Sunday, November 27, 2011
You’ll find that in your career you’ll have to hire people, a vendor, or ask people to carve out time of their busy lives to create a bid, proposal, or do research for you. And in doing your due diligence, you’ll have to reach out to a minimum of 3 people or businesses if not more. However, you can only pick one in the end.
Although you can’t offer everyone a job or the contract, what you can do is handle the rejection process with a little dignity and humanity. Here are my suggestions that I hope you will find helpful.
1. Do not ignore their emails or calls when they follow up asking about status or the final outcome.
Even if you don’t have an answer yet, tell them that. Encourage them to keep in touch and to ping you every week or give them a time frame of when you may know.
2. When you do know, tell them instead of leaving them in the dark.
It’s only fair that if you’ve put someone through a lengthy interview process, bidding process, or asked them to take your call or meet with you, you tell them what happened. You don’t have to tell them the entire truth, but you should say something to provide closure.
3. Call them, send an email, and speak with them in person.
Call them to try explain very briefly what the final outcome was, to thank them, and to encourage them to keep in touch or that you will also keep them in mind for the future. If they are not there, do not leave a voicemail, email them saying you tried them and then call them again and speak to them on the phone.
4. Warn them of the bad news.
You can preface your email or conversation with, “I wish the news was better.” And give just enough of an explanation on why they couldn’t be picked, but not so much that it would be bad form.
5. When you can afford it, send a thank you gift.
If you or your company can afford a thank you gift for vendors that didn’t land the contract, send a reasonable thank you gift as a gesture of appreciation for working with your deadlines and being so attentive. This can be for the last two or three vendors that gave you the tasting session, walk thru, and met with you 2-3 times or took your calls in the middle of the night.
Overall, you want to own up that you feel terrible that you couldn’t choose them and realize they worked really hard to land the job, account, or deal. You want to honor their efforts and leave the door open for future collaboration and possibility.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Answering Reader Mail: What questions should I ask an interviewer when applying for an Executive Assistant position?
What questions should I ask an interviewer when applying for an Executive Assistant position? I do come prepared with questions. However, sometimes during an interview, the interviewer answers all of my questions during the conversation without me even asking. Then at the end of the interview, I'm stumped on what else to ask regarding the Executive Assistant position or their company. I feel as though if I don't ask, I'm not showing interest!"
Friday, September 2, 2011
Even in life or death situations, people hold back from doing the right or best thing because an emotion - guilt, pride, sorrow, embarrassment, anger - is holding them back. If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book where he talks about the pilot communication problem and the resulting crashes, you will know what I mean. Whenever you are confronted with a problem and have to act or change something, when you are not eager to jump in, there’s an emotional barrier you have to overcome.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
One of the best ways to become a better assistant is to be your boss for a day. What I mean by this is hire someone to take care of a task for you or be your assistant for a day with anything you need help with. It’s not until you are paying someone money, to help make your life easier, do you realize the challenges of finding someone good, eager. You will learn how time-consuming and difficult it is to train them or communicate to them how you want a task done to your liking and specifications. You essentially want a mini-you. If only there could be two of you! Something that seems so simple and obvious to you, second nature even, will be hard to translate to someone else.
Remember in grade school when you got that assignment to write directions or an essay explaining how to do something step by step, like making a sandwich or whatever you chose? You had to start by saying, “First, open the bag of bread. Second, pull out two slices, not that yucky first end piece, then cut off the crusts. Third, don't forget to close the bread bag or the bread gets stale. Then, get the peanut butter and jelly jars....” You had to explain every little detail as if you were instructing a 5 year old so it taught you to be mindful of sequential order and specifics. Be your boss for a day is the grown up version of that.
What do I have in mind? Hire someone to do any of the following:
Wash, dry, fold and put away your laundry
Clean your room or apartment
Run to the store for you to grocery shop
Help you find a restaurant
Wash your car
The amount of critical thinking, judging what’s important/not, and understanding that people are not mind readers will blow your mind away. Your expectations and what you envision will be vastly different from what is delivered, and not because they are dumb or didn’t pay attention or anything else. It’s more, without specific instruction and constantly changing variables, everyone’s idea of X is different.
For example, let’s take something as basic as getting help finding a restaurant. This is what typically happens.
