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Tag Archives: communication

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian IT Contractors relating to communication.

9 Tips Every IT Contractor and Job Seeker Must Read Before Sending Email from a Phone

9 Tips Every IT Contractor and Job Seeker Must Read Before Sending Email from a PhoneMany IT contractors always keep their smart phone attached to them because the plethora of apps mean they can always be connected to family, friends and work. Among the many apps that keep you connected to work, email is arguably the most important but can also have the greatest failures.

In many ways, email etiquette when sending from your phone is the exact same as when sending from a computer. For example, you will always need to review the tone, use Reply All sparingly or know when it’s better to pick up the phone. However, there are also some distinct differences. Here are a few tips for anyone — IT contractors, job seekers, managers –to consider before sending an email from your phone.

  1. Get to know your email app. There are several mobile email apps available. Whether you’re using the native one to your phone or you have another you prefer, get to know it and ensure the settings are configured. How does your name display when you send an email? Is your signature block set-up (and do you want that “Sent from my mobile device” line)? Do you know all of the tools and how to properly format with bullet points and numbering when sending an email? Failing to review these early will result in unprofessional-looking emails.
  2. Keep them short. Sending emails from a phone is more time consuming compared to sending from a computer where you have a full-size keyboard. There’s also a higher margin for error. To save yourself time and embarrassment, keep the emails on your phone short. If it needs to be longer, jot down a few points in a draft and complete the email when you’re back at a computer.
  3. Don’t Be Too Short. Yes, it’s best to keep mobile emails succinct, but that doesn’t mean you can be lazy. Continue to have a quality subject line and include proper greetings and sign-offs. As well, keep in mind that an email from your phone is NOT a text message. There is no place for emoticons and typical cell phone short-hand. Finally, use subject-only emails sparingly. The email with no body and just a subject that says “Please send Susan that process document” may be efficient for you, but can be perceived negatively by your recipients.
  4. Avoid Long Blocks of Text. Another common flaw that appears in phone-generated emails is the massive brick of text, clearly written by somebody too lazy to hit the enter button. As noted in Tip #1, get to know your app so you can use bullets and line spacing to organize your email in the same way you would from a computer.
  5. Double-Check More Than Usual. While checking spelling is a given because of the nature of writing on a small keyboard and the jokes autocorrect sometimes plays, it’s also prudent to take a second look at the recipient you selected and the email account from which you’re sending.
  6. Have a Plan for Attachments. Do you have a way to access all of the attachments you may need to include in an email? If you did manage to load the files onto your phone, uploading them to emails uses data. Instead, keep files on a cloud account (iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc) that you can access from your phone and only send a link to those files.
  7. Be Careful of Emotions. At this point in your career, you know not to send an email when you’re in an emotional state (ie. Angry) because it’s too easy to write something you’ll regret. Your phone being so readily available will make it even more tempting and easy to send that email… don’t fall into the trap!
  8. Check Your Surroundings. It goes without saying that you should never write an email while driving. It’s also wise and courteous not to start firing off emails while socializing or meeting with other people. Not only is it rude, but the distractions almost guarantee mistakes will happen.
  9. Decide if It’s Necessary. Consider both the urgency and length of your response. If it can wait a few hours or you need to write specific details with attachments not currently available, then wait until you’re back at your desk where you can do it properly. Worst case, send a quick reply confirming you received the email, provide a brief answer, and let the sender know you’ll respond in more detail later.

Certainly you’ve been on both the sending and receiving end of a mobile email. If you’re like many others, you have mixed emotions about them too. How often do you send emails from your phone? Do you have any stories of mobile emails gone wrong? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

How Does Language Shape the Way We Think?

It’s a fact that everybody thinks differently, approaches a problem differently, and overall interprets the world differently. It’s also a fact that remembering and understanding this will help you be a better team member and work more effectively with others.

We shared a video last year discussing how bilingual brains perceive time differently. This video from TED Talks explains further about why people think differently based on their language (the one they speak, not the code). With thousands of different languages around the world, it’s fascinating and eye-opening to realize why some cultures approach problems completely differently from others. If you have a 15 minute break, take some time to check out this video. It might change the way you interact with others on your team.

Baby Boomers v.s. Millennials: How to Communicate and Overcome the Generation Gap

Breigh Radford By Breigh Radford,
Director, Human Resources at Eagle

How many times have you heard that the key to a good relationship is communication? Probably forever! But how well do you communicate with the different generations. Recently, I was told by a Baby Boomer (ages 54-72) that Millennials (ages 22-37) only know how to communicate through text. Shortly after, I was told by a Millennial that Baby Boomers are demanding and unappreciative. That got me thinking – they both have so much in common, but they don’t listen and tend to interpret the message into their own words.

