Desk for Success: Keeping Yourself Organized at Work

 

Desk for Success Alan Rasoff

 

For many professionals, their desk is a comfort zone in their home away from home. Significant items usually linger on a desk such as family photos, favorite coffee mugs, and of course important work materials. However, when a workspace becomes overcrowded and messy, a disruption in overall productivity is likely possible.

 

Keep it Simple

Certain individuals argue that clutter equals a creative mind, but knowing exactly where vital pieces of information reside, poses more important than innovation. The best way to ensure a workspace remains organized it to keep the arrangement of the space simple. Although folders and tabs for everything can seem proactive, too many possible options can get overwhelming. Limiting the number of locations of a specific item creates a more user-friendly experience when time is a factor. Creating limitations on what is necessary on the desk and keeping that list short, will set an organizational standard to follow in the future.

 

Give Everything a Home

Lucky for those who tend to be messy and aren’t sure where to begin, Quartz Media shares tips on desk organization. One of the most important points made in their article references not allowing piles to even find a temporary home on the desk. Immediately finding a permanent location for papers or non-essential resources off of the workspace gives a great advantage in the organizational process. Everyone has certain items that they use on a daily basis, so having them easily accessible is important. Creating a space for everything else is vital because if there is no a permanent resting spot, it will most likely find that spot on the desk.

 

Utilize Technology

Though everyone has a unique style, CNN Money suggest there is a “right” way to organize a desk. Giving pointers on the position of essentials, the experts express just how important desk organization is to productivity. The transition to more technology in the workplace actually benefits the organization of a desk. Whereas in the past, sticky notes and calendars were the reminder tools of choice, these days almost all email and computer systems create reminders virtually. Most programs additionally have the ability to link all information and send it to cell phones. Having access to thousands of apps and online resources is guaranteed to assist during professional organization. The small task of scanning documents and storing them in a digital file alleviates any hassle of scrounging for a specific piece of paper, especially when needed in a timely manner.

Distractions

A desk full of items unnecessary to a current project causes small distractions, most of the time not recognized by humans, but the brain still processes even a glance at such items. Consequently, CNN recommends no more than 3 personal items (photos, memorabilia, etc.) positioned on the workspace. Music, though necessary for many working professionals to ensure a productive day, should be monitored. Listening to music during the workday can distract a professional more than they realize and should be turned off for portions of the day. Another common distraction includes consuming food directly at the workspace. Experts discourage professionals from eating at the desk as it allows for clutter and interruption. If provided, employees are encouraged to take advantage of a kitchen, or eating space, should they decide to take meal breaks on-site. Stepping away from the desk allows the brain time to regroup and dismiss itself from work, a healthy break is always highly encouraged.

For a large portion of the population, a majority of their time is spent in their place of work. Whether a large office or small desk to work from, staying on top of organizing the space is crucial to productivity levels. Simple tasks, including limiting the number of personal items creates optimization of output for job-related responsibilities. There are endless amounts of purchasable and DIY items to help enhance organizing, rather making the task more enjoyable than tedious.

 

Great Resume Advice to Ignore

Alan Rasof | Great Resume Advice to IgnoreAs the old saying goes, you never get a second chance at a first impression. To that end, your resume has to be absolutely perfect. It has to be eye-catching, but not obnoxious. Give potential employers insight into who you are professionally, but not too much insight. It has to be concise, but cover all the necessary bases. If you google “resume advice,” you’ll drown in all the different directions you could take your resume. While there’s no “right” way to construct your resume, there is some advice out there that I highly recommend you completely ignore.

Bad piece of advice 1: Keep it to only one page

Starting in high school, everyone tells you to keep your resume only to one page and make that one-page maximum the priority over designing a good resume. If you feel like you need to go over a page, in this day and age, that’s usually okay. You may be incredibly accomplished and have lots of relevant experience in the field. Of course, it’s never a good idea to babble on where it’s unnecessary, and you can reserve your more in-depth analyses of your work for your linkedin profile or for your in-person interview, but if you need to expand your resume beyond a page to capture who you are, that’s just fine.

Bad piece of advice 2: Keep it completely plain

Teachers and professors caution strongly against anything besides Times New Roman black font on white paper with traditional microsoft word bullet points. There are lots more options now, though, and as long as they’re done well, they’re perfectly viable. The real rule of thumb here is that your resume has to be appropriate for the setting. If you’re applying to be an accountant, a well-organized, simple resume is probably perfect. If you’re applying to a marketing agency, though, consider something more creative like a canva resume or an infographic. It’s all a matter of what’s best for the setting.

