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How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people

I am always giving my clients tips on how to work online. Here are the key complaints I hear from clients and friends:

  • It’s hard to connect with people
  • It’s hard to keep productive
  • It’s lonely, and
  • There’s a tendency to work too much

 I feel this happens for several reasons:

  • We’re just not that used to it – yet
  • We are trying to work using old routines and models that are better suited for face to face
  • We still have a few issues feeling comfortable in front of a camera, or with technology in general, and
  • For those working from home, this means working from what is/was our personal space. Considering how much of our personal space we want to share on-screen is still something many are struggling with.

But, working online is now the main aspect of white-collar working life. Many office workers who, pre-pandemic, had to commute to work now can work remotely. Even if they go back to the office, you may find it empty, and most of the work you do is still in front of the computer anyway. So for transitional office-based companies, virtual companies, working for yourself, or job hunting, I hope you will find these tips helpful.

I work from home all day, every day. Here are my top tips:

1. Be ruthless with emails

I check them every day, early in the morning and last thing at night. I don’t advise everyone to do this; quite the contrary. I do it because it suits my line of work. It works for me because I have clients globally. I just invite you to consider the following: what email management routine will help you cope with your work? Then apply it daily, and stick to it.

Another email rule is that I don’t answer emails after hours or on the weekend. Many of my clients email me during the weekend because if they are working, this is the time they have to work on their career plans and job search. But I need my break; otherwise, I will burn out. I will still read the emails every morning, even on weekends, because I need to keep an eye on emergencies. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait.

2. GIFs and Emojis are fine

We need to find ways to show emotions when working online. I’ve learned to love to by observing how the millennials and Gen Z use them. I used to think they were childish. But now, I hardly see anyone face to face, and if an emoji will translate my facial expression or emotion and make people smile, then I am a fan. It’s important to be playful and have some fun during work. But keep in mind that you need to know when and who to send them to. Of course, GIFs and emojis are not for every communication. In my case, if you get an emoji from me, it’s because we’re already pals.

3. Videos and voice messages are your friend

I am addicted to Loom, a video messaging platform that has replaced at least half of my written emails. Here is an example: in this video, I am teaching how to disable the “People also viewed” box on LinkedIn. I always recommend that all my clients do this when they’re looking for work.

I copy-paste the link to the Loom video into an email, send it to a client, and this is how I coach between sessions. I also communicate with my family in Australia and overseas with voice messages on WhatsApp. This way, it’s more personal, and I don’t have to look at the screen and type all day. I can record when I’m walking. It’s much more fun for me to receive a voice message from a friend on the other side of the world than read her text.

4. Look good on video

  • Show up on camera as much as possible. There’s nothing worse for a meeting organizer or event speaker when everyone’s camera is off. I also believe it’s better for your career
  • Invest in a camera with clear image and audio. I will link here the camera I use. It sits either on my monitor or on a tripod
  • Have it at your eye-level
  • Ensure you have a background that denotes professionalism
  • Avoid fake and blurry backgrounds: they are suitable for emergencies, for example, if you’re traveling. Another exception is for corporate branding only, such as when you’re holding a public event or conference.

5. Create fun traditions and opportunities working online

I am a fan of a Zoom open-door policy. It’s like the old-fashion open door, but on Zoom, Google meet, or wherever you hold your online video meetings. I also know that some workplaces are trying new traditions such as trivia nights and drinks. And finally, make the most out of your online work environment by posting, sharing ideas, and contributing to others who take the lead and share. Please, everyone, try to give these a go.

6. Have at least two monitors

Having at least two monitors is an essential aspect of working online. It helps with so many different tasks. Drag and drop, presentation view, and working while checking the Slack activity. It ’s the best investment you will ever make.

7. Find time during the week to have real coffee with a colleague or a walking meeting. 

I know that for some people, the comfort of working from home is hard to give up. But it’s really important to maintain connections with colleagues and your professional network. In a few days, I will have a walking meeting with someone I have not seen for over two years. I am happy she reached out and glad that the pandemic has made it ok for us to have a professional conversation while walking on the beach, wearing leggings.

New times, new traditions!

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138. How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people

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This article was first published on the The Job Hunting Podcast Blog.

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Posted in Job Hunting Made Simple, The world @work

Motherhood Statements are not on!

Recently I attended a webinar hosted by international communications experts rogenSi, where they talked about using more persuasive language in our everyday business communications. For me, this could mean meetings with colleagues, interviews with candidates, presenting my services as an executive recruitment consultant to potential clients, or pitching for a coaching gig in my other professional capacity.

The techniques discussed (see below for some quick tips), got me thinking about the level of expertise amongst the senior leaders and executives I work with every week. While highly experienced and knowledgeable in their fields, sometimes even talented people lack sophistication in their communication style.

The webinar went on to say that frequently, business people use ‘motherhood statements’ to attempt to convince others. That is, statements which are too general, too broad or too bland to have any meaning – the words simply don’t cut through. Here are some examples of the platitudes I hear: “I’m highly motivated”; “I’m ready for a new challenge”; “I’m a people person”. When we make motherhood statements we’re not heard. It could be because the language we have used isn’t precise, we haven’t backed-up our claims with appropriate evidence, or we generalised about the subject without making a specific point.

