Danielle Dory

Posts Tagged ‘Danielle Dory’

Back to the Drawing Board. Writing, or Should I Say, Rewriting Your Cover Letter

In Blog, Business on July 2, 2012 at 11:00 am

Well folks, after reading this article from INC. I realized that my pride and joy,  my cover letter, needs a lot of work.  In an article titled “10 Ways You Should Never Describe Yourself”  businessman and ghost writer Jeff Haden lists 10 adjectives you should never use in your cover letter.  To my horror and dismay, my cover letter currently has 6 of these words.  I’ll let you figure out which words they were, but with every new word listed, I felt a little dagger dig deeper into my heart.  Upon finishing my read, I had a mental image of a my cover letter bleeding in red ink.

I have yet to meet a single individual who actually enjoyed writing a cover letter.  Think about it.  The qualities needed of a cover letter are full of slight, and blatant, contradictions.  Be boastful but genuine.  Be aggressive but not too aggressive.  Then we look at all the things to include:

  1. Highlight your talents
  2. Sell yourself
  3. Show that you know about the company
  4. Explain why you’re a perfect fit of the position
  5. Keep it short.

Writing about myself is probably one of my most difficult tasks, but despite the big adjective problem that I apparently have, I’ve picked up a few pointers over the past year.  Here are tips from professionals on how to be better about, well, bragging.

  1. It’s not we.  It’s me.

I had an interview a few months back, and I was discussing the marketing campaign my partner and I did for a local free health clinic.  The interviewer asked me questions like, “So what did you do?”  “How did you do that?” “What did you learn from that experience?” “What was your biggest struggle in completing your project?”  I answered each and every response with, “Well we…”  and every time I went to answer a question, I noticed a slight sigh.  It was a project that I was extremely proud of and it was for a great cause. I couldn’t for the life of me understand I was doing wrong.

After the interview, she took the time to give me some feedback.  It was then that she explained.  I was so concerned with making sure that I didn’t take all the credit for a group effort, that I failed to highlight all that I accomplished.  She was interviewing me for hire, not my partner and I.

  Moral of the story? Focus on your accomplishments and individual achievements.  Even if you are discussing a group effort, focus on your individual responsibilities.

2.   Quantify. Quantify. Quantify.

Whether you’re tweaking your resume or your cover letter, quantify  accomplishments. It adds substance and context.  It also helps to set you apart. Don’t just say what you did, show what you did.

3.   Revise. Revise. Revise.

The dreaded act of revision.  We all hate to do it, bur once we have we’re always glad we did.  For example, this blog.  I hate looking over my posts once they’ve already been published.  Why, because I know for certain that no matter how many times I edited it before I made it public, I will always find mistakes. You’re first try is never perfect.  It’s tedious.  It’s nerve wreaking.  Sometimes it becomes a bit compulsive, yet I know I’ll feel a lot better knowing that I’ve posted something that I don’t have to feel insecure about. Usually, that takes about 3 revisions.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the Revision Lecture from your English professors.  Turns out the lecture also applies to  preparing for interviews, or writing resumes. Most recently, after reading Jeff Haden’s article, I’ve come to realized that The Lecture of Revision most definitely applies when writing cover letters.

So, it’s back to the drawing board for me.

How about you?  Know any other tips that I didn’t cover?  Leave a comment, or email me at beginnersguide2workplace@gmail.com.

Read and Digest (Weekend Edition): Vacation, or Something Like That

In Blog, Read & Digest on July 1, 2012 at 8:10 pm

I interrupt your weekend to let you know that come Monday, I will be returning to the blogosphere. I took a mini vacation, which could also be interpreted as the fact that my work and personal life got extremely hectic!

Although I wasn’t up to all fun and games, I did get to witness The Jacksons (Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Jackie) perform in Atlantic City.  The experience was filled with lots of dancing and lots of tears.  My family also threw a very successful 4th of July BBQ Bash, and I am still recovering from exhaustion.

Hopefully your weekend went as well as mine.  I’m currently sheltering from the heat at my local Starbucks.  I hope you are too. I’d like to offer you some light reading in the form of my most popular blog postings:

Got a Shyness “Problem”?

Forbes, I’ll Have to Respectfully Disagree.

Coming Short of Your Personal Goals? Bolster Your Performance & Create a GAP Model

“I’m Sorry What Was Your Name?” : Simple guidelines if you’re feeling like the outcast in meetings

For more postings, just click on the Archives link.

Happy reading and relaxing.  I’ll meet you back on the Interwebs tomorrow!

