Have you ever heard of Hartman’s Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation? It’s kind of a mouthful, but the tenet basically says that when you write about punctuation or grammar, there’s a good chance you’ll make an error in your punctuation or grammar.
Category Archives: Skill
When you don’t know how to answer a question during an interview, the silence can seem excruciating. You might even wish the floor would open up and swallow you whole. Not to worry, though — keep these tips in mind the next time you’re strapped for an answer.
1. Calm down.
First of all, the most important thing to do is stay calm. If you start freaking out, your body will begin reacting physiologically. For example, your blood pressure will start rising, and your heart may race. Once you start a stress response, you won’t be thinking clearly, and you may throw out answers without thinking. Take deep breaths, and tell yourself that it’s OK to not know the answer to the question. You’ll just have to work through it; there’s nothing you can do to change things, but you need to stay calm to find the right answer.
2. Don’t say, “I don’t know,” off the bat. And don’t make stuff up.
You should not tell the interviewer you don’t know the answer without mulling it over. Then again, be careful not to make stuff up, because your interviewer can see right through that.
3. Ask questions.
Maybe it’s the question you don’t understand. Ask your interviewer to clarify what she said. Go deeper into the question to see if you can get more details that will help you figure it out.
4. Tell your interviewer what you do know.
If you do have some knowledge of the question, then take the time to tell your interviewer what you do know of the situation. Saying everything out loud can start you on the process of figuring out the problem.
5. Tell them how you would find the answer.
Even if you don’t know what the answer is, you can tell the interviewer the steps you would take to figure out the problem. Interviewers ask you hard questions, because they want to see what your thought process is. Sometimes, the thought process may be more important than the actual answer. They want to see that you can take initiative and have the resources to come up with a solution on your own, instead of needing someone to hold your hand through problems. While you’re trying to find the solution, you can admit to not knowing certain parts; this way, you come off as being honest, and the hiring manager will know you are not trying to fake it. For example, if you need to calculate something and you’re not good at math, you can respond with “I can’t do the calculations off the top of my head, but I think these calculations will give me the answer. And what I can do is use a calculator to find that answer.” Showing a little honesty shows vulnerability and transparency. It also makes you more likable.
6. Know the right time to come clean.
Although we mentioned not admitting to the interviewer that you don’t know the answer, there is an exception to this rule. If the answer is something that you will only know through memorization, such a definition of the word, then it’s probably best to admit that you don’t know the answer, as it may be impossible to figure it out independently. Here’s what you can tell the interviewer: “It’s a good question, but I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer off the top of my head. I will be sure to follow up with the answer after the interview.”
7. Send a follow-up email.
The follow-up email for an interview could become your second chance. Try to talk about the answer you were stumped on, but be smooth when you’re talking about it. And make sure you’re only naming the mistakes your interviewer caught and not drawing attention to the ones she did not catch. Don’t say something like “I’m sorry I did not know the answer to that question.” Instead, tell her that after more time and thought, you managed to come up with a couple of solutions that could work for the problem.
cross posted from savvysugar.com
Setting aside an allotted amount of money each month to put towards your golden years may seem easy. That is, until life gets in the way.
Your adult child becomes unemployed and moves back home. Your parent needs long-term care. You experience an unforeseen health issue. Suddenly, you find yourself re-evaluating your retirement savings and grasping at any available funds you can wrangle together.
According to a 2013 study by Ameriprise Financial, 90% of 1,000 people surveyed said they have experienced at least one unexpected life event or issue that negatively impacted their retirement savings.
Before your retirement savings are compromised, take a closer look at some of the most overlooked obstacles and consider these ways to avoid them.
1. A Family Member Needs Financial Help
According to a recent study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, 62% of people age 50 and older have provided financial assistance to family members during the last five years.
“We found that a very large number of young adults are experiencing a career stall or challenges funding their own lives and are turning to mom and dad for support,” says Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., founding president and CEO of Age Wave, a consultancy focused on aging populations.
