Before Your Next Trip Overseas…

Travelling abroad for work can often be an exciting and rewarding perk of your career. It is an opportunity to visit a new place, meet new people and see new sights. Often, traveling abroad for work isn’t always just about work, and usually involves some leisure time as well.

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You will be conducting business with those you are traveling to meet, and perhaps even travelling around the city or country with them as well during some leisure time.

As much as your mind is (and should be) focused on the important meetings to come, it is imperative that you take the time to do some research on the culture you will be visiting before you leave the comfort of your home. Ed Fuller from Marriott International, details the importance of knowing about others’ culture while traveling, in his article for Forbes Magazine.

Before you leave on your trip, consider completing some of the following exercises so that you can get the most out of your business trip, which will benefit both you personally, as well as the company you represent.

Watch YouTube videos

YouTube videos are a great way to see and hear about a foreign culture. Videos might be the most effective research tool, as you get both sound and movement, and can really start to appreciate the culture of a certain country.

There are also endless videos out there, and so finding appropriate ones should be fairly simple. For instance, you can search “traditional Peruvian meal” and watch how a meal might be cooked as well as consumed. You may also search things such as “traditional Indian dance” or “Moroccan cultural ceremonies.”

Learn your “hello’s” and “goodbye’s”

It is always a good idea to learn a few basic words or phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. Not only will it show that you did your research (this will likely be viewed as a sign of respect), but it is a great way to connect with others on a deeper level, which may help to foster and grow professional relationships.

If you don’t have a great memory, or if you don’t have time to sit and memorize how to say “thank you” in Swahili, create a cheat sheet before you leave that you can study on your 24 flight to Kenya. 

Pick up a small travel guide of your destination 

Many bookstores sell small travel guides to the majority of popular destinations. In them, you’ll find a plethora of information on the country in question in a(n often) very small package, one that you can likely take with you in your carry-on. It will outline many common phrases, places to eat, and sights to see.

The fact that this is a business trip, as opposed to a leisure vacation, indicates that it is important to learn as much about the new culture as possible. This will reflect extremely well on you as a business professional, which will also translate back to your company. Present your best and most informed self, especially when traveling for business.

 

How Casual is Too Casual on Friday’s?

Friday’s at the office is something everyone looks forward to – not only does it signal the impending weekend (freedom!), but it often means you get to don something a little more casual to work. This can really be a great opportunity to show off your personal style and personality to your coworkers.

As exciting and thrilling casual Friday’s are, it’s important to remember that “casual Friday” should not translate to “today I’m wearing pyjama’s to work” or my “Saturday’s grubbies”. There are still guidelines to follow when dressing down at the office.

Yoga Pants are for Yoga

Yoga pants – possibly one of the most comfortable items a person can wear; Stretchy, silky and often black (and therefore sliming). It makes sense that you might want to throw a pair on if you know you’ll be sitting at your desk for the better part of the day. However, yoga pants are not office appropriate, even on a casual Friday. Instead, opt for a pair of well-fitting jeans (jeans that fit your body correctly will be very comfortable and some even have stretch in them – just like when bra shopping, it is often beneficial to consult a sales clerk for help with your perfect fit). The darker the better, and no holes please!

If a pair of jeans on a casual Friday makes no sense to you, try something like a linen pant – comfortable yet stylish!

Flip Flops are for the Beach

There is never a situation in which wearing flip-flops to the office is appropriate. Never. Even if they are Gucci flip-flops. It makes sense that you don’t want to wear typical dress shoes on casual Friday, however try to opt for something stylish yet comfortable, and still covered in the summer (open-toed sandals shouldn’t really be in the office). In the summer, our dress is lighter and we say “the less the dress, the less the shoe”. There are stylish open-toed shoes you can choose from without having to go to the extreme of wearing the ubiquitous flip-flop.

Just as flip-flops are not meant for the office, neither are running shoes. Running shoes are for running! There are lots of great options out there for footwear that are comfortable, stylish, and office appropriate. Now you get to go shopping.

You Are What You Wear

 Casual Friday’s are a great way to show your coworkers who you are outside of the office. However remember that what you wear and how you feel will affect your job performance directly; if you wear yoga pants to work, chances are you’re feeling extremely relaxed and comfortable, and that might reflect on what you accomplish that day.

Remember as well that you are still surrounded by your superiors and colleagues, and therefore how you portray yourself via your choice of clothing matters just as much, if not more, than throughout the rest of the week.

It’s all about balance – if you can successfully balance comfort, style and professionalism this Friday, you will be the best dressed in the office, and probably the most comfortable!

