Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Career Building

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to career building as an independent contractor in IT.

5 Ways Web Developers Can Stay In-The-Know

This post by Dennis Furlan was originally published on the Freshbooks Blog on July 18, 2016

5 Ways Web Developers Can Stay In-The-KnowWe all have childhood memories that stay with us.

For me, one of these memories involves visits to the doctor. Specifically, what stood out to me during these visits was the fact that the doctor used to always interrupt an examination, leave the room and come back again minutes later. Every single time.

For years, I wondered what that was all about. Until, one day, after a session was over, I walked into the hallway past a door that was slightly ajar. I peeked in and was surprised by what I saw. In his room strewn across tables, chairs, floor—you name it—were medical books.

At this instance, I learned that the doctor used to leave during sessions and go into this office in order to look up what might be ailing me. In other words, even the most educated among us need to keep current with their profession.

This is as true for web developers as it is with doctors. However, when you’re with a client, the last thing you want to do is leave and look up your solution in a book. Instead, the challenge for web developers is to stay current, so that those valuable meetings with clients are as smooth and effortless as can be.

Here are some specific ways that web development pros can stay current with their profession.

1. Blogs

Blogs offer a mix of casual (but useful!) content for consumers, including web developers. And with the vast offerings of the world wide web, there is little shortage of blogs offering timely and engaging content on the industry.

A List Apart: A magazine/blog that covers all aspects of website creation since 1997. It has a special focus on web standards and best practices, which is useful for web development pros looking to keep up with their trade.

Six Revisions: Began as a traditional blog, but has branched out somewhat to become a general news website for professionals in the field of web development. The site is targeted towards developers and web designers, with a focus on both websites and apps.

2. YouTube

One of the great YouTube features is that it’s an easily accessible platform for anyone who wants to create video content. This includes video tutorials, which can be incredibly helpful in fields such as web development and web design, where more hands-on, visual approaches may be beneficial for learning.

TheNewBoston: Provides guidance on a wide range of topics for audiences in programming, design and development. In fact, TheNewBoston has over one million subscribers. So, if there’s a web development process you’ve been itching to learn, this is probably the place to find it.

Adam Khoury: If you’re a fan of tutorial-style learning via YouTube, Adam’s your guy. This video channel offers tutorials on topics like coding and design, and covers a laundry list of web development technologies, including JavaScript, PHP, SQL, HTML, CSS and ActionScript.

3. Twitter

One of the signature attractions of social media is embedded in the name itself: it’s a media platform that’s, well, social. If you like to find information all in one place, Twitter is a great platform to use to get a glimpse of what web development gurus are actually like.

Brendan Eich: The inventor of JavaScript and co-founder of Mozilla. Eich’s Tweets regularly, sharing his thoughts on issues relating to web development, as well as a little taste of who he is outside of work.

Codrops: A more newsy resource, Codrops shares web development tutorials, provides frequent updates, insights and resources. So, if there’s a specific web development or web design topic you’d like information on, Codrops is a good account to follow on Twitter.

4. Newsletters

The newsletter is another seemingly ageless media platform. In fact, newsletters have made the transition quite nicely from print to digital—a trend that also comes with some caveats. In the web development world, here are a couple of trusted and useful newsletter sources:

JavaScript Weekly: As the name suggests, it provides a weekly email roundup of everything new in JavaScript programming. Unlike the flood of daily newsletters you typicall receive, the JavaScript Weekly newsletter is sent once a week and is a go-to destination for web developers to stay up to date on anything JavaScript.

Hacker Newsletter: Another weekly source of information for web development professionals, focusing specifically on industry news related to startups, technology and programming. The newsletter’s content is curated from the Hacker website, so subscribers can read material they may have missed on the site.

5. Forums

Internet discussion forums have been around for a while and still are because they offer the topic specificity of blogs and news sites while also featuring the personal interactivity of social media. Basically, if you’re in need of answers to specific web-development questions, a web forum is your destination.

webdeveloper.com: A source for digital discussions on topics from HTML, XML and CMS to graphics, design and mobile apps. JavaScript as a topic has almost 500,000 posts in over 100,000 threads.

