29 February 2008

Proofreading a document

It has been my experience that using Spell Check never replaces proofreading a document. I have proofed documents where the person has relied only on Spell Check and the outcome has been comical. A few examples of this are: A lawyer writing to a potential client writes that he has expensive experience, instead of extensive experience. I remember reading a document and instead of its they had written tits. Bloopers to be sure, funny yes, but professional - NO!

Be sure you always proofread your documents and then Spell Check it as an extra step to your proofreading.

Quick Tip:
A word of caution when using Spell Check: Be careful when you are going through the document that you don't accidentally press Replace rather than Add to Dictionary or vice versa.

28 February 2008

Office Quirks

I’m sure we have all seen quirks at the office. Some examples could be drumming fingers on the desk, twirling hair, clicking a pen while talking, or sighing heavily when thinking or problem solving.

We all love the person who absently makes necklaces out of paperclips and then when one is pulled out you have a whole string of them. Grrr!

I have seen people who pull at their chins, steeple their fingers as they think and nibble on their pens or pencils.

I know I have quirks that have been pointed out to me by my family, as I curl my feet behind my chair and doodle while I talk on the phone.

Some can be fun to watch, others can be annoying. We are all different and that’s what makes our lives so interesting. Life would be boring if we were all the same.

27 February 2008

When you Open the Cereal box Upside Down: Getting Ready for Work on Time

It is inevitable that on the morning I oversleep and the radio is announcing traffic is backed up and it will be slow-going to work: that is the morning I open the cereal box upside down sending my cat scrambling and leaving me with a shower of raisins and flakes at my feet.

Mornings can be a busy time. Ideally I would like to have lots of time to make my lunch, do my hair, put on my make-up and get dressed, but most mornings I find myself racing just to get out the door. How can I be more organized in the morning and not be stressed before I even get to work?

Are those navy pants with your black jacket?

Try putting your clothes out the night before. This will avoid grabbing mix-matched clothing at the last minute before you rush out the door. I have also marked on the tags of my suits the words “Navy” or “Black” to help me distinguish between them in the dim morning light.

Be prepared

Making your lunch the night before can be a real timesaver in the morning. If you don't like sandwiches that have been in the refrigerator overnight, then get the rest of your lunch ready and make your sandwiches fresh in the morning. You can even pack the ingredients into a container and put your sandwich together when you are ready to eat it. If you like to have soup at lunchtime, bring a few cans to work and leave them there.

Have everything you need to take to work ready at the door so you can quickly grab it on your way out. This will save you time and you won't forget anything. If there is something you really need to remember and you think you will forget, put a sticky note on the door as a reminder. Also, have one spot for all your important items such as your keys and transit pass or tickets.


Try to get to bed at a decent hour. If your favourite shows are on too late in the evening, why not "tape" them. Too soon and it will be time to get up again.

Set your alarm to a reasonable time and make the decision to get out of bed. If you re-set your alarm, or snooze it, and fall back to sleep you will end up feeling groggier than if you had just gotten up on the first ring. If you give yourself enough time in the morning, it can be a relaxing time to sip your coffee and eat your toast while reading the morning paper. Reward yourself for those extra minutes. Make them something to look forward to. Especially if you have children, take this time for yourself and get ready before waking them up.

Bus Stop

Don't wait until the last minute to rush out to the bus stop or jump into your car, especially if you are going to work during rush hour. Leaving even five minutes earlier can make a big difference in traffic. If you take public transit and like to read, this can actually be an enjoyable time. Giving yourself enough time will make your commute into work less stressful. While other people are riding on the "stress mobile" you will be stress-free and enjoying your morning.

What if you have children?

It has been awhile since I have had to get anyone other than myself ready in the morning, but I do remember one thing, “children hate being rushed to do anything and the more you try to make them hurry the harder they will resist”. If you are relaxed and have things under control they are more likely to get ready rather than react to your stress.

The night before you might try helping your children pick out their clothes for the next day and laying them out in a special spot for the morning. This can help avoid the "I don't know what to wear" or "I don't want to wear that" attitude and can become a fun family time with mom or dad.

Encourage your children to help pack their lunches the night before. It is a little tougher to just throw a lunch together nowadays with allergies in the schools to watch for and wanting to ensure your child's lunch is environmentally friendly and nutritious, but if you get it ready the night before when you have more time, it will be easier on everyone.

Ensure all homework, notes and books have been put in their backpacks the night before or laid out where they will be remembered.

Make sure your kids put their coats and boots or shoes in the same location all the time. This way you will know where to go to retrieve them, avoiding the "big search" when you don't have the time.

If you can remember which end to open the cereal box and are prepared, your mornings can be a productive time for everyone.