“Surprisingly, a lot of off-the-radar generational generosity has taken place, without any expectation for pay back,” Dychtwald says. “In our study, inflation rates or market swings weren’t nearly as consequential as their own families’ needs.”
Dychtwald dubs the issue of helping family members with finances “the elephant in the room,” since it is rarely discussed during retirement planning. He suggests talking about the feasibility of contributing to family members — whether an adult child, sibling or parent — with a financial advisor.
It’s also important to keep family members in the loop about your own retirement goals and objectives. If you’ve been making it clear for years that you are planning to retire by age 65, for example, then it may be easier not to offer financial help if you truly can’t afford to provide it.
To take this a step further, consider creating a separate “family helping hand fund” so that you can logically evaluate whether you are in a position to help out a family member without having it interfere with your retirement savings, says Dychtwald.
2. You Get Divorced Later in Life
The divorce rate for couples over the age of 50 has shot up by 700% since 1960, Dychtwald explains. Household income drops roughly 40% for women and 25% for men after a divorce.
Since about 75% of divorcees get remarried, blended families are also an increasing reality – and financial priorities in these more complex situations must be discussed from the start.
Consider asking yourself and your partner questions such as: Are your biological children favored when it comes to finances? What do we plan to contribute toward our children’s major life events, such as college, weddings, and so on, and will that impact our retirement fund?
“Not bringing these issues up can have a negative impact on your retirement savings and your relationship,” Dychtwald warns.
3. You Experience an Unexpected Health Issue
“A loss of health, whether it’s a slip and fall or a bad diagnosis, is one of those retirement wild cards that can really change things,” Dychtwald says.
According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual survey, more than half of retirees surveyed admitted they are not confident that they have saved enough to pay for their medical expenses during retirement.
The average 65-year-old couple in retirement should expect to pay $163,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for health care, not including long-term care, according to the EBRI.
“You must factor in any potential health care expenses when planning for retirement,” says Robert Gregov, certified financial planner at Roche Financial Partners in Princeton, N.J. “Step one needs to be determining what your budget looks like, what your incomes are and what your outflows are. Then take what is left over and discuss the best plan of action for your retirement savings.”
4. You Put College Costs Ahead of Retirement Costs
“A lot of people pay for their kids’ college costs ahead of saving for retirement, and that often proves to be a big mistake,” says Scott Weiss, certified financial planner at Weiss Financial Group in Mahopac, N.Y.
“Many people don’t want to see their children with student loans,” Weiss says. “On the flip side, sometimes they forget to think about the repercussions of not funding their retirement and the possibility of needing their own children to help support them.”
To avoid this dilemma, begin saving for retirement as early as possible and once you’re sure that base is covered, then think about college costs. “You can always finance college or help children pay for their loans down the road,” Weiss explains.
5. You Leave Work Too Early
“The reality is that today, retiring in your 50s is very difficult,” Weiss says. “With people living longer, you need to set aside quite a bit more when you’re planning for retirement.”
Dychtwald adds that retiring too early may not only compromise your finances, but also your overall happiness. “People assume that when they retire it will be like heaven on Earth, but a lot people find that they are unhappy and retirement itself is a wasteland,” he explains. He suggests making sure you have enough money set aside to truly enjoy your golden years.
“The average retiree watched an average of 49 hours of television a week last year,” Dychtwald says. Seek more fulfilling ways to spend your time, and of course, make sure you have the financial resources available to do so.
–Written by Renee Morad for MainStreet
Ever wonder what a potential boss wants to hear in an interview? What exactly can you say that will increase your chances of receiving a job offer? I recently heard some great advice that lined up with my previous experience as a human resources manager, and so I thought I would share this great advice with you! Here are five things to communicate during an interview that will convince the employer you’re a great hire.
1. You Will Never Have To Tell Me What To Do Twice
Every employer wants to know they can give you instructions once—and you’ll get the job done. I guarantee you that no employer wants to micromanage or ask an employee more than once to do something—no matter what it is.