Bad piece of advice 3: Razzle Dazzle to distract from gaps in work history

Many well-intentioned career counselors will suggest a “functional resume” to hide the fact that you took some time off work. Put most simply, functional resumes highlight the skills and use the work history to demonstrate the skills rather than vice-versa. In today’s age, though, we value transparency and honesty above all else. If you had to take time off to care for children or a family member, say that and draw attention to what you did in that time to prepare you for the job for which you’re applying. “Functional resumes” are red flags for employers, since nobody with a linear work history uses that format.  

Bad piece of advice 4: Write a strong objective statement at the top of your resume.

Space is precious, and most objective statements are just a jumble of entrepreneurial buzzwords. Rather than kill a sentence on a generic blurb on your work statement, use your cover letter and introductory email to detail who you are, where you’re going, and how you’ll get there.

Get Up! Don’t be sedentary in your office

“Sitting is the new Smoking” reads numerous headlines that debuted around 2013. Mounting evidence has lead leading scientists, chiropractors, and public health professionals to caution office workers against the long-term damage that sitting all day can cause. Of course, not moving all day can cause problems, but the postures assumed by sitting for upwards of 8 hours per day can upset the body so seriously that no amount of exercise can undo what sitting does. For the sake of your present health, weight, and longevity, here are some ways to get more mobile in your office space.

Make standing regularly a habit. Set a timer on your phone or computer reminding you to stand up, take a lap around the office, drink some water, and reposition your posture. Google Chrome extensions will help you keep track of time and alert you when you’ve been sitting too long. Or, if you’re into trying some wearable technology, fitbits or jawbones will notify you when your heart rate need a little extra boost.

Work at a standing desk. While not all offices will be able to accommodate this, it’s certainly worth a try. Standing for at least parts of your day will help stretch your muscles, relieve any aching or pain caused by ill-advised sitting postures, and at the very least, burn a few more calories per hour. If you don’t want to buy a brand new standing desk, often times a tall box on top of a desk or a cafe bar will allow you to stand and work without the sometimes exorbitant costs of a new gizmo.  

As you’re able, conduct meetings while walking. If you’re not bound to a computer and are just trying to brainstorm ideas, you can just as easily conduct meetings while you’re walking. Mobile phones will suffice for taking notes as needed in such instances, so the concern about where you’ll jot down ideas is thus assuaged. In 2014, Stanford released a study indicating that walking helps stimulate creativity in the brain, so if what you need is fresh ideas, a walking meeting might be the best thing for you.

Stretch! Sitting is known to shut off electrical activity to the leg muscles, causing a reduction in calories burned and the potential for the muscles in the legs to atrophy. There are some basic, unintrusive stretches you can perform at your desk to help wake up your muscles and burn a few extra calories. Simple activities like touching your toes or twisting your back can help negate the damage done by the posture of a desk chair.

Hold yourself accountable. As we all know from our yearly New Years’ Resolutions, we tend not to meet our goals unless we are held accountable for all the steps between the starting line and the finishing line. If you’re serious about reducing the amount of time you spend sitting per day, tell a coworker or a friend. Maybe schedule a daily walk around the block together, or schedule a phone call with a friend so you’re obligated to leave the office, walk, and talk every day. Additionally, there are podcasts about mindful living that will inspire you daily with others who are striving for a more healthful lifestyle.
By being just a little more mindful of how often you let your body move and stretch, you can make your office job just a little more fulfilling and live a healthier lifestyle.

Emotional Intelligence: The Good, the Bad, and the Feely

Emotional IntelligenceThe more sensitive sibling of the Intelligence Quotient (IQ), emotional intelligence, often abbreviated EI or EQ, has emerged as an additional measure of what employees bring to the table. Put most simply, emotional intelligence measures a person’s ability to recognize and manage their own emotions and the emotions of those around them. This soft skill allows individuals to harness their emotions and utilize them for the task at hand, rather than being immune to them or controlled by them.

As of late, studies have demonstrated that hiring managers are putting more and more emphasis on emotional intelligence, citing that those with high EQ exhibit stronger communication skills, collaboration skills, and overall creativity. Women in the workforce in particular have drawn attention to EQ since their lack of inclusion and acceptance at the boardroom level is often attributed to their emotional instability and lack of “masculine” objectivity. Multiple think-pieces have attempted to reframe women’s more emotional sensitivity not as a weakness, but as a great strength, and research has proved it.

