Work Well When Working Remotely


Over the past few years, working remotely (also referred to as telecommuting and working from home) have become more and more commonplace.  There are websites like devoted to finding flexible work-from-home positions and many employers offer the ability to work from home as a company perk. The majority of Gen Z and Millennial workers say they work from home at least one day per week.

Not everybody likes to work from home for a number of reasons. Maybe you miss having a big desk set up just how you like it. Or you miss the social aspect of working around a number of people. This is partly why co-working companies like WeWork exist and why you see people camped out with their laptops in coffee shops all day.

But in the past couple of weeks, as the novel coronavirus Covid-19 makes its way around the world, remote working has taken on greater significance as more than a perk letting you cut down on a long commute or throw in a load of laundry before dialing into a conference call.  It’s being used as a possible avenue to reduce the spread of the virus itself.  As far as researchers know to date, this strain of coronavirus spreads like other respiratory viruses: from person-to-person and from objects.

While the US hasn’t ordered the kind of large-scale quarantines we have seen in China and Italy, major employers with offices in areas where Covid-19 is making its presence known, like Amazon in Seattle, have taken the step of asking employees to work remotely. Schools are also employing online learning to reduce person-to-person contact of their students and staff (also known as social distancing).

While the full extent of the spread of coronavirus in the US remains to be seen, if you find yourself working from home, whether as a company perk or a necessity, there are a few things you can do to make sure you stay productive, keep some separation of work and life, and get your social fix.

  • Set Up a Designated Office Space
    • If you only occasionally work from home, you might be tempted to just plop down on the sofa with your laptop, remote in hand. While that may work out well for a couple of days, it’s not necessarily a strategy for long-term success.
    • Instead, space permitting in your home, find a spot where you can set up a home office of sorts. Even if that spot is your couch, use the same spot each time.
    • The idea is to push your brain into “work mode” instead of “home mode.”
    • If your work setup is fairly complex – for example, if you use two monitors at work and are planning to work from home remotely regularly – it may be worth buying monitors and a docking station so you can create the same setup.
      • Bonus Tip: Before spending your own cash on this, check to see if your employer has a technology allowance or budget to purchase monitors or docking stations for remote employees.
  • Stick to a Morning Routine
    • While the occasional work-from-home day in your pajamas is certainly a nice treat, resist the urge to make it a habit, especially if you work from home a lot.
    • Instead, get up at your regular time and stick to your usual routine by getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc.
    • Don’t get us wrong, unless you conduct a lot of video conferences, there’s likely no reason to wear business clothes (and even then, you really only need a business-appropriate top!), so go ahead and embrace the sweats or leggings…just wear different ones during the day than you wore to bed.
  • Take Breaks
    • If you normally grab coffee with a coworker at 11am each day, take a quick walk around your block at that time, or pop in a load of laundry. Your mental breaks might look a little different working from home, but you should still take them.
  • Stop Work at Your Usual Stopping Time
    • When working from home, it’s very easy to blur the line between work life and home life. That is one reason why setting up a dedicated office space is helpful – spending all day laying on the couch doing work and all evening laying on the couch watching TV is not a recipe for a good work-life balance.
    • So if your normal stopping time is 5:30pm, then at that time, shut down your computer and put it away. Do your usual dinner and evening routine. If you need to log back in to do work later or just want to in order to get a jump on the next day, of course go ahead, but make sure you take a break to mentally reset away from work and back to home.
  • Make Sure Your Roommates and/or Family Are on Board
    • If you live with others, especially others who may be home during the day, make sure you communicate to them your work schedule to avoid disruptions during the day.
    • Similarly, don’t hang out with them (or invite friends over to hang out) unless you’re off the clock. Would you invite non-work friends to hang out in your cubicle? If not, follow the same practice at home.
  • Pick up the Phone
    • Working from home can be very isolating, especially if you are working from home due to social distancing rather than preference.
    • Nowadays, much of our work is done over email. You may hate talking on the phone or have no need to do so when you’re in the office – you can just pop in on your boss or coworker for some face time.
    • But when you work from home on the regular, the phone takes on greater importance. If you usually check in with your boss a couple of times a week for an in-person meeting, schedule a call to do that. Do you usually spend some time chatting with a coworker about office news?  Take a virtual coffee break from your home offices over the phone or video chat. You might feel silly at first, especially if you normally steer clear of phone calls, but human connection is important and when you cannot do it face to face, the phone is a great substitute.