2. I Will Complete The Job/Assignment You Give Me With Excellence
The employer wants to hear that, no matter what, you are going to make it happen—that you’re going to get the job done and do it to the best of your ability.
3. I Am An Agreeable Person
The employer wants to know that no matter what situation you are put in, you’re going to be a team player—and that you’re not going to create confusion, conflict, problems, or challenge their authority.
4. I Am Easy To Correct And Instruct—I Am Teachable
If there is something that’s not getting done, or if you’re not doing it correctly, the employer wants to know that they can approach you to discuss the situation and that you’re not going to fly off the handle or think you’re superior.
5. I Am A Loyal Employee
I will not talk poorly about you. I will do everything I can to promote you and help promote this business. While I am working for you I will always be the best employee—whether for 1 year or 10 years. And should I leave, I will be rehireable, and I will leave in an amicable and responsible manner.
Prospective employers nowadays understand that asking employees to make a commitment to stay for 10—or even 25 years—just isn’t realistic. Loyalty isn’t about longevity. It’s about being a committed and responsible employee while you’re with that company.
These five points are essentially what every employer wants to hear from a potential employee. Of course, this isn’t an end-all, be-all of an interview, but if you can communicate these very important points to a prospective employer during an interview, it will help the interviewer to feel at ease, sense that you are a great employee, and believe that you would be an asset to the organization.
cross posted from careerealism.com
With unemployment in the U.S. hovering around eight percent, looking for a job has become relatively tough for many people. Even some people with advanced academic qualifications, such as bachelor’s degrees and even MBAs are currently having a rough time on the market.
However, there are still plenty of jobs out there for the right candidates. With that in mind, one of the ways of differentiating yourself from other job seekers is by having transferable skills. Broadly speaking, a transferable skill is expertise that you can use across a wide range of industries.
According to the University of Southern California, many graduates change jobs as many as four times within a period of five years. If you are a job seeker, identifying your transferable skills and articulating them to employers is likely to increase your chances of getting a job. Some of these skills include:
In almost every career, from banking to the hospitality industry, good communication skills are vital. As such, it would be to your advantage if you have the ability to articulate your ideas in writing as well as orally. Since communication normally involves more than one party, you should be a good listener as well. Employers often look for people who can negotiate with employees in an objective manner.
2. Analytical Skills
This is a vital skill in almost every field of work mainly because the majority of businesses generate revenue by solving problems that clients face daily. For example, cloud-computing companies provide data storage solutions, thereby ensuring that their clients have a backup of data stored on-site. Employees can access company data on the go knowing they have secure storage for their information.
In such an environment, analytical skills are likely to come in handy when clients face problems such as uploading data or updating certain files. To solve those issues, one would have to identify and define the problem’s parameters. This skill also involves collecting and analyzing data in order to design creative solutions to complex problems.
Most organizations and business enterprises employ more than one employee. Because of this, it may not be possible to have all the employees in leadership positions. Therefore, a few employees who show the ability to lead generally take charge of the others. Leadership is all about motivating fellow employees and leading them to work toward a common goal. In addition, leaders analyze tasks and set priorities for the other employees as well as identify and allocate resources that employees need.
4. Information Management Skills
Traditionally, businesses kept a few records such as sales, purchases, and salaries in-house. In most cases, this data was no more than a few gigabytes. However, the emergence of social networking, adoption of e-commerce by consumers, and the large number of data points generated by businesses and corporations has upended the traditional model of managing information.
As a result, most employers need employees who can sort and present data objects in an understandable manner. Information management also involves evaluating and synthesizing information against industry standards. Industries where you can apply this skill set include finance, education, manufacturing, and print media.
5. Project Management
Project managers are in high demand in many industries. Your work as a project manager will involve planning projects, assessing potential risks associated with the project, allocating project finances appropriately, and overseeing the execution of the project on time. You can use this transferable skill in industries such as education, energy, consulting, and even the military.
The job sector is becoming increasingly competitive with every passing day. With this in mind, jobseekers need to broaden their horizons when searching for a job. Leverage the power of transferable skills acquired in previous jobs to get ahead of the competition. These include analytical skills, project management, communication, leadership, and information management skills.