Here are some examples of some do’s:

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Here are some examples of some don’ts:

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How To Nurture Your Newest Contacts

If you’re a professional, you know the utter power and influence networking possesses. Networking isn’t always a formal event; it can consist of essentially any activity in which the opportunity to meet new people is present (a tennis tournament, your daughters skating arena, lunch with coworkers, or a family get-together).

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As a professional, it’s important to recognize that just about everything you do, and everywhere you go, has the potential to be a networking opportunity. In fact, grocery stores across Canada have picked up on the opportunity for young singles to meet while picking up their essentials, and have created “singles night” to encourage the behaviour (see this link for the detailed article). Opportunities exist all over, and it’s important to seize them.

But then what?

What happens after you meet someone new is more important than meeting them in the first place. It is one thing if you are a networking pro and have no problems approaching strangers and striking up a conversation, but it’s what you do with those new contacts that really matters.

Always follow up

It is important not to lose your new contacts’ card somewhere deep in your wallet, only to discover it a year later. No matter how important (or possibly, unimportant) you believe this contact to be, always follow up the following day with a short email. The email might discuss your first meeting, and a suggestion to go for coffee the following week. It is also an opportunity for you to connect with them on LinkedIn.

The idea here is to keep the conversation flowing; to build and nurture the relationship you just formed.

Keep new contacts organized

Having a huge pile of business cards on your desk will not help you nurture your new contacts. As soon as you receive a new card, import the information onto your computer or phone. This will also make it easier to send out greetings during a holiday (another great way to nurture your contacts). If you think you will not remember who the person is or the company they work for, file/tag them by event date or name.

 Remember, it’s a two-way street

 Networking and building your contact base is definitely beneficial to you and your professional career. You recognize the power and importance of having a large network. However it’s also important to remember how you can help your new contacts. Let your knew contacts know about the qualities you possess that may be beneficial to them, and offer your time should they be interested. We call this positive networking.

Don’t take networking for granted, and certainly, don’t take your new contacts for granted! Let them know that they are appreciated, and keep the dialogue flowing.

How to Nail Your Next Skype Call

There is no question that technology has integrated itself so seamlessly in the world of business that almost no business transaction can be completed without its use. The need to keep up with the world of technology has never been so pronounced, especially when it comes to your career.

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A relatively recent technology that has proven extremely valuable in the world of business is Skype. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a software application that allows two people who have access to a computer to contact each other via the Internet; the webcam is also frequently used for video calling. Skype has allowed people from around the world to video-call each other for free.

More and more, Skype is becoming a convenient way of conducting meetings and interviews when a face-to-face situation is not possible. An interview over the phone is one thing, but the ability to see the other person is invaluable (we all know how important body language can be, especially in an interview setting). Skype interviews and meetings can sometimes be unnerving, so here we offer you some tips for the preparation of your next Skype call, so you can be as prepared as possible and nail it!

It’s all in the preparation

  • Although you may be in the comfort of your own home or office, that does not mean that you do not have to adequately prepare because you may have access to notes or documents that might help you through the call. It’s good to have some notes jotted down, but do not rely on them to get you through.
  • Because the individual on the other end of the call can see your home/office, it is integral that you clean before the interview! What will a potential employer think when he sees the messy room behind you?
  • Be sure to always use the washroom before your call. This may seem silly, but it won’t when you’re in the middle of explaining why you are the best candidate for the job and you have to excuse yourself to visit the restroom. This can be easy to forget, as you are already in a familiar setting.
  • Be sure to have anything you foresee yourself needing during the call at your nearest disposal. For example, it is always a good idea to have a glass of water nearby.
  • Be sure to do a test call just before your scheduled call to ensure that the framing of your computer is right, and that the lighting in the room is perfect.

Because of the comfort often associated with a Skype call (you are often in your safe space), it can be easy to forget some basic principles of a traditional job interview, such as adequate preparation, and even your self-presentation. It is important to remember, however, that the stakes are always high, and that the way you prepare for and present during a Skype call has profound and lasting effects on your executive presence!

Is “best” the worst way to end an email?

You may or may not have stumbled upon the article in Bloomberg News which claims that “best” may in fact be the worst way to end an email. Email etiquette consultant Judith Kallos states that “…best is benign. […] It works when you apparently don’t know what else to use.” Others continue to bash the signoff, saying it is impersonal, abrupt and charmless, amongst other things.

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The experts quoted in this article believe that the best way to end an email is by saying nothing at all. But is that really the case? Not saying anything at the end of an email can come off as curt, short, and even forgetful. It can possibly even come off as rude.

 

What’s the best way to sign off?