25 February 2008

The New Hire

When someone new is hired these are the things I look for:
  • Do they ask questions? People sometimes feel when they are new they shouldn't ask questions because we might think they are not qualified. I get worried if they don't ask questions. I can gauge how much they are taking in by the questions they ask.
  • Do they write things down? I like to see someone writing things down, then I feel I can relax. If they don't write it down I wonder if they are getting it and then I feel the need to follow up so it stays on my plate.
  • What about initiative? Initiative is good and necessary, but if you are new take the time to learn until you can stand on your own two feet. When you start to feel confident then you can start taking initiative. Too much initiative at first scares me as I want them to slow down and make sure they think before they leap.

Employment Gaps

There is likely a time in your career when you took a break to either raise a family, take care of an elderly or sick family member, go to school, travel the world or whatever the reason may be, this will show an employment gap on your resume. These gaps are noticed. How do you explain it to a potential employer?

Be Honest

I have found that honesty is the best policy, but you do not need to go into detail unless you are asked for further information. We all have lives outside of work and sometimes we need to take some extended time off for a number of reasons. Be prepared to give a brief reason for your absence. Your reason can give the potential employer a glimpse into what type of person you are.

As a single mom I took time off to raise my daughter, which was difficult financially, but I felt necessary. The person who interviewed me thought that what I had done was honourable and I ended up getting the job. I had the necessary skills for the job, but by being honest he was able to see that I was not only qualified, but was a responsible and honest person, which are good qualities to have in an employee.

24 February 2008

It pays to walk to work

Here is an article I found that helped an administrative assistant become a first-time homeowner and her employer helped to pay for it.

For some homeowners it pays to walk to work, is about a company in the States who promote living close to the workplace and they are prepared to put down the money to prove it. There are conditions, but if you meet the criteria they will give you money for a down payment.

Their incentive is to have workers living close to work for availability but also they feel that having responsible homeowners in the area will help clean up the neighbourhoods surrounding the workplace.

What they don’t mention in the article is that it also promotes walking to work which is good exercise and not using a vehicle to get to work which is a “green” thing to do.

The Virtual Workspace

Here is an interesting article on a company called The Virtual Workspace:"Virtual company revolutionizes the way entrepreneurs manage their business". Click here to read it if you are interested in this fast-growing business of being a virtual assistant.

22 February 2008

Need not apply

I told the mailroom staff I was going to apply for a job with them. They said that I need not apply.

Were they saying I was not qualified? Actually, I know I would be horrible at the job and obviously they know it too. Collating, copying, binding, stacking and couriering is not my thing.

It takes all kinds of skills and people to run an office efficiently and having someone who can do a job well and be suited to it is a good match.

I asked them if what they were trying to say was that they didn't mind me visiting, but wouldn't want me to live there. After a chorus of yeses I got the point.

21 February 2008

The Changing Role of the Administrative Assistant

I found a very interesting article today called The Secret Service of Administrative Assistants in the West Viriginia Record. It is an excellent article on the changing role of the administrative assistant. It addresses our name change from secretary to administrative assistant, but in particular our expanding duties and responsibilities as our roles have been re-created into what they are today. It is written by Kathryn E. Brown and she does an excellent job. She gets to the heart of what it is to be an administrative assistant. As we have always known, we have an important role to play in the office and it is nice to see that pointed out in this article.

19 February 2008

What it’s Like to be a Male Admin

You can find Richard Rinyai on his blog The Professional Assistant. For Richard's complete bio see the previous post Introducing Guest Blogger Richard Rinyai.

Being a male administrative assistant in a predominantly female profession is something everyone asks me about. It feels like I have broken new ground by entering this profession.

I have been an admin for many years and have worked in a construction company, an investment firm and for a large publishing firm. From my unique perspective, here are some things I've experienced:
  • Being treated in a different, but positive way, by staff members. Since our department is mainly made up of females, I seem to help the office balance in a more serene way.
  • Clients seem to be surprised that I am in this profession, but take a liking to it. They realize that a male admin can do the job just as well as a female.
  • The world has become more liberal and accepts male admins now with greater enthusiasm than before.
  • I feel as if I am part of the in-crowd, but I'm still the new kid at school. I feel as if I have created an historic moment within the company, by (most likely) becoming its first male administrative assistant.

At first, I was a little worried about becoming an administrative assistant. Although I did have the skills and experience, I wasn't sure employers would view the move as a social disconnect. I had to prove to them that I was just as good as anyone, and I have been successful in my career. Being a male administrative assistant has its ups and downs, but the ride is definitely exciting and fulfilling.

This article was originally published in Administrative Assistant’s Update newsletter.