KirupaForum: Another forum destination for web development aficionados with the Kirupa website—web development and design instructors since 1998. The forum itself has a unique structure. All threads are on one page, with an infinity scroll. But you are able to filter through threads at the top of the page.

So, say farewell to clunky encyclopedias and get accustomed to the plethora of information available on the web. Web developers from all over are using it to stay up-to-date with the trends.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dennis Furlan is a freelance writer who covers a broad range of topics of interest to today’s selective content audience. Visit his website DennisFurlan.com.

When Co-Workers Interrupt Your Discussion

This article by Mark Swartz was originally published on the Monster Career Advice blog.

“And now for the key point of this articlWhen Coworkers Interrupt Your Discussionse. It’s that –“

“Hey,” says an interrupter, “I have a question. Also I disagree with what you said earlier.”

“Umm, we can come back to that shortly. Now…ah, where was I?”

Getting cut off while speaking is irritating. At work it’s like handling a heckler. You get disrupted and your idea is hijacked.

A good communicator can deal with interjectors. Even for chronic disruptors there may be no need for drastic measures.

Allowing Interruptions Can Harm Your Credibility

Part of any job is conveying your thoughts and ideas effectively. If you frequently allow colleagues to walk all over your words, what sort of impression do you make?

People may begin to think you lack confidence to assert boundaries. Your ideas may be viewed as less valuable since you don’t protect them from interference. A lack of protest could also imply they can take credit for your ideas with few repercussions.

Why People Don’t Let You Finish Talking

Not all interruptions are bad. Sometimes colleagues have something really helpful to add. They simply don’t want to risk letting the moment pass. It could also be their brain works faster than yours does. They’re impatient to comment. Or culturally they’re still learning Canadian business norms, not realizing they are being rude.

Then there are creeps who try to undermine or one-up you. Their intent is negative. These are people – along with chronic offenders – who’ll need special treatment.

Could It Be Your Fault Too?

You probably aren’t a trained communicator. So it’s possible you’re making some basic conversation errors. Here are several that invite listeners to jump in abruptly:

  • Be concise and highlight your main point early. Otherwise people interject to stop you from being longwinded.
  • Speak at a level that people can hear easily. If you’re too quiet it might be interpreted as a lack of confidence.
  • Did you prepare adequately? How about rehearsing to reduce hesitations such as umm, ah, mmm or long silences?
  • You get nervous and start losing your place, saying the wrong thing, not speaking with authority or conviction.

Keep an eye on your body language too. Facial expressions, the way you sit or stand, eye contact and hand motions can support (or work against) your spoken words.

 

How To Stop Interrupters

Handle transgressors appropriately. Coworkers who seldom disrupt can be treated very politely. Announce as you begin that you’ll gladly deal with questions and comments as soon as you’re done speaking. If one or two people interject anyway, acknowledge them but remind them of your earlier instruction.

When that fails try more aggressive approaches. Start by asking for input from others. That can block repeat interrupters from taking over. Next fight fire with fire: cut the person off and tell them you are going to finish now. A brasher tactic is to speak over the offender until they stop.

Chronic interlopers should be spoken to in private. Be pleasant. Point out that you’ve noticed their actions and wonder if they realize the effect they’re having on you and others. Hear them out. If possible reach an agreement to be mutually respectful from now on.

Defensiveness Can Backfire

Over-reacting to getting interrupted reflects poorly on you. Keeping your cool shows you’re made of the right stuff. But try to avoid letting yourself be a doormat.

Is it your boss or their supervisors who won’t let you finish? Communicating with managers takes special care. It may be worth letting them say their piece.

Save your objection for encounters you have a better chance of winning.

Life After Graduation — What’s the Next Step? (Infographic)

You’ve just graduated from University or College and might be unsure to what path you should take next and how you need to go about prepping your application for that dream job. Or maybe you’re itching to travel and not ready to head into the nine to five world straight away. Whatever stage you’re at in deciding your career route, the below infographic by Essay Writing Service UK outlines some key advice on choosing your next path and the options available, as well as what each of those options might entail.

