Thursday, September 10, 2009

Get Ahead in One Hour - Total.

With the utter lack of effort on so many 20-somethings parts these days, it's not hard to get a leg up. If you do need a few ideas however, start here...

Thank you notes. Send them after interviews (Hey Shop Girl, I don't think the horrible shoe company deserved one...just fyi). Not only does this thank the person who took time out of their busy schedule to hear you out but it also puts your name across their desk (and mind) one more time. When I recently stopped by for an interview myself I found out that for a different position that was opened they had received 300 applications! With 299 people in competition, that leg up can't hurt.

Don't limit thank you notes to interviewers only. Who doesn't appreciate a good thank you note? My mom and I recently had a conversation in which she said that my relatives (namely her side of the family) had pointed out how appreciative they were to receive thank you cards from me after gifts. Not half as thankful I'm sure, as I was to be the recipient of their generosity. No good deed should go unthanked, right?

Another great opportunity to use this? When someone helps you out at work. For example, at my soon-to-be-old-job we had to gather volunteers for events. This task fell on me several times. Taking the time afterwards to send a personal note to each person who gave up there day or weekend to aid us with our tasks went a long way in making those people feel appreciated. They would have been appreciated either way, but now they have the chance to know it.

I'm big fan of cards in general as I talked about here. But for now, I'll just stick to encouraging notes of the thank you variety. It takes 5-10 minutes to write a thank you card and drop it in the mail...just do it. I'll be generous and say that takes 10 minutes of the time (you have to walk to the mailbox, after all). That leaves me 50 more minutes to help you get ahead.

Return every phone call. Yes, I said it. Every stinking one. There's nothing worse than having to phone-stalk someone to get the answers you need. Don't be that person. Besides, with all the people participating in the bad habit of dodging phone calls, how much more will returning them set you apart? My friend, Meredith, recently called several magazine editors - she was shocked (and impressed) when the biggest fashion magazine name she called, called her back!

The phone call which took less than five minutes for her to get the desired answers not only made her day, but turned her into a fan. Insta-fans. Never a bad idea.

This requires about 20 minutes if you do it well. Sometimes more, I admit. Don't feel like you have to talk as long as each person wants...BUT set aside time every day to return calls. This again, is not limited to work only. How many of us have had to phone stalk friends as well? Or relatives? I joke often with my sisters about how I have to call them five times to get one return. Which is pretty much true. They're worth it, lucky for them. Most people, however, are not. Meet people halfway...this will help you get ahead in life both personally and professionally.

Be Early. My Dad always taught me to be the first person at work. Beat your boss. I also recently heard someone explain that it takes as much effort to be late as to be early - but only one of those will set you apart from your coworkers and lets be honest, 90% of your friends. Admittedly, I'm great at doing this for work....not so great at this on the personal life side. I'm working on it though. 10 more minutes used on this. You'll be surprised how much less stressed you will feel when you're not dodging pedestrians to get to work 'on time'. I've now used 40 minutes of your time...

Pack a lunch. This way you won't eat crap that will make you tired for the rest of the day and you won't waste your time going out. This time I've recently discovered is much better spent reading. I'm going through an extra book or so a month just by reading on my lunch breaks. I do love to find more time. 10 minutes to gain 30? That's my kind of math.

Planner power. I learned from my Momma that if you keep a detailed planner and reference it every morning, you won't forget the important things. This saves me missing appointments, forgetting to pick up that one thing at the store, or calling a friend to say 'Happy birthday'. My mom manages a schedule like no one I've ever met - and this is one area I don't mind turning into her. I even keep mine color coordinated (a bit excessive, I admit) by personal, important, work, and church functions. 10 minutes.

One hour to getting ahead...done and done.


Ebony Jewel said...

I'm great at thank you's, terrible at returning personal phone calls, I return each and every professional call. Being early is just a common sense thing to me, although to some 20 somethings we know it's not! Be early because you want to set yourself apart from your competition and not even your competition, but from your coworkers! I would love to pack a lunch, but living from a suitcase 3 days week also means you eat out (but healthy) every meal!

I soooooooo need to buy a planner!! I've been thinking about this for a few weeks now, but haven't made the effort to get off my butt & buy one. I guess because I don't really know what I need. I hate writing in small spaces, yet I don't want to carry a huge planner around with me either. I need to buy one today though; I start back to my regular travel schedule next week, so I need to get my flight info down!

One thing that has been really really helpful for me in my career is my little black notebook. I have a small spiral notebook that I used to write down tasks that I need to complete. Outside of each task I put a [ ] so I can mark the item. I use a check mark for items that are complete, an X for items that are no longer required, and CF for items that I will carry forward to the next page. I only use this work at the moment, I don't use it in my personal life, but it helps me soooooooooooo much at work! That way I can go back & make sure I've completed all of my tasks.

And because I'm super anal retentive LOL, I work for a software consulting company, I get emails from tons of people on a daily basis, my internal team members, external clients, potential customers, etc. I create outlook folders for every recipient & once I've finished all of the items in their email, I file their mail into the folder that matches their name. A lot of people laugh at me for doing that, I just remind them that I never have to look high & low for emails when someone says I sent you an email on x date. I say okay, hold on, open their folder & find the email.

Hehehe and last thing. A website called I have an iPhone, so the Tripit app is great for anyone that travels tor any period of time to any place, there is a super awesome application called TripIt. TripIt stores all of your trip information for you, so you'll have it in one place, very easily accessible when you're on the road as much as I am. Tripit is super easy to use - when you make any reservation for hotel, rental cars, etc, forward the email to & tripit will set up all of your trip details with all of your confirmation numbers. I recently ran into an issue with Avis saying I didn't have a reservation when I did in fact have one. I opened up tripit & was able to provide them with the reservation number, instead of having to fumble with paper or even search my email on my iPhone to find that info!

So there are my tidbits of advice & I will def get a planner while I'm out today!

Alright - gotta run, lunch date with my girls at 12! :)

Laura said...

I like this post; everything you wrote about is so true! Thank you letters after an interview really do help. I have a friend in HR and when hiring for a position once she had over 30 applicants/interviews. Only one person sent a thank you, and she gave that person the job because of it!

PS- I'm the same way about being early for work but not for personal life things :)

MK said...

I *adore* this post. I think we may be blog soulmates. Thank you cards might be my favorite things to write, next to cards for absolutely no reason other than just thinking about you. My exboyfriends Mom told me that I must have been raised extraordinarily well, because she hadn't seen a hand written thank you in years (I wrote it after we met for the first time). I live by my planner, I consider myself late if I'm on time, I make my meals for the week on Sundays, but I never return phone calls. I rarely even pick up my phone, never listen to voicemails, but its true, when I DO call them back...I feel better! Even if its just a friend calling to say hi, I swear I carry guilt in the back of my head for not calling her back.

But one of my mottos, is never underestimate the power of a hand written thank you note.

Helen said...

Nicely said, I'm starting to thnk I should print out and file al of these posts for when I need this kind of advice!

P.S. Tagged you!