Posts filed under ‘Communication Technology’

Magic Messages: Be an Email Wizard at Your Summer Internship

By Meredith Richard

Congrats! You’ve landed a sweet gig interning for the summer and are excited to enter the world of cubicles, coffee runs, and copy machines.wizard You’re ready to tackle another glorious day in the life of an intern and then you see it…43 unread emails and counting! You think to yourself, “How am I going to get through this onslaught of emails…magic?!” Most workers plow through 81 emails per day. That is a lot of information to sort through. How do you make your emails break through the mass so that people read them? Use these magic tips to become an email wizard.

Harness the wondrous sorting power of Cc: and Bcc:

“Cc:” is an abbreviation for the old school term “Carbon Copy.” Recipients of both “To:” and  “Cc:” can view and respond to an email. Key difference: You’ll place recipients in the “Cc:” box when the email is not directly for them, but when they might be interested in the information exchange. Use the “Cc:” function to keep everyone in the loop.

example again

“Bcc:” stands for “Blind Carbon Copy.” Email addresses typed into the “Bcc:” box will not be visible to recipients (nor will the “Bcc:” field). Use this function to:

  • Keep recipients anonymous if content is of a sensitive nature
  • Send a mass email when recipients don’t need to see other recipients’ names

More tips on using “Cc:” and “Bcc:” here

Be careful not to spam the masses by hitting “Reply All”

Avoid spamming listservs. You do not want to be “that intern” who meant to respond to the sole sender of the email but wound up responding to all 90 recipients. Your fellow interns and employees get enough emails as is and will not appreciate the extra email clogging up their inbox. In many cases, you only want to reply those in the “To:” box.

Include the bottom line in your subject line

Make your subject lines catchy to compel the recipient to read your email. Effective subject lines include the following elements:

  • Call to action – “Edits Needed for Social Media Guidelines”
  • Key information – “Room Changed to 2045 for Event Planning Session Today”
  • Important deadlines – “June Inventory Analytics due by 7/12”

Your subject lines can be incomplete sentences – keep them short so that your reader sees the whole message.

Don’t go on a “tagging” spree

Use “High Importance” sparingly. Fail to follow this rule, and you’ll wind up like the boy who cried “wolf.” If you mark every email with “High Importance,” after a while it loses its meaning, and people stop believing you.

Be concise

Less is more. The longer the email, the more scrolling the readers have to do, the less likely they are to make it all the way to the bottom. If your email is nearing novel length, consider discussing the information via phone call or an in-person conversation if possible.

Make your emails easy on the eyes

Emails are not essays. Help readers grasp your message with ease by using these formatting tips:

  • Headings will help readers identify the key takeaways from your email.
  • Bullets will help you keep your points concise (no full sentences required).
  • Bold “call to action” will emphasize the action the reader needs to take.

Dress up your emails from head to toe.

After using the tips above, you’ve got to finish strong with a professional looking signature at the bottom of your emails. Whether you are communicating with people inside or outside the company, include a professional signature so that recipients have all of the necessary information to contact you. Including your position and company name will add to your credibility.

Example:

Meredith Richard | Company X | Marketing Intern
Address | XXX-XXX-XXXX | myemail@domain.com

Note: When you find yourself, emailing back and forth, you can dispense with the whole signature; however, make sure your phone number still appears next to your name so that the reader can easily contact you.

cakeDon’t forget the icing on the cake!

No matter how well you follow all of the aforementioned rules, a seemingly good email can be undone by poor writing and grammar and a few misspelled words. TIP: Most email services include a spell-check function (no excuses!).

 

End the vicious cycle.

When you find yourself in an endless email communication loop, consider picking up the phone. Sometimes a quick phone conversation is more efficient.

Top-notch email skills can help set you apart from your fellow interns. Follow these rules, and your emails will start to be noticed…just like magic!

November 25, 2014 at 11:49 am 11 comments

Smart Social Media Use Could Save Your Internship

By Paige Schafer

When it comes to social media use, we’ve all heard it before: “Make sure that you’re not wasting time on it in the workplace” and “Don’t put anything out there that you wouldn’t like your employer to see.” It’s easy to brush these suggestions off. After all, would your boss or employer really take time out of his or her busy day to creep on your Facebook page and walk by to make sure you’re doing your work? From personal experience, I know that the answer is “yes.”401 Blog Image

Eliminate Social Media Slacking at Work

My internship at a small marketing agency has shown me the importance of designating ONLY work to your job schedule. In order to understand my story, let me give you a visual of the office layout. The second floor where I work is a large room with desks for full-time employees on either side. In the middle, about 10 interns sit at a large table. The kitchen and bathrooms are off the side of the main room, so people are constantly walking past the intern table.

