The Best Negotiation Strategy That You Need To Know

Last updated on: Published by: jasmine 1

I’m a firm believer that every person should be able to negotiate. It can be intimidating, but it comes in handy – in purchasing big ticket items, in working with people, and most importantly, in business. I’ve been an excellent negotiator since I was young (I learned from the best – my aunt is so good, she confuses car salesmen thoroughly, and once convinced them that her 3 year old broken car was worth more than a brand-new special edition of the same model), and I love helping people learn my negotiation strategy to advance in their own careers. Here’s how to get exactly what you want while making everyone involved feel like a winner.

Decide what you want.

I’m going to use an example of wanting a raise, but these steps can help you negotiate anything – a job offer, a new car, buying a house. The first step to getting what you want is knowing exactly what it is you want. You can’t just want a raise – you have to decide you want a raise of 4 dollars per hour and a promotion. Then you have to decide what is the minimum you will accept. A raise of 2 dollars an hour and a path to a promotion? The raise without the promotion? It’s up to you, but make sure it’s something you can happily settle for.

Prepare yourself for the worst case scenario.

I’ve never had to actually follow through, but I always have a plan for if I can’t even get my bare minimum. If your raise gets shot down, be prepared to look for a new job – once you lose a negotiation completely, you’ve lost all power in that circle. If you’re negotiating on a car, be prepared to leave the dealership. Another part of preparing for the worst is it keeps you from getting too cocky – confidence is good, but an overinflated ego is bad.

Prep your case.

You can’t just tell people they should give you more money and expect them to blindly agree. If you’re negotiating a raise, discuss areas you’ve excelled in your current role. If you want a promotion, talk about ways in which you’re prepared for the responsibility – or at least, how you will get there. Make a list of bullet points and memorize it, print off any proof of achievements you have.

Overinflate your request.

Whatever you want, add 20%. If you know you’re going up against a hard negotiator, add 40%. They are going to try to meet you in the middle, or even on the low side, and you want that buffer zone.

Set up a time and pick out a quiet space.

It’s worth it to arrange the meeting. I try not to give the other person too much lead time, but I do want them to block off the time. If you’re facing your boss, stop them the morning of, and ask them if you can steal a half-hour of their time when they’re free. That way, they won’t be distracted by phone calls and interruptions, or feel rushed (which will make them much more dismissive).

Enter Round 1.

Once you’ve entered the meeting, calmly and clearly state your inflated demand and lay out your case. You want to keep it short and brief. For example, in one raise negotiation, I said:

I wanted to discuss getting a raise with you, and being placed on track for a promotion to X role. I’ve been here for a year, I’ve recaptured XX in lost revenue, and I’ve taken on these three additional responsibilities. I strongly feel that I’ve earned a raise to (30% of what I was making – I really only wanted 15% and was prepared to accept 10%) as well as the option to enter the training program for the promotion, with the goal of entering the position in the next 8 months.”

Shut up.

This is the hardest part, but also the most important technique for any negotiation strategy. Do not say a word. Don’t flinch, don’t babble, don’t look away. It’s a common technique for the other person to stay silent for a minute, which makes you nervous so you backtrack and chatter to fill the quiet. Don’t. Maintain steady eye contact, don’t fidget, and don’t speak. They need to be the next to speak. I strongly suspect finding a friend to practice this with in advance, because it is harder than you think it will be.

Enter Round 2 if needed.

When they finally speak, they will come back with a counter-offer. Oftentimes, this will be acceptable to you, if you’ve followed all the steps up till now. For instance, in my raise request, my boss, a known tough negotiator, came back with an offer of 20% and the opportunity to revisit my payrate in six months.

However, sometimes the counter-offer is unacceptable. In that case, reduce your inflated request slightly. Say “I deserve this raise, but I understand that you feel my proposed number is high, just like I feel your number undervalues my contributions to the company a bit. Do you think you could meet me in the middle with a raise of (your desired number, uninflated) and putting me on track for this promotion in 6 months if I hit these milestones?”

And what if their counter-offer is at or just above your minimum? Don’t just accept it. The last offer on the table should be yours. In my case, the counter-offer was higher than what I was even aiming for, but I lost the promotion track, so I mentioned it again.

I can accept that payrate, but only if I know that I’ll be allowed to grow in the company. If you don’t feel X position is a good fit for me, I’d like the opportunity to take on an added responsibility doing Y to prove my abilities. If in three months, I hit Z milestones, I’d like for us to sit down again and discuss a potential promotion.”

Shut up again.

This time, shutting up will be even harder, because more is riding on them just accepting. It’s also all the more important. Show no fear, even if you have to bite your tongue till it bleeds.

Walk away.