“I’m Sorry What Was Your Name?” : Simple guidelines if you’re feeling like the outcast in meetings

In Blog, Business on June 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm

It’s always strange being the new kid on the block- or the only kid for that matter.  I’m not referring back to shyness problems. I’m talking about walking into a project meeting weeks, months or years after its start, and not knowing what anyone is talking about.  Or that dazed and confused feeling when people throw around so many acronyms, terms and software names that you can’t even tell the difference between the three.  The temptation to lose yourself in daydreams about anywhere else might be overwhelming but…DON’T TO THAT. Do this…

Here are some quick tips that I’ve learned from my experience…

  1. Sign Out and Plug In
    1. Sign out of email, Facebook and Twitter.  Plug into the conversation around you.
  2. Take notes
    1. Write down everything especially things that don’t make sense to you.  For the first meeting, that will probably be everything.
  3.  Be a Jigsaw Master
    1. Try to put all the pieces together.  Start trying to understand the process and the history of the project.  Write down how you think things might work.  You’ll need this for # 5.
  4. Make a Buddy
    1. Establishing a rapport with everyone in the room on the first day might be tricky, picking one person is a piece of cake.  Use the personal conversation initiative approach or find someone who seemed sympathetic to your newbie status,  Make them your friend.  If that person doesn’t warm up to you, find someone else!
  5. Buddy Meeting
    1. Ask your new buddy if they have time to run over some questions you had about the project.  When you meet, or have a phone conversation, with your buddy have your notes handy.  Showing that you attempted to contextualize all the new information being thrown at you well help narrow down information gaps, show your attentiveness, and display that you’re eager to get caught up.
  6. Try Not Being Too Self-Conscious
    1. You might be afraid that people are looking at you- sizing you up if you will.  They are.  Sit up straight, smile and tune into the conversation.  People will get used to your presence.  They’re just a bit curious.
  7. Shhhh
    1. Have you ever heard the difference between a wise (wo)man and a fool?  Speaking just to get your voice heard and yourself noticed is going to do a lot more harm than help.  Hold your tongue until you understand the situation more.
  8. Speak up
    1. I am fully aware that 7 & 8 are contradictions- they’re not.  Once you have embedded yourself in the context of the project, speak up if you have a question or comment.  My first manager gave me really great advice for feeling self-conscious, preface it.  Say, “I know I’m new to this but I was wondering, have we tried this approach?…”  Starting your comment with something like that will add to your contextual knowledge and let people know that you’re thinking critically and are ready to become a player in discussions.

Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be part of the club in no time!

Use What Your College Gave Ya’

In Blog, Business on June 25, 2012 at 10:33 am

In this ever changing world of technology, software, and programs, I’ve learned that you have to capitalize on the tools that your university supplied you with.   General knowledge, the ability to research, dynamic people skills and world smarts are all capitalizing tools, but the most important tool we learn in college is how to teach ourselves. Thanks to campuses’ digital resources we’re more prepared and equipped than scores of people in the work force to expand our abilities.  All we need is a computer. 

The resource that I use the most is Lynda.com. If you’ve ever wanted to be a wiz at Adobe, Excel, HTML or just figure out how to send a meeting invitation on Outlook just ask Lynda. If your school doesn’t offer a free account, Lynda offers a few free video tutorials.  If it’s a computer program, no matter what the field, Lynda can teach it to you in no time. 

Computer technology knowledge is becoming a must have in the work place. So, don’t waiting around for a training session or pass up on a dream job just because you’re unfamiliar with a program.  Use what your college gave ya’ and figure it out yourself. 

…It’s also a great way to pass time in the office if you have some downtime.

Other great technology knowledge databases:

youtube.com

http://www.techtutorials.net/

http://www.actden.com/

 

“Get Your Free Knowledge!”

In Blog, Public Speaking on June 22, 2012 at 10:06 am

The nerd/lifetime student in me is pretty excited today!  The VP of the Higher Education Division is giving a lecture on the future of higher education soon, and today a pioneer in Early Education is coming to share her teacher competency testing model!  I won’t lie to you, I miss college.  I miss my friends. I miss the conversations.  I miss most of my professors.  I even miss the communal feeling I get when I look down from the top floor of the student union at 4am to see that 5 other people are still typing away perfecting papers.  Still, what I miss the most about college are the open lectures.  Award winning and small time artist come from all over the world.  CEOs, economists, doctors, homeless people of Charlotte, and they all come partake in intellectual and cultural exchange.   So it should come to you as no surprise that when my job is offering lectures and seminars, I almost always sign up.  This leads me to my next tip and trick…

Keep an eye out for free lectures!  My grandfather always told me, “No matter how much education you have, you’re not the smartest person in the room.”  Basically, no matter where you are you can always learn something from the person sitting next to you, on the other side of the room, or besides you in the elevator.  So if someone is offering a lecture on something that remotely interests you, go ahead and sign up for it!  Don’t throw away the chance for some free education!