To subscribe to AAU: carswell.customerrelations@thomson.com.
To download a sample copy of AAU: www.writingink.ca/aau.html.

Until next time,

Take care of your clutter,

Richard Rinyai

Introducing Guest Blogger Richard Rinyai

Richard and I actually started blogging around the same time. I found him by accident on an interactive administrative assistant site and we discovered we had both started a blog for admin assistants. I enjoyed reading his article about being a male admin in a predominantly female occupation.

I invited Richard to guest blog. Here is his bio and his post will follow:

Richard Rinyai has been an Administrative Assistant for many years and has extensive knowledge of organization, prioritization and keeping up with the latest office trends. He currently works with 30 staff (which includes 6 managers) at a large corporation. He has also worked closely with Investment Advisors and has completed his Canadian Securities Course.

You can find Richard at: http://www.theprofessionalassistant.net/

18 February 2008

Loyalty and Work

I noticed a co-worker putting on a hat with a competitor’s logo. It made me think of loyalty in the workplace. How loyal are you to your company? If someone offered you a higher-paying job would you take it without a second look back or would you hesitate because you really like the company you work for and feel loyal to your boss?

Big Daddy is Watching

It is hard to feel loyal to a big corporation, especially if you are staff. Management and especially those in executive positions may feel more loyal to their company because they are involved in the decision making and risks involved in running it. The success or failure of the company can depend on their loyalty to the cause. I doubt that staff would feel the same way about the companies they work for, although some companies have been successful in getting their staff on board in tooting the company horn.

Upper management seldom communicate company plans down the ranks and sometimes staff find out more about their company in the newspaper than they do by working there, which undermines company loyalty among staff.

Big corporations should take the time to educate their staff on who they are and their goals. Involve staff in what they are about and you may help to make them more eager and loyal.

But I Like my Boss

I think where loyalty really comes into play for the assistant is our relationship with our boss. A good working fit is sometimes the glue that makes you stick to a company. When I enjoy working for someone, loyalty to that person and that job become even more important to me. I will think twice before considering something else if I am happy with my boss and in my job.

Loyalty to Yourself and Your Career

Sometimes we need to make a change in our job and it has nothing to do with loyalty to your company or to your boss, but what is best for you and your career. When I speak to assistants who are close to my age it seems we are from a generation that doesn’t like to move on as much as the younger generation. Some of us stay in the same job from high school until retirement. We are firmly entrenched, but that is not always the best place to be.

The younger generation seem to be career minded and tend to move and change jobs more often. I think loyalty may have a different meaning for them. They are loyal while in their job, but don’t mind moving somewhere else if it is a wise career move, if the salary and benefits are better or if there are more opportunities for advancement.

There is probably a good balance between these two perspectives. Employers like to have someone they can rely on to be there for awhile. It is expensive to train someone new and the position suffers from not having a full-time person dedicated to it. It is a good move by the employer to try and keep their staff happy. But it is also not good to stay in the same job year in and year out just for the stability. It is good for us at times to take the plunge and make a change that will benefit our careers and give us fresh challenges and new ideas on how to do things. We can get in a rut by sticking around too long.

Loyalty in a job is good and necessary, but if you have to move on you shouldn’t feel you have let your employer down when a better opportunity comes along.

The Green Blog

Check out The Green Blog and participate and let them know how you are going green in your office. It's something we all can do, one person at a time, to make a big global impact.

The most recent blog post is called "Oh my Aching Footprint".

17 February 2008

Admins in the Spotlight: Administrative Assistant is Library Employee of the Year

The Chart Online at Missouri State University report that the first Library Employee of the Year was given to their Administrative Assistant, Ann Quade, in recognition of her hard work and dedication. Congratulations to a fellow admin. Click here to see the full article.

16 February 2008

The E-tiquette of E-mail

E-mail is no longer just for personal use, with all our accepted short forms: LOL, U, GB and a co-worker's favourite, OMG! With the increasing use of e-mail 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 E-mail Etiquette Tips

E-mail Salutations:

Although e-mail is less formal than writing a letter it is still polite to open with a greeting. Jane Watson of J. Watson Associates gives the following e-mail 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 E-mail

Are you There?

Who hasn't been annoyed when you e-mail 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, check with your co-worker first before providing his or her information.

Who are you?

Be sure to add your signature to your business e-mail with your coordinates. Your company may have a 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 e-mail address if they have received an e-mail from you so no need to put this in your signature line.

To set an e-mail 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 e-mail 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 e-mail 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.

Seeing Red

Does it matter what colour of font you use in your e-mail? 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 underlining a word usually means you are linking to something else. Because it has taken on this new meaning you may have some confused readers trying to link to another site from your underlined word.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 e-mail may not be the image your company is looking for.

