Quick Tip: Remember People’s Names

Do you have a hard time remembering people’s names? If you ever find yourself sitting at a conference table and want to make sure you don’t get anyone mixed up, here’s a tip: Collect everyone’s business cards before the meeting starts.

When you sit down, line up the cards in front of you according to their seating order so you can easily match the name with the face. Don’t worry about hiding your cards either – it’s a widely-accepted practice and a quick, easy reference tool!

If you want to be more inconspicuous, you can just write everyone’s names (and positions, if possible) in the top corner of your notepad. No one will think twice when you’re flipping back through your notes! This is a great way to remember everyone’s name whether you’re in a large meeting, watching a discussion panel, or having coffee with a bunch of new people.

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May 2, 2008 at 8:12 am Leave a comment

How to Solve 3 Common Work Mistakes

The name of the game changes when you enter the workforce, so it’s understandable that a lot of people make mistakes early on in their careers. Here’s how to pick yourself up after the occasional mishap.

hate my job1. What if you already hate your job on your first day there?
Things like this happen. It’s important that you maintain integrity and don’t put the people who hired you in a bad position. Show them respect by telling them how you’re feeling as soon as possible. Be honest, but nice. Tell them that you’d like to talk to them privately and explain your initial concerns. Explain that you’re worried you might have had the wrong impression or expectations.

But be sure to leave room in case you misread the situation. Maybe you’re in a special training program, office or project for the first few weeks. Maybe you’re in the wrong position. Or maybe you didn’t understand their expectation. Be specific about what you like or don’t like so far and talk about possible options with the company. The worst thing you can do is be a coward and just not show up again. It’s disrespectful and shows no sign of integrity.

2. What if you take on more work than you can handle?
Again, be honest. Some managers and bosses will want to test you to see how much you can handle – and that’s not a bad thing! There’s nothing wrong with having to prove yourself or earn respect in an organization. It’s good to show people what you’re capable of!

However, use extra caution if you could cause real damage to your boss or company by not finishing the workload or not completing it successfully. Sometimes you can lose more credibility by saying you can do something and not following through, simply for having asked to be trusted. Be dependable. Also, be honest about your concerns and give it your best shot. Recognize that you have to do whatever it takes to achieve the objective – even if that means recruiting the help of another.

3. What if you got embarrassingly drunk at the company outing?
First, make sure you didn’t offend anyone or do anything too inappropriate. If you did, deal with it right away to avoid gossip. Apologize for your lack of judgment and try to make sure the relationship you bruised is still in tact. If it was harmless (ask your closer coworkers to make sure), it might be better not to bring it up and just be on extremely good behavior for a while. If it comes up, acknowledge it lightly. If you sense pain, discomfort, anger or resentment, apologize sincerely.

May 1, 2008 at 10:58 pm Leave a comment

11 Essential Moving Tips

Do you know that May is one of the most popular months to move? It’s probably because millions of students move back home or into their own places at the end of the school year… and also because no one wants to move in the dead heat of summer. Whatever the reason, take it from me: Moving is tough work!

Last week, I went to New York on a family emergency: My mother was moving from a big house into an apartment in the city; she was sick and frozen emotionally. She couldn’t bring herself to pack a single box. The days were ticking and during my weekend rescue trip, I was quickly sequestered (or maybe you could say suckered) into staying an entire week to finish the deed. It was definitely one of the most stressful weeks of my life, but a successful one at that… and I definitely earned some serious brownie points with mom. 🙂

After my experience, I felt compelled to share 11 of my best take-away tips, since moves like this are inevitable for all of us (and our beloved families) at some time or another:

  1. Buy the good packing tape! Cheap tape continuously gets stuck to the roll. You’ll spend more time gnawing it with your teeth and nails then you will sealing boxes closed!
  1. Buy different boxes for different things if you can. It costs more, but it will make things so much easier and safer! Book boxes are small so they’re easier to lift. Wardrobe boxes are huge with a bar to hang your clothes and coats on. You can even throw your shoes or bedding in the bottom to maximize space.
  1. Use a big thick black marker to clearly label what’s in each box and exactly where it’s going. For example: “Jan’s Bedroom Closet – Athletic Shoes.” Think about the mover (or a lucky friend or relative) standing with the box at the front door of your new place wondering what the heck to do with it. Make sure it ends up as close to its final destination as possible so you don’t have to move things twice, or worse case, not find what you need with you’re buried in boxes.
  1. Keep a list of all boxes so you have a full accounting of what you packed.
  1. Mark a handful of boxes “Open First” or “Open Immediately.” Pack all the stuff you need every day, like toiletries, underwear, utensils, current bills, pet food, etc.
  1. Separate things into 3 piles: Trash, Donate and Pack. Think about what might be helpful, useful or inspirational to others. We gave silk flowers, plants and medical books to a senior center, books to the library and old sewing equipment to my mom’s tailor (who was thrilled!).
  1. Take a shot at selling anything you can on Craigslist or eBay. Just take good heed of the scam warnings. And know upfront that people who apparently really want to buy your stuff can be really flakey so implement the “first come WITH CASH or DEPOSIT wins” rule. I tried to be nice and offered people first shot, second, third… and got screwed for being so thoughtful. Also consider posting signs up around your neighborhood promoting a little “moving sale” with whatever you have at the end on your last two or three days to clear out the final stuff. Many local charities will also arrange delivery of anything from furniture, TVs, computers, clothes, or if you’re really feeling generous, cars.
  1. Resist the urge to just throw stuff in boxes. Be thoughtful. Throw the junk and stuff you don’t need or won’t ever use out. The worst thing is transporting more boxes than you need to your new place, only to keep those boxes hermetically sealed for years because you just don’t have the energy to go through them or deal with them.
  1. About a week or two before your move, fill out all of your “change of address” calls and forms. Remember it might take some time to get your phone, cable, or other essentials reinstalled or set up so get those requests in early. Also make sure that your utilities and creditors know your new address before your billing cycle ends, or be sure to write the new address on the back of your bills when you send them in. (Something like that!)
  1. Leave a nice note to the new people moving into your old place welcoming them. Then leave them your contact info in case they need to reach you or end up with any unexpected packages… or visitors! Thank them in advance.
  1. If you’re moving out of an apartment or condo with a landlord, be sure to leave a good final impression. You may end up needing them for references in the future!

April 30, 2008 at 6:56 pm Leave a comment

What’s Your Game Plan for Life?

Once you have your Ideal Life concept articulated and you can confirm with some confidence where it is that you want to go, a Grand Plan will help you connect the dots between where you are now and your Ideal Life. The most important thing to do is, to the best of your ability, determine what the critical steps or benchmarks are to get from here to there. Write the steps down, then add a series of intermediary steps in between along with “time to completion” estimates.

Ideal Life Component/Category: Chose an area of your Ideal Life that you want to focus on (career, finances, personal development, health, relationships, etc.)

Status Today: Include a brief description of your current situation or where you’re starting from at this exact moment in time, in this particular category.

Major Benchmarks: Write out the major benchmarks that would form a logical path to lead you to achieving your ideal situation.

Intermediate Action Steps: Work out your first set of intermediate steps that can lead you to connect one benchmark to the next.

Estimated Time: Estimate how long it should take you to complete each action step. Commit to a reasonable timeline.

Ideal Life Realization: Lastly, finish off the exercise with a little reminder of what you’re working towards in the first place. What will signify for you that you’ve achieved your ideal situation or goal?

April 29, 2008 at 9:00 pm Leave a comment

Intellectual Property: Don’t Let Someone Steal Your Business Idea!

Everyday that you avoid talking about your dreams is just another day that something incredible could have happened to help.

It’s amazing how some people avoid talking about what they do. Worse yet, sometimes when they have an idea for a business, or are in the process of starting something, they still feel like they need to keep quiet; sometimes they’re nervous, embarrassed, or just think their timing is premature. But isn’t this when you need help more than ever?

Here are a couple of the most common excuses about keeping quiet, and some advice on how to do just the opposite.