Photo by A R C H I G E R O S A on Unsplash

Dragging at Work? How to Stay Motivated

It’s mid-February.  The excitement of the holidays has waned, New Year resolutions are a guilt-inducing memory, and the weather outside is gray and cold.  It’s no shock that people consistently identify February as one of their least favorite months of the year.

The winter doldrums often extend to the workplace: sometimes, you just don’t feel like doing anything.  I find myself lagging when I have work to do but no pressing deadlines. It’s hard to get motivated to get stuff done without a sense of urgency, but it’s also not that fun having projects hanging over my head.

My solution is twofold:

  1. I block out time in my calendar for each task I need to get done.
  2. I make up smaller, internal deadlines.

Let’s say I have to research and draft a section of a report to a client.

First, I take a look at my calendar for the day and block out the time I think I need to research and write it. For this project, I will assign myself 4 hours in total.

Second, I break out the project into smaller steps. I give myself 2 hours to research, 30 minutes to outline my points, 1.25 hours to write it, and 15 minutes to proof it.

As the afternoon ticks by, my calendar notifications remind me where I should be in the process. As I complete each step, I also like to cross that item off my to do list, giving me an additional (if minor) sense of accomplishment which in turn motivates me to continue.

What do you do if following these steps isn’t enough – if you’re still struggling to get anything done?

As a last ditch effort, I set a timer on my phone for fifteen minutes and just start writing the report. No research, no plan, just pure stream of consciousness. At the end of the fifteen minutes, what I’ve written is probably not great, in fact, it’s often pretty bad! But at least I’ve gotten something on the page, and after fifteen minutes of constant work, I usually find that I can drum up enough motivation to keep at it for a while longer.

Photo: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Bottom Photo: TheCareerFiles

Reader Q&A: Improving Attention to Detail

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I just had my semi-annual review. My feedback was generally good, but I was instructed to work on my attention to detail in my written work. Any suggestions?


I’m so glad your review went well! Attention to detail is extremely important for many jobs.  At the same time, it’s an area where a lot of people struggle and a very common note for improvement during review time, especially if your job requires a lot of writing.  When you are instructed to improve your attention to detail, you’re really being told to stop making little mistakes. This applies to both the substance and formatting of your work product.  Some tips:

1) Proofread everything: memos, document mark-ups, emails, etc. Figure out a foolproof way to catch errors. That could mean printing out the document and reviewing in hard copy. Or read it from the bottom up, starting with the last sentence. Reading out of context sometimes makes it easier to catch errors. Try out different methods until you hit on one that works for you.

2) Pay attention to formatting: Your memo may include a killer argument, but if you use multiple fonts or font sizes, inconsistent spacing, weird margins, or present a multi-page wall of text without headers, the reader’s eye is going to be drawn to that stuff, not the substance. Ask for sample work product from your supervisor to get a sense for their preferred style and mimic it. Also, your company might have style guidelines you should use for certain communications like newsletters or client proposals. Make sure you follow those.

4) Review markups without tracked changes: If you are asked to turn edits on a document and to make your edits in tracked changes, look at the document without tracked changes showing before returning it to your supervisor.  This will help you catch any typos, formatting problems, or substantive issues, which are easy to miss in a mark-up.

5) Before handing in an assignment: The last thing you should do before turning in an assignment is to look back at your notes from the initial request to make sure you answered the question asked. If you have received edits or feedback along the way, check those to make sure you incorporated all those comments into your final draft.

Image Credit: Unsplash

Reader Q&A: Avoiding Alcohol at Work

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Today, I answer a question from a junior employee concerned about turning down a drink at work.


I am working at my first job after college. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but so far it’s going great! I have noticed that my office tends to blow off steam and bond by going out for a drink after work. I don’t drink alcohol. Is this going to be a problem for me? What should I say if people notice I’m not drinking?


Congrats on your new job! Work events can tend to focus on drinking whether it’s a weekly happy hour or a big client dinners. But if you don’t drink – for whatever reason – it shouldn’t be a big deal. I’ve seen lots of people successfully handle this in a few ways:

Option 1: Order a beverage – like a glass of club soda with lime – and sip on that. You don’t need to call attention to the fact that it doesn’t contain alcohol if you don’t want to.