Now, I belong to Generation X (ages 38-53) and lately I’ve been feeling a bit stuck in the middle of these two large demographic groups. It is exhausting being their mediator, so here are some tips you may want to consider:

Tips for Baby Boomers

  • Appreciate and take advantage of the energy and curiosity of a Millennial. They can likely do a task quicker via an app or a Google search. Try and get sucked into their energy and world, it could be fun!
  • Engage them! Millennials are more than an employee or an annoying team member, they want to feel that there is meaning in their life and job and be heard (so listen!). Instead of “Yes, but…” try “Yes, and…” – it is a sure way to show you are open to their ideas.

Tips for Millennials

  • Take advantage of the wisdom and experience the Baby Boomers have. They were young once and may give you a different perspective to consider.
  • Consider communicating to the Baby Boomer in their preferred method, not yours. Improve your influence factor by learning how to present to a different demographic in a way they understand. Use the original Facetime perhaps? Do your homework and when making a ‘pitch’ be professional, present all sides of the argument, and talk facts, not feelings.

Tips for All

  • Respect goes both ways. Be sure to ask questions, learn and never assume.
  • Clarify and confirm what you have discussed. For example:
    • “Just to clarify, you want me to begin the research project today and get back to you with an estimated completion date by tomorrow at the end of day?” OR
    • “Regarding our last meeting and discussion, I have thought further about working from home and I understand the policy as it relates to my role. I want to confirm that you are aware that I won’t be working in the office two days a week. I’ll start this program next Tuesday.”

Good communication always starts with a conversation, whether it be in person, phone, email or text. Either demographic can start the dialogue, but let’s start it and leave the Gen Xers out of it for a while.

How to Control Your Anger at Work

It doesn’t matter how great your team is, how understanding your client is, or how simple your project is — there are going to be days when you get angry. Getting angry and frustrated is natural and acceptable, so long as you deal with it appropriately. Being great at this skill tends to go unnoticed; however, if you’re horrible at controlling your anger, your professional reputation will quickly go downhill.

Keeping a level head at work does not come naturally to everyone and is even more challenging when you’re under pressure. If this is an area where you have room to improve, here’s a summary from an article on the topic that Forbes published back in May:

  1. Deal with your body/mind equilibrium by taking a deep breath, drinking a glass of water or changing the physical scene.
  2. Contrary to current trends, sometimes you do need to repress your feelings, especially when planning your actions.
  3. Think long and hard before confronting a person with whom you’re angry.
  4. Is the situation making you angry or are there external factors enhancing the anger? (ex. something at home, reminder of a past situation)
  5. Take responsibility and consider where you went wrong and what you could have done differently to prevent this current situation.
  6. Wait 24 hours before writing an email about the situation.
  7. Avoid complaining to others at the client site.
  8. Reflect on the entire situation, going as far back in time as possible, and then imaging how it plays out into the future.
  9. Do some other work, absolutely anything, to get your mind off of the situation and bring yourself back to a positive headspace.
  10. When warranted, get even with the best scenario – to right to wrong – but remember the words of George Herbert, “Living well is the best revenge.”

The way you communicate in situations of anger are equally as important or you risk making things much worse. Inc compiled 31 pieces of advice from managers for communicating with their team, and many can be applied to situations of anger. Here are some of our favourites:

  • I use email or WhatsApp for simple topics, but phone or face to face for dealing with more complicated issues.
  • I always ask if I can improve on how I communicate.
  • I always prefer a face-to-face meeting or a call, followed by an email that answers, “This is what I think we discussed; did I get this right?”
  • It’s important to understand the other person’s emotional state and how he/she responds.
  • A mentor taught me about managing the “monkeys on your back”. The idea is that everyone is trying to shift tasks (monkeys) to someone else. As a manager, your job is to delegate a monkey, but your team member may try to hand it back. My mentor suggested replying with “How do you think X should be handled?” If the team member doesn’t have an answer, he/she gets sent back out to find a few solutions. Now my team members know that they should come up with a solution before bringing me the problem.

Have you ever been an office when a co-worker (or yourself) lost control of their anger and had an embarrassing outburst? How did it turn out for them? Probably not well. The slightest slip up in these scenarios can have devastating results on your career with lasting effects.

Looking for Jobs? Have You Prepared Your Elevator Pitch?

Looking for Jobs? Have You Prepared Your Elevator Pitch?Grabbing somebody’s attention and easily explaining a product to them is the first step in any successful sales pitch. As such, sales professionals develop and polish an Elevator Pitch, a speech they can quickly blurt out to any potential client.  Not only does this makes the buyer know exactly what the product is, but also leaves them eager to learn more. As an IT contractor, you’re also always trying to sell your product (you) to your next client, so do you have an elevator speech prepared?