You ask someone to help you find a restaurant for a birthday celebration and you say something along the lines of something special, but not too expensive and nearby. When your assistant for the day goes off and does some research and comes back with 3 options, you will probably negate them for the following reasons:
-You don’t like X cuisine they chose.
-It’s either too casual or too inexpensive.
-You’ve already been there so it’s not special enough.
-You hate that restaurant.
-The place is too loud or too trendy.
-Parking is difficult or $20 for valet.
-You’ve never heard of the place or it doesn’t have a good reputation.
-The place is closed on Mondays or X day.
-They don’t have a great dessert menu and you can’t bring your own cake.
-You know X goes there a lot and don’t want to run into them.
As someone’s boss, you have to walk the fine line of not coming across as being scatter brained, picky, or indecisive. You have to provide the right amount of encouragement, praise, and feedback so your assistant has high morale and gets what you need in as little as time as possible. You have to be aware how long certain tasks take although to you it seems rather simple.
Practicing this exercise will make you a better assistant, but it will also make you a better boss to your interns, 2nd assistants, and other colleagues. People make the best decision they could at the time with the information they had THEN. However, life is constantly changing and what you know now, most often, wasn’t knowable earlier.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
This test is fairly typical for most admin roles. You are seated in a room at a computer and either have one minute or 3 minutes to type. This test is to gauge how fast you type and how accurately you type. You are given the text and you type it as well as you can. It's pretty self explanatory as there are fool proof instructions given before the test starts.
This test is usually multiple choice on a computer as well. There are thirty questions that go from easy to hard. It's given to understand how well you know how to use Word. It starts off with a question of opening a document, saving it, printing it, and editing text, enlarging text to doing mail merge, making labels, and inserting a graph. Sometimes, just by the way the question is worded you can figure out which menu to look under to find the answer even if you don't know.
This test is also given on the computer as well. It tests how well you know how to use Excel. There are usually 30 questions. It will ask you to open a document, write a formula, highlight certain columns, how to insert a row, and other tasks.
This test is also given on the computer as well. It will test how well you know how to use Powerpoint. It will ask you 30 questions ranging from starting a presentation, adding a slide, moving the slides around, inserting an image, etc.
5) Behavorial Role Play
Aside from asking behavior questions to gauge how you would act in certain situations relating to office politics, getting along with difficult co-workers, or how to solve problems, I've interviewed at places where I had to role play certain situations. The hiring manager would give me a hypothetical scenario that would be the worst possible incident at work to solve. Then, I would verbalize to the hiring manager as if they were the client/board member/etc on what I would say. The hiring manager would respond with difficult, unfriendly comments to see how I would handle the situation. We went through a handful of different situations and discussed in detail how I would respond, why, and what I would do next. Incidents ranged from a co-worker who was not pulling their weight, a vendor dropping the ball, miscommunications or misunderstandings regarding tasks.
This test was administered on a computer. There were 30 questions that were multiple choice. It was a male voice with an American accent speaking anywhere from a couple sentences to many sentences about a given scenario. Once he stopped speaking, a question would pop up and you had to choose the correct answer. The difficulty of this test was there was so much information to listen to and keep track because you didn't know what the question would be asking you once the voice stopped. There were so many details to remember because the question would gauge how well you take in information, remember it, and then test you on reasoning, inference, deduction, and what to do next. Some of the questions involved basic math and inferring deadlines based on given information. Other questions were about information that was implied but not stated explicitly. Situations related to dress code, how/what to tell customers, phone messages, seniority, office politics, and other typical situations.
7) English Language Usage and Grammar
This test is also administered on the computer in a multiple choice fashion. There were 30 questions and it tested for writing, grammar, comprehension, and the English language. Typical questions were related to definitions, correct sentence structure, and writing styles related to memos, being concise, and non-sexist language. A couple of examples were the difference between disinterested vs uninterested, between you and me or between you and I, define sexism, and find the sentence that is an example of sexist language.
