Archive for category Business skills
There is a simple secret to improve your writing — and your communications in general. Okay, it’s not really a secret, but it is very, very simple.
Use “you” more often.
Yup, I’m serious. Do that and you’re on your way to being a better writer and communicator.
Have a conversation
Using “you” (or forms of it) shifts your messages from talking at someone to speaking with them, making your message more personal and conversational.
Let’s look at a couple of examples to illustrate:
Old School: “Benefit enrollment packets will be mailed to employee’ homes in November.”
New style: “Look for your Benefit Enrollment Packets, coming in the mail in November.”
Old School: Students should return their permission forms by Tuesday.”
New Style: Please return your permission forms by Tuesday.”
Old School : “Members and their families are invited to attend the annual banquet….”
New Style: “You and your family are invited to the annual banquet…”
Be casual and clear
As you can see, incorporating “you” makes your writing more casual, conversational, and clear, while the old school way of referring to your audience in the third person is impersonal, and frankly, a little boring. And “you” is almost like calling someone by their name, one of the best attention grabbers available to communicators.
So give it a try and let me know what you think. While you’re at it, toss a “we” or two. I think you’ll like what you see.
I’ve been intrigued by investing for years, and lately find myself engaged in frequent conversations about the topic with friends.
Here are some of the best tips I’ve picked up over the years. Please keep in mind that I’m not a financial advisor, and you may want to consult with one if this motivates you to dabble in the market.
- Keep your costs low, whether you go with a low-fee mutual fund or a stock reinvestment program offered by many corporations.
- Time is your greatest ally – start young.
- In general, the greater the potential reward, the greater the risk — and many people don’t think enough about risk.
- Read everything you can about Warren Buffett.
- In most cases, your home is not an investment.
- Think twice about investing in things you don’t understand.
- Pay yourself first. A 401 (k) plan where you work is a great option and you’ll probably never miss the money from your paycheck.
- Playing too safe brings the risk of not keeping up with inflation, and seeing the purchasing power of your dollar drop.
- Putting your investments on autopilot is an easy way to save. For example, you can make automatic, monthly contributions to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) from your bank account.
- Every little bit helps, and adds up over time.
- Put enough into your employer’s 401 (k) to earn the company match. If the plan matches the first 6 percent of your contribution at 50 percent, you’re immediately turning $100, for example, into $150.
- People know the mantra “buy low and sell high,” but often do the opposite. A dip in the market might bring an opportunity.
- Diversifying your investments helps spread your risk by avoiding “too many eggs in one basket” syndrome.
- The web has a wealth of investment tools. Use them to help you make decisions about investment options, risk, retirement planning, and more.
- Spend less than you earn.
- Know your tolerance for risk and invest accordingly. It’s very likely different from mine, from your neighbors, co-workers, etc. Be realistic about how much you can risk, and how much of a loss you could tolerate.
- Building an emergency fund is a top priority.
- Follow the data, and invest in something because it makes sense, not because you love the company’s product line or because your neighbor says it’s a great investment.
- On the other hand, if you really like a product, consider looking into the company to see if it makes sense as an investment.
- While the stock market is generally considered the best long-term investment, making money in stocks is far from guaranteed.
- As with anything in life, if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
Your turn. What’s the best investment advice you know?
I recently discovered ABC’s Shark Tank, a show that brings together entrepreneurs who ask a group of billionaire “Sharks” to invest in their product or service.
Even if you’re not an entrepreneur, the show is interesting and provides some good tips about business and finance:
Whether you’re interviewing for a job or applying for a loan, the person on the other side of the table will have a list of questions for you. Anticipate what they might ask, and be ready with responses — and data to back them. How? See the next bullet….
Know your audience
It seems as if some of the entrepreneurs on Shark Tank have never watched the show. For example, offering a 5 percent share of your company in exchange for a Shark’s investment pretty much guarantees a black mark on you ledger, yet it continues to happen. Before you walk into a meeting, learn as much as possible about the interviewer, client, employer, etc., to avoid making obvious blunders.
