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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


3.07.2017

Don’t derail your career on social media: 4 writing suggestions

A former student asked me to review his LinkedIn page. Unfortunately, he had misspelled his job title. (He wrote: Assistant Communication Coordinattor). When I mentioned this to a colleague, he said that such typos could affect the student’s ability to get hired.    

I received the following direct message on Twitter: “Im a freshman and im definitely gonna need business etiquette skills in the future.” After reading his DM, I agreed!

Social media has significantly influenced the ways we can communicate and interact with others. What hasn’t changed is the importance of writing effectively. You don’t want to make embarrassing mistakes that undermine your professionalism. (Grammarly, a grammar website, studied 100 LinkedIn profiles in the consumer package-goods industry and found that professionals whose profiles contained fewer mistakes also achieved higher positions.)

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – they all deal in written content, with some allowing more text than others. When sharing on social media, remember these writing suggestions:

1. Always assume the quality of your writing matters. As illustrated above, there are consequences to making errors. Proofread your writings before you post anything. I know that social media can spur quick commentary, but, at the very least, read your comments out loud before you post. It will take just a few seconds, and you will catch many of your errors.

2. Remember that your postings are part of your professional image. Your colleagues, bosses, customers, clients and prospective employers will likely check your social media sites. If you use strong negative language, put people down, name-call, or curse, what are you saying about yourself? And why would I want to work with you?  (Additional information on professional image and communication can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, 2017).

3. Understand that what you write in the comment section under articles or posts is also part of your professional image. This applies to comments on social media as well as on news sites, such as the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post. Comments with typos or crass wording cost you credibility.

4. Don’t try to solve complex issues on social media. When the issue gets complicated or the topic is touchy, stop writing and call the person, if you can. If you don’t know the person, stop participating in the conversation.

If you haven’t proofread your profile and other statements on your social media sites, or haven’t reviewed them in a while, do so now. You may be surprised at the mistakes you find. 

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com) 

2.07.2017

7 Ways to engage with people – for people who don’t like to engage!

My customer complained to my supervisor that I answered the phone, “Yea. What’s up?”
 
I was told that if I wanted to move up in my organization, I had to get out of my office more.

 
How could she not know what an Ethernet cord is?  When I finally said “the blue cord,” she got it! 


Lately, I have worked with several people with outstanding technical skills whose career growth has been limited by their inability to connect with others.  They were referred to me for coaching to provide them with the necessary skills to engage successfully with coworkers, bosses, customers, and clients.

People want to hire, work with, promote, and do business with individuals they know and like. If you were not born with the “gift of gab,” and many people weren't, you can learn the skills that enable you to connect with others.

Here are 7 suggestions that will help you to engage more easily with others in your workplace. 

1. Do your homework. Knowing a little about topics that are important to your customers and colleagues will make it easier to make conversation. You don’t have to be an expert on every topic, but learn enough to allow you to participate.  And convey interest in the person you are talking to through your body language. Look at him or her, and maintain a pleasant facial expression.

2. Be approachable. Some people have told me that they don’t want to be approached because people will ask them work questions. My response is twofold: You don’t have to answer every question asked of you. You can use a polite line to defer your response, such as, “I’m on my way to a meeting; please call or text me to schedule some time.” But if the question has a simple answer, why not help the person immediately? Chances are, the questioner will find you later anyway. 

3. Remember “the blue cord.” You should use language that your colleagues or customers will understand. Using a technical word that someone doesn’t recognize can distance you from that person. Some people understand what to do if they are told to “Pull out the Ethernet cord” from amid a tangle of cables, for instance, but those who are less tech-savvy need simpler terms: “Pull out the blue cord.” 

4. Keep your phone off the table when meeting with someone. Yes, you read that correctly. Having your phone visible tells the other person, “I am so ready to drop you and connect with someone else.” And some people put two phones on the table! 

5. Don’t overload people with unnecessary information. Only give them as much data as they need. Some technical people believe that they have to impart all the facts, but their customers, colleagues, or bosses may have a lower threshold for details – and tune out once it is reached.