8) LSAT Logic Games
This test is usually administered in writing so you can graph out the correct answer. I've heard of it being administered verbally, as well in front of a group panel without any option of pencil or paper, or on a computer multiple choice style. There are anywhere from a couple of questions to 20 or 30 and you are given anywhere from 30 min to 2 hours to finish the test. Google "LSAT Logic Games" online to get an idea of what these Logic Games are. They are very convoluted, detailed, and intricate games that test your logic, reasoning, deduction, inference, and your stamina/patience. ;) For anyone that knows anything about the LSAT, the logic games are the hardest part of the test and the hardest part to prepare for because there are a few different types of games and strategies to master them. When I took them, I took the paper form where I was given extra blank paper to work out the problems and had to turn in my work.
9) Writing Memos
This test is usually administered on the computer. You are asked to write one or two sample memos with on a given topic, details of information, and the tone of what the memo should be including the various recipients who will be cc'd, etc. Another variation of this test is to write a sample email or letter to a client or vendor. These types of tests look for grammar, sentence structure, proper formatting, tone, and how you structure your writing including what you leave out, how long your writing sample is, and how long you take.
10) Event Planning
This test is usually administered on the computer in a Word document. You are asked to plan an event from scratch. You are only given your budget, who is attending, and why, the rest of the details are up to you. You are to outline a breakdown of your budget, pitch your event, and also write a memo/email inviting everyone. You are tested for writing, creativity, decision-making, and a whole host of parameters based on whatever it is you come up with.
What other types of tests have you come across? And how often were you told up front the type of test you will be given or were allowed to study for it? Do you have any tips?
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Sorry to hear about the difficult work situation. I hear about it all too often. Nonetheless, it is NOT fun when it is happening and very disappointing. It seems so unfair. Your question on how to stay positive, eager, and not allow this to be an initial issue is a good question. It seems you have enough self awareness and perhaps already read books about professional growth, etc. While it is in your power to stay positive and eager, I'm not sure how much control you have over it not ever happening again or it not becoming an initial issue. It really is disheartening to be put into situations as such and the only remedy is to learn how to control your reactions, thoughts, behaviors so your productivity, peace of mind, and sanity are not jeopardized. At the heart of it, you can't control other people. You can perhaps engage less with them and learn to understand why they act the way they do (on your own through reading, without consulting them). Their efforts to undermine you could be for a variety of reasons - boredom, they feel threatened, you're their scapegoat, low self esteem, insecurity, gunning for a promotion, inter office politics, a pay raise at stake, etc. My advice to you is to keep your head down, do your work well, be nice to everyone while observing who can help you fulfill your goals at work, get to know your boss really well, get to know your boss' boss really well. It's good to get to know people at work, but they don't have to be your best friends there or outside of work. Also take the time to nurture those below you and help them out. One thing I would caution you against doing is getting other people involved. Although the situations are counterproductive to a great work environment and don't make a lot of business sense, unfortunately, being a mean person at work is not illegal. It's true that terrible people get to keep their jobs because someone higher up likes them. Most people would rather work with someone semi competent that they like than someone stellar that they like less. I think this is an issue we all come across and it's a long learning process. Understanding human behavior, forgiveness, and concentrating on your life goals are the foundation to getting through tough times and scenarios. The better you become at reading people, understanding what makes them tick, how to give them what they want (attention, praise, validation, results, commiseration), and to navigate the business world gracefully, the easier it becomes. I would suggest reading books by Keith Ferrazzi, Covey, and Robert Sutton. I'm glad you have such an open mind and are eager to learn. That's a great first step! Keep me posted on everything and hopefully I can help.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I realize the last time I posted was 6 months ago. Since then, I’ve been regrouping. I’ve been enjoying the process, maybe too much, that I decided I should probably blog again. If you haven’t noticed yet, I alternate each posting between a professional and personal topic. Today’s is about this journey we call life...
I’ve been a lot more introspective as of late. A couple of friends have both moved away and moved on to bigger and better things in adulthood. One lost a family member. I’ve run into people from my past. Babies were born. Someone had a really, really bad day. There has been a lot of worldwide natural disasters and news. And I’ve met some new wonderful people too. In the last few weeks, every conceivable human life experience has touched my friends’ lives or mine. It has made me ask myself - am I spending my time wisely? Am I grateful enough? What do I REALLY, REALLY want out of life?