A few years ago we shared an infographic containing 5 simple steps to create your elevator pitch when searching for jobs. As helpful as it is, the design of infographics constrains the fine details so here is some additional information about elevator pitches, how independent contractors can create them for their technology consulting business, and best practices when delivering it.

What Is an Elevator Pitch?

An elevator pitch is a 15-30 second summary or commercial about yourself, the premise being that 15-30 seconds is the time you have to get your point across in an average elevator ride. The ultimate goal is to explain to a recruiter, client, or colleague who you are, why you’re unique and what you can provide. Your elevator pitch comes in handy in multiple situations — job interviews, career fairs, voicemails, resume summaries and networking events.

How Job Seekers Can Create an Elevator Pitch

To achieve the best elevator pitch, you must plan it and improve it over time. Failure to do so can result in disaster. Especially when you’re nervous, an unprepared person can blurt out words out that they never imagined and will later regret. It’s not enough just to think about your elevator pitch, you also have to write it down… and practice it!

The first thing to remember while creating your elevator pitch is to keep it simple. Tell your story and paint a picture that perfectly describes you, but you don’t confuse or distract your listener with too many details. In it’s simplest form, your elevator speech should include your name, your field and what you provide. Depending on the situation, you can also include what you’re seeking, your goals, why they should care, and a request for action.

That’s right! Different situations mean you’ll need to prepare multiple elevator speeches. For example, when at a networking event and meeting somebody for the first time, it would be tacky to immediately jump into a sales pitch that tells your listener why they should hire you and where you’d like to go in your career. On the other hand, when an interviewer asks point blank “Why should we hire you?” they would welcome such a detailed response.

Giving Your Job Search Elevator Pitch

When the time comes to finally introduce yourself and deliver the work of art you’ve prepared, don’t blow it. The delivery is just as important as the preparation. Remember to smile, be confident and have energy. At the same time, though, relax and avoid talking too fast or rambling. Finally, have a business card prepared to hand out afterwards.

A solid elevator pitch is a crucial sales tool for every professional so if you don’t have one, we highly recommend you get started. If you have already created a successful speech, then we’d love to learn more about your process in creating it and what you do to shine above the others. Please share your tips in the comments below!

If You’re Going to Complain, Do It Right

There’s always going to be something to complain about in your life. But the question is, how do you do complain effectively to get the outcome you want? One of the main rules to follow is to keep calm and make a plan.

Nowadays it’s even easier to complain with social media platforms or online review sites like Yelp. With those complaints being more public, there’s a chance for a response. Take a look at this infographic from NetCredit to see a step by step guide on how to take your complaining game to the next level.


Courtesy of: NetCredit

Breaking Down Complex Ideas So Anyone Can Understand Them

As you get more senior in your IT contracting profession, you naturally become more specialized and knowledgeable in your field. While you learn more and more, you begin to realize how much others don’t understand terminology and situations. Because of your extensive experience, it all comes naturally to you, but in reality, it’s remains complex for the Average Joe. This gets especially frustrating when trying to explain to a client why they should take a certain route in a project or, vice-versa, why they should not implement the solution they want to.

We’ve provided some advice in this area before on the Talent Development Centre, including How to Deal with Recruiters Who Have No Clue What They’re Talking About and how to handle Those Non-Technical People Who Work on a Tech Project. Recently, The Muse also shared some ideas for breaking down complex ideas so anyone can understand them. Here’s what they suggest:

  1. Get to Know Your Audience: Find out their background, what motivates them, and how they prefer to communicate. This way you can use their common knowledge to decide how to best explain your idea.
  2. Choose the “One Thing” They Should Understand: If people have to tackle too much new information at once, they’ll get confused or forget it. Instead, focus on the critical details that they must understand and remember.
  3. Give Context and Use Examples: Put everything into context by painting a verbal picture and showing exactly how the situation relates to the audience’s life. This makes the problem more tangible and the solution more appealing.
  4. Watch Your Language: Use simple, every day language, rather than long terms that may seem impressive. If you must use acronyms, jargon or highly-niche phrases, take the time to explain what they mean and how they relate.

How do you explain complex situations and terminology to your teams or recruiters? Please share your tips and tricks for other IT professionals in the comments below.

The Best Way to Follow-Up with Recruiters (even if you shouldn’t have to)

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

The Best Way to Follow-Up with Recruiters (even if you shouldn't have to)One of the most common complaints that we hear from contractors/consultants is the inevitable ‘black hole’ of communication when working with agencies.  We often hear that contractors agree to be submitted for opportunities, but then don’t hear back from the agency – and even worse, have calls and emails not responded to.  While this should be considered unacceptable, there are several factors at play that are often make this unfortunate scenario a reality in today’s market.

The vast majority of large organizations in Toronto are now using VMS providers, which means that the days of being able to provide feedback to candidates or to provide status updates on where things stand with a particular opportunity are virtually over.