Option 2: Order an alcoholic beverage and just hold it all night.

Option 3: Turn down a drink with a simple, “No thanks.” Or with “No thanks, I’m good for now.” (Adding “for now…” might invite a second offer of a drink later, but it usually stops conversation in the moment.)

Option 4: Turn down a drink and explain that you don’t drink: “No thanks, I don’t drink.”

Whatever you decide to do on any given day, the key is to be casual and treat it like a non-issue. Usually everyone else will follow suit. But…sometimes, they don’t. Here’s how this can play out if you come across someone who tries to turn it into a big deal:

Boss: Hey employee, grab a beer!

Employee: I’m good, thanks.

Boss: Are you sure? We’ve got wine too, help yourself!

Employee: I’m fine, thanks. So, what do you think of tonight’s event? Great venue, huh?

Boss: Yeah, it’s cool. You sure you don’t want a drink?

Employee: Yeah, I’m good. I don’t really drink. So, I wanted to ask you about xyz file you’re working on…

Partner: You don’t drink? What? Why?

Employee: No, I don’t. (Or, No, I don’t, due to allergies/religion/never developed a taste/etc.) I am, however, basically responsible for keeping my favorite seltzer company in business! Anyway, what’s keeping you busy these days?

Boss: Actually, I’ve got this really great new project…

In short:

The easiest way to make this a non-issue is to: (1) have some kind of beverage in your hand, even water, making it easier to turn down a drink without explanation, (2) decline casually with a smile, and (3) appear to be having a good time at the event even if gasp, you’re not drinking alcohol. Abstaining around drinkers sometimes causes the drinkers to question their own alcohol consumption. This is a them issue, not a you issue, but you may find you have a better time at alcohol-soaked work events if you maintain a low-key approach.

In the vast majority of situations, I think you’ll find that abstaining is just not a big deal or even noticeable, so don’t worry about it, and keep rocking it at your new job!

Photo by Quentin Dr on Unsplash

How I Paid off Six Figures of Student Loans in Five Years

It’s no secret that many people graduate from college and graduate schools in deep debt.  Tuition can run $30,000 or more per year, and many students take out extra loans to cover books, rent, and personal expenses during school. After graduation, they may take on more debt to cover living expenses while looking for a job. It is not uncommon to owe tens or even hundreds of thousands dollars of debt by the time you graduate, especially if you earned a graduate degree.

There are many ways to think about paying off your loans. How quickly you are able to do it depends in large part on your salary, but even if you’re not making bank, you can create a plan to pay down your loans quickly by setting your priorities and managing expenses.

Paying my loans off earlier than they were due was a priority for me because while I was fortunate to get a great job, I graduated with my law degree during the Great Recession and had no idea how long it would last. I also didn’t want to have to make all my career choices based on money while my loans were hanging over my head.

So here are the five steps I took.

1. I set my priorities.

  • Obviously you want to pay down your student loan debt. But what else do you want to prioritize? Retirement? General savings? A down payment for house? A wedding fund?
  • Here’s what I did:
    • My priority was to get out of debt quickly while creating an emergency fund and saving for retirement.
    • Retirement savings were important to me not only because one day I would actually like to retire but also because funneling money into my 401k earned me some tax savings.
    • An emergency fund was important to me because I essentially had no savings when I graduated and moved to a very expensive city. Also, the economy had tanked, which didn’t exactly make me feel very good about my job security. The thought of getting laid off without any money in savings to tide me over was terrifying.
    • I was also willing to prioritize paying off my loans even if it meant adding years to the timeline to buy a house or make other large expenditures.

