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Work emails: Judgement required

From a formal “Dear” line and asking about your weekend, to one-word messages and emojis, to swear words and jokes that toe the line into being NSFW. There are many different approaches to how people write emails at work.

A friend and former colleague, Amanda, recently sent me a hilarious video from CBC’s TV show, Baroness von Sketch, on the topic of work emails. In addition to being just plain funny, she thought the video, which you can view here or by clicking on the screen cap below, was particularly relevant to me given the theme of Pencil Skirts & Punctuation.

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The manager in this video is at one end of the spectrum when it comes to email etiquette. She is informal and unprofessional in emails, and expects staff to act similarly. Although her unprofessionalism is taken to the extreme because it’s *~hilarious~* in the sketch, it’s also relevant for work emails in the real world.

“There’s nothing wrong with throwing in an ‘exclamaysh’… It lets people know that you’re not gonna skin us alive.”

Let’s think about what a real professional work email looks like. In my opinion, it includes a clear subject line, a greeting (such as “Hi Mary,”), short sentences and concise writing, one exclamation mark at the most if required, a clear request or action item, finished with your name and email signature. Don’t forget to proofread. Pretty simple!

As a general rule-of-thumb, being professional (or “profesh”) in emails is important. Why?

  • You may know the person you’re sending an email to, but others CC’d on an email thread – either immediately or in the future – may not know you as well and may not interpret an unprofessional tone in a favourable manner.
  • An attempt to be informal or to make a joke could be risky, because emails lack the nonverbal cues that often make jokes land as intended.
  • An email may be filed for future reference. It would be unfortunate to have an unprofessional email as part of a thread that’s in an official record.
  • Whether you’re starting out in your career or are a seasoned veteran in an industry, email is a tool that helps communicate the type of person you are and your work style. Using a professional tone communicates that you’re polished, dedicated to quality and serious about your career.

That said, know your audience. If you’re emailing a close contact at work, it could be appropriate to include something lighthearted and funny in your email – just make sure it’s suitable for work, and that you think the recipient will be okay seeing it. Showing your personality is an important part of fostering positive interpersonal relationships with colleagues.

What guidelines or rules of thumb do you use for writing work emails? Please share in the comments.

Thanks again to Amanda for inspiring this post!

Photo credits: Pixabay.com; cbc.ca.

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Kick-off your long weekend with some inspiring videos

The next long weekend here in Ontario is just around the corner, and I can’t wait for time outside of the city, taking in some sun, fun and relaxation. What better way to start off the long weekend with some food for thought in the form of videos?

Below are three videos that have inspired me. The folks sharing information in them are brilliant, highly-motivated and successful. Check them and let me know what you think in the comments!

Entrepreneur and author Gary Vaynerchuk talks about making the most of your talent, working hard and getting advice.

Next, life and business strategist Tony Robbins weighs-in on why and how taking 10 minutes each morning can help you prime yourself for having an optimal day.

Lastly, organizational psychologist Adam Grant shares the habits of thinkers who dream up new ideas and take action to put them into the world.

Photo credit: Laine Jaremey.

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Stand out with these 3 traits

A resume can get your foot in the door when you’re looking for a job. But, oftentimes hiring managers want a new hire to fulfill criteria that can’t be expressed on paper. Why? These traits will help hiring managers ensure that the candidate will benefit the organization in ways that go beyond just fulfilling their role.

What are employers looking for when they hire someone new? Emily Heward, co-founder of branding agency Red Antler, explains the top things she looks for in the video from Inc.com, available here.

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What are the three traits she looks for?

  1. Enthusiasm about your industry, your work and the company
  2. The ability to ask thoughtful, challenging questions
  3. Kindness

You can demonstrate these traits to a potential employer in different ways. Try:

  • Before even applying for a job, consider scheduling an informational interview with someone at the organization
  • Carefully crafting a tailored cover letter (learn more about that here)
  • Mindfully conveying these traits in an interview
  • Sending a thank you email or hand-written note after an informational interview or formal interview

Do you agree with the top traits that Emily Heward suggests?

What other ways could you express these traits?

Photo credits: Pixabay.com; Inc.com.

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What makes you feel good about your work?

In his TED Talk, behavioural economist Dan Ariely shares what motivates us to go to work every day. Spoiler alert: it’s more than just a pay cheque or bonus! Other things, like ownership of tasks, attaining goals and being challenged, play roles in making work meaningful. These factors continue to be important, even in the knowledge economy.

Check out his Ariely’s TED Talk below.

As I’ve mentioned, I work as a PR and communications professional in the health and life science industry. I feel fortunate to manage projects from start to finish, giving me a sense of ownership over my work. Further, I find my work meaningful because I am playing a small part in contributing to the health of others.

What makes your job meaningful to you?

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What’s behavioural finance and how can it help me save more?

A few years ago I watched this TEDTalks video by economist Shlomo Benartzi, entitled, Saving for tomorrow, tomorrow. Although it’s a few years old, and is based on US data, there were a lot of key messages that really resonated with me and still do.

Benartzi discusses how the general population’s lack of saving is a result of behavioural challenges related to self-control, loss-aversion and immediate gratification, and presents a solution to help increase savings – all related to an area of his expertise, called behavioural finance. In fact, a Bloomberg article discusses the growing influence of behavioural finance in many different, and even unsuspected, industries, and how it’s changing the way organizations reach their target markets.

I thought it was particularly interesting when Benartzi discusses a study of people who contributed to their retirement savings following the “save more, tomorrow” strategy, at 12:00 in the video above.

Keeping in mind my recent post on career transitions, I hope that many of you are progressing in your careers in a positive trajectory. As you move up in your roles – and your compensation moves up accordingly – I think it’s a great idea to keep this “save more, tomorrow” strategy in mind and “pay yourself first” by contributing more to savings incrementally.

What did you think of the tips in this TEDTalks video?

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How do I write a cover letter?

Once you’ve spent hours refining and proofreading your resume, writing a cover letter can seem like very challenging and time-consuming task.

But, it doesn’t need to be.  It’s important to remember that a cover letter is your first opportunity to build a relationship via a piece of paper (or email) with the person who’s doing the hiring, as described by Aimee Bateman, founder of Careercake.com. Therefore, a cover letter is just as important as your resume, as it allows you to shine some light on your professionalism and personality.

Check out some other tips for developing a stellar cover letter in Aimee’s video, below.

Do you agree with Aimee?  Do you have any other tips for writing a great cover letter?

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How do I dress for a job interview?

I love the tips that Stacy London and Clinton Kelly from “What Not to Wear” share for dressing for a job interview, whether you’re just entering the workforce or looking for a new job.

What do you think about their tips?  How would you make a neutral suit look more interesting for an interview?