Danielle Dory

Posts Tagged ‘tips & tricks’

Thinking About Incorporating?

In Blog, Business on August 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm

To say that I’ve been busy these past few weeks would be an understatement.  Part of my time was spent registering for classes on Coursera (a site I highly recommend for anyone dealing with classroom learning withdrawals).  The rest of my free time was spent attempting to decipher cryptic tax laws.  I wish I could claim an exotic trip, or losing myself in crowded city streets but admittedly I’ve been hunched over my computer and books.  

Yet a few weeks later, here I stand-  bags under my eyes and a little bit more knowledgeable about the beginning steps of owning your own business.   Over the past few weeks I have been trying to figure out how to register with the state as a LLC.  To be honest, a few weeks ago I had no idea what the difference between an LLC, LLCs, LLCc, Inc, or Co’s was- last week  my brain was still swimming in an alphabet soup.  Today, I’m finally ready to share what I’ve learned …

Just as a reminder, I am not a tax expert.  I’m just someone who spent a lot of time on the internet.  If you are thinking about incorporating, talk to an accountant and business owners who have incorporated.

  1. Why Would You Want to Become “Incorporated”?

For small businesses with plans on making it big one day, incorporation helps to protect your personal assets from lawsuits. 

If you’re being brought in as a consultant, filing as a single member LLC will protect your personal assets from lawsuits, but it will also allow you to separate your business expenses from your personal income.  This is particularly important from a tax perspective.

    2.  How do I become “Incorporated”?

The process varies by state, so if you want to register on your own you’re going to have to do a bit of research. If you don’t want to do that, a great website to register your company with Legal Zoom. If you’re like me and you don’t want to pay any extra processing fees, I suggest registering with your state’s Department of Treasury.  You will need to:

1. Pick a name

2. Write a statement of purpose

3. Understand what type of business you want to register as- if you are the only person involved in the business MAKE SURE you register as a single-member LLC. That will unable you and your business will be taxed once as one entity.   If you have a partner- set it up as a partnership… make sure you know exactly what you are before you register.

4. Create an EIN with the IRS

  3.  Handling Your Funds

 If you’re incorporated, you will be filing and reporting your own taxes- social security taxes, income taxes, the whole 9 yards. This site, will help you to calculate your estimated daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly taxes. From there you will need to keep detailed record of all your business expenses- gas, milage, car payments, health care ect.  This will help you determine the difference between your business expenses and your personal income. 

A helpful way to keep track of your business expenses is opening up a business account.  Shop around a bit in order to get a policy that works for you, but essentially you will want to use this business account to collect your income and track your business expenditures- for taxing purposes. 

 

Okay folks, that’s what I’ve learned. 

 

If you know any additonal infromation, feel free to email me or leave a comment.  I’ll be sure to update this post with any additional information I come across in the next few weeks.

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.

More is More

In Blog, Business on June 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I know you have all heard the saying “less is more” but for the first two months of your internship or your new job more is defiantly more.   When a project or task is given to you, either go beyond what is expected, or complete the task with meticulous detail and foresight.  Google samples of the format you have been asked to use and partake in some self teachingOne of your major goals as an intern or new employee should be self-promotion, so put yourself out there by going the extra mile by handing in a product that goes beyond being solid.

It’s important that you follow a more is more work ethic for multiple reasons:

  1. First Impressions

First impressions really are everything, but I’m sure you didn’t need me to tell you that.

  1. Learning Curve

    You’re going to get the most information about a company thrown at you in the first few months of employment.  Taking the extra time to hand over dynamic products will help you to sort out all the information that you are learning and understand the inner workings of a company. 

    You’re also learning how to do your job to your best ability.  Once you give your boss the most you can (within reason and scope of the assignment), they will be better able to gauge your ability and fill in the gaps from there. 

Yes, going the extra mile is challening, and it will most definatly raise the bar of what is expected of you.  Adhering to the more is more philosophy is a lot of work, but once it becomes routine, tasks that took you a day to complete will take less time and less effort.

  1. Aesthetics

This principle doesn’t only apply to content.  It also applies to the ascetics of a project, proposal or document- partially.  The more do to a document while increasing the functionality of an assignment and keeping it user friendly, the better.  If you’re creating a document in Excel, throw in some conditional status boxes or make the heading cells a certain color to distinguish them from the value cells. If you are using a generic template make sure you take the extra time to verify that all your information and styling is consistent.  Don’t have a list that is part sentences and part statements.  Don’t have some subtitles underlined while others are italicized.  Go over your final project with a fine tooth comb.  

“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!

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!

Got a Shyness “Problem”?

In Blog on June 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm

I’m incredibly shy. Now, usually when I say this to anyone who has known me over hm… 30 minutes all I get is an eye roll.  I project well, I carry myself well and I’m pretty good at carrying a conversation.  Still, if you throw me in a room filled with people I hardly know, it takes me awhile to warm up to people and feel comfortable.  I think that for most of us that’s pretty normal.  However I’ve learned that in the workplace this type of timid behavior will rarely get you noticed.  Yes, it is true that hard work and diligence goes a long way, but so do smiles, hellos and relationships. 

For a young (or old)  intern, or someone new to a company taking the first step towards getting to know that person around the corner, or even your boss’ boss’ boss can seem a bit intimidating.  Even waving can be tricky (in cases of unreciprocated waves, I’ve always pulled the ol’ cramp in the wrist routine simply pretend like you’re cracking your wrist until your hand is back at your side).   Although typically approaching people after you’ve already met them may not be a problem, meeting people in a new place (or just in general) can be especially tough.

THIS BBC ARTICLE written by tech reporter David Lee discusses how companies are just as concerned as we are about not building relationships in the office place.  Lee mentions that companies spend millions of dollars on creating a familial workplace.  Yet, really feeling comfortable in the workplace is up to you.  Yes, ice breakers at office parties can start dialouges, but creating a personal conversation initiative goes even farther. 

For me, the best place to spark new dialogue has been in the floor’s kitchen.  What better way to kill 1 minute and 45 seconds as your Lean Mean Cuisine warms up? Turns out Georg Ell (manager of Yammer– a social network vehicle dedicated to building relationships in the workplace) and I are on the same page.  We both suggest opening dialogue with “What are you working on?” Not only does this start a dialogue, but it helps you to learn more about the company while establishing a stepping stone towards building a network.  Follow up with, “I work in insert department how do our departments interact?” or more questions about their position/department.  Later the conversation will become more organic.  After that? It’s all up to you.

Tip: If your memory is as bad as mine, keeping a Word document of people that you meet and looking names and faces up in the work directory will help you remember names and faces.  It’s also not a bad way to kill time.