Someone will steal my idea!
Ideas are cheap – any entrepreneur will tell you that. Fortunately, most people are not entrepreneurs, and will never do anything with even the greatest of ideas they may hear. If you really think there is a serious threat, particularly regarding patents and inventions, talk to a lawyer and learn what you should and should not say, which will help to put your mind at ease.

I’m not ready to do anything with it yet
There are a million reasons why we procrastinate when making major life decisions, but when it comes to putting a really big idea into action, sometimes you just have to take a chance. If there is an idea that has been nagging at you for years, it might never leave you alone until you do something about it. Just take some baby steps and start talking to people. Things sometimes happen when you least expect them to.

I haven’t done enough research yet
Few people are ever totally prepared for launching a business or big idea – and that’s okay. The unspoken rule, particularly among entrepreneurs, is that you figure out most things along the way. So dive in and take every challenge as it comes – the unknown will soon be just another adventure to you.

What if people think it’s silly?
If confidence is your big stopping block, start working on it now. Without believing that you can make this thing fly, you’re going to have a hard time convincing anyone else of it. Now is the time to be bold and prove to the world that you are the next great thinker and doer – you’ll find that your enthusiasm can be really contagious.

I don’t want to risk losing my job
This is a very real, understandable fear. The first bit of advice in situations like this is not to quit your day job until you have a way to support yourself with your big idea or business. Projects like these always take more time to generate money than we expect. Second, don’t let your new business interfere with your responsibilities at work; at some point it will become a problem to balance both, and that’s when you leave. Third, in some cases, employers can actually be supportive of people trying to start their own companies, especially if they will not be direct competitors, and if the employees are not what you’d call “essential” to the operation of their businesses. Since this is not too common, however, be sure you know your employer’s attitudes about life after the company pretty well before spilling the news.

So, now that we’ve covered the big reasons you may have for hiding your dreams, just think about what you could gain from squawking. Give it a try – start telling everyone about your plans or thoughts and see what happens.

April 28, 2008 at 10:27 am Leave a comment

8 Tips to Get Media Attention

Nothing helps your business more than getting mentioned in a popular magazine, newspaper, blog, website or TV news segment. As I continue spreading the word about YSN.com, I’ve learned that journalists are in business too, and like you, they have pressures, deadlines, idiosyncrasies and yes, lives. If you think your life is stressful, follow around a journalist for a little while. Remember, as an entrepreneur, your stress is created internally, as you have decided to be “in charge.” Journalists are at the mercy of many others who often control their every move. So showing them that you understand and respect their jobs will give them the incentive that they need to give you the time of day, and sometimes even their friendship. To build the foundation for a favorable relationship with the media, consider these simple steps:

1. Why should they write about you?
Come up with a list of story angles that a journalist could use to write an article about you and your business. Decide what makes your story newsworthy. Are you unusually young for a business owner in your area/field? Have you started a company that is out of the ordinary, or provides a new or specialized product or service? Then, write down a list of attributes that could be used as “buzzwords,” or phrases, to describe you or your venture. Some examples might include: “woman business owner,” “Native American” or “cyberjunkie.” If you are doing your homework and reading your industry’s trade journals, newsletters and other publications, you should have no problem finding the industry catch phrases.

2. Build your own media list
Compile a media list of publications and media sources (newspapers, journals, radio shows, talk shows and news programs) that you believe are most likely to write a story like yours. Collect all of their vital information – complete company name, address, phone and fax – as well as a suitable contact person, if possible. Be selective. Don’t send info to people who clearly do not cover your industry, topic or share your audience/clients. Journalists are constantly bombarded with unsolicited press kits, so don’t waste their time (or your money) sending them literature on your business banking on the off-chance they might make an exception. There are too many publications, journals, organizations and news stations that will be interested in what you are doing to bother those who don’t. The worst thing you can do is provoke a journalist to request that you don’t contact them again.