The annual survey carried out by the Career Center at the University of Southern California has shown that the majority off employers prefer candidates with transferable skills.
cross posted from careerbuilder
You might consider grammar an annoying technicality, a minuscule detail of speech and writing not worth much effort.
But a study last year from the Society for Human Resources and Management shows that 45% of employers plan to increase training for grammar and other language skills (meaning they’re unhappy with the levels now).
So what you say does matter as much as how you say it, especially in a professional environment. We’ve compiled a list of the top mistakes people make whether drafting an office memo or just chatting with coworkers around the water cooler.
1. “Fewer” vs. “Less”
Use “fewer” when discussing countable objects. For example, “He ate five fewer chocolates than the other guy,” or “fewer than 20 employees attended the meeting.”
Use “less” for intangible concepts, like time. For example, “I spent less than one hour finishing this report.”
2. “It’s vs. “Its”
Normally, an apostrophe symbolizes possession. As in, “I took the dog’s bone.” But because apostrophes also usually replace omitted letters — like “don’t” — the “it’s” vs. “its” decision gets complicated.
Use “its” as the possessive pronoun: “I took its bone.” For the shortened version of “it is” use the version with the apostrophe. As in, “it’s raining.”
3. Dangling Modifiers
These are ambiguous, adjectival clauses at the beginning or end of sentences that often don’t modify the right word or phrase.
For example, if you say, “Rotting in the refrigerator, our office manager threw the fruit in the garbage.” The structure of that sentence implies your office manager is a zombie trapped in a chilly kitchen appliance.
Make sure to place the modifying clause right next to the word or phrase it intends to describe. The correct version reads, “Our office manager threw the fruit, rotting in the refrigerator, in the garbage.”
4. “Who” vs. “Whom”
Earlier this year, “The New Republic” published a review of Mark Leibovich’s “This Town.” Regardless of his opinions, the author deserves praise. The title reads, “Careful Whom You Call A Hypocrite, Washington.” Yes, Alec MacGillis. Just yes.
When considering whether to use “who” or “whom,” you have to rearrange the sentence in your own head. In the aforementioned case, “whom you call a hypocrite” changes to “you call whom a hypocrite.” “Whom” suits the sentence instead of “who” because the word functions as the object of the sentence, not the subject.
It’s not always easy to tell subjects from objects but to use an over-simplified yet good, general rule: subjects start sentences (or clauses), and objects end them.
For reference, “who is a hypocrite?” would be a perfectly grammatically correct question to ask.
5. Me, Myself, And I
Deciding when to use me, myself, or I also falls under the subject/object discussion. “Me” always functions as the object (except in that case); “I” is always the subject. And you only use “myself” when you’ve referred to yourself earlier in the sentence. It’s called a reflexive pronoun — it corresponds to a pronoun previously in the sentence. For example, “I made myself breakfast” not “my friend and myself made lunch.”
To decide usage in “someone else and me/I” situations, take the other person out of the sentence. “My co-worker and I went to lunch.” Is “I went to lunch” correct? You’re good then.
6. “Lie” vs. “Lay”
Dear everyone, stop saying: “I’m going to go lay down.” The word “lay” must have an object. Someone lays something somewhere. You lie. Unless you lay, which means lie but in the past tense. Okay, just look at the chart.
7. Irregular Verbs
The English language has quite a few surprises.We can’t list all the irregular verbs, but be aware they do exist. For example, no past tense exists for the word “broadcast.” “Broadcasted” isn’t a word. You’d say, “Yesterday, CNN broadcast a show.”
“Sneak” and “hang” also fall into the category of irregular verbs. Because the list of irregular verbs (and how to conjugate them) is so extensive, you’ll have to look into them individually.
8. “Nor” vs. “Or”
Use “nor” before the second or farther of two alternatives when “neither” introduces the first. Think of it as “or” for negative sentences, and it’s not optional. For example, “Neither my boss nor I understand the new program.” You can also use nor with a negative first clause or sentence including “not.” For example, “My boss didn’t understand the program, nor did I.”
