Business Meal Etiquette

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Business Meal Etiquette

Ora Shtull Interview

There are so many dos and don’ts when it comes to social interaction at work — particularly at the ubiquitous business lunch. Can I order wine? Are the mussels too messy? Is it okay to tuck my tie inside my shirt? Should I offer to pay (or feign reaching for my wallet)? We must bring our professional polish not only to the meeting table but also to the dining table.

Your Guide to Your First Week on the Job

Your Guide to Your First Week on the Job

You walk through the revolving door of the lobby toward the elevator, soaking in your surroundings—there’s not a familiar face in the building. You straighten out your suit, press #12, and take a deep breath: Once those doors re-open, your first week of work will officially begin.

Whether it’s your first position or your fifth, those first few days on the job can be more than a little intimidating. But with these key rules, you can get comfortable in your new surroundings, get up to speed quickly, and get off on the right foot with your new boss and co-workers.

Do: Be a Sponge

One of your most important duties your first week is absorbing everything. Getting to know your company’s culture, the working and communication styles of your teammates, the problem projects, office politics, and department or company-wide goals means that you’ll be able to start your real work sooner (and be more effective when you do).

So, go to the new hire orientation, sign up for professional development classes, and attend all the team and office meetings you can, even if you’re not yet sure what’s going on or they don’t 100% pertain to your work. Also join in on the informal events. If you get asked to lunch, happy hour, or the office softball league (either as a participant or onlooker), say yes. It’s a great way to meet people, and it shows that you’re excited to be part of the team.

Don’t: Overcommit Yourself

Do be careful, though, to balance your schedule—you want to have plenty of time to learn the ropes from your desk. The last thing you want is to look like you have too much to juggle, seem overwhelmed, or show up late to a commitment because you’re stuck somewhere else.

Do: Ask Questions

As you learn about new processes, projects, and people, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You need to get up to speed, and people will expect it from the new person on the team. Also take down detailed notes about everything you learn, even if it seems simple. Your brain is going to be on overload this week, and writing everything down will make sure you don’t have to ask the same question twice.

Don’t: Be Afraid to Speak Up

At the same time, don’t be afraid to contribute and add value—you do want to reinforce that you’re the right person for the job! No, you won’t know everything (nor should you act like you do!), but you can make suggestions in team meetings or brainstorming sessions, or ask questions like, “Has this been tried before?” And if you have a skill or ability that you’ve been hired to bring to the team, pipe up and share that knowledge. But be careful to read your audience. You don’t want to come on like gangbusters or step on someone’s toes.

Do: Offer to Help

There may be some down time during your first few days on the job as your boss and team adjust to having you there. But don’t sit around waiting for others to figure out tasks for you—volunteer to help your new teammates on a project. You’ll show initiative, you’ll build rapport with your boss and co-workers, and you’ll learn about expectations, procedures, and how things are done.

Don’t: Turn Down Help or Advice

If your boss or co-workers give you advice or offer to help you with a task or project, take them up on it—yes, even if you’re totally capable of handling things yourself. It’s a great way to bond with your office mates, plus you may get valuable insight into the company’s expectations or a more efficient way to do the work you’ll be given.

Do: Find a Mentor

It never hurts to have an experienced, knowledgeable, successful professional to bounce ideas off of and be groomed by, but it’s especially useful when you’re the newbie. Look around. Who are the stars of the organization—the ones who radiate likability, confidence, and initiative? Introduce yourself, and pick their brains.

Don’t: Rely Only on Your New Mentor

Undoubtedly, the people who make you feel most comfortable will become your go-tos as you navigate your first week. But remember the time it takes for people to help you out is time being taken away from their own tasks. Be sensitive to this by trying to figure things out for yourself first, asking a variety of people when you do have questions, and showing appreciation for everyone who helps you out.

Do: Keep Your Boss Informed

Throughout the week, ask for periodic meetings with your boss (instead of popping in her office for every question you have!). In addition to getting her direction on projects and tasks, you should use this time to update her on what you’re learning and who you’re meeting with.

Ask questions like “Are there additional tasks I should be taking on or skills I should be learning?” and “Can you give me feedback on the project I just completed?” to show initiative, but also do a lot of listening, too. Your boss’ feedback and insight is going to be one of your greatest resources at this point—after all, you’re going to be spending the next weeks, months, and maybe even years working for her, and learning how she thinks early on will serve you well.

Don’t: Compare Everything to Your Last Job

Surely you could rattle off things you loved (or loathed) about your last job and how this position compares—but don’t! You want to give yourself every opportunity to shine, and that means keeping your initial first week impressions to yourself. You’re in a new place, and this is a new opportunity, so embrace it and move forward!

Perfect Pitch: How to Nail Your Elevator Speech

Perfect Pitch: How to Nail Your Elevator Speech

You ride the subway, grab a coffee, and get to the office—it’s your typical Monday morning, until, bam! You step in the elevator and find yourself face-to-face with the CEO of your dream company or the client you’ve been dying to land.

She smiles and says, “Hi. What do you do?”

Scary? Absolutely. But it could happen to you—tomorrow—and you’ll want to be prepared.