The Sharks can be harsh at times, but the entrepreneurs pitching their products need to stay on the high road. Rudeness often brings a quick dismissal from center stage.
Listen to experts
In addition to their financial investment, the Sharks bring a wealth of knowledge. Some entrepreneurs take their advice to heart; to others it sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher. If a successful person offers a suggestion, listen carefully.
Be flexible and realistic
Entrepreneurs often walk away empty-handed after turning down a counter offer from a Shark. One man declined a multi-million dollar deal for his company. Understandably, he has a passion for the product, but $4 million is a big hunk of change to pass up. Think carefully before you turn down an opportunity because it differs from your original plan.
Your turn. What lessons have you learned from watching Shark Tank?
Red Sox fans everywhere are kicking dirt because the team failed to lure much-coveted pitcher Jon Lester back to Beantown. The lefty was traded from the Sox to Oakland late in the year, but became a free agent after the season, able to sign with the team of his choice.
Despite optimistic predictions that he’d return to Boston, Lester agreed to a $155 million, six-year contract with the Chicago Cubs.
As I read the news, I recalled a recent article about changing jobs. It offered advice on what to do if you have another job offer, but your current employer ponies up more compensation to keep you.
The author contends that if your current employer wants to keep you, and sees value in your work, he/she should have compensated you fairly without the threat of a departure. The author argued that you should walk away. Just like Jon Lester did.
Many feel Lester’s decision was due to a low offer that came from the Sox in the spring for $70 million over four years. Yeah, hardly chump change, but you could argue that the much larger offers Boston made in the fall couldn’t undo the damage of that lowball offer in March.
Your thoughts? Do you stay or walk away if your current employer offers a raise to keep you from jumping ship?
I’ve always been a bit of a jokester. In my last performance review, my boss mentioned my sense of humor more than anything else (I hope that’s good).
Years ago, a striking lesson taught me the best way to joke at the office, or anywhere else for that matter.
A coworker on the other side of the building had just moved into a new office, complete with a window — a rarity for that particularly company.
He was sitting there, quite pleased, when I stuck my head in. We chatted, spoke about his kids’ photos, etc, and I left with something like, “Cool office. You look right at home.”
The next day he stopped by my office to thank me. When I asked why, he said, “You’re the only one who didn’t make fun of me.” Apparently, others asked who he slept with to get the office, etc.
That hit me like a lightning bolt, and changed the way I joke with people.
Now, I focus on comments that are funny, but positive. For example, if asked about my boss, my reply is something like, “She’s awesome. The best. Very smart, supportive, and never hits me on the nose with a newspaper.”
Okay, it’s a little corny, but you get the point. It’s clever, gets a chuckle, and leaves a positive feeling.
Do no harm
There’s an old saying about truth in jest, and I’ve learned that negative jokes can leave people wondering if you’re serious. Years ago, at a going-away party, my outgoing boss said, “I’ll miss all of you — well, all but one of you …” I thought he was clearly kidding, but a coworker later asked me who the boss meant.
Be funny and kind at the same time. Sometimes that takes a bit of creativity, but the goodwill it generates is worth the effort.
Your turn? How do you kid around the office?
People are well-meaning and sincerely want to help when giving advice,but sometimes our thoughts come across the wrong way.
Follow these seven tips next time you choose to give advice and you’ll be seen as a confidant and trusted adviser.
Let’s say a friend is thinking about leaving her job. You think it’s a mistake, but before you tell her, ask why she’s leaving. Her response, and the facts she provides, might change your mind.
Support, rather than debate
Sometimes a decision is already made and the best guidance you can provide is helping the person reach their goal. If your daughter wants to backpack across Europe after college graduation, and is determined to do so, work with her to ensure her journey is both safe and enjoyable.
Put yourself in their shoes
Your coworker is miserable in her job and wants to quit. You like her boss and can’t understand why she’d leave such a good company. Telling her that would discount her feelings and potentially drive a wedge between you. Before you speak, remind yourself that we’re all different, and what you consider a great work environment might be horrible for others.
Don’t downplay the consequences
People try to be supportive by downplaying the possible consequences of a potential decision. For example, “The worst think that could happen is you’ll have to get a second job,” or “If it doesn’t work, you’ll only be out $50.”