Former Rogen International CEO, Neil Flett, also addresses the issue in his very readable book: The Pitch Doctor. He’s emphatic: “Business people should avoid too much motherhood speak.” Flett’s analysis and the rogenSi webinar concur that what you say and how you say it can be key to becoming more memorable in your professional interactions.

Try these 5 tips to avoid motherhood statements:

  1. Statistics – use meaningful stats, not just big numbers
  2. Facts – inarguable facts are persuasive
  3. Examples – paint a picture, use SAO (Situation, Action and Outcome) to describe it
  4. Case Studies – talking openly, when permissible, about a winning bid that led to a successful project and the results achieved
  5. Tell a story – storytelling is most powerful when related to your own personal experience, when it allows you to share your passion and demonstrates that you really mean it

Take my advice, by using convincing language in future, I guarantee you will be more persuasive… Did I just make a motherhood statement?

What do you hear in your world@work that’s just really blah blah blah?

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Posted in Consumer, Sport & Entertainment, The world @work

A salute to my early career

Rather than following my friends to University when I left school, I took an alternative route into the workforce by joining the New Zealand Army – not exactly the most obvious career choice for a female with a short and slim build who grew up as a ballet dancer!

This time 19 years ago I had just completed my three months basic training with the NZ Army and had started my trade training as an Administration Clerk. With Anzac Day occurring this week I reflected on how my experiences within the Defence Force have shaped and contributed to my career and the person I am today.

What initially attracted me to the Defence Force were the recruitment officers who attended our career days at high school. The thought of being part of a well-known organisation who promoted the benefits of a variety of career options excited me… I wanted to do that! This is also where my passion for recruitment started.

Joining the Army as a nearly 18 year old taught me many fundamental work habits that are still with me today:

  1. Timing is everything. It’s called 5 minutes place of parade. You cannot be late in the Army, and in fact if you are not 5 minutes early, then you are late as well. In my work life I am very rarely late for a meeting. It has been drilled into me that whether you are an attendee or the meeting organiser, it’s your duty to commit to the appointment you have made and show courtesy to the others who are giving up their time to attend. I have become a great timekeeper and loyal to appointments.
  1. Presenting yourself well. Although there are no uniform checks in the civilian world, it is still important that you present yourself well in business. In the Army you are taught how to iron your shirts right down to putting creases in your PT shorts. Ironing wasn’t my forte (and still isn’t, so let’s say there are no creases in my shorts). One thing that has stuck with me is when I am wearing shirt and pants, I still check to make sure my buttons are in line with my pants zip.
  1. Ongoing training. Training is part of Army life; you are always upskilling and attending courses as part of your soldier and trade development. Self-development, whether it be for work, upskilling or personal enhancement, is important to keep yourself relevant in the changing workforce where nothing stays the same.

While these days I’m recruiting executives, I would still recommend the Defence Force for the many different career options they offer. It is not all about being a front line soldier; you are able to learn a trade and complete a university degree while working. I made friends for life – it’s an experience I will never forget.

How did your first job shape you? What still resonates with you from your early career?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

3 seconds is all it takes

Can it really be true that you can win or lose an audience in just three seconds? More on that later, but first here is my checklist for an engaging professional presentation:

  • Strategy – be prepared and have an agenda
  • Energy level – show interest in what you’re presenting, be animated, make it come alive
  • Key message – don’t fluff around, get the message out loud and proud
  • Sell yourself – don’t be shy to talk about your strengths
  • Voice – consider volume and your tone, are you being heard?
  • Non-verbal – think about your eye contact, hand gestures, facial expression, dress, movement, and body language
  • Wrap up – bring the presentation to a logical and timely conclusion

Recently I attended a committee meeting in Melbourne, where a well-known top tier law firm was presenting its services. I’ve often been impressed by switched-on business people who present strongly to an audience. They approach their subject matter positively, use appropriate language and the energy level in the room is high. They are also aware of their body language and dress appropriately.

In a news article about Natalie McKenna, Director of Regeneration Unlimited Communications and researcher in Public Relations at RMIT University, it’s said that “In just three seconds your business meeting could be over, with the business decision already made.”

Well, the lawyers’ presentations were woeful… boring, lifeless, forgettable… definitely over in the three seconds it took me to reach that conclusion!

When McKenna says all it takes is three seconds for someone to make a decision about you, that’s pretty tough. However, it doesn’t take long to lose your audience, and first impressions certainly do matter.

In business we’re often highly absorbed in talking about our product, our service, ourselves (the lawyers could show some passion for their profession here), without being really mindful of our audience. From my experience as a consultant with Slade Executive Recruitment and through my observations with global communications group rogenSi, I know how important it is to engage with others. The same principles apply whether it’s an information session, a sales pitch, a business meeting or a job interview.

What communication techniques have you found useful in your business?

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Posted in Consumer, Sport & Entertainment, The world @work