The aptly named “elevator speech” or “elevator pitch” is a concise, compelling introduction that can be communicated in the amount of time it takes someone to ride the elevator to her floor.

Even if you’re never caught heading up to the 39th with someone important, this is an good skill to master when you’re introducing yourself during an interview, a sales pitch, or a networking event. People are busy, and being able to communicate who you are and what you do quickly and effectively will ensure that you get your most important points across, no matter how short the conversation.

Not quite ready for the elevator ride of your life? Check out our step-by-step guide to crafting—and perfecting—your pitch.

1. Start with a Blank Canvas

Take a blank piece of paper and number it from one to 10. Then, fill in the most important bits of information that you want to convey about yourself, your service or product, or your company. What, exactly, do you do? What have you achieved, and what are your goals? Who does your company serve and why? Focus on the most interesting or memorable facts—the ones that really make you stand out from others.

2. Red Pen It

Using a different color pen, edit what you’ve drafted with a critical eye. Eliminate any redundancies, unnecessary or unclear information, and broad business jargon. More importantly, hone and enhance the good stuff. “I’m great at sales” isn’t likely to pique anyone’s interest, but “I’ve exceeded my sales goals every quarter for the last two years” sure might.

3. Pick a Card

Grab five index cards, and label them “Who I Am,” “What I Do,” “How I Do It,” “Why I Do It,” and “Who I Do It For.” Add each item on the list you’ve created to the card where it fits best. Ideally, you’ll have two compelling sentences underneath each heading, so fill in any gaps if you need to.

4. Get in Order

Organize the cards in a logical order, making sure the most important information is first. Remember, you often only have a few seconds to communicate with someone. If you get cut off, what would you want her to walk away remembering?

5. Add an Attention-Getter

Add an interesting fact or stat to use at the beginning of your speech. Your goal is to immediately engage someone so that he or she is intrigued and wants to learn more.

6. Practice!

Recite your pitch to close someone who can be objective, and ask for constructive feedback (although we love our friends and families, sometimes they think we can do no wrong!). What may seem clear in your mind might come across as convoluted, long-winded, or fragmented to an outside observer.

7. Record Your Pitch

Once you’ve gotten feedback and honed your pitch even further, record yourself saying it. Listen to your tone—make sure it’s friendly, non-threatening, and that you’re not talking a mile a minute (knowing you only have a few moments to speak may subconsciously increase your pace). Really listen to what you’re saying—make sure you’re not repeating words and that you’re sending the message you really want to convey.

8. Ride the Elevator

The next time you ride an elevator (alone), practice your speech. First, give yourself some time by going to the highest floor. Then, try giving your pitch from a middle floor and from the first to the third floor, too. Having to make just a few brief moments count will help you to hone the words you need and scrap the ones you don’t!

This week, set aside some time to craft your elevator pitch (or dust off the one you’ve used before). You just never know who you might face tomorrow morning.

9 Tips for Navigating Your First Networking Event

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9 Tips for Navigating Your First Networking Event

You’re looking for a job, and you’ve heard “network, network, network!” more times than you can possibly count. So, you bit the bullet and signed up for a meet-and-mingle networking event in your field.

Now what?

As you’ve probably gathered, networking is much more than showing up, grabbing some free snacks, and passing out business cards. It’s about meeting people, sharing who you are and what you do, and gaining some valuable contacts and information that you can use in your job search or at work in the future.

And to make the most of it, all it takes is a little preparation and practice. Here’s what you need to know before you grab your purse and go.

Before You Go

1. Have a Goal

Before you get to the event, ask yourself, “why am I going?” Come up with two outcomes you hope to get out of the event—say, meeting three new people or getting one new job lead. (Or, if you’re going to reconnect with friends, that’s fine, too!) Knowing ahead of time what you’re hoping to accomplish will help you stay focused—not aimlessly wandering around.

2. Dress to Impress

When you’re planning your outfit, pick something professional—you won’t make an impression (at least, not a good one) if you look dishevelled, disorganized, or overly casual. But also pick something that makes you feel good—a great dress or those new shoes you’ve been wanting to wear will help you exude confidence in what can be an uncomfortable setting.

3. Bring Business Cards

This one seems basic, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen forget their cards or say “I just gave away my last one!” Bring more business cards than you think you’ll need, and keep a stack of them in a card case. This way, they won’t get dirty or crumpled in your purse, and you can grab them quickly—it’s much more professional to pull your card out of a case then go searching through your bag.

While You’re There

4. Make an Effective Introduction

When you meet someone new, introduce yourself by making eye contact, smiling, stating your first and last name, and giving a firm but brief handshake. Then, listen for the other person’s name (believe me, it’s easy to miss when you’re nervous), then use it two times while you’re speaking. This will not only help you remember her name, but also appear sincere and interested in the conversation.

5. Listen First, then Speak

Here’s a networking secret: Let the other person speak first! Most people don’t realize this, but the person who talks about herself first is only being half listened to. If your counterpart is preoccupied with what she’s going to say when it’s her turn to speak, she’ll only be partially tuning in to what you’re saying. But by asking the other person questions first, she’ll will be much more relaxed and focused when the conversation turns to you.