3. Who do I contact?
For business publications, send media kits to the Managing Editor or Senior Editor. They are more likely to be the ones personally writing or overseeing feature stories, and are usually the best ones to review new story leads. For general interest publications, find the name of one of the editors who covers your field (contact information is usually available in a thin column called a “rote box” in the first few pages of a magazine or newspaper). Never bother the publisher since they’re usually a business manager of the company, not a journalist. Often publishers are not even located in the same offices as the editorial departments, and thus are most likely to disregard or misdirect your information.

4. When to pitch your story
Create your own media calendar to help you preplan PR campaigns. A good way to start is by studying your company/industry’s business cycles. When are your busiest months? If, for example, you provide a career-oriented service for students, your business cycles would peak around May and December, when students are most likely to be hunting for jobs. If you look at some of your media targets around these times, they too are probably keeping tabs on graduating students. This is when you most need them to know who you are.

5. Plan Ahead
Most major monthly magazines have a three month lead time. On your media calendar, keep track of your “target media months,” or months when you would like your information to appear in the press. Then from each of your target months, move two months backwards and note issue closing months. Then move one more month before and note press release due dates.
If you are dealing with a daily or weekly publication, the best time to release information to them is usually closer to a few days or three weeks prior to publication, respectively. For any other distribution cycles, call the publication directly to inquire about their specific issue closings. Another good idea, while you have them on the phone, is to request a copy of their publishing calendar. Understanding when journalists are most likely to be interested in your story can save you a lot of time and greatly improve your chances of being mentioned or featured in an article.

6. Make yourself invaluable.

Be a resource to the media. If a journalist or editor calls you for information on your company, or even your industry, jump. Don’t appear too anxious, but give them everything they want and more – but keep it brief. If they say they’re on a deadline (and they’ll tell you), restrict your correspondence to brief faxes, voice mail or quick calls should they request that you contact them directly. The more attentive you are to their needs, the more likely they are to keep in contact with you. All journalists have their own group of people they consider personal sources for various issues; if you can become one of these people, sooner or later you are sure to be rewarded with some great publicity.

7. Follow up
Always follow up with a thank you letter for any article or interview that you receive – even if you are interviewed, and you do not appear in the article (which happens often), follow up and thank them anyway. It’s very easy to get frustrated after you have spent a great deal of time gathering or offering information and insight to a media agent and you do not get recognized for it, but don’t let that get in the way of good manners!

8. Keep in touch
Send your media contacts an occasional note or mailing as your company changes, expands or diversifies to let them know about the latest news. This is an excellent way for you to stay fresh in their minds and allow them to stay abreast of your progress effortlessly.

April 25, 2008 at 11:04 am Leave a comment

10 Ways To Get What You Want In Business

Learning how to be bold and direct, and demanding respect, fairness and attention is part of being a successful business person. This isn’t to say that there’s no place in the business world for being friendly and nice but being “too soft” can delay your progress. As someone once put it, “If you leave room for people to take advantage of you, they will.” Here are 10 tips to help get what you want, when you want, from the people you need most:
  1. Keep a record of your goals and objectives. Refer to it often to ensure that you stay on track. Share this with someone you trust and have them help keep you in line.
  2. Figure out what you want before you meet with people. You’re then more likely to remember your goal, form your discussion around it, and ultimately achieve it.
  3. Let people know when you need help with something. Even if they can’t help you themselves, they’re more likely to find you someone else who can.
  4. Don’t leave questions unanswered. If you have them, ask!
  5. Don’t be afraid to walk away. If you feel you may be wasting your time, or could be taken advantage of, your willingness to go elsewhere may be what prompts someone else to take action in your favor.
  6. If you want to solidify a deal or an agreement, or just protect yourself, write it down. A lot of people will try to backtrack from promises they make if there is no way of holding them accountable.
  7. Tell people what you want from them. Do use some tact, but be direct. Most business people will respect you more for it.
  8. Give people the best reason to want to help you. Being a good person is the first step. If people like you, they’re more likely to go out of their way for you.
  9. Always think in terms of creating win-win situations. How can helping you help them? Figure this out first and you’re one step closer to getting what you want.
  10. Believe in yourself and your business. If you truly think you have what it takes to succeed, make it happen.

April 24, 2008 at 10:28 am Leave a comment

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