6. Learn to socialize. This is an important business skill. You get to meet people, and they get to meet you, which can benefit you in many ways. You may meet potential new customers, enhance your chances of promotion, or simply enjoy some new friends. Go up to people, greet them, shake hands, and make conversation. The more you do it, the easier it will get.  

7. Call people. Don’t communicate via email and text exclusively. Calling people on the phone when appropriate creates a more personal connection. Also remember to sound pleasant and enthusiastic. When you answer the phone, be friendly. Say hello, give your name (“Gavin Jones speaking”), and, when appropriate, ask, “How may I help you?”

These are not the only ways to engage with others, but they are important ones. Additional suggestions can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, 2017). 

As you go through your day, remind yourself of the value of connecting, and make a conscious effort to reach out. Soon these actions will become second nature to you.

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com)

1.11.2017

Need to prepare a presentation quickly? Follow these 7 guidelines

I was just given an assignment to present at a community meeting, but I have very little time to prepare. What should I do?
 
This question was asked by one of my students, and it brings up a communication dilemma – how do you put together a presentation when you don’t have a lot of time to prepare?  This task can baffle the best of us. But there’s no need to panic. Here are some suggestions to put together a presentation quickly:   


1. Think about your audience. Who are they? How much do they already know about your topic? What more do they want to know? If you address the needs and concerns of the people in your audience, they are more likely to listen to you.  


2. Define your objective and the key points quickly. You don’t have time to waste. People often spend too much of what little time they have agonizing over these items. Make a decision and get started.  You can now focus on what you want to convey to the audience. (Additional information on structuring your presentation can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.) 


3. Consider whether you have any stories to support your key points. Stories bring your presentation to life. Keep them succinct and to the point. Your audience will remember the story, and as a result, they’ll also remember the message in your presentation.


4. Practice out loud. Have at least one practice. You want to hear how the presentation sounds.  


5. Pay attention to your delivery. You want to appear confident and credible – even if you are uncomfortable. Use good posture, and look at people in the audience. Don’t sway. Avoid nervous fiddling, such as playing with a pen or rubber band. Dress slightly better than your audience, and speak loudly enough to be heard. 


6. Don’t discount yourself. Avoid comments that belittle you or your talk. These include such statements as, “I hope I don’t bore you; I didn’t have a lot of time to put this together…” or “I know you didn’t come here just to hear me.”  


7. Anticipate the questions. Once the presentation is together, spend just a couple of minutes thinking about the questions that you may be asked. Decide how you will respond to them. If you do, you are less likely to be caught off guard.


There is a lot more you can – and should – do to prepare for a presentation, but these quick tips will help you prepare an effective presentation when time is short.

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com)

12.19.2016

New Year’s Resolutions To Improve Your Communication Skills

It’s that time of year again – the time to make New Year’s resolutions. But instead of just going the traditional route – pledging to join a gym to work off holiday excesses – why not opt to give your career a boost as well? Resolve to improve your communication skills.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly!  How you communicate with others—whether in person, in writing, or online—has a tremendous impact on your career. It affects every aspect of your working life, no matter how good your specialized skills are in your particular field.

For the coming year, make these communication resolutions to enhance your career:

1. Resolve to keep your phone off the table when meeting with someone. Having your phone visible tells the other person, “I am so ready to drop you and connect with someone else.”  It’s important to give people your full attention.

2. Take a presentation skills class. Work on becoming a better presenter. You need to get your point across. And if you do so effectively, not only does your audience gain information, but you look good.

3. Use “reply all” only when it is necessary for everyone on the list to see the email. In my classes, many participants say they really dislike receiving unnecessary emails. If you don’t want to receive unwanted emails, you need to stop overusing “reply all,” also.

4. Be smart with social media. Don’t allow social media to hurt your career. If your sites suggest you drink too much, curse a lot, or post nasty comments, people may question whether they want to work with you or hire you.

5. Offer your opinion. If you don’t speak up in meetings, your boss, colleagues, or clients won’t know what you know. And speak early in the meeting. The longer you wait to talk, the harder it is likely to become.

6. Learn to command the room. Dress appropriately. Walk into a room as though you belong there. Stand tall. Don’t fidget. Shake hands correctly. When nervous, say something positive to yourself. Before she enters a meeting room, one woman I coached says to herself, “I own this meeting!” 