Reply to all

If you are copied on an e-mail and want to respond to the sender is it really necessary to Reply to all and have every one of the recipients receive your e-mail? 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 e-mail 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 e-mail will have on the recipient. But it is never a good idea to send an angry e-mail in business correspondence.

Good Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation

The rules still apply for using good grammar and punctuation in e-mail: 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 e-mail will be easier to read if you follow some basic business writing rules. Read the e-mail over for completeness and accuracy. SpellCheck never replaces proofreading your e-mail.

If you say in your e-mail 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 e-mail, could be embarrassing or worse.

Mixed Messages

If you are changing the subject, please do not reply to the old e-mail 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 e-mail message.

In Summary

In our fast-paced society e-mail is a quick way of communicating and used properly can be a effective business tool, but e-mail 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 e-mail the best way to communicate your message?

Tip for filing e-mails: If it is necessary to file a hard copy of the e-mail. File e-mails chronologically by date and time. This will make it easier for the reader to follow the chain of e-mails.

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.

Why I don't rely on Wikipedia anymore

I am fairly new to the Internet, blogging and writing articles. When I came across the Wikipedia site I thought it was great because the information was vast and they allowed anyone to quote from their site without permission. I took advantage of that in my article on E-mail Etiquette and unfortunately the information first given was incorrect. I was not aware that people input information on Wikipedia and then can update it or change it altogether.

I found their information on colour blindness and noted that it said that 20 million men were affected by colour blindness in America. I went on the site a few months later and the same quote now said 10.5 million. I unfortunately had used the quote in an article I had written so the information went in inccorrectly.

In the meantime I noted that they were actually quoting the Howard Hughes Medical Institute so I contacted HHMI and they gave me permission to quote from their article with the accurate information. Lesson learned. Go to the source and don't always rely on Wikipedia.

The real statitics are:

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”.[1]

I still find Wikipedia useful to find information, but I now go to the source to get accurate facts.

[1] Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Color Blindness: More Prevalent Among Males, (1995 report) (Accessed February 2, 2008) (Used with permission)

Admins in the Spotlight: Assistant gets Caught Stealing at NYPD

The North Country Gazette posted an article about an administrative assistant who is being charged with stealing $2,500 of cell phone usage from company cell phones at the NYPD. Click here1 for the complete article.

1 (accessed February 16, 2008)

How to Stop the Gossip

I read an article called How to Stop the Gossip on Lynn Gaertner-Johnston’s blog that made the point of how important it is that we proofread our documents as well as do spell check and grammar checks. You never know who may be noticing and talking about it.

Click here1 to see the full article.

1 (accessed February 16, 2008)

14 February 2008

Are you Having a Good Office Hair Day?

As a former hairdresser, I notice hair. I can't help it.

One evening after working overtime, I was preparing to go home and noticed a young man getting off the elevator. I wasn't sure if he belonged there, but thought perhaps he was a co-worker's son so didn't question him.

The next morning we got an e-mail from the office manager advising us that our office had laptops stolen the night before. She wondered if anyone had seen anything unusual. I let her know what I had seen and she asked me to speak with security. When they asked me to describe him the only thing I could remember was he needed a haircut.

So you see hair is very noticeable to me and as an assistant I particularly notice hairstyles in the office. I wrote this article with a few of my observations about hair and what we might be saying to our employer by our choice in style.

I hope you enjoy it as you get ready to enjoy your weekend and possibly go for your next hair appointment.


A trip to the hairdresser and your hair is perfect. It has bounce and shine and feels wonderful. But will you repeat it on Monday morning when you are getting ready to go into the office? Does your hairstyle matter in the workplace and, if so, what is it saying about you to your employer?

80’s Stare is Yesterday’s Hair

It may have looked good in the 80s, but, newsflash, big hair is out. If you are still sporting it, “I don’t like change” could be the message that is getting across loud and clear.

Your hairdresser is a good resource to ask what would look best on you in terms of colour and style. Inform your hairdresser that you are an office professional and together you can take a few moments to look at some hair books and magazines for up-to-date styles that would look best on you. Be realistic and open to suggestions if you are the type who digs your feet in and says, “Don’t do anything different”.

Punk Rockers

The 70’s spiky hairdo with lots of product may say, “I don’t want anyone telling me what to do”. In an office environment that promotes a team attitude you could be giving the impression of not wanting to fit in.

Some suggestions are popular styles with lots of movement such as mid-length bobs, shags and straight cuts with shape and interesting lines. These are very adaptable hairstyles and can have style and be practical for the office. Add some rollers for a bouncy look or straighten it for a sleek, neat style. Flattering colour and highlights can add a very professional and stylish look to your office image, while adding fun to your hair.