2. I figured out my monthly budget.

  • In order to figure out how much you can afford to pay each month on your loans, you need to understand how much money you have coming in every month and how much you have going out.
  • There are lots of different tools you can use from websites like, software like You Need a Budget, or old fashioned pen and paper.
  • Once you get a sense for your monthly cash outlay, figure out where you can cut back on expenses or ways to make more money, even if it’s as simple as taking advantage of windfalls like yearly bonuses or credit card reward points.
  • When cutting expenses, think big and small. We’ve all read the articles promising a debt-free life by cutting out your morning latte or your avocado toast and putting that money toward your debt. Over time, that will certainly help you reach your goal. But making a one-time decision to rent a cheaper apartment is also a simple solution with big rewards. You may find that keeping your fixed expenses low will do more for your bottom line than lots of little changes.
  • Here’s what I did:
    • I am not a great line-item budgeter. I would rather focus on big-picture items.
    • So first, I rented an apartment in a cheaper neighborhood with a roommate.
    • Then I gave myself a set amount of spending money per month, across all “categories” (entertainment, restaurants, groceries, clothing, etc.) and I kept that money in a separate amount from the account where my paychecks were deposited.
    • Using a separate account helped with the temptation to overspend. I used the debit card tied to this account for all of my monthly expenses.
    • Another easy way for me to avoid over-spending was to shop online for groceries and household items. It’s so easy to wander into a store for one item and walk out with three! Those little trips add up.
    • A bonus of this plan was that I could take advantage of online shopping programs like Ebates (now Rakuten) to get money back over time. It does not add up to a lot, but every little bit counts when you’re staring down mountains of debt.

3. I set a goal.

  • Once you understand where your money is going and where you can cut expenses, set a goal. This is the amount of money you are planning to pay each month to your loans, beyond the minimum payment.
  • How much can you afford to pay on your loans per month? Be realistic but aggressive.
  • Think about the speed and manner in which you want to pay off your loans. Do you want to focus on your smallest loan first? Or pay them off in order of highest interest to lowest interest in order to save more over time?
  • Here’s what I did:
    • I picked an amount of money that I thought I could actually save each month extra toward my loans. Keeping it realistic helped me stay motivated when I met my goal each month, but it was still a number I had to work to achieve. So if after accounting for my bills and discretionary spending each month I discovered that I easily had $100 left over without even trying, I set a goal of paying $150 extra for a bit of a challenge.
    • I put this extra money toward my oldest loans first, which also happened to have the higher interest rates.
    • In addition to a monthly goal, I set a long-term goal. I decided I wanted to pay off my loans before I hit 5 years out from school. This was a tough but not crazy goal based on my salary. Remember: be realistic but aggressive.
    • Also: whenever I paid off a loan or got a raise, I funneled ALL that extra money to the remaining loans. This helped me avoid the “golden handcuffs” and inflated lifestyle of a higher salary and allowed me to pay off my loans even faster.

4. I put my plan into action.

  • Once you figure out what to prioritize, what your budget looks like and how much you want to pay on your loans, it’s time to put your plan into action.
  • This is the hard part. You know what you need to do, now you just need to do it. Staying motivated while you knock out thousands of dollars in debt can be difficult. That’s why it is important to set realistic goals for yourself based on your actual spending habits and life priorities. If your plan makes sense, it will be easier to follow.
  • Here’s what I did:
    • Because I did not want to have to track every day-to-day purchase (see above – line-item budgeting is not really my thing), I worked at a higher level.
    • First, I set up all of my accounts to auto-pay: rent, cell phone, utilities, retirement contributions, regular savings for my emergency fund, and the monthly minimums on my student loans.
    • Next, as I explained above, I transferred my monthly discretionary spending amount to the separate checking account on the first of each month. All of my fun money came out of this account, as did necessities like groceries. It saved me from having to keep a super specific budget of these categories, and I could just check my account balance online whenever I wanted to keep an eye on things. And when the money is gone, the money is gone until the first of the next month.
      • Note that in order for this system to work, you cannot cheat by say, paying your credit card out of another bank account. BUT if you want to take advantage of a credit card rewards program, you could use your credit card for daily expenses instead of a separate checking account. Just make sure you can trust yourself not to overspend and add to credit card debt to your money woes.
    • On a set date each month, I wrote a check to the loan companies. I directed them to use the extra payment toward the principal so that my monthly balance stayed the same. (That step is important! You may have to call the loan companies directly to have them apply the money properly. Even though I sent a letter and made a note on my checks that the money was for the principal, I had to make a call almost every month asking the loan company to apply the extra money to the principal when they instead just applied the money as an early payment for next month.)

