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.

5 Ways to Improve Your Resume

Alan Rasof

1. CUSTOMIZE FOR THE APPLICATION.

Employers who are screening resumes will eliminate any of the generalized resumes submitted. Offer only specific qualifications you have to best perform the job advertised. State your desired job title, for example, physical trainer, and then make all content relevant to performing that job. You should use a customized resume for different job titles even if you are qualified for several (i.e., one resumé for Physical Trainer, and another separate resume for Office Administrator) stressing only the information relevant to doing that specific job.

2. USE KEYWORDS!

Employers who sort resumés electronically look for keywords. Be sure to include potential keywords for job duties in your resume. Example: state purchased, bought or procured inventory (instead of bought inventory). That way, if the employer searches using the keyword “procured” your resume will not be overlooked.

3. SHOW BUSINESS SAVVY.

Only submit resumes created in the Microsoft WORD software, which is the business world’s standard. Many home computers use other word processing software that can’t always be read by many employer computers. You want to avoid this possible mishap and stick to the reliable Microsoft WORD. Whenever possible, also mail a hard copy of your resume after you have submitted one electronically since you would never be informed if the electronic version wasn’t readable.

4. ONE PAGE IS BEST.

Employers have stated that resumes get less than a 15-second glance, so concise and to the point worked best no matter what level position the candidate applied for. Be a skillful editor, deleting old portions or anything not relevant or helpful to your securing a particular position. No vague generalities. Say exactly what you mean, using the smallest number of words to make the point.

5. BE PERFECT.

The resumé must be flawless. No spelling errors, mistakes or typos. Many HR managers have insisted that they would not hire offenders. PROOFREAD CAREFULLY. Don’t trust computer spell checkers since a correctly spelled word like sea, would go unnoticed by your computer but would be incorrectly used if you meant to say “see.”

The Correlation Between Kindness & Success For Your Business

All businesses can benefit from giving back to their community in a number of ways. Supporting a local charity, hosting philanthropy events, and even partnering up with various nonprofit organizations prove to be beneficial for a company’s success. Being kind goes a long way in all aspects of the world. Charitable acts should not be carried out with expectations for financial gain. But, they certainly have many rewards that can help businesses grow. Here are just a few ways businesses can benefit from giving back:

community, alan rasof

First, companies should recognize that it is important to build a good reputation within their community. According to an article published by Entrepreneur.com, “ The relationships formed between customers and prominent community member can be of great value to the company in the future,” (Boitnott, 4 Ways Your Company Benefits From Giving Back). When businesses help out around the community, the community will want to help out those businesses in return. Think of this as a form of good karma – you get what you give. Being recognized as a business that has foundations of compassion towards the local community will help establish the business as a leader in the community, and you will most likely gain a few customers who trust the company and like what the company represents.

Giving back to your community will also help the community grow and become a better place to live. By helping to fix local parks, donating money to school systems, and keeping the streets safe and clean, employees will work in a safer environment, and if they live in the area their children will have a safer place to learn and play. Plus, everyone can benefit from an enjoyable park to relax at and soak up some sun on the weekends.

community service, alan rasof

Furthermore, employees will respect the company they work for if it is involved with some kind of community service, and they will look up to strong leaders who make these impactful initiatives. According to Entrepreneur.com, “If you make your company a positive force in the community it can improve employees’ regard for their corporate leaders, which can only help you. It’s also simply a nice feeling and can make you more motivated to work there,” (Boitnott, 4 Ways Your Company Benefits From Giving Back). Always remember, good morale is essential for growing a successful business.

In conclusion, there are many ways a company can benefit by being kind and helping out around the community. The main point of community service is to help the people around you, and there’s no greater feeling than knowing you’ve done so. So be kind in all aspects of life, it’s the best thing you can do.

Chicago Award Program: The Best of Business

Annually, the Chicago Award Program recognizes top local businesses in and around the Chicago area that have demonstrated an exceptional ability to use marketing techniques to grow their company despite rough economic upheaval. This year, Alan Rasof’s company, ATR Investments, has been selected for the 2015 Best of Chicago Awards for Real Estate Agents.

Alan T. Rasof - Chicago awardThis honorable recognition directly correlates to ATR Investments’ diligent work ethic and perseverance throughout the year as a local business. ATR Investments has demonstrated a positive image of smaller businesses through their great customer service and loyalty to the Chicago community, making Chicago an admirable place to work and live.

This award will bring strategic value, sales, and free publicity to ATR Investments, further boosting their strong marketing strategies and helping their realty business grow even larger. Small business and entrepreneurs face a challenging environment of ever-increasing competitive local economies. Winning this award will help Alan Rasof’s business gain further recognition and support from the Chicago community that the company is based in – all while staying consistent with its tactical small-business strategies that have built the foundations of the company.