Your hairdresser will take into consideration your hair type, skin tone, facial shape and lifestyle when suggesting styles. Many times customers come in to a hair salon with very fine straight hair, but show their hairdresser a picture of a model with thick voluminous hair with lots of body and announce, “I want my hair to look like that”. Well, you might want it, but it is not going to happen. When you are looking through the books let your hairdresser help direct you to styles that will actually work with your hair type.

The Long and Short of it

A long hairstyle, if it is without style, can appear plain and reminiscent of the 60s. It might be giving the impression of someone who lacks new and creative ideas. Long hair can be made more stylish by putting in some colour and long layers, while adding bounce and movement to your hair.

Straightening your long layers will give your hair a very flattering current look that would look good in the office or at a conference while taking registration and greeting clients.

Another simple and practical long hairstyle that is suitable for the office is the ponytail. Wearing a ponytail lower on your neck with a nice clip can look very stylish. If you wear your ponytail tight and high it tends to look too sporty for a business look.

Short severe haircuts may show to the employer someone who is all business with no personality. Will you be a good addition to the company is what they might be thinking?

Short hair doesn’t have to be boring. Ask your hairdresser to add flattering lines and textures to the cut to bring it up-to-date. Adding highlights on short hair can be fun and creative, while still maintaining a professional look.

Men’s Hair

The role of the administrative assistant is mainly dominated by women, but there are men among us. The male administrative assistant has a look he can wear to look professional and well groomed too.

A short man’s haircut should be kept trimmed with regular monthly trips to the barber. Good styling products can add style and create an up-to-date, but still professional look. Your hairdresser will be able to help you make the best selection for your hair type and the style you want to achieve.

A male assistant who prefers longer hair can appear professional in a conservative men’s ponytail while still maintaining his individuality.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What is my look saying to a potential employer or to my current employer?”. Taking the time to update your style can go a long way in presenting yourself as a professional in your office.

Afer writing this I think I just might make a hair appointment this weekend.

13 February 2008

Preparing Your Resume

I was working for a government organization and there were news reports that the public sector were in for some big layoffs due to downsizing. The rumour mill was in full swing at work.

I was in a union environment and I was at the bottom of the years-of-service ladder as I had only been there a year. Was there any hope I would keep my job? Things were not looking good. I got the news a few weeks later that about a dozen of us were going to be laid off, including myself.

It is a hard thing to lose your job, but it does happen and if this has happened to you, the sooner you get back on your feet the better. Fortunately for me my employer sent me on career counselling as part of the "downsizing package". Not everyone will have this opportunity, however, so I wanted to share with you some things I learned.

I feel that even during a seemingly bad experience, you can always learn something positive. One of the things I remember, and have put to good use, was a workshop on resume writing. I hope this will help you to write your resume if you are looking for a job or if you just need to update your old resume.

In resume writing it is suggested that any experience over 10 years is too old to put on your resume. What? They don`t want to know about my summer job as a babysitter? And no need to list your duties as that is considered old-style resume writing. This was radical for me. I was used to listing all my duties on my resume: maintaining a filing system, answering the telephone, typing correspondence, etc. Instead they recommended setting out your skills and strengths in point form right up front so the potential employer can see if you have the skills for the job.

Under years of experience rather than putting four years’ experience try, "Almost five years of progressive achievement"; or for 11 years’ experience try, "Over 10 years of progressive achievement". I must admit it did sound more impressive.

I use this format in writing my resume and have always had good comments from potential employers, especially on the fact that it is so easy to read. And let’s face it, we want them to read it.

Here is an example of a resume. Feel free to use it.

R E S U M E:

Co-ordinates (Name, Address etc.)

OBJECTIVE: [What is your objective? What kind of position are you looking for and what do you have to offer? Customize this paragraph to the job you are applying for. For example I was applying for a job in the legal environment so wanted to highlight that experience.] Administrative support utilizing strengths in typing, speed, accuracy, software programs and organization to provide high quality services to professional staff in a legal environment.

SUMMARY: [Summarize your work experience] Over 25 years of progressive achievement as a secretary in the legal, medical and high-tech fields. Recent experience as a legal assistant in a major law firm. Previous experience as a legal assistant to a Corporate lawyer. Highly skilled typist with excellent knowledge of various computer software programs.

SKILLS AND STRENGTHS: [Set out your computer skills, but also your strengths such as:] · Fast accurate typist · Ability to work with minimal supervision · Interpersonal skills and a team player · Organization skills · Hard worker · Reliable

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: [Highlight some of your accomplishments] · Maintained excellent attendance record · [Any courses you have been on]

RECENT WORK EXPERIENCE: Name of Employer and Job Title September 2004 - Present Name of Employer and Job Title November 1996 – September 2004

PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE: [If you feel you need to put some of your older experience (anything over 10 years) write a paragraph summarizing what you have done. If they want to know more, they can ask you at the interview.] For example: Secretarial experience in offices including [names of different companies you worked for].