Problem is, the person giving the advice doesn’t have to deal with the consequence, so of course it’s not such a big deal to them. It’s easy to shrug off the results if someone else is paying the piper.
Whether you agree or disagree with what a person thinks, you’ll go farther with an encouraging approach. For example, your nephew Jimmy wants to play professional baseball. You can tell him that the odds are one in a million, or you can tell him to work hard, do his best, and see how things fall out.
Remember, history is full of successful people who were told they didn’t have what it takes.
This one’s tough, particularly if you don’t agree with what the person is thinking. If I’m not an expert on the topic, I’ll generally defer when asked my option. For example: “Geez, I couldn’t do that, but you may be better equipped to make that choice.”
If the topic is a subject where I do have expertise or knowledge, I’ll either offer an alternative (“Have you thought about calling instead of sending an email?”) or pointing to data that supports an alternative view (“I’ve read that eating a healthy breakfast every day actually helps with weight loss.”)
The reason someone asked for your opinion is that she likely respects you and wants your advice. Remember to return that respect in you interaction.
Your turn. What guidelines do you follow when giving advice?
College graduation season is upon us, and for most, it’s time to turn in the textbooks and begin your career. I think back to those days — bright-eyed, ready to take on the world, and completely unaware of what waited around the corner. I wish there had been more real-world wisdom to draw from. Would have saved me many hard knocks.
In that vein, here are some thought for those just starting out, or anyone who looking for a few workplace tips.
Get out and meet people. Go to business or social events and introduce yourself. Connect with people on LinkedIn and other social media sites. More connections translate into more job leads, and also to more resources if you have questions or want advice.
Life isn’t fair, but that’s okay
Disappointment is part of life, and bad things happen for no reason: someone else lands your “perfect job,” your iPhone is stolen, or you miss lunch with a friend because you boss schedule a meeting at noon. Sure, that stinks, but what really matters is how you react. You can say, “Things happen,” and move on, or you can sulk and complain. I promise that if you do the former, you’ll be a much happier person in the long run.
Keep plugging — perseverance and patience pays off
My dream out of college was to be a sportscaster at one of the local stations. I learned of an opening that July, and spent much of the summer and fall helping out (without pay) and learning the ropes, until I finally got the nod from the news director — in December. I busted my butt for 6 months to show them what I could do, and to make sure they never considered anyone else.
Be ready when opportunity knocks
I’m a firm believer that if you prepare, the opportunity you seek will arise, whether it’s a job, a trip, or a date. In the example above, my foot in the door came when I ran into the station’s top news anchor in a parking lot. I introduced myself and asked for career advice. I had a degree from a great communication school, along with some solid experience, so she set up an interview for me with the Sports Director.
Be true to yourself
Look to work for organizations that share your values and personality. I spent 14 years at L.L. Bean, a company that prides itself on treating people — customers, employees, vendors, and its neighbor — with respect, honesty, and integrity. That was very important to me, and was one of the reasons I stayed there. The same barometer works with friends.
There’s an old saying that you learn more by listen than talking. Very true.
Look into the mirror
The person you’re most accountable to is you. Can you look at yourself in the mirror at the end of each day and be satisfied with your effort and actions?
Ask questions during job interviews
While a big part of an interview is promoting yourself as the best candidate, it’s also an opportunity to see if this is a good fit for you. Plus, hiring managers appreciate candidates who come prepared with questions.
Don’t oversell yourself
One of my graduate school professors told us were didn’t have enough experience for a two-page resume. And if you worked as a lifeguard, don’t put Crowd Control Officer on your resume. I know lifeguard work is tough, and I’ll give you points for that, but if you exaggerate, you’re onto the rejection pile.
A former boss of mine left a resume and cover letter from a potential intern on his desk. He’d circled all of the typos.
Do your homework
Check out a company before you meet with anyone. Look at its webpage, Facebook account, etc.
Everything works out
I’m a believer that things always work out in the end. So if you’re turned done for one job, be ready for the next one. You might find it’s an even better opportunity.