Whatever industry you’re looking to make your mark in (whether that might be now or later on), there are a couple of different routes you can take to get there to enhance your employability and improve your overall experience. From taking the time to go travelling or delving into self-employment if you have the confidence, to continuing your study for further knowledge or carrying out an internship with a company to get your foot in the door.

You need to be aware of your employability and understand that your personal profile can make or break a job application, even if that job application is for working abroad or a temporary part-time job. The below infographic outlines some of the tools you should be using to enhance your employability. These include your resume/CV, your online presence within a booming digital world, as well as some extra considerations you should be thinking about.

In regards to the application process, each individual job application should be tailored towards a specific industry and job role. For example, outlining technical skills and experience should become more of a priority in an IT job application whereas visual representation and portfolio design might become more of a priority for a creative role application.

Whether you’ve already got your nine to five all booked in or you’ve got your heart set on going travelling for six months, discover the tools you need to step into the right direction of your future career today…

Life After Graduation -- What's the Next Step? (Infographic)

Are You Making Offensive Comments Unknowingly?

This post by Mark Swartz was originally published to the Monster Career Advice blog.

Are You Making Offensive Comments Unknowingly?You don’t think of yourself as insensitive. Co-workers generally laugh or smile at your jokes. It’s rare that someone complains you’ve hurt their feelings by something you’ve said.

Then a colleague files a complaint against you for making an offensive remark. How can this be? You ask yourself. I don’t remember being inappropriate.

The rules of office etiquette are changing. Yesterday’s tolerated comments may be unsuitable today. Do you know how to avoid being an offender?

Diversity Can Create Uncertainty

If everyone at work was similar to you it would be simple not to offend. There might be unspoken rules about off-limit subjects and acceptable ways to communicate.

In diverse workplaces cultural norms vary. It can be harder to tell who you might upset by saying the wrong thing. You may sincerely believe that you aren’t coming across as abrasive. After all, your friends, family and work buddies never complain.

Definition of Offensive Comments

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, offensive remarks are in the ear of the receiver. Each person will weigh what you’ve said against their own sense of what’s tolerable.

If they consider your remark offensive they’ll see it as one or more of the following:

  • Personally repugnant, in violation of their moral or decency standards. For instance if you make a sexually suggestive joke.
  • Personally insulting, like when you belittle their work performance or intelligence.
  • Bigoted, as in judging others based only on their skin colour, religion or political beliefs.

Offensive statements cause people to cringe. Those who are affronted feel attacked or otherwise upset. That’s why you need to be aware of the impact your words are having.

Bigotry

A remark can be distressing if it stereotypes people. Bigotry is a broad category that covers some heavy duty typecasting. Statements that reduce a person to a set of prejudged traits belong here. They diminish the importance of respecting others as individuals.

Racism and sexism are in this category. So are sweeping comments based on age bracket, disability or sexual orientation. Same for marital and family status or country of origin.

Good thing there are ways to minimize your tendency to pigeonhole people.

Put Downs and Insults, Even In Jest

It’s unlikely you blatantly insult your boss and colleagues. More probably any put downs are made with a measure of humour. It can be fun to point out someone’s shortcomings – or to exaggerate their behaviour – in a non-hurtful way.

Except there’s a possibility of your intent being misinterpreted. Some people don’t find those sorts of comments comical. There’s also a risk that no matter how harmless the remark, the person on the receiving end is insecure or overly sensitive. They could react negatively.

Be careful about making people feel vulnerable. That’s especially true when publicly shaming others to motivate them.

Raising Sensitive Issues

Are there topics best avoided where you work? You might offend accidentally by bringing them up, even if you do so innocently.

Recalling embarrassing incidents that everyone wants to forget falls under this banner. Revealing somebody’s personal information without their permission does as well.

Watch That You Don’t Violate Policy

The workplace is not a 100% free-speech zone. Your employer may have policies that govern what’s off-limits. Read the employee manual for guidance. Study the sections on mutual respect and acceptable communication practices.