EDUCATION: [If your education is 20 years ago and only includes high school, I would recommend putting it after your Work Experience or not putting it at all, your work experience becomes more relevant if your education is too old.]

LANGUAGE: [Languages spoken]


Sending Private E-mails

If you want to send an e-mail Privately it is quite simple and if someone else has access to your e-mail account from their computer, they cannot see the e-mails that are marked Private in either your Inbox or Sent items.

This would most likely be the case in the boss/assistant relationship as many assistants are given access to their boss's e-mail account.

File New Message > Options button on the toolbar (or View / Options).
Message Settings / Sensitivity - change to Private. The same process needs to be repeated for each e-mail sent.

The person receiving the e-mail will see "Please treat this as private".

I thought it was a handy trick to know. You never know when your boss might ask if this can be done.

10 February 2008

Miss Moneypenny

Call me crazy. It won't be the first nor last time.
Today's blog is in honor of Lois Maxwell, the actress that was best known for her role as
Miss Moneypenny. (revised February 2008)

The Associated Press reports that her first appearance was in 1962 as the secretary to M, the head of the secret service. We know her character well. Many of us admired her wit and professionalism. Many understood her (maybe?) platonic love of James Bond-- Agent 007. Just think of all the characters in TV or Movies that were secretaries, receptionist or some kind of administrative support staff. Here is a list that takes a good look at our role models as seen in film and television.

  • Della Street- played by Barbara Hale- TV Show- Perry Mason
  • Marcia Wallace -TV show- Bob Newhart
  • Loni Anderson- WKRP in Cincinnati
  • Gary Burghoff- Corporal Walter "Radar" O'Reilly. in M*A*S*H. He really epitomized the many challenges of administrative support, no?
  • Carol Burnett as Mrs. Wiggins- The Carol Burnett Show
  • Lilly Tomlin as Deborah Fiderer, President Bartlett's 2nd secretary in West Wing
  • Kathryn Joosten as Delores Landingham, President Bartlett's 1st secretary in West Wing
  • Kathy Kinney as Mimi Bobeck- The Drew Carey Show- She started her career AS a secretary!
  • Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly, on The Office


  • Dianne Wiest - Movie- “The Associate” (An all time favorite character representing our profession. If you haven't seen this movie.. rent it .. just to see her take on organizing files!)
  • Anne Hathaway- as Andy Sachs in “The Devil Wears Prada”- Who hasn’t been snide to a temp?
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal- "Secretary" (movie)... Definitely NOT for the prude or faint of heart.
  • Christina Applegate as Sue Ellen in “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead”, the main character Sue Ellen (played by Christina Applegate)
  • Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz in “Ghostbusters”
  • Edie McClurg- She played Grace, the High School secretary in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and in the same year, played Marge Sweetwater, the secretary in the Rodney Dangerfield classic, “Back to School”
  • Renee Zellweger, as Dorothy Boyd- faithful assistant in Jerry Maguire

Definitely the most sarcastic/sardonic and favorite of characters has to be seen in the Saturday Night Live episode showcasing David Spade as Dick Clark’s receptionist. The classic gatekeeper to the extreme… extreme side-splitting laughter- that is. In fact, after he left Saturday Night Live, he parlayed the assistant character into the role of Dennis Finch in the TV series, Just Shoot Me.

Here's one I want to check out!

Wife vs. Secretary- 1936... Starring Jean Harlow as the secretary! Clark Gable as her boss and Myrna Loy as his wife!

All of these are great. So wonderful to see (even if it’s not realistic) our profession in the media.

Kemetia Foley has been an Executive Assistant for over 16 years. You can find her on her blog Paid, Professional, Nudge. For more information on what she is doing, read her complete bio in my post "Introducing Kemetia Foley".

Introducing Guest Blogger Kemetia Foley

I invited Kemetia Foley to guest blog on Laughing all the way to Work a few weeks ago after going on her blog and reading her article on secretaries in the media.

Here is a bio of who she is and her guest blog will follow. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Kemetia MK Foley CPS/CAP serves as Executive Assistant to the President & CEO at a meetings and exhibitions- related association in Washington, DC. She has more than sixteen years experience providing administrative support to senior level executives in health care, higher education, corporate entities and not-for-profit organizations.

Kemetia earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Mary Washington College and currently serves as an Alumni Board Vice President. She earned her Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) rating in 2006. She earned her Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) rating in 2007. She currently serves as an officer of the Capital Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) in Washington, DC.