9. “Then” vs. “Than”
There’s a simple distinction between these two words. Use “then” when discussing time. As in, “We had a meeting, and then we went to lunch.” Include “than” in comparisons. “This meeting was more productive than the last one.”
10. Ending Sentences With Prepositions
First of all, don’t do it — usually. Second, for those who don’t know, prepositions are any words that a squirrel can “run” with a tree (i.e. The squirrel ran around, by, through, up, down, around, etc. the tree).
“My boss explained company policy, which we had to abide by” sounds awful. In most cases, you can just transpose the preposition to the beginning of the clause. “My boss explained company policy, by which we had to abide,” or better yet, rephrase the sentence to avoid this problem: “My boss explained the mandatory company policy.”
11. Subject (And Possessive Pronoun) And Verb Agreement
This rule seems a bit counterintuitive, but most plural subjects take verbs without an “s.” For example, “she types,” but “they type.” The pronoun agreement comes into play when you add a possessive element to these sentences. “She types on her computer,” and “they type on their computers.”
As a caveat, the pronoun “someone” requires “her or his” as the possessive.
Feel free to email your boss with any questions. The Wall Street Journal thinks he or she will appreciate it.
cross posted from Business Insider.
There are two things you never want to be as a job hunter: illogical and desperate. Being in these states of mind will cause you to do all types of, well, illogical and desperate things.
One of the most common illogical thoughts that can run through the mind of someone preparing to embark on a job hunt is this: The more jobs I apply for, the more likely one will pan out.
This kind of thinking will get you in a heap of trouble. In essence, you’re seeing a job hunt as a number’s game. So you crank out a hundred cover letters and resumes a day without thought as to whether or how you’re qualified.
What you’re not considering is the employer and his or her state of mind on the receiving end — which matters more than anything else.
For example, when one of the many employers gets your information and letter that says, “I am applying for the position of designer” followed by a few points about your experience in a totally different field — say sales and marketing — here’s what he is thinking:
“Why in the world is this person writing me? She has no background or experience as a designer. Obviously, she could care less about the job and is looking for a paycheck until something in her field comes along.”
Hiring rule No. 1: Employers love people who are really, truly excited about the job and the industry. (They often even hire the person most excited about the job and their company over a candidate who has the “right” qualifications.)
The crank-out-as-many-cover-letters-and-resumes-in-a-day technique will also lead to sending out careless, impersonal letters with no reference to the job you’re applying for or reasons you’re qualified. Examples employers have shared with me include:
“Here is my resume for consideration.” That’s it.
“I’m applying for the open position.” End of story.
“Saw your ad on Craigs’ list. I’ve attached my resume. Thanks.” I cleaned up the grammar on this one.
The crank-out-your-resume drill will also make you frustrated and angry that after weeks of nonstop resume-letter-sending to every opening you find, you get nowhere.
Finding your next position is not a number’s game. It’s about targeting and discovering the right person then connecting with them by speaking their language and precisely pointing out what you can do in the particular job you want.
You’ll never do that if you send correspondence that screams: I don’t know who you or your company are, nor do I particularly care. I don’t value your time. I don’t pay attention to details nor take pride in my work. I’m just looking for a paycheck.
The other thing you never want to do is act desperate. This may work well for say, my dog, who has perfected a look of desperation by flattening his ears, hunching over slightly with his head pitched forward while his pleading eyes meet mine.
But desperation is not a good thing in a job hunt. It will have the opposite effect and scare employers away. “It’s a bad sign when people start taking about why they need this job so bad,” one employer told me.
These reasons include: I’ve got a sick mother. We don’t have medical coverage. I’ve got two young kids. My husband lost his job. We’re trying to put our kids through college.
What do these kinds of desperate pleas tell the employer? You’re not really interested in the job or the company. Just getting a paycheck.