I have yet to re-answer those questions. Right now, I’m trying to find the time to apply critical thinking skills to evaluate the master plan for my life. I will go into goal-setting mode in the next few weeks as well. As I carve out “me-time,” it strikes me how odd and flummoxed I am with how to fill 40 hours. Although I’m very much a “do-er,” sometimes my doing is too automatic that I’m on this treadmill of short-term productivity without long-term progress.
Next week, some vague goals I have are to meditate every day, to work out a couple of times, to meet with various people, and to find time to ponder and reflect how I want the rest of this year to look. I can’t believe it’s already ½ over. Perhaps I will go so far to structure one year and 5 year plans. Right now, I’m just brainstorming how to wisely spend next week. I’m already seeing it’s a lot of work, but it will make things so much easier in the long run.
To help, I’ve been watching or reading the following. Lately, this is what has captured my interest:
-Soul Surfer, the book and movie
-True You, Janet Jackson’s new book
-Penelope Trunks’ self published book
-The How of Happiness book
-I Am documentary
I recall looking forward to a week or two of deep self-reflection and planning for the future. I wanted to get through a lot of what if, what next, and strategy so I wouldn’t have to think about it again for another 6 months.
As I was thinking about how to best use the week, an odd thing happened. I had actually cleared my entire schedule for this self-imposed sabbatical and instead, I got flooded with meetings and projects. By the end of it, I was exhausted. I almost wonder if in “letting go" or letting things "be" things began to change.
I was able to tackle some of the books listed above. I certainly got a lot done, even though it wasn’t stuff exactly on my list. I did exercise a couple of times too. I’m somewhat in the same place where I still have to think hard about the next 6 months. I think blogging again is a good start. It forces me to think, to be concise, to be focused. I also took a mini vacation. I’ve implemented some actions that will hopefully pay off in the long run. I'm going to give it about a month to track initial progress. If all the steps from the past couple of weeks don’t lead anywhere at that time, I will definitely have to go back to the drawing board. This time I'll have to make sure to come back with some nice blueprints for life. ;) If you have any suggestions, let me know.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
As you may know, my standard interview outfit for being a CEO’s assistant is an all black suit with pointy heels in black. Since all of my jobs have been pretty corporate and I dress fairly conservative at work anyway, this has worked well for me - until a few things made me start to think...
Because I’ve been meeting with all these companies, I started to notice differences I never had exposure to, coming from mostly a corporate, Fortune 500, all business all the time background. The companies I met with were legitimate, successful, and reputable, but they became that way for not following whatever was mainstream. And how they differed was evident from the first point of contact. The communication was breezy, very casual, peppered with slang, as if we had known each other for years. The meetings were in coffee houses or over meals. They didn’t want to see my resume. They just wanted to sit and chat. Through the grapevine I heard I was complimented for being cute because of my large dimples. I was advised not to wear the suit. It was also suggested to not have my hair up in a clip. I was advised to wear something very trendy and specifically a dress. Because fitting in with a company’s corporate culture is imperative, that also comes across in the way one dresses.
I had difficulty coming across young, hip, and trendy, without it becoming too cute, too green, and not business enough. And how does one wear a dress to an interview without it becoming too feminine and alluring? I finally settled on a speckled black, grey, and white long turtleneck sweater dress that came down to mid-calf, with long sleeves, a wide silver and black belt to give the dress an empire waist, and low red heels. I also wore an oversized ring on each hand to accessorize a bit.
When one is only 5ft tall and petite, it’s sometimes hard to be taken seriously. I’ve had colleagues see me out in LA and not recognize me at all in casual clothes, or mistake me for a junior high kid in jeans and a shirt. In the past, I would have rather erred on the side of being taken too seriously in a corporate suit rather than too lax in something a bit more casual. However, knowing that most people would rather work for someone they like that they have things in common with that is a pretty good employee versus someone stellar and they like less, I should probably tone down the corporate attire and let my resume (hopefully) speak for itself...
Have you had similar dilemmas? And what are your suggestions for dressing for various types of companies - technology, advertising, architecture, music, and other industries that are not typcial business, law, real estate, or finance companies? And do you wear different types of outfits for the head of HR, the assistant, and the CEO or other executives that you interview with? What have you found that works or doesn’t work?
Monday, June 13, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011