At first, I thought our supervisors and other full-time employees didn’t pay attention to what the interns were doing. It crossed my mind of course, but the other employees seemed to be focusing on their own goals and walking by too fast to study our computer screens. 

My perspective changed after an intern wasn’t pulling his weight. Another intern and I noticed what was going on and voiced our concerns to our supervisors. To my surprise, one of them said, “Yeah, I saw him Facebook chatting with three other people yesterday. It made me mad.”

Although I don’t worry about getting caught because I don’t slack off at work, this incident was definitely a wake-up call for me. It made me realize that even if it may not seem like it, your employers monitor your actions at work more than you think. Anyone could be watching you. 

Be Wary of Your Online Reputation 

My internship has also proven that your employer searches your social media accounts. One day, we heard some stir in the office about getting a new employee. It only took a few seconds into the conversation before someone asked, “What’s his name, I want to look him up on Facebook!” After some of the other interns and I laughed at this request, our supervisor said, “Oh, that always happens. We do it all the time.”

I glanced at some of the other interns, and their facial expressions mirrored mine. We were all thinking: Did they look at our Facebook accounts before hiring us too? I’ll never know the answer to this question for sure, but it’s safe to say they did.

The Moral of the Story

In just a few months, I’ve learned the importance of not slacking off on social media at work and maintaining clean social media accounts. Although you might not believe that employers check in on your work status and search your social media accounts to determine if you’re qualified, think again. You never know how many eyes are peering over your shoulder, whether it’s virtually or in-person at the office.

November 24, 2014 at 9:19 am 6 comments

Wait, did you say “video” interview?

By Ryan Ramsey

The day of the interview you walk into the room. You don’t acknowledge the interviewer; you just sit down and open your laptop to look through your email. Typically that strategy is not an effective beginning to an interview, but it is becoming a common experience for job seekers because more employers are adopting one-way video interviews as a first interaction with applicants.

The Process

You first receive an email informing you that you got the interview. The email contains a link to a website where you perform the interview. The email also contains your personal candidate login code which verifies your identity. Once you begin, the software runs a test to ensure that your camera and microphone are working properly, and you will likely be given a practice question to get a sense of what the interview will be like. The video of the practice run is then discarded, and the interview begins when the employer gives a prompt. The prompt is a typed question that you have time to read and think about. After a short planning time, the actual interview begins, and the software records the candidate as he or she answers a set of questions.

Employers are turning to video interviews for several reasons:

  • They are less expensive since they eliminate travel costs.
  • Scheduling is simpler because the candidate can perform the interview when his or her schedule permits (so long as it falls within the time frame that the employer allots), and the interviewer can evaluate the video on his or her own time.
  • The interviewer can control what and how much of the interview he or she sees by pausing, stopping, and fast-forwarding the video.
  • Comparing prospects is simpler because the interviewer can replay and rewind each interview with ease.

Use video interviews to your benefit

While this method is more efficient for employers, potential employees can also benefit from the one-way video interview by strategically utilizing the added freedom. Start by researching the company’s interview format. For instance, many companies use Hirevue to conduct their video interviews, so explore the interview service provider’s website to learn more about their specific process.

Give yourself ample time to prepare, but know when to stop. Once the employer notifies you that you got the interview, you have a set amount of time to complete the interview, typically a few days. Use this time wisely. Study the company. Consider possible interview questions. Think of strong examples of situations when you utilized characteristics that the company may find attractive based on your research of the position. However, don’t overthink it. Once you feel confident, go ahead and complete the interview rather than waiting until the deadline. Completing the interview when you feel aptly prepared will make you confident and at ease knowing that you are not rushing to meet a deadline.

Find a place where you are comfortable. You have complete control over the location. Use it wisely. Go somewhere that you are comfortable, but make sure the setting is professional–not your bedroom. By choosing a comfortable location that you are familiar with, you ease your anxiety during the interview, and you relieve the stress of scrambling to find a location typical of traditional interviews. By choosing a professional location, you send the message that you thought and planned ahead and are taking the interview seriously.

Record yourself. Unlike face-to-face interviews, one-way video interviews don’t offer eye-contact or non-verbal cues. A video interview is exactly like recording yourself, so practicing alone is easy. Whatever you see is exactly what they see. You may feel strange and uncomfortable watching yourself, but the video doesn’t lie, and you can see yourself as the interviewer sees you. However, practicing alone makes it easy to lose focus, so do a mock video interview. Have a friend give you an unexpected, potential interview question. Take 30 seconds to plan your answer, spend two minutes answering the question, and review the video with the friend to get a sense of having someone else evaluate your performance.