It may also seem like a good idea to tell an employer: “I can do anything.” This too appears that you’ll take anything just for the paycheck. Saying this shows you haven’t thought about where you can make a difference. Employers want to hire people who can show them how they’ll do that.
To get your next position, there’s only one way to think: like the employer.
Career consultant Andrea Kay is the author of Life’s a Bitch and Then You Change Careers: 9 steps to get out of your funk and on to your future. Reach her firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AndreaKayCareer.
I think one of the hardest things about networking events is just getting a conversation going with someone – without being awkward about it.
Approaching someone new can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.
So, what are some natural and easy ways to break the ice? Here are some tips and tricks:
Go Fishing At The Food Table
While waiting in line for the food, start chatting up the person next to you. This is a great opportunity to get a conversation started because you already have something in common: the food. Everyone is thinking the same thing, What am I going to try? What looks good?
So, instead of just standing there in silence, start a conversation. Here are a few conversation starters for this situation:
- “Oh man, everything looks so good… I’m not sure what to get! What are you thinking?”
- “Yummy, they have ___! Have you ever tried it?”
- “Hmm, I’m not quite sure what that dish is… do you know?”
Who knows, you might leave the buffet with a better plate of food AND a new contact! That’s a win-win in my book.
Find A Loner
If you see someone standing alone in the corner, clutching his or her drink, and looking miserable, don’t be afraid to walk up and introduce yourself. Typically, these people need a little help getting the conversation going.
Here are some ice breakers:
- “Man, these networking events can be so crazy. Mind if I join you over here where it’s a little quieter?”
- “Wow, there are a ton of people here! The food must be good, huh?”
- If someone is standing alone, he or she is probably feeling uncomfortable or unconfident. If you initiate the conversation, it could make them feel more relaxed and willing to connect.
Everyone loves compliments, especially when they are feeling insecure (and many people do feel that way when attending networking events). If you’re struggling to start a conversation with someone, find something to compliment.
Here are some ideas:
- “Yum, that drink looks good. What is it?”
- “Cute shoes! Where did you get them?”
- Talk About Sports
- People love talking about sports. If you’re a sports person, use it to your advantage!
See someone wearing a Red Sox cap? Say something like, “Red Sox fan, huh? Did you catch the game yesterday?”
Overhear a group of people talking about last night’s game? Express your interest in the conversation by saying something like, “Are you talking about ……?”, then chime in.
Just Say Hello
Sometimes, the easiest way to meet someone is to offer a handshake and say, “Hi, I’m Peter.” Simply introducing yourself with a smile and a dash of confidence can work wonders.
Keeping The Conversation Going
I know what you’re thinking, Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but how can I keep the conversation going after the initial question?
It’s easy! Talk about something else you have in common – the event itself! Here are some ideas:
- “I’m Gina, by the way, nice to meet you…”
- “So, is this your first time at one of these events?”
- “So, how did you hear about this event?”
- “What a great place for an event, huh? Have you ever been here before?”
After that, try learning more about them. Questions can include:
“Are you from the area?”
“What line of work are you in or trying to get in?”
Next step: get them talking. Remember, people generally like to talk about themselves. So, once they tell you what they do, ask questions about it. Here are a few:
- “That’s very interesting…”
- “What drew you to that line of work?”
- “What do you like about your job?”
- “Why are you interested in working in that industry specifically?”
Your Exit Strategy
It’s that time: your drink is dry and you’re ready to move on. When the conversation starts to wind down, don’t try to force more. Remember, you’re there to mix and mingle – don’t chain yourself to one person all night.
If you’d like to exit a conversation, try one of these lines:
- “Alright, I’m going to get some food now that the line has died down a bit. It was great meeting you!”
- “Have you met Lisa? She works in your industry as well. I’m sure you both will have plenty to talk about. I’ve got to say hello to someone, but I’ll be back.”
- “Well, I think it’s time for me to head out. I would love to talk with you again, though. May I have your card/contact information?”
There are plenty of reasons why people ask you to help them out at the office.
