;
  • Speaking is like acting. Act as if you are confident and halfway through, you will actually feel it;
  • Think of your audience as a group of your best friends and speak to them that way;
  • Make eye contact with your audience, but don't single anybody out. Some people have also recommended that if you don't feel comfortable looking them in the eye, just look a little over their heads ;
  • Give examples and use personal experiences where appropriate. It is nice to hear how the suggestions you give have worked in real life;
  • Stick around and speak to people afterwards. Some people might have further questions about your talk.

My boss told me that now that I have spoken to 40, it shouldn't matter whether I speak to 40 or 400 because the same principles apply. I think he is correct about that, but will wait for my next speaking engagement and report back.

It was a great experience however and I hope to repeat it many more times.

10 May 2009

Will Google ever stop amazing me? Introducing Goog/411

I was introduced to Google when I went back to work as an assistant in a law firm in Ottawa. I had taken time off to raise my daughter and when I came back computer technology had gone from DOS to Windows and the Internet was becoming very popular. I shied away from it however. I was happy just to know how to use the computer.

I was always amazed however when I asked my co-worker any questions. She would say, "Just a minute." A few clicks later and she had an answer for me. Finally, I asked her how she knew the answers and what was she doing to get the information? It was then she introduced me to Google. I have loved it ever since and that is when my list of handy Favourites was born.

Recently, a temp worker at my job gave me another Google tip. Google has an information line (1 800 466 4411). It uses voice recognition and is fantastic. Of course before I recommend anything I try it out so I picked up the phone and it asked me what I was looking for and what city and province. I named a store and was given a list of the top locations for the store I was looking for. I then had to choose which store and to either be put through to the number or get details. I chose details and was given the street address and phone number and I still had the option of having my call put through to the store number.

I am hooked already and this will definitely go into my Favourites under 411 Look up as well as on speed dial on my cell, home and work phone.

Oh yeah, did I mention, it's free...Try it, you'll like it!

Getting your foot in the door...

Would you take a job just to get your foot in the door of an organization you really wanted to work for, even if it was a position that you didn't want to make a career out of? Would you hire someone you thought was just trying to get their foot in the door?

Many times the administrative assistant position is a good way into an organization and what a great training ground to know an organization's inner workings than in this profession. Where I used to work one of the lawyers encouraged her daughter to work for the summer in law firms as an admin just for that purpose. She saw the importance of this training to help her daughter know the workings of an office from the bottom up and the office benefitted from her educational training. She was a smart kid and picked up the tasks assigned to her very quickly.

I think many university students are seeing the value in having this kind of training. So much is expected of executives these days. It used to be the secretary did everything for the boss, now the executives do a lot of their own administrative work, such as email management, so a background as an admin assistant can certainly help.

The administrative position can be a springboard for a management position if you want to go in that direction and have the right educational background. If you can prove yourself as a good worker you can go up through the ranks and because they already know how you work, they are more apt to promote you. I have seen admin assistants climb up the corporate ladder just that way.

I used to work with someone who was an assistant in the Human Resources Department of a major law firm and has now become the Director of Human Resources in that same firm. Another assistant I know worked in an accounting firm and went to school at nights to get the needed education and is now a junior accountant and loving it. Still another assistant I worked with now owns her own real estate business and has an assistant assisting her. You can be sure they value the training they received while on the front lines at the office.

I have chosen to stay in the administrative field, but in a higher level as an executive assistant and am loving it. Although I was fearful to make the move and doubted my abilities, the transition has been relatively easy to make and more suited to what I am skilled to do.

So if you want to get your foot in the door as an admin, there is no shame in that and it will be valuable training for whatever career you ultimately choose. If you have chosen this path, give it all you've got and really get your hands dirty so to speak. If a more experienced assistant comes alongside you and provides mentoring - don't refuse it. They have gotten where they are with a lot of hard work and will be able to give you good tips and skills to progress in your career, whether you stay as an admin or move on.

You should stay in the position for long enough to make what you've learned stick to be fair to yourself and the organization who hired you. When I was a teenager, I had some good advice from someone I used to babysit for. She advised that I should stay at least one year in any job I was in. She said it wouldn't look good on my resume if I was seen as a job hopper. Today, I would recommend at least two years to really get the benefit of the training. Of course if you know in the probationary period that this is just not the right fit for you, better to get out rather than being in a job you hate.

Would I hire someone I knew just wanted to get their foot in the door? Why not? You will find they make great workers because they have a purpose - to succeed!

1 May 2009

When taking initiative isn't the best thing...

I like working with someone who has initiative, wants to do a good job and is keen to contribute to the team, but is there a time when initiative is not a good thing?

Sometimes a new person will want to contribute to the team and show their new employer that they have initiative so they will dive into something that they don't have quite enough information about yet. If you are a new hire, take the time to learn and ask questions. Your new employer is not expecting you to know everything right away and it is in everyone's best interest that you proceed cautiously at first until you know the ropes.

I always feel more confident when a new hire asks me a question and gets all the information before proceeding. I don't see it as a weakness, but as a strength. Of course there will come a time when questions about certain things will not have to be asked as it is hoped the new hire will catch on to the office procedures and their initiative will kick in and they will take on these tasks on their own, but in the beginning please ask.

A colleague and I were discussing this very thing as we have seen it time and time again with new hires trying to succeed and who end up making some avoidable mistakes by jumping in too quickly and making decisions before having enough information. The first months on the job are a learning and growing experience. Take advantage of this time to learn as much as you can and ask, ask, ask.