Kemetia’s areas of core expertise include Training, Blog Writing, and Public Speaking. Her most requested presentation is “Stay Away from the Cowpies!” which is a primer geared at persons new to the administrative profession.

In her personal time, Kemetia strives to keep up with her family and still find time to go to Washington Capitals games.

She created her own blog:http://superppn.blogspot.com, as a way of communicating some of the more humorous and subtle challenges of the administrative profession.

Contact Kemetia at kfoley@ceoexpress.com for information and booking requests.

Guess who's coming to dinner?

When Susan Johnston agreed to accept my guest post and then told me that she had posted it on her site, I immediately felt the need to go to my site to do some quick housecleaning to welcome any guests that might come to my site.

As I was tidying things up and putting a fresh article for new visitors to read, I had the same feeling I do when I have visitors in my home.

When I know someone is coming for a visit, I will quickly run the vacuum cleaner in the living room, puff up the pillows on the sofa, dust my coffee table and perhaps even put some fresh flowers out to make it look inviting and welcoming to my guests.

In that sense, my blogspot is like my home. I want it to be appealing and welcoming to any visitor who might stop by. I hope they will see that their visit was anticipated and I put some thought into preparing for them.

Please come in

When I have guests in my home, I am aware that I am the hostess and I have some responsibility to make their stay enjoyable and fun and would not purposely engage them in an argument or offend anyone. I also only invite those into my home that I want to be there and feel friendly and comfortable with.

On my blog I have the same feeling. It is important to me that I not purposely offend anyone with what I write. I am also aware that I have a responsibility as to who I invite on my site as a guest and what I allow to be posted. When Susan asked for guest bloggers I knew that she was the hostess and it was up to her if she accepted my post or not and she had a say on the content as well. It was only right as it is her home blog.

Conversations over coffee

When I have visitors in my home I want to have good conversations and anticipate having them over so I can speak with them and tell them my adventures and thoughts and I want to hear all about theirs.

On my blog I feel the same. I want to have interesting topics for my visitors. I want to entertain them with some amusing story and tell them about my day at work and what I learned and give them something they might be able to relate to or use themselves.

There’s no place like home

When I go on vacation and visit someone it is always fun and relaxing, but near the end of my visit I start to anticipate my return home.

I have discovered bloggers are a community of writers of some sort or another. It’s nice that we can visit each other from time to time, but I have to admit, there’s no place like home.

As I am settling back into my writing – It is good to be home on my own blog.

9 February 2008

Preparing for the Interview

I had an interview at 11, but I was busy with my job, my father was in the hospital and I was trying to arrange an engagement party for my daughter. I just didn’t have time to bring my clothes to the dry cleaner, and worse than that I had an inch of grey roots showing and I hadn't coloured my hair. I finally decided that they would just have to take me as I was because I didn't have the time to do everything I knew I should be doing to prepare for this interview.

It ended up I did get the job. They mustn't have noticed my grey 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. It is very important to make that first impression count. I have found that a business suit is always appropriate.

How will you conduct yourself during the interview?

Will you be relaxed and confident during the interview or uptight and nervous? How do you get to the place where you are relaxed and confident and how do you make that good first impression?

The key is to be prepared. Go over some possible interview questions and answers. There are some very good websites that give sample questions and answers, but try to make the answers your own. Go over these 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.

You should research the company where you are applying. It is good to be familiar with what the company does. Most companies have a web page that will give you a good idea of what they do.

It is a good idea 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 the 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 may 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.

If you try for a job that you know you are not qualified for and just want to be adventurous and take a chance on it and you are accepted for an interview, go with confidence in what you do know and what you lack you can learn.

One thing we tend to forget when we go for an interview is that the company has to sell you on the job as well. Ask questions and find out if this is the job you want.

And of course that all important question, "What salary are you looking for?" You should have a figure in mind before you go into the interview, but it is also OK to ask, "What salary are you offering?"

Anything you can do to set yourself apart from everyone else will help. Send a thank you note or card to the people who interviewed you. It will be noticed.

Whether you are successful or not, an interview is never a waste of time. You can always learn from the experience and see what the expectations are out there and what the job market is like.

7 February 2008

Printing PPT slides

If you are printing your PPT slides in black & white, for the best quality you should set your printing quality to black & white.

To do this:

File Print - bottom left see Color/Grayscale, drop down menu, choose Pure Black & White for best copies.

The default is set at Color. You have a choice of Color/Grayscale or Pure black & white.

In Microsoft 2007 instead of File you press the Office Button which is located at the top left-hand corner of the screen.

How to remove the date and time stamp from a PPT printout?