Take advantage of the planning time. Having a moment to plan and organize your thoughts is the most beneficial aspect of a video interview. After the question is asked, you will typically have 30 unrecorded seconds to plan your response. In a face-to-face interview, you have to think on your feet, and you have to respond immediately.  Develop your answer, organize your main points, and write them down. Put the notes out of the camera’s view. Once the recorder begins, maintain eye contact with the camera, but glance at your written notes if you forget what you are going to say next.  By capitalizing on the planning time, you can provide a well-organized and effective response.

A video interview may seem like an intimidating and foreign concept, but you can ace the interview by using the freedom of the process properly.  Also, understand that many of the strategies we have learned for performing traditional interviews also apply to a video interview, so consult Kyra Harakal’s post to review some tips about how to interview well. And relax.

November 28, 2012 at 9:25 am 5 comments

The make-or-break page: So what’s the “About Us” about?

By Joyce Tam

Last summer, I worked at an arts organization, and one of my tasks was to choose a printing company for our festival brochures. I began my search by browsing different websites. In less than 3 minutes on its “About Us” page, I would have decided whether the company was still on my search or not.

This scenario probably applies to all customers in their initial filtering of potential partners. When potential customers become interested in your products or services, they go to your “About Us” page. Within a few clicks, they decide whether your company is an appropriate choice. Therefore, the “About Us” page is often a make-or-break page. Here are some points that you might have overlooked.

Think like your customers 

You may have thought that your potential customers click onto your “About Us” page because they want to learn about your company. In reality, they don’t care what you do; all they care about is if you have real capabilities to solve their problems. This reason is why it is important to think in the point of view of your customers. Ask yourself questions such as “What do customers ask during sales calls?” and  “What causes a customer to make or break a deal?” Your potential customers are busy and have a lot of information to process every day. Helping them to answer these questions on your “About Us” page not only makes their job easier; it demonstrates your expertise as well.

It’s all about bragging (only to a certain extent) 

“FirstChoicePrinting is a professional printing company built on relationships and customer values. We provide innovative world-class services by delivering excellent customer service.”

The example shows a typical quote that I saw during my search for printing companies. The quote may sound impressive, but it means nothing to me unless I see facts that supports the claim. Business is about building trust and relationships: list your big-name clients, make a timeline of your company’s history, list your awards and recognitions—they all suggest experience and credibility. Showing your certifications is important, but you should only pick the ones that make the most impact on potential customers. For example, a printing company should probably post about its environmental awareness and quality of printing.

Make yourself likeable 

In a recent article on Forbes.com, “What Your ‘About Us’ Page is Missing” by Roger Dooley, he quoted Robert Cialdini, a persuasion expert, on the relationship between persuasion and liking. While “About Us” may be a story about how a company started, it should also be about the person behind it. Include personal interests that are likely to connect you with your customers. Adding personal details makes you more likeable and humanizes your company; it reminds customers that you are not a faceless corporation that they are communicating with, but one that they could associate and connect with. Although such move may not guarantee a contract, you will be ahead of the game once customers start to like you. 

Test it out

Invite people who know little or nothing about your company to visit your “About Us” page; ask them the 5Ws, (Who, What, When, Where, Why). If they are not able to answer them, you should probably further work on your page.

To sum it up…

The “About Us” page is a head fake. While you may have thought that it is entirely about your company, the page is actually about your potential customers. Yes, you should take the opportunity to brag about the qualifications and experience you have, but you should also address concerns of your potential customers. Draw a “human” connection between you and your potential clients by humanizing your corporation. Lastly, the “About Us” page is an ongoing process; stay competitive by updating it whenever you’ve made new achievements.

Here is an example of a good “About Us” as suggested by the Forbes article:

http://www.petrelocation.com/our-services/staff

November 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm 1 comment

The Hazards of Email: Avoiding Misunderstandings in Online Communication

By Caitlin Williamson

In 2007, Bloomberg Businessweek claimed that people received and sent around 200 emails a day, translating to 60,000 emails a year. With increasing ease in online communication, one can assume that now, in 2012, people are receiving many more than 200 emails a day.

With the move to social media and amplified use of the Internet as a means of communication, what was unfathomable twenty years ago is possible. We are able to talk to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

The instant communication of email is invaluable for the business world. It enables employers to give clear and consistent messages to thousands of employees in a matter of seconds. In international business, professionals can send emails and know with confidence that a co-worker 12 hours away by plane will be able to receive it within a matter of minutes.

Email has changed the way we live and communicate. However, email can be a tricky and potentially hazardous means of communication to use. Here’s why:

Email Provides Little Context For a Conversation: Have you ever been in a situation when you’ve sent an email, and someone misinterpreted your meaning? Or have you ever received an email and had difficulty knowing whether a comment was a joke? That’s because of the lack of context available in an email. In face-to-face conversations, tone, facial expressions, and nonverbal communication give away true meanings to words being said. Emails are not always clear—the person receiving the email has no basis of knowledge for how to take the message.