7. Monitor your volume. Make sure you speak loudly enough to be heard. Many people don’t. Do not underestimate how powerful a strong voice can be – but don’t confuse powerful with shouting. You want your opinions, thoughts and ideas to register with others.

8. Apply for awards. Winning professional or community awards helps to build your credibility, and can be an important way to promote yourself. To be eligible for many awards, other people have to recommend you; for some, however, you can nominate yourself. This is not an obnoxious thing to do. You still have to earn the award.

9. Be friendly and helpful. People want to work with others they know, like and trust. It may seem obvious, but too often people neglect the little things that build relationships. Greet people you know and also those you don’t know. Smile. Say “please” and “thank you.” Help people when you can. Make connections for others, both online and in person.

10. Send thank-you notes. In the New Year, start showing appreciation for the kindness of others. If you receive a gift, visit the home of a boss or colleague, or are a guest at a meal, you must send a note. You also need to send a thank-you note after a job interview.

These 10 potential resolutions provide numerous possibilities for improving your career. There are many more communication suggestions discussed in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, December 2016).


Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at  joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. 
 


12.06.2016

Don’t Kill Your Career With Your Fork

My girlfriend showed me how to use my utensils, but I’m not sure she is correct. I have a job interview at a fancy restaurant coming up. Help. 

My colleague never puts his knife down when eating. Is that correct?


I read that there is a “finished position” for utensils. What is that? 


I have received a number of questions recently about correct behavior during a business meal, especially concerning the use of utensils.

People can get nervous when dining for business. And with good reason. You don’t want to blow a deal or a job offer based on your dining manners. To help people in my corporate classes remember what not to do with their utensils, I created these four examples:

1. Waving William: You wave your hands around with your utensils in them when you are talking at the table. Beware – the food on the utensils may go flying toward your neighbor! It’s best not to do much gesturing at all while you are dining, and never with a utensil in hand.

2. Finger-Pusher Fran: You want to eat every last bite, so you use your finger to help push food onto your fork. The days of the “clean plate club” are over. If you can’t get the food onto your fork without using your finger, leave it on the plate. Or, eat Continental style. In this style, the knife is used to push food onto the back of the fork.

3. Pitchfork Pete: You make a fist around your fork when cutting your meat. You look like you are holding a pitchfork! You should hold a fork with the handle inside the palm of your hand, and use your thumb and index finger to manipulate it.

4. Split-Personality Susan: You employ both the American and Continental styles of using utensils during one meal. When eating in the American style, you cut your meat using both knife and fork, then place your knife at the top of the plate and switch the fork to the dominant hand to eat. When eating in the Continental style, you still cut your food with both knife and fork, but then you eat the meal without putting the knife down or switching the fork to the opposite hand. As mentioned above, you use the knife to guide food onto the back of the fork. It’s generally best to use just one style.

Other Suggestions for Your Utensils:

•  Do not use your knife to cut your bread rolls. Break your roll in half, then tear off one piece at a time, and butter each piece as you are ready to eat it.

•  Place your knife and fork in the rest position (knife on top of plate, fork across middle of plate) to let the waiter know you are resting but not done with your meal. Use the finished position (knife and fork together diagonally across the plate, knife on top) to indicate that you have finished eating.

Additional information about business meals and your career can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, December 2016).


Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on career development, business presentations, professional presence, etiquette and communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at  joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. 

11.14.2016

9 Ways to Help Restore Civility in Today’s World

I cannot believe that everyone was shouting in the meeting. No one heard anything and nothing got resolved.

My colleague stopped talking to her cousin because of the person she voted for.


The recent outbreaks of uncivil behavior in the political arena have impacted our everyday experiences, as the comments above testify. But it's time for people to fight back, politely of course, and assert that being uncivil to one another is not the way we want public figures to behave. Nor is it the way we should behave ourselves.

After the terrible events of 9/11 we came together and helped one another at a time of national tragedy.  We saw or heard of acts of incredible kindness, often between strangers.  And you know what?  We liked it!

Keep in mind that you don’t have to mirror the impolite actions of others.