It’s also not a bad place to work on your personal conversation initiative or to keep yourself busy!

BIG NEWS!

In Blog, Public Speaking on June 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Now you can FOLLOW ME on TWITTER!

Of course the day that I decided to connect my blog with twitter was also the day twitter kept on shutting down, but my twitter page is now done!

Forbes, I’ll Have to Respectfully Disagree.

In Blog on June 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy a busy day with minimal downtime, but everyone needs a little break.  I think Susan Adams meant well when she posted this article a few days ago on Forbes.  I’ll admit that Eight Ways Goofing Off Can Make You More Productive is an enticing title, but 3 out of the 8 suggestions would have led me straight to the unemployment line – especially as an intern or new employee !  Here are columnist Susan Adam’s 8 suggestions, and alternative solutions that I offer:

    1. Take a walk around the block.

Luckily, my job is excellent about encouraging employees to walk around its campus.  There are scenic walking paths, and during lunch time groups of 2’s and 3’s own the road.  Yet, I understand that not every company has the same environment, and not every boss is going to be okay with you randomly leaving for a stroll in the middle of the day.

Instead I suggest taking a walk around your mental pathways.  Plug your headphones into your laptop or MP3 Player and just zone out for a few minutes.  Take a second to reflect or meditate on your next meeting or something personal.  Take some time to center yourself.  It may not be the change in scenery you were craving, but it’ll be a change in mental scenery.

2.   Take a nap.

ABSOLUTELY NOT.  If I were to list the top ten ways to get on the bad side of your boss, this would probably be in the top 5.  The best replacement for this piece of “advice”? Make a cup of coffee and have a chat with someone in the kitchen.

3. Chat with a colleague.

This is a great suggestion, and it will defiantly help you with your personal conversation initiative.  There is absolutely no harm in conversing with your colleagues.

4.  Run an errand.

Again, this is a tad inappropriate. Instead organize yourself so that you have time to run your errands later. Or just de-clutter your life. I suggest cleaning out your email, or creating those new inbox folders in your Outlook that you never had time to make.     Another constructive way to pass time, and step away from work without leaving your desk, is working on your personal career goals.

5.   Brush your teeth.

Adams pretty much correlates the removing of plaque to ridding yourself of sluggishness.  If this works for you, great!  Me? As the new person in the office,  I don’t really want to be known as the girl who is always brushing her teeth in the office bathroom.

Instead, pop a stick of gum into your mouth.  The minty zing really does help to give you a little boost of attentiveness.

6.   Spend ten minutes checking Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites.

I am not a hypocrite.  I think that most of us take the occasional peek onto Facebook.  After four years at college  mastering the art of procrastination while achieving major success, by multitasking with Facebook or Twitter, Facebooking and surfing the web are hard habits to break.

BUT it is how you web surf that makes it work appropriate.   Above facebooking, I would recommend checking out LinkedIn, that way you can continue working on your network and expand your knowledge of other industries.  I would also recommending web-surfing on news sites like Forbes, CNN, NYT, BBC or the Wall-Street Journal.  Or you can read an industry/career blog  like…maybe… this one?

7.  Go to the gym.

ONLY if your company has a gym on site.

If your company doesn’t and you’re feeling a bit antsy, check out this website:

        • 29 Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk

If you want a good laugh, check out this website:

 8.  Go out to lunch.

I highly recommend going out to lunch once in a while, even if you are not going out to eat.  Sometimes a nice little drive, or some time spent window shopping, can do wonders.  If you’re still feeling antsy, maybe you can go find a nice quiet place besides work to do the outrageous moves from A Workout At Work.