These policies could extend to what you say online. Express your controversial opinions to trusted followers. Offensive social media remarks that are publicly visible might get you called in for chat.

Online and off, it isn’t that you have to walk on eggshells in fear of offending someone. What you need to ensure is that you’re delicate in what you say or write, and never blurt out something that could be taken as harassment or bullying.

How to Handle Office Pet Peeves and Annoying Coworkers

This post by Joe Issid first appeared on the Monster Career Advice Blog

How to Handle Office Pet Peeves and Annoying CoworkersIf you’ve ever worked in an office, it is inevitable that you have held on to some unhealthy feelings towards one (or more) of your colleagues. Whether it is your impolite boss or a hygienically-challenged cubicle mate, ill-feelings can develop pretty quickly and can linger for longer than necessary. Personally, I have had my fair share of annoying co-workers over the years (my personal favourite was the co-worker who built a temporary wall to divide our cubicle because he suspected that I was stealing his work). I am also reasonable enough to admit that I must also be guilty of being that guy to other people with whom I have shared an office over the years. No matter the case, no one is immune to these feelings of frustration and we are all equally eager to rid ourselves of these regular annoyances. Here are some suggestions that may help:

Don’t suffer in silence

One of the worst things you can do in a professional setting is to hold on to grievances. If there are some elements in your work life that are not living up to your expectations, it behooves you to discuss then with the relevant people involved. I’ve seen far too many people suffer in silence, which only serves to further their feelings of frustration and alienation. So, if you share a cubicle with someone who insists on cutting their toe nails at your desk every week or floss right in front of you, it is probably best for you to address this before you get to the point of destructive confrontation. So, how do you do this?

Effective feedback

Whenever we consider providing feedback in a work context, it is usually perceived negatively as it is often associated with some form of consequence. As such, it is somewhat understandable why so many people refrain from providing unsolicited feedback. However, providing effective and constructive feedback is the single best option that you have to resolve any work issue you may encounter. According to Chantal Westgate, Adjunct Professor of Organizational Behaviour at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management, “[for] feedback to be perceived differently, one has to convey that it is the only way we can improve.” So, if you have a colleague whose behavior is distracting and/or bothersome, providing constructive feedback is an excellent way to address an ongoing issue.

When to speak up?

While I would certainly advocate an open dialogue in all offices, there are certainly some situations that may be best left untouched. For example, a former boss did not like the fact that one of my team members came to work wearing a very short skirt and asked me to address it with her. After deliberating for a while, I chose not to raise this with the team as I did not feel that it had any real merit. Firstly, the company did not have a formal dress code, so my staff member was not violating any defined protocol. Additionally, her attire was not impacting her work nor was it impeding anyone else in the office from performing their work. As business was not being impacted, I felt that raising the issue may have had a negative impact on the workplace despite the fact that the boss’ sensibilities were being tweaked.

It’s not getting better

As with most work-related disputes, I would suggest you try and resolve them among yourselves. In some instances, however, you may need to escalate the matter if the issue has grown into something more substantial. Personally, there have been some situations where I simply could not reconcile the differences between a co-worker and myself. In such a case, you need to be honest with yourself and determine whether these differences are deal breakers. In some cases, these annoyances are minor and can be ignored when looking at the bigger picture. For example, are you really willing to go to war over a co-worker who noisily chews gum during meetings? On the other hand, is the issue significant enough that it is impacting productivity and happiness at work? If so, you may need to look into speaking with your boss or someone from human resources before the issue gets out of control.

Am I the problem?

To paraphrase a bawdy expression that my grandfather used to say: if everyone around you is annoying, maybe you are the problem. If you find that your default mood at the office is aggravation or hostility, you may want to consider the possibility that you may be the source of much of this negativity.

Over the course of my career, I have been very well-served by looking inward whenever I encountered difficult situations. Let’s face it: we’re not all perfect!

So Now You’re a Manager

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

So Now You're a ManagerFor many of us, after toiling in the trenches for years, aspiring to move up and into Management is a natural progression; in fact, we all probably know of the coworker who would say “what took you guys so long to promote me?” That, however, is a topic for another day.