Well, that depends on the situation. The experts interviewed for the original piece discussed emails as if they were all the same. They did not make any distinctions in terms of whom the emails were sent to, who was doing the sending, or what the subject matter was.

The most important thing to think about when you’re signing off on an email is who you’re sending the email to, and what the email is about. It is important to know your audience and what they might expect to hear based on what was discussed in the email. If you’re sending a formal email complete with documents and a report to your superior, it is not appropriate to just say nothing. However, if you’re in an ongoing conversation with a colleague and are emailing back-and-forth throughout the course of the day, it may be acceptable to forgo a formal sign-off.

Some alternatives to “best”.

If you’re looking to switch up the routine a little, here are some suggestions on other signoff’s you can try out:

  1. Regards: simple, straight forward, to the point. Also, not too personal, such as “warmest regards” or “kindest regards”, which is fine if you’re emailing someone with whom you have a closer relationship.
  2. Thank you: this can be a great way to sign off with anyone, especially someone you may not know very well, or in an email in which something was asked of the receiver.
  3. A custom sentence: you don’t always have to sign off with one or two words. A short sentence of four to five words may suffice as well. For example, a signoff sentence could be: “Have a wonderful day,”, or “Thank you for your consideration,”.

Emails, as simple as they can be, are also quite complicated. They have become part of our daily lives and our identity as a career professional, and are a direct reflection of our professionalism and executive presence. You spend time and thought on the body of your email, and it’s important to do the same when it comes to your sign-off, as it is the last thing the receiver will read.

Etiquette Tips For Summer Weddings

Inspired by our last post on etiquette for the summer barbecue, and in honour of wedding season, here are a few tips and tricks to get you through you’re increasingly expanding list of impending weddings.

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Weddings are no doubt a fun, joyous and exciting experience for not only the bride and groom, but also for the guests. The nuptials, followed by cocktail hour and then (hopefully) the formal sit-down dinner usually lend themselves to a good time, and a romantic one at that. As much as the bride and the groom are the focus of this special day (as they should be), many people also see weddings as an opportunity to network, as they have the chance to meet many people they wouldn’t normally come into contact with. This can be a great opportunity for the eager networker, however there are definitely some guidelines to follow.

Handing out business cards.

As always, it is a good idea to carry business cards with you wherever you go, and a wedding is no exception. Weddings can be a goldmine when it comes to meeting people that could add significant value to your life, personally and professionally. It is always a good idea to have business cards handy (bring lots!) in the event that someone asks you for your information.

It is imperative, however, that you wait to be asked for your business card as opposed to simply offering it. Remember, this is a wedding, not simply an opportunity for you to network and meet potential new clients.

In addition, when someone asks you for your information, that does not mean everyone at the table has asked as well – simply give the interested party your card, and ask for theirs in return.

Easy on the alcohol.

Yes, weddings are, more often than not, a fabulously good time with lots of food, cocktails and dancing. However, for any professional, it is important to recognize that no matter where you are or what you’re doing, your behavior is a direct reflection upon you as a person and as a professional.

Taking this into consideration, it is important to limit your alcohol intake at weddings. Yes, the open bar can be extremely tempting, but remember, this day is about the bride and groom and you do not want to take attention away from them by acting obnoxiously. In addition, consuming too much alcohol will likely impede your ability to network effectively, possibly letting some really great contacts slip by.

Remember your manners.

It is usually a good idea to review your table manners before attending an event that includes a formal dinner. Eating with proper table manners is respectful, and is also a really great way to show those around you that you are aware and professional in all settings. For more information on formal dining etiquette, you may review our post entitled: “Formal Dining Etiquette Rule You MUST Know.”

The music, the dancing, the romance. Weddings can be a magical experience for all those involved, and although your first thought may not be “oh, I should brush up on my etiquette/networking skills before they tie the knot”, you may find that it was well worth it in the end.

Etiquette for The Summer Barbecue

Summer is the long-awaited and much anticipated season; dresses, patios, and of course, summer barbecues. In recent years, barbeques have grown in popularity as an easy, fun, and delicious way of getting people together. They have also spilled over into the professional world and have become an informal setting for colleagues get together outside of the office

bbqOffice barbecues can be a great place to get to know your colleagues, and perhaps even your superiors, on a more personal level, given the informal and relaxed setting.

Although the term “barbecue” holds many connotations (such as informal, fun, relaxed, and beer), there are still some etiquette rules to abide by, especially when the barbecue in question is one filled with colleagues and/or superiors. Many of the same rules in effect at a holiday cocktail party still hold true at an informal barbecue.

Never arrive ravenous

 It is important to not show up to the barbeque on an empty stomach.