Furthermore, ATR Investments’ Best of 2015 Chicago Real Estate Agents Award can be used as an effective sales tool to aid the company’s customer growth. The award will also act as a marketing tool for free publicity. As Steven Anderson, manager of Devon Health Corp. stated, “‘We believe it (business awards) helps validate what we do in the company and enhances our ability to keep good people,’” (Chicago.local-best.com).

In conclusion, ATR Investments’ hard work over the past year has made a lasting impact on Chicago business professionals, gaining recognition amongst both high-level executives and local business employees throughout the Chicago area.

Online Networking Tips

Alan Rasof There’s no doubt that networking is one of the most beneficial things you can do to become successful in your career. And now that we are entering a digital age, online networking will play a key role in companies’ recruiting efforts, and for individuals searching for job opportunities.

According to Monster.com, chairman and CEO of RHI (Robert Half International) notes, “Networking sites can be used to identify new career opportunities, create online profiles that highlight one’s skills and experience, and build a roster of business contracts over time,” (5 Steps for Online Networking Success). That being said, there are many ways you can make sure you are prepared to network online. Here are some helpful tips:

First, create an online website that will give insight of who you are and what you care about. RHI advises to “pay as much attention to the content of your online profile as you would the information in your resume,”(5 Steps for Online Networking Success). This means you should be highlighting many of your professional skills, writing well-written blog posts and information that showcases your dedication as a professional.

Alan Rasof

Next, find quality contacts. Your online network should focus on professionals in your industry that are willing to help you out and connect you with higher level individuals that may be able to help you find a job or build your skills. You might have to start by adding a few of your close friends that could connect you with one or two people in your career-path, and go from there. Don’t ever be afraid to reach out to somebody you think could offer you advice, just be diligent and aware that you are online and there could be impersonations of people.

Finally, always be professional and polite online. Networking to advance your career online must be done with care. You should not have images or content that you wouldn’t want somebody giving you an interview to look at.  According to RHI experts, “Make sure that any public messages or images you post don’t detract from your professional image,”(5 Steps for Online Networking Success). Of course, privacy settings are there for a reason, but it’s best to stay on the safe side and not post anything you think is questionable.

Always remember that the internet is a tool that our society should utilize purposefully, and to not step over the line and make a careless mistake that could be detrimental to your career. Use online networking to your advantage, but always be cautious.

Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills

Being able to communicate effectively – inside or outside of the office – is a critical life skill to learn. But, unfortunately, many people do not put an adequate amount of effort into improving their communication skills due to various reasons ranging from busy schedules to being comfortable with the way they communicate and allocating their time learning different professional skills. However, communication is one of the most important skills to learn continuously throughout your own life and should be prioritized over most other skills. Here are some ways you can learn to communicate more effectively:

Alan Rasof effective-communication-clip-art-20367

First, body language is crucial when it comes to communicating well with others. Whether you’re having a personal conversation with your significant other about your relationship, or you’re giving a presentation in front of your entire office, the way you position your body can play a large role in how well others interpret what you’re saying. For example, if you tell your partner that you are willing to hear what he or she has to say, but your arms are crossed and you are avoiding making eye contact, he or she will probably assume that you really aren’t willing to listen. In addition, if you are in a work environment, standing up straight and using appropriate hand gestures every so often will help you seem confident and will give the audience the perception that you are able to persuade your audience and know exactly what you are speaking towards.

Alan Rasof communicating

On the other hand, if you are slouching and positioning your body away from the audience, your work peers and advisors will probably get the impression that you do not want to intellectually involve your audience, and could even put your career in a sticky situation. That being said, body language is key for effectively communicating. In order to improve it, work on a “power pose” that you are comfortable with that will help boost your confidence before a presentation at work. In addition, develop strong eye contact with whoever you are speaking to so they know you are engaged and serious.

Another way to improve your communication skills is to ask questions and repeat information that was given to you. Many times, we zone out during conversations, which is perfectly normal. But, in order to stay focused on what other people are saying, make an effort to ask questions pertaining to what they are talking about – and better yet, repeating the last few words of a sentence will further indicate that you are listening effectively and actually care about what they are saying.

Alan Rasof leader

According to an article published by Lifehacker.com, asking questions and repeating phrases has many benefits to help improve your communication skills:

“It also helps for small talk and to fill in awkward silences. Instead of trying to stir up conversation on mundane topics like the weather, ask the other person questions (eg.g., ‘Got any plans for the summer?’ or ‘What are you reading lately?’) and engage in their answers. It’s more important to be interested than to be interesting,” (Pinola, Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills).

Lastly, living in this technologically advanced world, we are often distracted by our cell phones, ipads, fitbits, beepers, buzzers, and what have you – so please, when you’re having a conversation – put them away. There’s nothing worse than going out to a restaurant and watching dozens of adolescents and adults fixated to their phones and not having any conversation at all. Let’s face it – it’s just rude. So put away your distractions and look up at the person you’re talking to, this could help our communication skills vastly as a larger population.