Technology contractors generally benefit from being independent, but they are more often than not working as part of a bigger team. At some point or another, you may find yourself at the head of that team and managing a group of contractors or your client’s full-time employees. While such responsibilities tend to come with higher rates and valuable experience for a resume, it isn’t always sunshine and roses.

No matter the field, most professionals are thrilled with their first opportunity to manage people, but may be painfully unaware how their new job will change so drastically. When one goes from doing whatever it is you have become so adept at — programming, sales, accounting — to assuring others or a team of your peers accomplish what you may have seemingly mastered, well… now the “fun” begins.

Many organizations make the assumption and sometimes serious mistake that the star developer is the next Team Lead or Project Manager, but often that path is not natural. The business world needs look no further than the sports community. In sports, it is widely accepted that the star or legendary athletes very often do not make good coaches. Wayne Gretzky holds every NHL record there is and many that will likely never be broken, but suffered a post-playing career to a very unimpressive sub 500 record while coaching.

There are likely many reasons why the “star athletes”, who often have an extraordinary skill set at doing what they do alone (ex. sales, healthcare, programming), are abject failures in driving others to excel and accomplish the way they did. We can reasonably ask why those who are so accomplished inherently fail in the ability to coach, motivate, develop and truly lead others on a Team. Is it that different from managing oneself? The short answer is yes.

Star performers have an intense focus and ability to perform and accomplish at the highest level. They control their single most important resource — themselves. A Manager or Coach, on the other hand, must prioritize, multi task, coordinate and motivate a multitude of others, often like a Symphony Conductor and his orchestra with the hope the end result is sweet music. First time Managers will often struggle with this lack of “control” and will mistakenly try to do the job themselves, reverting back to their “me” instincts or micro-manage their way to success. Their new job, though, is a “we” job that requires an entirely different skill set to manage a team of people. An ability to delegate and empower others is not natural to the recently promoted “star”.

While we know the micro-manage scenario is a morale killer that often diminishes productivity on teams, it is a leap for many new managers to understand how important communication is to a Team. They may know what to do inherently but are poor at communicating that skill or ability. New managers or Team Leads will need time to acquire these skills and in the interim will likely need a ton of resiliency and perhaps a thicker skin as they take on the added responsibilities of other people’s actions.

The Best IT Career Advice from 111 Industry Gurus

Neil AndersonFlackbox Logo runs the popular Flackbox blog, a resource providing advice for IT professionals to build their cloud and data centre career. He was recently a guest on the Packet Pushers Datanauts podcast where he had the opportunity to talk about Career Advancement. As Neil mentions on his blog, searching for a job in IT has changed dramatically over the years, so this is an important topic to him. Wanting to provide the best advice possible during his podcast appearance, Neil decided to expand beyond his own knowledge and sought IT career advice from 111 of the top experts in the industry.

Neil spoke with a wide range of professionals, including industry experts such as leaders, authors and bloggers, as well as CTOs, CIOs from the world’s top universities, HR directors and recruiters, and his loyal Flackbox readers. After the podcast, he generously summed up the advice from all 111 experts in one extremely valuable blog post.

Two of the people who provided IT career advice and were featured in the blog post are Eagle’s very own Kevin Dee (Chairman of the Board & Co-Founder) and Morley Surcon (VP Western Canada). Here’s the advice they provide:

IT Career Advice from Kevin Dee

  1. If you are choosing a tech career then you already made a great choice.  The future will belong to the knowledge worker, and tech will only play a bigger and bigger part in our lives.
  1. I am often asked about the problem of getting hired without experience… “How do I get experience if no-one will give me a job to get experience?”

Getting that first job is huge… then taking full advantage of it is critical.  Once you have a couple of years’ experience you are probably well established on a tech career.  So… do all the right things to get the job, and don’t underestimate what it will take to excel at it.