This can be extremely frustrating for candidates who are trying to manage multiple interviews and opportunities or who have no idea why they are not securing interviews for roles that they’ve been submitted for.  Agencies are required to respond to a huge volume of VMS orders so are often unable to provide updates to candidates – particularly when there is nothing to update.

While we always try to set the expectation that we may not hear back with feedback or next steps unless an interview is granted, we still often get repeated requests for updates.  A good recruiter will always respond to an email or call even without having information to provide, but this can be taxing.

We strongly recommend that you take an approach for ongoing communication that will show your interest and keep you top of mind, but not necessarily require a response.  This ultimately shows that you remain interested in an opportunity, but have a healthy respect for the volume of work that is being managed on the agency side.  Below is a great email template that you can use.

Hi (Recruiter Name),

I wanted to follow up on the opportunity that we spoke about last week.  I assume that there hasn’t been an update as of yet, but please do let me know if otherwise.  I remain interested and available and am open to hearing about any other suitable opportunities that come up.

Thank you,
(Your Name)

While all great recruiters will get back to you as soon as they have an update, this simple message demonstrates that you’re still interested in the role and that you have an understanding of the situation. Your recruiter will appreciate hearing from you and will surely be grateful for your approach.  Remember, how you communicate in these small circumstances could make the difference in whether or not your name gets put forward with future clients.

Quick Poll Results: Soft Skills and Team Members

In last month’s Contractor Quick Poll, we asked Talent Development Centre readers about their co-workers. More specifically, what skills they most desire in a co-worker, aside from technical skills. The poll listed common soft skills and we asked which one you’d prefer people on your team to have, and the results were pretty clear.

While some people value emotional intelligence, time management and email etiquette, the majority of independent contractors want their IT team members to to have great communications skills. That’s something to keep in mind before you mumble your way through your next interview!

Adjust Your Communication Style for a Successful Interview

Adjust Your Communication Style for a Successful InterviewRecruiters will be the first to tell you that everybody is different. They meet thousands of people throughout their careers, all with diverse personalities and backgrounds. As such, the best recruiters excel at understanding you and how to work with you in order bring you the right projects. Topping the list of a person’s unique qualities is your communication style.

By knowing an individual’s preferred communication methodology, recruiters convey the right information and minimize misunderstandings. A skill this valuable shouldn’t be limited to recruiters. Because you’re bound to come across recruiters, clients and team members who are brutal at communicating, you too should perfect the art of adjusting to others’ communication styles.

A common time when communication fails is during an interview, either with a recruiter or client. It’s often a first meeting and, as such, there is no past experience for the parties to fall back on. If an explanation comes across poorly, that first impression has a more severe impact on their decision to hire you. Let’s examine four common styles of communication. By understanding them, you can identify which your interviewer prefers and adjust what you say to match their style.

Director

A Director likes to have control and wants to get things done as quickly as possible. They’re fast-paced and goal-oriented and have no time for small talk. While they may come across as impatient and insensitive, they’re just focused on achieving that end-result. If you find yourself interviewing with a Director, refrain from long, wordy explanations, and answer their questions directly. Provide straight-answers and back-up your experience with quantitative facts.

Socializer

The Socializer is the extreme opposite of the Director. Usually an extrovert, this person is all about relationships. They’re also more likely to make decisions based on their gut feelings. If your recruiter or client is a Socializer, then don’t brush them off when they ask about your weekend, and take the time to hear their stories (even if you think they’re boring and irrelevant to your work). You want them to leave the interview with a good feeling about you. Finally, because this group tends to have a short attention span, you will also need to ensure all of your strengths are clearly and simply articulated.

Thinker

The Thinker is a very analytical problem solver. It will take them longer to make decisions and they will want to make sure they have all of the facts about you. For this reason, you can expect a Thinker to ask more questions and dig deeper.  This is also the person who is most likely to catch you lying, so while we never recommend it, definitely don’t try it with a Thinker. For a successful interview with a Thinker, answer questions to the point, similar to a Director, but feel free to go into more detail, with more examples to back-up your experience.

Relater

A Relater is all about the warm, fuzzy feeling. They are very people-oriented and nurturing individuals who value relationships. Because of this, brushing off conversation, showing a colder side of your personality, or trying to play hardball in negotiations is going to leave a bad taste in their mouth. Instead, work at building a relationship with your recruiter or client and provide examples of your team work, showing your willingness to work and get along with anyone.

This high-level overview of communication styles is just the tip of the iceberg. Regardless of if you buy into the traits above, you at least need to understand that everybody is different, and the more you can adjust to their styles, the more successful you will be — in interviews, at work, or your personal relationships. If you disagree with our communication styles, we encourage you to take some time to learn more on the topic to find a model that works for you.