  • Think of the barbecue as an incredible opportunity to network in a new space – and a comfortable one at that – where others are likely feeling relaxed and happy. Can you say the same when you are trying to network in an office setting? Don’t focus all your time on the food!
  • Have a few snacks before you arrive, so that you’re not immediately drawn to the food. Of course, it is important to indulge in what is offered so as not to offend the host.
  • Start with a small portion of what is being offered (don’t bombard your plate with a mountain of BBQ’d ribs). If it was so delicious that you must have more, make sure others have eaten first before getting seconds.

Do not drink in excess

It is sometimes easy to drink one-too-many beers when you’re in someone’s backyard, on a bright and sunny afternoon. However, you must keep in mind that this is still a work function, and there are lots of important eyes on you.

  • Pace yourself with the alcohol. After each drink, switch to a glass of water, and try to limit yourself to two, maybe three drinks total.
  • Try to stick with one kind of alcohol throughout the barbecue. As the widely known rhyme goes: “beer before liquor, makes you sicker.”
  • Snack throughout the barbeque – if you’re going to be drinking for a few consecutive hours, it is imperative that you are also eating (which is also why it’s a good idea to have some snacks before you arrive!).

Try to reach everyone, at least once

Barbecues can be a gift for those who might struggle with the idea of networking. It is much easier to network, and get to know others, when everyone is in a wonderful mood, relaxing in the sunshine and drinking sangria.

  • Try to connect with everyone at the barbeque at least once. If you talk to the same group of people throughout the event, think of all the potential new contacts you didn’t
  • Although you likely work with most of the people at the party, colleagues may have brought guests. It’s always a good idea to bring business cards so that you’re prepared if and when someone asks you for your information.

Just like any other office party, barbecues can be a great place to relax, enjoy, and get to know your colleagues on a deeper level. Although they are often informal and casual, the same etiquette rules of a fancy Christmas party still apply! Remember, if you’re surrounded by colleagues and/or superiors, you’re still working!

Set Goals to Reach Executive Presence

 

Executive-PresenceAs we teach at Corporate Class Inc., Executive Presence is neither exclusive nor elusive – it can be learned. Still, a powerful presence is not something that you can acquire instantly without guidance or practice. You must take time to understand and incorporate Executive Presence into your life while building your reputation to go with it.

However, do not let this discourage you from pursuing Executive Presence. Instead, set achievable goals and identify stages on the path to developing an impressive presence – and suddenly it will seem easier than you think!

Here are a few helpful milestones on your path to Executive Presence:

  • Attend an Executive Presence Training Program or Seminar
    When you attend a half-day, one-day, or two-day intensive training program, you gain a solid foundation on which to build your Executive Presence. We provide you with knowledge of all the components of Executive Presence as well as opportunities to practice them in a small-group setting.

    With our training on all aspects of Executive Presence, including interpersonal and digital communication, non-verbal cues, executive dining, workplace best practices, professional image, and more, we set you well on your way to reaching your goal of developing Executive Presence.

  • Update your wardrobe
    Once you understand how to achieve your look of success, act upon it by updating your wardrobe, accessories, and makeup tools accordingly. For example, does your wardrobe match the workplace culture and dress code of your current position? Do your garments appropriately fit your body type and your personal style? However you answer these questions, swap out the items that do not put forth your best professional image. Even investing in 1 to 2 polished and appropriate pieces can go a long way for your image.
  • Attend networking sessions to sharpen communication skills
    Do not simply practice your interpersonal communication skills at random when the occasion arises. Instead, purposefully attend networking sessions so that you can sharpen these skills. Start by working a room – learn to enter a room while feeling at ease yet confident and strong. Also make a point to introduce yourself to several strangers and engage in small talk. The more often you do it, the more natural it will feel.
  • Practice conducting business over a meal
    Just as you can practice interpersonal skills at networking events, schedule a business meeting over lunch in order to refine your executive dining. Start by inviting a close colleague or friend to a meal, so that you can focus on best practices for business dining in a low-pressure situation. This way, when you are meeting an important client or contact over lunch or dinner, you will feel in control.

    Watch our video on 5 Business Dining Etiquette Tips to learn more.

After you develop your Executive Presence foundation at a training program or seminar and then apply your skills in real-life scenarios, your Executive Presence will become increasingly stronger over time.

Additionally, with these single initiatives working together, ultimately Executive Presence will come naturally to you and you will have built a winning reputation. Focusing on small, achievable goals makes the path to Executive Presence attainable for anyone!

 

Work Efficiently, Not Hastily

Have you ever heard the phrase “haste makes waste”? There is truth to this expression, especially in the workplace – as making decisions and producing work too quickly can have negative effects. However, getting caught up in a rush can be difficult to avoid: the fast-paced environments of many workplaces demand immediate results.