  1. Be prepared to start at the bottom, be humble and have the right expectations … look to the future!
  2. Companies want a great attitude even more than they want skills … bring a great attitude and some entry level skill and you improve your chances.
  3. Get experience wherever you can… volunteer with charities/not for profit organisations, get Summer jobs, take an extra course in “in demand” skills.
  4. Big companies hire a lot of tech people… banks, oil & gas, retail, telephone companies, big consulting companies (Accenture, Deloitte) etc.  If you can find ways “in” to those companies it is a great way to start a career.  (Summer jobs there, people you know, people your family knows, people you cultivate etc.)

IT Career Advice from Morley Surcon

“Old Chinese (I think) proverb…  Q: When is the best time to plant a tree?  A: 10 years ago.  Q1: When is the second best time?  A2: Today.

The IT industry is going to be going through an “experience crunch” as baby boomers retire over the next decade… the people with the knowledge capital will be leaving and there won’t be others with enough experience to step in behind them.  This is going to cause some strife for organizations… especially the ones that haven’t migrated to newer technologies.

There are industries out there that are still heavily reliant on mainframes and systems built on old code (like Cobol)… and there aren’t new people training on this old technology.  For example, there are many in the banking industry suggesting that their mainframe infrastructure is going to have to carry them for another 10 to 20 more years… they are looking at alternative staffing strategies in the attempt to acquire and train new employees to help bridge that gap.

There may be a “contrarian opportunity” for younger IT professionals to build skills in some older technologies… even if they combine this with some newer capabilities so as not to put all their eggs in a dying basket.

… or if they want to stay “mainstream” then choose to study technology relating to mobile, web based technologies and/or security as they are “hot” and likely will be for a time… or focus in on embedded programming or any of the building blocks of IoT as that appears to be the direction of things if you can believe the rhetoric.”

All of this just scratches the surface!

Check out Neil’s complete blog post for all of the best IT career advice from 111 Industry Gurus

20 Biggest Mistakes of Your Career (Infographic)

Whether it’s your first day and you’re terrified of making a rookie mistake, or you’ve been working for the last thirty years and you may have gotten a little complacent, we have all made at least one of these seemingly harmless mistakes.  This list created by lostgenygirl.com is a great compilation of 20 easy to forget things that could be holding your career back.  Nobody intentionally does any of these things, but hopefully this list will make you more cognizant in the future so you avoid them.

Which of these rules are you breaking and how will you change that?

20 Biggest Mistakes of Your Career

Graciousness in the Workplace… Where Did it Go?

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Graciousness in the Workplace... Where Did it Go?In today’s fast paced world full of never-ending negative social media blitzes, over-hyped reality television, shock-jocks/journalist rants, and larger than life politicians, it appears that the concept of being gracious to one another has been lost.  People are too focused on trying to get our attention with outrageous and unkind behaviour.  They fail to see that the simple act of being gracious can have a more positive and lasting outcome and, yes, get our attention too!

In speaking with contractors, I always ask them why they left their last place of work.  Did the contract end? What were the people like? What was the work environment like? I often hear how negative workplaces have become, how managers and executives don’t seem to care, and that everyone is too stressed out to focus on basic human decency.  This is one of the main reasons contractors do not take an extension with a current client or want to leave a project early. On the other side of the coin, “Was a candidate gracious?” is not the top reference question a client asks, but they do ask if that person was a team player and were they easy to get along with. Therefore, there’s an argument for everyone, clients and independent contractors, to bring graciousness back into the workplace. So how do we do that?

The simple act of saying THANK YOU goes a really long way.  Often, people will stay in a busy work environment if they know they are working with great people in a team who recognize their effort.

Another easy way is by being in the moment — giving someone your full attention and time. When you are in a meeting, or even more importantly, speaking with someone directly, put away your device.   It shows the person you respect them and value what they have to say.

Give positive feedback along with the negative.  People want to hear the good and the bad but want to hear it in a constructive manner.  Graciousness goes along way when working with others on how to improve their work.  You can still get the same message across without being overly negative.