Emails Are Stored: Have you heard rumors about companies that have been sued because of employee emails? Well, it’s true. Emails are stored and can never truly be erased; therefore, emails can be brought back and used against you in the future. If you send out confidential information or say potentially harmful things about another person, the origin can be traced back to you. As a general rule, never send an email that you would not be comfortable sharing with the entire world, because in the age of the Internet, it could be traced.

Understanding the difficulty and dangers of email will make you a better online communicator. Here are tips for using email effectively:

  • Err on the Side of Caution: Knowing that others might misinterpret your message, provide context for your emails. When in doubt, be overly polite or conscientious in the message you are trying to convey.
  • Always Be Professional: Being professional is never bad. While a conversation may seem casual, professionalism will always ensure that your message comes across as credible.
  • Be Yourself: People receive hundreds of emails a day. You will be noticed and your message will be remembered if you can bring personality to your writing (while still remaining professional).
  • Know When to Pick Up the Phone: People often feel that they must communicate in the same way that they were initially contacted. However, you do not have to reply by email if you are contacted by email. With so much room for misunderstandings, communicating through email may not always be the best means of communication. You should know when to use email and when to call or have a face-to-face conversation.

Knowing the dangers of email and tips for online communication will make you a better communicator. In the world of business, communication is essential. There’s no room for mistakes or misunderstandings. The more you know about email, the better business person you will be.

September 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm 1 comment

Why so iProne?

By Thomas Byrd

Apple is about to release the iPhone5, and I’m just as excited as everyone else.  But why are we so excited?  Modern devices such as the iPhone5 have done wonders for the global business market by putting intercontinental communication at the world’s fingertips, but we’re missing something here.  We’re forgetting about the personal connections that we, as human beings, need to make with one another.  I’ve noticed recently that we seem to struggle to effectively communicate in person with our peers and colleagues—a trend related to technological advancements such as the iPhone5. Behavior that now starts at a very early age.

The iPhone is detrimental to the social development of the children in society.

I met a two-year-old girl about a month ago at a restaurant in Carrboro, NC, and I noticed that she was an extremely quiet child.  She never spoke.  After an hour or two with her parents and a few friends, I learned that she is always that quiet.  But I did watch her get her mother’s iPhone out of her bag, swipe her finger to unlock the home page, open up the photos application, and find a picture of her dog to show me.  For a kid who barely speaks and has only just begun using her legs, I found this behavior to be incredible—but also fairly sad.

iPhone Generation

iPhone Generation (Photo credit: xcode)

Next, consider children between the ages of 8 and 14 and what the Internet has to offer them.  Sure, many educational benefits result from using the iPhone and sure, parents may have the ability to restrict their children’s Internet access, but these restrictions don’t stop most kids.  They find ways around restrictions (if they’re even put into place to begin with); therefore, we see children growing up with a certain kind of “numbness” to violence, sex, and drugs—a desensitization that allows children to go through life not fully understanding the true nature of compassion or empathy for other human beings.

Why is the relationship with our smartphones more important than the relationships with our peers?

When I started going to school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I embraced the social atmosphere of campus.  I rarely listened to music with my headphones and enjoyed throwing a frisbee in the quad.  Now, six years later, I notice a difference in the atmosphere of the overcrowded sidewalks.  Students and staff, most of whom were strangers, used to make eye contact with one another and say hello.  I never see anyone’s eyes anymore.  And I almost never seem to have conversations with people whom I don’t know.  Not without a reason at least.  It is as if we’re nervous and reluctant to interact with one another, but why?

We need to make a conscious effort to lay down our smartphones in order to hold on to our interpersonal relationships.

Nervous and antisocial tendencies have become ever more prevalent in our communities, due primarily to our bond with technology.  This bond we have with our smartphones has contributed to a weakened ability to read facial cues, understand body language, and process tone of voice insomuch as we avoid interactions with strangers altogether because they can be awkward and tense.  I even find myself struggling to make solid eye contact with close friends of mine on occasion.  But we need to put a stop to all of that nervousness and allow ourselves to be vulnerable—to forget about our nerves and try to reconnect our communities on a basic, personal level. We need to turn our phones off and walk tall.  Say “hello” to a neighbor and strike up a conversation.  The iPhone5 will have its place, but it won’t shake your hand or smile at you.  It won’t comfort you when you’re sad, and it won’t congratulate you when you’ve accomplished something.  It won’t hug you or tell you that it loves you (unless you say it first).  But I will, so put down the phone and give me a chance to help you remember what it means to make a physical connection with someone in your community.

September 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm 4 comments


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