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How, then, do you reconcile the requirement for prompt action and production with high-quality work? There are a few strategies to take so that you can work efficiently but not hastily.

When Making Decisions

Especially for major decisions, a hasty choice made with poor judgement can have repercussions that carry far into the future.

  • Even if a decision requires a fast response, ensure that there is enough time for proper reflection and consideration of possible results. This not only includes your own reflection, but also implies that there is enough time to reach all other individuals who should be consulted in the process.
  • Ensure that everyone involved in the decision-making process agrees on an appropriate timeline to reach a conclusion. This will set expectations and clarify uncertainties. If you do not set a proper timeline, certain individuals may feel more urgency, stress, and anxiety when an answer isn’t reached within their expectations.

When Responding to Emails

The immediate nature of email sets the tone for constant and prompt communication. However, do not be tempted to send messages quickly that may require further contemplation.

  • For simple emails such as meeting requests, it is fine to respond promptly. But if a question or request over email demands a more lengthy response, don’t feel tempted to type as fast as you can to appear efficient to your contact. Under most normal circumstances, a good benchmark for responding to emails is within 24 hours. Use that time to think about how to convey just what you want to say.
  • Never send an angry email in the heat of the moment. If you are in the midst of a confrontation and type an emotional response, do not hit send – instead, save the email to your draft folder and revisit it a few hours later when you are calmer. Chances are, you will revise the email or start over from scratch.

When Producing Work

The quality of your work reflects directly on you as a professional. Ensure that it is a positive representation of your abilities.

  • Proofreading a document, spreadsheet, or report can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. If a close colleague can spare a few minutes, ask him or her to look over your work as well. Taking even a small amount of time to ensure you have done a good job can make a huge difference. For more on this topic, see our previous post, “How the Little Details Matter for Executive Presence.”

Adding time for proper reflection and review of your work does not have to compromise your promptness and efficiency. Instead, it will prevent you from working in a hasty, thoughtless manner – and your conscientiousness will enhance your presence in and out of the office.

 

Is it time to rebrand?

Many companies choose to rebrand from time to time in order to stay relevant and up-to-date, or to establish a new direction for their organization. This does not mean changing the core foundations of a company, but rather refreshing its look or brand imagery, repositioning its strengths, or changing its marketing tactics for a new target audience.

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Just as rebranding occurs on a corporate level, it is also a good idea to consider whether your personal brand needs a refresh. Here are three tips to re-positioning your brand so it best reflects you and your professional goals.

  • Before You Begin: Self-Reflection
    Before you even think about what kind of changes you will implement to your brand, first consider high-level questions about how you see yourself as a professional. Where do you want to be in five years? What are your key strengths that could help you reach your goal? Who are important contacts that you should connect with?

    Revising a personal brand is not a decision to be made on a whim – it should be viewed as a long-term strategy in helping you establish your name, accomplishments, skills, and ideas to get you where you want to be now and in the future. Once you consider big questions about your professional path, it will be easier to think of how to position your brand.

  • Refreshing Your Brand Image
    Even if you are not planning for major career changes in the near future, it is still advisable to keep your personal brand image current.

    Replace your headshot at least every ten years to ensure that you are recognizable to new and existing contacts on your website and LinkedIn profile. For personalized stationery, business cards, and digital platforms like your website, ensure that visual elements such as colour scheme and typeface still represent you properly and do not appear outdated.

    If you choose to change up colours, fonts, or your professional headshot, make sure that the visual elements align on all platforms associated with your brand. This includes your resume, stationery, business cards, email signature, blog, website, and social media accounts. A mixture of old and new branding can appear sloppy.

  • Rethinking Self-Marketing Strategies
    How you present yourself to new contacts, on both digital platforms and face-to-face contexts, is an essential part of your personal brand.

    For meeting new professionals, it is helpful to have a clear and concise “elevator pitch” about yourself, including your interests and experience. Developing a self-summary will enable you to introduce yourself consistently to different people and will assist you in considering your objectives.

    Ensure that your self-introduction on digital platforms serves the same purpose. Your LinkedIn summary and profile should highlight the same elements of your verbal self-introduction. Further, the content you create on digital platforms, such as LinkedIn updates, blog posts, and tweets, should at least indirectly align with your brand identity.

Do not take a personal rebrand lightly: it should set the tone for your personal brand in years to come. Yet when done properly, a personal rebrand can set you on the right path to reach your professional goals.

For more on this topic, see our previous blog post, “Building Your Personal Brand.”