5. I tracked my progress.

  • Tracking your progress is crucial to staying motivated while you work through your plan.
  • Here’s what I did:
    • I set up a spreadsheet listing all of my bank accounts and loan balances in a column down the left side of the spreadsheet and placed the months of the year across the top row. I listed all my bank accounts in black and my loan balances in red font. I then added up the account column to total my net worth, using red font again to indicate when it was negative.
    • Every month I updated the numbers under that month’s column. It was so motivating to see more rows turn from red to black over time as my net worth went from a hugely negative number to zero, and finally to positive, and I was able to pay off my loans completely just shy of five years after graduation.

That’s it – five steps and I was on my way to being debt-free. As I said at the outset, there are many ways to attack your debt. If your student loans are at very low interest rates, you could funnel your extra money into index funds where you think you’ll get a better return and make lump sump payments years in the future. If your loan payments are super manageable, you might decide to pay the loans on schedule. If you’re one of the lucky few who qualifies for a public interest loan repayment program, you should focus your energy on making sure you continue to tick the boxes to qualify year after year.  Do what’s right for you, your financial goals, and your risk threshold.  

Pic Credit: Oliver Thomas Klein (via Unsplash)

Take Back Control: How to Avoid Being Really, Really Busy at Work

As a sequel to my last post (how to deal with being really, really busy), I want to spend a little bit of time talking about what you can do to avoid getting to the point of work overload.

In truth, sometimes there is nothing you can do. This is true when you are senior as well as junior.

That said, here are my tips at two important points in your work cycle…

When your workload is slow: When your work slows down, you might find yourself feeling anxious about it.  If you have to account for your time at work using the dreaded billable hour or its equivalent you may be especially prone to a case of nerves when you experience a lull in work.  If you’ve had a few days with nothing much to do, check in with your supervisor.  Just because you’re slow now, does not mean you’re going to be slow in a few days. There might be a big deadline coming up you don’t know about just yet, in which case you should take advantage of the slow period! And get to know the norms of your office as well – do you work in a place where it is important to appear busy at all times, or is it ok to take it slow for a few days after a big project wraps. That should guide when you check in with your supervisor for more work if you’re a bit slow.

When you are asked to take on new work: If you have one supervisor, this is pretty easy to handle – if you find yourself drowning in work, ask your supervisor to help you prioritize your workload. They will have insight into what is urgent and what can be put on the back burner while you catch up.

If you report to multiple supervisors, who can all assign you work, this can be a little trickier.  If you’re already at capacity and someone wants to assign you more work, be upfront about what you already have on your plate. If there’s no way you can get to their project until the following week, say so. They can then work with your other supervisors to prioritize or they may ask someone else. The key to doing this well is to be receptive to their project, even if you cannot get to it for some time. So I might say to Boss A, “Yes, I can do that for you. I’m currently working on Project X for Boss B and Project Y for Boss C, and I will have some time to get started on your project on Monday.” If that timeline doesn’t work for Boss A, they will let you know, and you can work together to come up with a different plan in conjunction with your other bosses.

Remember…an important caveat for all this advice is to know your office – what is “busy” versus “too busy” for your coworkers? If the rest of your team is regularly leaving at 7:00 and you pack up your desk at 4:45 every day, you will seem out of touch if you always turn down more work.

[That said, it’s possible you can keep regular hours because you’re getting your share done efficiently. We’ll talk about how to handle grumbly/complaining coworkers who work round the clock in another post.]

Pic Credit: Chris Adamus (via

Stay Sane When You’re Really, Really Busy

At some point, it will happen to you. Work will be so busy that your life feels like an endless cycle of: (1) wake, (2) work, and (3) sleep (aka, dream about work).

Having worked in a high-pressure, demanding field, I have much more experience in the art of being busy than I would prefer. The good news is I learned a lot about how to handle it over the years! Today I’m going to focus on one trick I employ to stay sane during busy weeks, months, and even years:

I carve out “me” time.

I know what you’re thinking: yeah, right! It’s true, when you’re so busy that you only see the inside of your home long enough to grab a couple of hours of sleep and a shower, the thought of seeing friends, your significant other, or even a 30-minute TV show is laughable, and the idea of carving out “me” time seems like a mean joke. But if you want to retain your sanity when pulling insane hours, you need to do it.