Those with high EQs are infinitely more self-aware of their strengths, weaknesses, performance, and influence on others compared to those with low EQ who can’t “feel” how certain behaviors or actions are perceived by coworkers. To that end, those with high EQs exercise better self-regulation and are more perspicacious concerning how they make others feel with their presence, words, and behavior.

Contrary to what you may think when you hear the phrase “emotional intelligence,” those with high EQs actually react less emotionally to disagreements and criticism than people who lack emotional intelligence. Higher EQ is associated with being able to recognize and control emotions as they arise, so those who can identify and compartmentalize how they’re feeling from the facts at hand function better during disagreements than those who cannot separate the two.

Emotional intelligence is not the measure of a perfect employee, though, and high EQs are associated with some less-than-stellar character traits. For one, those with high EQs are so concerned with how their words make others feel that their ability to deliver negative but necessary feedback is impaired. This hyper-awareness can also inhibit these individuals’ inclination towards taking risks, since their instinct is calm calculations rather than impulsive gut feelings. Similarly, such individuals dislike making unpopular decisions for fear of how they’re perceived and the potential discomfort both they and those affected by those decisions will endure.

Worse yet, individuals with keen emotional intuition could easily use their EQ to manipulate the people around them. Not all with high EQ use their powers for good — sometimes, they use their insight into how certain words and information will make their peers “feel” to forward their own agenda.

Just as with any measure of personality traits, there’s upsides and downsides to emotional intelligence, and the ideal occupation or rank of those with high EQs may time some time to find. EQ should not be viewed as a weakness or a mark of intellectual inferiority; rather, it is a measure of self- and social-awareness and should be viewed as no more or less than that.

Write a Follow-up Email to Remember

So your networking event went really well. You made met some influential people, nailed your elevator pitch, traded business cards, and ended with a firm, friendly handshake. The next day, it’s time to act on those connections with a follow-up email to your new colleagues. Your second impression is almost just as important at your first. The diction, tone, content, and request of your message will establish who you are electronically to your connection, so it’s important to ensure that you craft a good message. Here’s some handy tips.

Utilize the Subject Line. For busy people, emails with vague subjects from unknown senders often go unread. Subjects like “Hello!” don’t pose a compelling case for being opened and will render your email useless. In order to ensure your message is opened, use the subject line to convince the recipient to open it. Including who you are, the reason for your message, and the action necessary convinces the reader that opening the email is worth his or her time. For example, a subject like, “Sam from Networking Event: Follow-up email and request for coffee” says it all.

Open with a simple greeting. After your salutation, offer a friendly introduction such as, “I hope you’re well,” or if you’re more familiar with the person, extend your wishes to members of their family or office mates.

Offer specific details about your original meeting that indicate that you were listening intently and found the conversation meaningful. If you’ve thought of something you should have said but remembered only after the conversation was over, the follow-up email is a great time to bring it up.

Get to the point. Once you’ve greeted the reader, reminded the reader who you are, and demonstrated that you were invested, make your request quickly and confidently. Don’t apologize for taking up time or waste sentences on justifying why you feel you “deserve” their time. Ask for a phone call or another meeting in another sentence or two, and suggest specific days and times as a starting point for negotiating the appointment.

Wrap it up. Thank your reader and finish the message. There’s no need to drag out the message once you’ve accomplished your mission. Especially on screens, readers and lazy and tend to skim, so big blocks of text beyond the bare essentials will likely go unread and bury the really important points in fluff.

Mind your signature. Besides your name, make sure your signature includes ways for readers to get in contact with you, including a phone number, a linkedin profile page, and maybe even a twitter handle. Give your reader plenty of avenues to reach you or find positive images of you online if they want to do more research about you on their own.

Proofread slowly and carefully. There’s nothing more embarrassing than sending an email with a missing word or a homophone. A well-written email free from typographical errors will convey attention to detail and professionalism.

Once you’re done, send it off! Rather than waiting, stressing, and eventually getting cold feet, go ahead and press send. You’ll feel better once it’s over.

7 Business Truths Every Entrepreneur Needs To Know

Business-Tips1

It’s fun to think about being an entrepreneur, but taking the step from idea to business implementation isn’t always an entertaining romp. It can be hard — grueling, even. It can be full of pain, tears, mistakes and uncomfortable lessons. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it — just that you need to know what you’re in for before you get started. Here are 7 truths every entrepreneur should know before taking the leap into self-employment and product development.