Did you notice there is a date and time stamp on a PPT printout that you may not want. To remove it:

  • File > PrintPreview (at bottom left)
  • Options (top right)
  • Choose Header Footer
  • Under Tab "Notes & Handouts" or “Slide” depending what you want to print
  • To Remove: Unclick Date and Time (and Page Number if applicable)
  • Apply to All
In Microsoft 2007 instead of File you press the Office Button which is located at the top left-hand corner of the screen, then choose PrintPreview. Options is on the top left. Then proceed as above.

6 February 2008

Outlook Tip when searching for E-mails In Outlook (2007)

Sometimes you file something in a subfolder in Outlook and then later can't remember exactly where you filed it. There is an easy way to do a search in Outlook in all your folders.

In the Search field there is a drop-down menu. Choose "Search All Mail Items". Type what you are looking for and Outlook will search in all your folders.

What a great tool when you can't remember which folder you filed an e-mail.

5 February 2008

Ladies First

I have noticed that younger female executives and assistants are not too keen on the ladies first order of things. I pointed out to one of my co-workers recently that I think it makes for order when boarding and getting off an elevator or entering boardrooms or offices.

I appreciate it especially when there is a group of people gathered at the elevator waiting for the one door to open. It is nice to allow the ladies to enter first and then the men enter. There is the odd time a man will go ahead of everyone and not respect that order and I find that annoying as it disrupts what was an orderly flow. Maybe we need a better etiquette so it won't be a male/female thing, but for now it works.

Who goes first?

We were joking at the office the other day about elevator etiquette and who should go first. One person suggested that the tallest should go first. This person is over 6 feet.

Someone else suggested it should be the oldest who goes first. I laughed and said, "Then nobody would want to get on the elevator". I would say, "You go first". Then the next person would say, "No, you go first". Then someone else would say, "I insist, you go first", and another person would say, “I won't hear of it, please you go first". Nobody would want to go first and admit they were the oldest.

3 February 2008

Constant Reminders

You’ve heard of telephone tag, but have you heard of reminder tag? Maybe it is just me, but I seem to always be setting reminders. My boss asks me to get him some information, so I send a request to someone and set a reminder to follow up with them. They receive my request and while they are looking into it they set a reminder to get back to me. My boss then sets a reminder to follow up with me to see if I heard back from the other person and have the information for him. We are all setting reminders for the same thing.

Wouldn’t it be nice if once you gave the task to someone else it was just off your plate, without having to set a reminder? I’m going to have to send myself a reminder to remind myself to talk to my boss about reminders.

2 February 2008

Bringing our Children to Work

Sometimes we can’t make it to work because our children are sick, the daycare worker is ill or the school is cancelled and there is no backup plan. What do you do? One woman I worked with used to take “snow days”. Because we live in Canada, many times the reason she couldn’t make it in was because of freezing rain or a winter snowstorm. She would use her vacation days whenever she had to stay home to take care of her children. Would a better solution have been to bring the children to work?

A company in the States has a family-friendly policy that allows women to bring their nursing babes to work. Faced with four executives leaving on maternity leave at a crucial time for this company the decision was made to let the new moms bring their newborn babies to work and it has worked out well for the families and the company. Click here for the full story.

With more and more women in high management jobs it is not always easy to let them go for the full maternity leave, which is a greater incentive for companies to look at other childcare options. This of course will filter down to other working women, with us all having this choice. But do we want it?

Other alternatives are daycare centres who are partnering with corporations for backup childcare. The reason behind it is to relieve the parents’ minds when small emergencies crop up so there will be a place for the child to go and the parent can still go to work. It is a win-win situation for both the employer and the employee. Click here for a company that is doing just that.

I have always thought having an onsite employer-sponsored daycare centre would have been a great solution. Offices are not equipped to handle small children, accidents can happen, it can be disturbing to the other workers, and the mother’s would be distracted with childcare needs.

If there was a daycare centre adjacent to the office that was staffed with qualified daycare personnel, with easy access for moms who are nursing, it would provide a safe environment for the children and a good alternative for parents.

As a single working mom that would have been ideal for me. There is a lot of stress getting the children ready in the morning and off to daycare, as well as managing to get yourself to work on time. At the end of the day there is the mad rush to get to the daycare before supper to pick up your child so you won’t disturb the babysitter’s family time. Having a daycare at work would have been a great option.

On the one hand the government is offering longer time off for maternity leave (in Canada it is now up to one year with benefits) and in other cases some companies are giving the option to bring our children to work. I find it is a bit of a mixed message, but we each have to do what we feel is best in our own situation. Some women have even continued to work and their husbands have stayed home to raise the children, with great results.

Whatever works best for the family, and as long as the children are taken care of and women who want to are able to pursue their careers. If it was my choice, however, I would take the year off.