It doesn’t have to be hard, and it should not add to your stress levels. Carving out “me” time is really just a way to keep a little bit of control over your schedule and step away from work when that feels like an impossibility.

The key to making it effective is to carve out time in a way that fits your personal needs within the confines of your work schedule. So what does that mean? Well…

  • Are you fine working consistently through the week with late nights but you really need Friday night to yourself to unwind? Block out a few hours every Friday night and put it in your calendar.
  • Do you feel better having a little down time each day? Pick a 30-minute window each work day to go for a walk , sign up for a morning exercise class, read a book, or do whatever relaxes you. Put it in your calendar.
  • Is making it home for dinner with your family, significant other, or just your pet a must do for you? Block out time for your commute and dinner. Put it in your calendar.

Sensing a theme here? No matter what you decide to do to carve out “me” time, you must put it in your calendar. Treat that time as an important meeting in your schedule.

At this point, I need to add a vital caveat: you need to know your office and your supervisors. If you’re truly without a minute to spare one day, you may need to cancel your time out.  Or if you work for someone who tends to pop by your office at 7pm every day with an assignment, planning to leave regularly at 6pm for dinner with your family at home is not going to work. But maybe you can do that one day a week. Or switch things up and make breakfast your family meal.

Above all, keep in mind that when you’re in the weeds, it will feel impossible, but there are truly very few times in your work life when taking 30 minutes out of your day is going to lead to actual catastrophe. (And for some good news, generally, as you gain more seniority, you will have greater control over your schedule and can see the busy times coming and plan for them.)

Bounce Back from a Mistake at Work

An uncomfortable truth of life as a junior employee (really, any employee) is that you will make mistakes. Over time, they will lessen in significance and number.  Whether big or small, the way you address and bounce back from making a mistake will matter a lot to your career. Here’s what you need to do:

Own up to it.

  • I’m assuming here that this is a mistake that needs to be addressed – if you make and correct a mistake with no broader repercussions, there is no need to raise it.
  • When you own up, should you apologize? Some say you should never say you’re sorry at work. I disagree. If you make a big enough mistake or error in judgment, you will look bad if you don’t apologize.
  • For example, let’s say a report was due to a client yesterday and you blew the deadline. When you let your supervisor know, it is appropriate to apologize. There’s no need to make it a long, drawn out affair. Keep it short and move on. This shows that you recognize that a deadline was blown and that this was an error – YOUR error. Not apologizing can make you look completely tone deaf.

Propose a solution.

  • Ideally, you do this at the same time you own up to the mistake. Your supervisor will think better of you if you admit to the mistake and either propose a solution or advise how you already fixed it.
  • In the example above, at the time you alert your supervisor to the missed deadline, you could let them know when you plan to send the report or send the report and then let your supervisor know that you were a bit late.
  • If you’re not sure which option to pick, present both to your supervisor and ask how they want to proceed.
  • If you have no idea how to fix an error, tell your supervisor ASAP and offer to come up with a plan together.
  • Whether you propose a solution or not, you should also think about how you can avoid similar mistakes going forward (and tell your supervisor). It does not need to be a complex solution. In our client report example, it may be as simple as putting reminders in your calendar for upcoming deadlines.

Move On.

  • This is usually easier said than done. Try not to dwell on your mistake. Instead, take a short amount of time to feel bad about it. Then put it out of your mind and focus on doing good work going forward.
  • If you follow the above advice, the people you work with will also get over it – probably faster than you do. Doing good work and getting your relationships back to normal will help that process along.

In sum: fess up, fix it, and explain what you’re doing to ensure it does not happen again. Then forgive yourself and move on. Don’t let one mistake impact the rest of your work.

Pic Credit: Pixabay

Ten Ways to Improve your Work Emails

If you work in an office, you probably spend much of your day reading and replying to emails. We all have different styles, some of which leave significant room for improvement. They range from the cryptic email writer, who skips the subject line and sends vague emails requiring the reader to decode their meaning, to the wordy writer, who drones on and on for pages, boring the reader and muddling their message. You probably fall somewhere in the middle, but we can all remember a few tips to improve our email game. Keep reading for ten simple things you can do to send clear emails sure to get the response you need.