1. You’re going to make mistakes. Lots of them.
It doesn’t matter how well-thought-out your business and marketing plans are, how much experience you have, or how many college degrees you’ve acquired — you’re destined to make some mistakes as an entrepreneur. Getting mad at yourself, resentful or trying to play the blame game are bad ideas. Instead, understand that mistakes are normal and they’re also great opportunities to learn something new. Stay humble and open and your mistakes might turn out to be some of the best on-the-job training you get.

2. Some days, the only thing keeping your business open will be your persistence.
Many entrepreneurs expect to hang their “open” sign, publish their website, and then become inundated with business. Sometimes this happens, but more often business ebbs and flows leaving some months busy and other months completely free of work. On those days when you’ve got no work, your ads are being ignored, and your follow-up calls are going unanswered, your persistence will be the one thing that keeps you moving forward.

3. No one is going to catch you when you fall.
As an entrepreneur who owns a business, the buck starts and stops with you. There is no safety net or person waiting to catch you when you fall. The mistakes you make and the failures you endure are things that you must correct, sort out and make up for. It’s all on your shoulders. To be prepared for this, make sure you have plenty of cash cushion and emergency plans.

4. It’s more about what your clients/customers want than what you want.
Many entrepreneurs start their businesses because they want to be their own bosses. Some of them don’t realize that, unless you don’t rely on customers or clients for business, you are probably still going to have someone to answer to. Often, this means you have to make decisions for yourself and your business that will be appreciated by your customers, not ones that will only be appreciated by you.

5. You won’t make your own hours — at least at first.
Eventually, most entrepreneurs are able to work a schedule that they’ve chosen. But at least in the beginning, you may be scrambling for work and this could leave your schedule at the mercy of your business, clients, and employees. If it helps your business succeed, however, this sacrifice is more than worth it.

6. Passion doesn’t always create profit.
Not every idea is a good one. Not every business will or should make it. Sometimes, an entrepreneur is totally passionate about his or her work or product — but the rest of the world just doesn’t see the value of it. That doesn’t make the entrepreneur wrong or a failure, it simply means either that they haven’t communicated their idea effectively or that the world simply isn’t ready for it. At some point, though, you have to decide whether to keep bleeding your passion through this idea or to funnel it into something else.

7. Get advice from the successes and the failures.
Successful business people make great mentors. They can help you mold your business into something that resonates with your target client or customer. They can help you navigate obstacles that trip up other entrepreneurs and can inspire you to keep going even in the face of adversity. But successful entrepreneurs aren’t the only people you can learn something from. You can also learn important lessons from the failures. Often, the failures understand what they did wrong and are willing to share that information to help you avoid it. Sometimes, they don’t know what they did wrong but by hanging out with them and tapping their brain, you might be able to figure it out yourself. This will give you tremendous insight regarding the kinds of actions and behaviors you should work to avoid.

6 Helpful Networking Tips

6 Helpful Networking Tips

For some, the word “networking” can bring on an immediate wave of anxiety and fear. When you’re at an event filled with various employers and job seekers, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Those who consider themselves introverts may struggle in these situations since introverts work better in smaller settings. Introverts often get mistaken for being shy, but shyness is whole different quality altogether. Shy people have a tendency to fear the judgment of others and therefore be socially awkward. Extroverts tend to be the life of the party, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect networkers either. According to etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, people of all three personality types can learn a thing or two about networking. Here are a few tips you can follow to improve your networking skills:

1) Set a time limit.

The idea of staying the duration of an event can be intimidating to some. But the truth is, you don’t have to stay the entire time. What’s more, you may do better if you set a time limit for yourself. Tell yourself that you’ll only go the event for one hour, or another chunk of time that you’re okay with. This way, you will take the pressure off of yourself and just go to the event. When you show up to an event, there are endless possibilities of who you are going to meet, who you are going to run into, and how it is going to help your professional and personal life.

2) Keep your expectations in check.

You should definitely go to any event that you can attend, but you don’t have to pressure yourself into meeting a lot of people. You can often make great connections just by speaking to one or two people. It is not about how many conversations you have, but about the quality of those conversations.

3) Ask for an introduction.

This tip can be helpful regardless of your personality type. Find a person who knows everyone, perhaps the person hosting the event, and ask this person to connect you with whomever it is you want to meet. The person you are being introduced to will see you differently if someone with authority is introducing you to them rather than if you go up to them and introduce yourself.

4) Tell personal stories.

We often get the idea that we shouldn’t talk about anything personal in professional settings. While of course there are some topics that are too private for a networking setting, adding a personal story to your conversation can make you memorable and interesting.