6. Show Sincerity and Interest

Have a few good questions in your back pocket. Asking the other person about her background and work will show her that you’re interested in more than just your own job opportunities. The best questions are ones that can’t be answered by just “yes” or “no,” such as:

How do you like working for your company?

What’s your primary role at your company?

What projects are you working on right now?

How did you get involved in your field?

7. Get to the Point

When it’s your turn to share what you do, state it in just 2-3 sentences. You can delve into greater detail later on, but people will lose interest very quickly if you can’t cut to the chase. Similarly, avoid using industry jargon. The key to effectively networking is to build rapport, so if someone can’t understand what you’re talking about, a connection won’t happen.

8. Take Notes

You probably won’t remember the important details of every conversation, so it can be helpful to write them down. After mingling with a few people, find a corner of the room to subtly make notes on the back of each person’s business card about who she is, what you talked about, and any follow-up you want to do. Remember, the purpose of a networking event is to connect with people in the future, and this will make following up with them much, much easier.

After the Event

9. Follow Up

A few days after the event, send follow-up emails to anyone you met that you’d like to continue networking with. Make sure to personalize each email, letting each person know you enjoyed meeting them and mentioning something that you talked about. A tip: One of the quickest ways to stop a connection is to send someone a generic LinkedIn invite.

This is also the time to suggest any follow-up, for example, to ask your new contact to meet up for an informational interview.

Networking is one of the greatest tools you have in your job search, and by being prepared for the event, professional once you get there, and proactive with your follow-up, you can make sure you get the most out of it. Beyond that, just try to relax and have some fun!

Boost Your Resume the Right Way! How to Become Strategically Well-Rounded

Boost Your Resume the Right Way! How to Become Strategically Well-Rounded

So you eat healthy (most of the time), you go to the gym, you give 100% at work, you volunteer on the weekends, and you also make sure to enjoy yourself with friends. You, by all accounts, are considered well-rounded.

Kudos to you! Now, let’s apply that to your professional life. Even though you’re great at your current job duties, being well-rounded professionally—which means gaining experience beyond just one functional area—is an important element to your long-term success.

Why? Because being well-rounded means you can step outside of your current role and take on new things—and that’s how you get the exciting new assignments and projects, which often don’t actually “fit” into anyone’s job description. What’s more, as you climb the ladder and are up for management positions, you’ll need skills in a variety of different areas to help you succeed. If you’re currently a social media manager but eventually want to head up a marketing department, for example, you’ll need to pick up expertise in brand development, advertising, and finance, too.

That said, there’s a difference between collecting random skills and gaining new experiences that will make you strategically well-rounded. So, here are a few questions to ask yourself to identify the skills that will be most important for your future—so you can go out and build them.

What Gaps in Knowledge Do I Have?

First, pull out your resume and take inventory of yourself. What are some valuable qualities or skills you already possess—and what do you wish you had? You’ll often identify strategic skills just by paying attention to your gaps or areas of weakness and identifying ways to strengthen them.

If you know you struggle with delegation or want to hone your leadership traits, for example, perhaps you could take on an intern or mentor junior employees. Or, if your emails tend to be long-winded or you wish you were a better communicator, taking a writing class would be a great way to grow.

What Skills Do Those Around Me Have?

Next, look around, and start noticing what other “well-rounded” colleagues or clients are doing. Particularly consider people in the positions you want to move into or attain: What do they do well, what could they do better, and what skill sets do their positions require? If everyone in the level above you has to manage budgets, for example, look for ways to plan budgets on smaller projects or events. If most people in the roles you’re checking out at PR companies have experience in public speaking, that’s a great place to focus your time and energy.

What Gaps in Knowledge Does My Team Have?

On the flip side, pay attention to the knowledge gaps on your team. If there’s knowledge or experience that no one else really has—but that could help you all on an upcoming project—that could be a great place for you to take on new skills and really shine.

For instance, if no one in the department ever wants to make client presentations, getting some public speaking training would be a huge boost for the team. If no one on your email marketing team knows how to code, why not take on the challenge?

What Characteristics Does My Boss Value Most?

Finally, think, watch, and listen to your boss. Consider the characteristics she possesses, as well as the ones that she doesn’t, and fill in the gaps. If you can handle tasks that would otherwise be challenging for her (say, you know she loathes Excel), that’s an easy way to make life easier for her and at the same time take on more responsibility.

Also listen to the comments and compliments she gives. What traits does your boss admire in others? What praise has she given lately and to whom? Through this type of feedback, you can glean the qualities that she values—and get to work on those skills.

Being well-rounded doesn’t mean you have to be great at everything, or even involved in every aspect of your company’s work. But if you strategically expand your expertise based on your own strengths and weaknesses and those of your team, you’ll add a huge amount of value to your organization—not to mention your resume.

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Laura Invited to Washington State to Speak

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Laura will be speaking at the National PTA annual conference in Washington State in April 2014. The keynote will focus on the topic of Communication and how this skill has a direct impact on leadership capabilities.

KATEN invited to speak in China

Laura has been invited to speak about business etiquette in China this upcoming March.

More details to come…