Be open to helping others.  How?  Some simple ways:

  1. If a new person joins the team, introduce them to others.
  2. Say HI to your co-workers
  3. Recognize people’s achievements – privately and publicly
  4. Be genuine
  5. Share your project knowledge capital and help them get set up for success
  6. Be responsive

I know graciousness is sometimes hard to embrace because it demands our time and it can seem counter intuitive to business strategies that promote looking out for #1. However, graciousness does lead to a better workplace.  A better workplace leads to happier people, and happier people lead to better project outcomes, which lead to better references and more work in the future.  WIN-WIN-WIN for all!

Before Sending a Rude Email, Ask These 5 Questions

5 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before Sending a Rude EmailMost people don’t intentionally send rude emails to recruiters, clients or fellow independent contractors. As stress increases, time decreases, and tense situations arise, though, it’s easy to fire off emails that quickly send your recipients into a defensive mode, and leave you perplexed as to why they’re so sensitive. What is even worse, though, is that you can damage your reputation and chance of getting future IT contracts without even knowing it.

If you’re still scratching your head to determine why people are being put off by your emails, have a look at the list below. Next time you’re sending an email, especially one that’s potentially sensitive, take a couple of extra minutes to ask yourself these questions and ensure you’re not going to start an unnecessary conflict.

Did I start and end the email nicely?

Some emails should be no different than a face-to-face conversation (many should be an in-person discussion, but that’s a different post all together). If you walk into a client’s office, blurt out a bunch of comments, and then leave, without the slightest greeting or closing, you can bet they’re going to be lost and offended. Since the average person types 40 words per minute, “Hello” and “Thank You” should take you all of 2 seconds to write. Please don’t be lazy.

Did I include enough information?

A vague email can lead to terrible miscommunications that seriously hurts an IT project. Depending on how vague it is, it can also leave the recipient making their own assumptions about your mood. To solve this problem, start with a clear subject line so they know exactly what the email is going to say. In the body, ensure you let them know precisely what you need, why you need it, and include any timelines. Feedback should also come with some context.

Additionally, refrain from blank, or nearly blank, emails, especially when forwarding. Jeff Bezos’s famous “?” emails are effective at Amazon, but you’re not Jeff Bezos. Including context clarifies your tone and keeps out the guess work.

Finally, although it’s important to have enough information, too much fluff is also an issue. People are busy and don’t want to read your emails as you dance around a topic. Be polite, but be direct.

Am I making them do the work?

When you send an email that references another document or email, do what you can to prevent the recipient from having to dig it up (and possibly dig up the wrong thing). At the minimum, including the date range and recipients of an original email so it can be sought out is better than “Find that email from Jane where she talks about that thing.” For attachments, also copy and paste the information directly into the body of an email. Many emails are checked on mobile devices and previewing attachments can be a hassle – your recipient will appreciate being able to scroll rather than download.

Did I include negative undertones?

This is the most important question to ask. It happens when we’re in a hurry and for many of us it’s just a bad habit, but negative undertones are easy to include in your emails without knowing it.

First, look at the basic punctuation. DON’T YOU THINK WRITING IN ALL CAPS WITH MANY EXCLAMATION AND QUESTION MARKS IS RUDE???!!!!????!!!! We do, and so do your other recruiters, clients and colleagues.

There are also more subtle signs to consider. Negative words such as “don’t” can affect the tone of an email. “Try writing it differently” sounds nicer than “Don’t write it like that.”

Even who you copy on an email could cause unwanted tension if it is perceived as tattling or pointing out mistakes to belittle. Think about who you are copying and why it’s important for them to be included.

Am I straight up being rude?

As much as you think that that lazy team member or neglectful recruiter deserves it, very rarely is a rude email going to solve your problem. Avoid barking orders, being pushy, or harshly criticizing. Instead, ask questions and provide solutions. If the conversation is going to be rough, then pick up the phone or walk over for a face-to-face conversation.

The moral of the story is that independent contractors should never send a rude email. It’s easy to fall into the trap during busy times or when you’re under pressure. When you know you’re at risk, take a few extra minutes to review what you wrote. You can also try saving it as a draft and returning to it later or asking a friend to review it. Remember, friends don’t let friends send rude emails.