There are ways for people to express their differences without resorting to bad behavior. If you want things to change, the change starts with you. Let me stress that: You are the change agent. 

Use these 9 tips to encourage polite behavior in the workplace and your world.

1. Don’t attack back. Remember that someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. Though it may feel good to respond, “Well, what do you know, you idiot?” if somebody says something to offend you, it’s not going to build your credibility or accomplish anything.

2. Use courteous behavior. It’s hard to be nasty to people who are nice to you.  Keep “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” in your vocabulary.  Greet others when you see them. And respond to the greetings of others. If someone says “hello” to you, you must say “hello” back. It is not optional!

3. Avoid inflammatory words. Using harsh words such as “stupid,” “ignorant,” and “fool” only inflames a situation, and this approach is unlikely to lead to a positive resolution. Cursing at people is just mean, and reflects poorly on the one doing the cursing.

4. Disagree agreeably. If you have difficulty with someone, talk to the person. Listen to what he or she has to say. You can evaluate an idea without attacking the person who is promoting it. Saying, “I see it differently, and here’s why…” is a lot more productive than screaming at people or calling them names.

5. Acknowledge your mistakes. Saying to someone, “You’re right. I shouldn’t have said that or done that,” goes a long way in maintaining good relationships.

6. Share, wait your turn, and be gracious toward others. Help other people when you can. Don’t interrupt. And be considerate when sharing space with others. This includes cleaning up after your meeting and making sure that you return the items you borrowed. 

7. Be cautious with humor. Humor can be an effective communication tool, but it also may cause you to fail miserably, especially in tense or difficult situations. What some people believe is funny may hurt or put down other people, and this invites conflict.

8. Stop complaining. If you don’t like something, don’t complain about it to others – do something. Get involved. Join organizations. Politely object. (Additional information on communicating effectively and politely can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)

9. Walk away.  And if you don’t want to do any of the above, you can always avoid hostile or impolite interactions by simply walking away.


Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at  joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. 

 



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11.03.2016

How not to be overlooked at work

I am not asked to attend certain meetings where I believe my input would be helpful. I don’t know what to do.

I am being slighted at work. I don’t get the good assignments. And I need those skills to move up in my organization.


These comments and others from my seminar participants suggest that some people believe they are being overlooked at work. Yet there are often two sides to a story. As the quote below illustrates, sometimes when people are given opportunities to be noticed, they don’t make the most of them.

I was nervous when I attended the senior management meeting. I stood by myself and didn’t talk to anyone. My boss was furious at me. She said it was my opportunity to get known and I blew it.

Regardless of which side you identify with, here are some general guidelines to help you stand out – in a good way:

Don't make it easy for people to ignore you.  Walk into a room like you belong there. Go up to people and introduce yourself, shake hands correctly, and make conversation with others. Pay attention to your nonverbal communication. Look people in the eye when you speak. Don’t cross your arms. Speak loudly enough to be heard – many people don't.  And dress professionally. Your clothes need to be clean, pressed, in good condition, fit well, and be appropriate for your position. 

Speak up if something is bothering you. If you don't bring up situations that you believe are unfair, others may assume you are passive, and it’s unlikely anything will change. The key is to pick situations that are important, and to voice your concerns assertively. "Boss, I haven't been asked to attend the marketing meetings, yet I believe my suggestions on the budget would be helpful to the team. I would like to attend next week's meeting."

Make use of your network and mentors. Talk to people you trust about your specific situation. Get their suggestions. If you don't have mentors or a network, start developing them. (Additional information on building your network can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)

Have “fire in your belly.” Have a powerful sense of determination – of working hard to succeed. Some people seem to be born with this attribute; others have to develop it. To ignite that blaze, go above and beyond. Do more than what is expected of you. Help others. Show initiative and do good work. Make sure you have all the necessary schooling and/or certifications. Convey enthusiasm for your work. Meet or beat your deadlines. When you can, solve problems. Get to work early, and don’t rush out the door at the end of the day.

There are many other things you can do to enhance your career, but these four items are key to helping you get noticed – an important part of any professional’s development.


More information on career development can also be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.   

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at  joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141.