 

Coming Short of Your Personal Goals? Bolster Your Performance & Create a GAP Model

In Blog, Business on June 20, 2012 at 11:56 am

This is it. After emailing your cover letter to your career counselor, parents, grandparents, and favorite high school teacher for review, you’ve landed yourself an interview.  After breaking the bank to find the perfect professional outfit from a store you only know about because your parents shop there, and getting fashion advice from the nice sales rep behind the counter, you have found the perfect high cut and calves length business dress (or if you’re a guy the perfect suit).   After staring into the mirror rehearsing possible responses to questions like, Why are you a fit for insert name/company? or, What can we as a company gain by hiring you?, you waited around for a few days, and finally landed the job/internship.  The papers are signed.  Direct deposit statements are set.  Orientation was a breeze, and you are finally sitting at your cubical with only a pop-up wall separating you from a floor of others who, at some point, went through the same process.  Finally, the initiation is over. Right? Wrong.  Your work is just starting.

Not the work that your direct supervisor is going to be handing you, or the meetings, or the piles of notes that you’ll take after every conversation so that you know how exactly the company functions.  I’m talking about your personal work.  It’s on and off the clock and it’s never ending. That work is called gap analysis and after you learn it you will be using it for the rest of your life.  Gap analysis is a tool with a lot of factors and many different models, but it boils down to looking at the space in between where you are now and where you want to be (Is the picture making since now?).   Now, that’s a pretty general definition, and when working with most things general, the solution has to be broken into multiple parts. The company I intern with had a seminar led by the VP of Strategic Workforce Solutions, where he introduced ways in which gap analysis can be used to bolster business performance using Dana and James Robinson’s model.  We are using it to bolster personal performance.

Let’s Run Through It:

Going for the Should

Analyze what Is

Pin down reasons for gap.

I will use a simplified fictional case study to first identify the:

Situation: I am a new intern/employee.

Purpose: Promotion.  I am here to promote myself through newly acquired knowledge, hard work and networks.  I am also here to gain a promotion in my career whether it is with the same company or other potential employers.

                GAP Analysis

                                Going for the Should:

By the end of this internship I should have propelled my growth in new computer software, made an impact in the company through projects/relationships/cross-generational learning.  Gain mentors and new friends.

                                Analyze the Is:

It is my first week working with the company.  I have yet to meet my division’s director.  I know how to use the basic computer programs, but there is a new program that is foreign to me.  I only know the person next to me.

                                Pin point the Causes:

External Factors (out of your control):  Newness, Difference in work experience…

Internal Factors:

Attitude- Smile and walk with your head up. Address people by their names when saying Hello.  It shows that you were paying attention when they said their name, and makes the casual Hello a lot more personal.

Training- See if the company offers program training or work seminars, or make friends with your peers- usually people are more than willing to help you out. Foundation of Knowledge- A successful project takes a lot of work. Start asking questions and start taking notes.  This will demonstrate a genuine interest in your work and for the project to succeed.

Shyness- Seek people out using a personal conversation initiative….

I’m sure you’re getting the point, now get to work!

Feeling Insecure?

In Blog on June 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm

As polished, prim, and proper as we might be in the work place, nobody’s perfect.  Whether they are silly or not, we all have insecurities.  For some, this insecurity is the awkward cowlick that makes your hair standup no matter how you pull or prod it.  For others, it is the twitch in your right shoulder when you speak up in a meeting.  Maybe, it’s the pool of sweat gathering under your armpits whenever you are (and are not) nervous.

I have a few insecurities of my own, but my biggest one is my grammar.  Even as an English major from a top-ten ranked liberal arts college, I still catch myself wondering if my grammar is correct which drives me crazy. Once you send an email, proposal, meeting notes –whatever- it’s gone and there’s no getting back those blunders. So here’s a little tip: If you have any questions about what word or phrase to use, go ahead and make Grammar Girl a bookmark.   She’s pretty much my cyber best friend.

“The Case for Hiring ‘Under-Qualified’ Employees”

In Blog, Uncategorized on June 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Forbes recently released an article entitled “The Case for Hiring ‘Under-Qualified Employees.”  This is what I have to say on the matter…

For the past three summers I have worked at the educational testing powerhouse ETS.  By the second year I had advance experience with Microsoft Project, Excel, SharePoint and rocking it when it came to running my own meetings. 

However, I did not walk into my first day of work knowing as much as I do now.  If I were to provide you with a high-level timeline of my work experiences it would look like this:

Day 1-

     First day at work as a Corporate Project Management Intern…

 So, what is that?

Meeting with the director of CPMO   (Corporate Project Management Office)…

Hi, um… (silence).

First facilitated meeting…

(flustered. flustered. flustered)

Last Day of Year 1 (3 months later)-

Go to person for the project

Running multiple meetings and multiple projects

Conversing with executives and client executives

Comfortable. Confident. Challenged yet in control.

 

-Danielle