Maybe they need an extra pair of hands, and they think you’re the perfect person for the job. Maybe they’re feeling overwhelmed and are trying to be fair in distributing their tasks among their team members. Or maybe, frankly, they’re trying to get some grunt work off their plates. And you’re the one who’s been asking to take on new projects, right?
Whatever the case, it can be difficult to be a team player who’s open to new responsibilities without being a pushover who’s overwhelmed with miscellaneous tasks and projects on your plate. Even if you do want to take on more around the office, that doesn’t mean you want everyone to load up your inbox with their castoffs (or that you should say yes to every request for your time).
So, what should you do when a peer asks you to take on a project that’s technically part of his or her own job? Here’s a three-step plan to assess and address the situation.
Step 1: Assess the Request
First, take time to think about whether the project would be beneficial in your career growth. Would it help you gain a new skill? Would it lead to quantifiable results that you could tout on your resume? Would it help you form relationships with colleagues you’ve never worked with before? If so—and if it wouldn’t interfere with your own work—it might be a great task to take on.
Also consider whether picking up the extra work is just part of being a team player. For example, at a previous job of mine, after a co-worker was let go, another member of her team received her entire workload. He expressed to his boss the need for another pair of hands to carry the weight, but in the meantime, he approached his other team members to mete out various responsibilities. In times like this, you may want to suck it up and help out, especially since there will probably come a time when you need to ask for assistance, too.
It’s when you’re feeling taking advantage of or when it’s interfering with your own work that there’s a problem. In another scenario, my cousin and another employee were competing head-to-head for a promotion. My cousin’s officemate wanted to impress their manager by tackling a new project, so he asked my cousin to shoulder a daily responsibility that he wouldn’t have time for thanks to the bigger-and-better project. Not cool.
Step 2: Address the Situation
In cases like my cousin’s, when you you’ve decided that the request isn’t one you should be taking on, it is definitely OK to say no.
In an offline (emphasis on offline) conversation with your co-worker, explain that you’re always happy to help out and that you recognize that each of you in the office are contributing to an overall team product—but that ultimately you have to prioritize your own work. Who can argue with that?
If it makes sense, you can see if there’s a deadline for the project and let your colleague know that you’d be willing to pitch in if your time allows. You can also suggest a few alternate ways he or she can tackle the project—for example, are there interns available to take on one or two parts of the work? In one situation at a previous job, a co-worker was feeling overwhelmed and asked me for help in project-managing one aspect of her work. Since I had done work for the same client, I was familiar with the background—I just didn’t have enough room on my plate to take on her part of the process, too. But after I had completed my own tasks for the week, I lent a hand with hers, and she was thankful for the assistance.
Chances are, your colleague isn’t trying to dump work on you—he or she is just feeling a little overwhelmed and will appreciate any contribution.
Step 3: Bring in the Big Guns
Of course, there are definitely times when someone is trying to push work on you, and it’s not something you want to do—or should be taking on. Or, you may agree to shoulder a responsibility for a co-worker once, and find that opening that door made it hard to shut. If the situation persists, or if you’re getting pushback from your colleague, schedule some time to chat with your boss about his or her expectations.
At one point in my career, I found that helping someone a few times had placed her task permanently, rather than temporarily, under my jurisdiction, and that started to erode the time I had for my own workload. I wanted to clarify with my boss that she was fine with me devoting a large chunk of time to something not originally meant for my role—and it turned out, she preferred to refocus my energy elsewhere.
You don’t have to throw your colleague under the boss—just keep the conversation focused on your workload. Try, “I love getting experience with different facets of the company, but I’ve been spending about 10 hours per week lately on client reporting for marketing. And I just want to make sure the percentage of time I’m spending on that is compliant with what you need from me.” If it’s not, you or your boss can talk to the other party and shift the work back where it belongs.
It’s always a good idea to be open to taking on new responsibilities—but you also need to make sure what you’re spending your time on is in the best interest of your career and your department or team as a whole. Bottom line: Help out when you can, be honest when you can’t, and don’t let anyone else take advantage of your awesome work ethic.
Cross posted from The Daily Muse