1. Include the project name in the subject line.

  • Receiving an email with an unhelpful subject line is almost as annoying as receiving an email with no subject. I like to use the name of the project I’m working on plus a word or two describing the reason for the email (e.g., “Brady – research question”).  It will help you keep your emails organized and provide a frame of reference for your reader.

2. Follow office norms.

  • Do your colleagues skip email greetings and just get to the point? You should too. Is everyone very polite, prefacing each request with a please and closing with a thank you? You should too.  Pay attention and follow suit. If there don’t seem to be many dos or don’ts in your office, follow these: avoid overuse of exclamation points and never use weird fonts or backgrounds.

3. Skip read receipts.

  • Unless, of course, they’re the norm in your office (in which case: ugh).  Personally I hate getting emails with read receipts. It makes me feel like a clock has started on my response. Generally, assume that your intended recipient got your message.

4. Acknowledge receipt when appropriate.

  • This goes hand-in-hand with number three. If you receive an important email from a client or an assignment from a supervisor, or another email to which the sender can reasonably expect a response, send one.  Even if it’s just to say “Will do” in response to an assignment.

5. Use the “important” flag sparingly.

  • We have all worked with somebody who cannot resist adding that little red flag to all or almost all of their emails, rendering it essentially worthless. If something is truly urgent, try picking up the phone.

6. Be aware of email archiving rules.

  • You may receive dozens if not 100+ emails a day. Make sure you know how your office handles old emails – are they deleted after a year or two? If so, put some kind of foldering system into place.  Deletion or archiving rules may also apply to your sent box. For this reason, you may notice that some people CC themselves on key emails so they can then folder them for the future.

7. Keep it short and sweet.

  • Get to the point quickly and clearly. Occasionally, long emails are necessary. If so, break them up with paragraphs or even headers. Just avoid a wall of text.

8. Proofread

  • This seems obvious, but make sure your email program is set up to spell check the body of your email AND the subject line.

9. Fill in the “to” field LAST, after drafting and proofing your email.

  • This lowers the chance that you will accidentally hit send on a draft or before adding an attachment.

10. Always include an email signature.

  • Do this for reply emails too, even if it is just your name and direct phone number. Make it easy for people to reach you.

Pic Credit: Thomas Lefebvre (via Unsplash)

Reminder: You are Responsible for Your Own Career

During the first few years of your career, a lot of your time is going to be focused on figuring out how to make it through the day. You’ll be in the weeds, so to speak. And it will probably take a couple of years for you to feel like you have a clue about what you’re doing in your chosen profession and several months to settle into a new job.  Putting your head down and focusing on the day-to-day job is necessary, but make sure you act strategically when you can so that when you do pop up for air, you like where your career is headed.

It is so normal to feel aimless at the start of your career!  For the first time in your life, you might not have a concrete goal.  You had been on a clear trajectory: graduate high school…get a degree or other qualification…get a job…and then…what?

You might not be able to answer that question, and that’s okay.  But don’t let the total newness of life upon entry to the full-time working world stop you from taking control where you can.  Because nobody cares about your career as much as you do. And it’s up to you to take it where you want to go.

So, even when you have little to no autonomy in your daily work life, here are a few things to try:

  • Take on new work strategically
    • Obviously, you need to do the work assigned to you. But keep an eye and ear out for opportunities beyond your current daily grind. Get to know colleagues on your team and speak with your formal and informal mentors and supervisor about what they’re doing and where your department is headed.
    • Want to work with a particular person? If you see a gap in your schedule coming up, reach out to them and ask if they have any opportunities.
    • Interested in a particular area project? Figure out who in your office works on it and ask to get involved.
    • Just remember to get your supervisor’s OK before taking on new work that’s outside of your normal duties.
  • Get involved outside of your job.
    • Join a networking group for young professionals or an organization dedicated to your career.  These can provide leadership opportunities for you before you get those chances at work, and they help you make connections for the future.
  • Attend office events.
    • Join your colleagues at the weekly happy hour. Attend the lunchtime lecture series. Sign up to attend the fundraiser where your company bought a table. You don’t need to go to everything, but you should go to some things in order to stay engaged in your company, make connections, hear about new and interesting matters, or at the least, just enjoy some free food and drink!

Photo from Unplash.