5) Listening empathetically.

When you ask someone a question, listen to them with the intent of understanding them and establishing a connection. If you form a connection with someone, that person is more likely to remember you.

6) Practice networking every day.

Like any other skill, networking gets easier the more you do it. You need to keep practicing networking skills in order to maintain them. You can do this during the course of every work day by walking around the office and starting brief conversations with co-workers. It’s easy to stay in networking practice each and every day just by asking people how their weekends were and making other small talk.

Networking is a challenging skill that only comes with time. With these helpful tips, you can learn where to start.

Networking Tips: How To Work The Room

alan rasof networking

If you have been to a networking event before, you are well aware of the chaos that can ensue. Everyone is there to meet other people, make connections, and better themselves professionally, yet so often we leave those events not remembering who we talked to!

In this blog post, I have outlined the best tactics to get the most out of any networking event. There is a famous quote that always comes to mind before attending a networking event, and that is, “Prior proper planning prevents poor performance.”

With this mantra in mind, use these tactics to plan ahead of time, work the room at the event, and follow up with new connections afterwards.

Leverage Social Media

  • Linkedin – Learn about fellow attendees, make personal connections, and set-up meetings!
  • Twitter – Follow the conference hashtag, set up Twitter lists, and tweet about the event!
  • Facebook – Check & comment on the event’s page and create a list of people to connect with!

Set Up Meetings Ahead of Time

People get booked up quickly at events! Be on their calendar long before everyone else to get a head start.

Prepare Your Elevator Pitch

Come with a sentence or two about your company. Concisely explain your role at said company, and how you might be able to help someone. Finally, have some good questions on hand to make sure you are engaging the people that you meet.

Know Your Networking Goals

Do you want to spread awareness about a new project that you’re starting? Do you want to meet an industry leader who can become a valuable mentor? Having a clear goal in mind will make networking less ambiguous and lead to more effective conversations.

Start A Conversation

Your first connection at an event is your gateway to meeting more people. It can be intimidating, but with the right approach, you can join in on an existing conversation or start your own! Make sure to read up on industry news and trends beforehand so you’ll be prepared to spark up conversation.

Ask For Something

Maybe you’re looking for a job offer, a recommendation letter, or to land a client. Consider why someone should choose you over others, then, come up with a succinct, humble answer why and ask for it. Be clear that you want it to be mutually beneficial.

Follow Up With Your Connections

Connect soon after the event. The sooner you follow up, the more likely your connections will remember you. Connect with new contacts on Linkedin and make sure to write a thoughtful message in your invitation. Further those relationships, consider reaching out to mutual contacts that you and your new connection have.

Giving Effective Employee Evaluations

Evaluating your employees can be a great method for helping managers assess employee performance and for giving feedback on how well an employee executes their job duties. Both parties can benefit immensely from evaluations.

Performance evaluations are imperative to company success. They provide room for both parties to gain feedback on what they are doing well, what they need to work on, what they want, and what both parties goals are, yet many managers dread the process or do not know how to conduct them effectively.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to conducting excellent employee evaluations!

Define Expectations

Define what is expected of the employee, and make sure that their goals are both measurable and observable. This way, when it comes time to give an evaluation, you will have very specific and tangible things to look at and bring to the table.

Create Goals

Discuss and set up goals with each employee, and then make sure to get each employee to sign off on the goals, showing that they are on board and agree with the plan in place. This way you will protect yourself from any backlash when it comes time to review your employees, and have a great way to hold employees accountable to the goals they set for themselves.

Provide Written Evaluations

Every 6 months or so, discuss employee performance. For struggling employees, consider a once a month evaluation. Ensure that written performance reviews reflect the entire evaluation period. By putting the evaluation in writing, you have something to refer back to when the next evaluation comes up.

Maintain a Performance Record

Similarly to my reasoning above, take written notes throughout the year, so you always have a paper trail to refer to when discussing employee performance. Things like big wins your employees encounter, any losses, etc… By keeping track of things like this, you will set yourself up for an incredibly successful employee review!

Ensure Integrity Of Evaluation

Written comments need to be factual, detailed and constructive. This makes employees feel both valued and like they are being paid attention to. Use respectful language and mannerisms during performance reviews. Listen actively and ask employee to clarify responses when necessary. It is also important that performance criteria is not changed after the review. Standards need to be consistent across employees.

By incorporating these simple steps into your evaluations, you will come away feeling like you have done an effective job at evaluating your employees! Good luck!