If they accept your final offer, you’re good to go. Thank them and walk away.

If they don’t, give them your final offer – your bare minimum and a promise to revisit the issue in 6 months, and make it clear that this is important for you. If they can’t meet even that, thank them for their time and start looking for a new job. I’ve never actually had this happen, but it’s always a good idea to have a contingency plan in place.

Follow these tips and you can finagle what you want out of anyone. Just be sure to only use your newfound powers for good, not evil! And tell me your success stories using my negotiation strategy!

Why Haven’t You Started Your Business Yet?

Last updated on: Published by: jasmine 0

Okay, sure, the middle of a global pandemic might not seem like the best time to take on a potentially-risky venture. You already have the idea for a new business, but you’re telling yourself that right now you need to stay in survival mode, focused on keeping your job (or finding a new one), and just keeping your spirits up.

You may be wrong though! A lot of businesses are struggling or even going under right now, which seems like a harbinger of doom, but you can also look at it like an opportunity. Right now, we’re seeing the market change, society change, as a new normal forms, and this is the chance to get in at the ground level of that. By starting now, your business will be better prepared to weather tough times and you’ll gain early clientele who are just dreaming of something new to occupy them as they’re locked down.

Why Haven't You Started Your Business Yet? | Jasmine Mastrolia

Make your business fit life right now.

I started my specialized pet care business by accident initially. I was working in a veterinarian’s office and had several clients asking if I could pet-sit their special needs animals. Since I’m fearless with furry friends, I developed a reputation for handling shy, aggressive, and ill pets. Then I had some health issues, and the long hours at the vet’s weren’t suitable – and I didn’t know when they would be again.

My first instinct was to find a different job, but a family member pointed out that pet care would provide the flexibility I needed right then – and I already had a few clients. I had one month before my surgery was scheduled, so I decided to take that month and figure out if I could make it work. I researched services offered by others – both locally and across the country to identify gaps that I could fill in the market, pricing, insurance, marketing, and more. I started designing marketing materials. I built a website. And I decided to unroll my marketing plan the day after my surgery, assuming it would take a few weeks to really start building a client list.

Boy, was I wrong. My first “real” client emailed me the very next day. She’d seen a Facebook ad, and needed a service that I was the only one in the area offering. From there, my business grew quickly, more quickly than I was really prepared for.

My point is, my business was suiting my life at the time. Right now, people want things delivered to their home, they want stress release, they want to be able to safely go out. Can your business idea be tweaked in any way to fit that? If you’re working from home at your regular job, could you work on your business idea at the same time? If you want to open a retail store, maybe you can work on handcrafted goods during breaks and sell online. For future restaurant owners, maybe you can start out of your home kitchen, cooking and delivering food during the day and taking advantage of a flexible schedule to work at night. Maybe being furloughed means you have the time to code the website you’ve been thinking of for a customized travel experience agency (travel will be back, and I believe it’s going to be better than ever).

Look at your life right now and adapt. Make your time work for you and make the pandemic work for you. Businesses designed for delivery and home service are going to be essential through 2021, and once people are used to that convenience, they’re never going to give it up, so keep that aspect in mind. People are bored – books, classes, and curated subscription boxes are all ways to fill that need – and can all be run from your home. I’m hungry – if you can feed me without me having to venture into a restaurant, I’m on board (I’m also in the country, where no one delivers to me).

Find financing.

Frankly, too many people worry too much about financing right off the bat. Controversial, I know, and I’ll probably get some hate mail over that. But my rule is don’t start too big – and when you start in bite-sized chunks, you can do a lot with a little.

That said, you may need an initial boost of capital to get your hustle off the ground. Right now, banks are going to be very conservative on loans, so save them as a last resort. Venture capitalists however…they’re risk takers. And with the internet connecting the world as it does, crowdfunding is a great option. Put together a great proposal, a creative presentation, and take to the web in search of financing.

If you want to follow my lead and try to do this without outside money, look at your current financial situation. Do you have income or savings? Can you cut your monthly expenditures in any way? How much upfront and how much per month would you feel comfortable losing? Then add 10% to that – that’s your budget. (The extra 10% will put the pressure on you to succeed without breaking the bank.) If you sell handcrafted goods on the internet, make them to order at the beginning so that you’re only spending money on supplies you’re actually using at the time. If you’re cooking, offer constantly evolving menus based on what’s fresh and cheap, rather than trying to find artichokes out of season (and paying through the nose for them).

Market wisely

When I started my business, I did a lot with community events. That won’t work for you right now. I hope your town isn’t hosting crowded festivals at the moment!

What will work for you is the internet. Ads on social media sites will be seen as people try to stay connected with loved ones. Videos on Youtube will get played as people fall down the YT rabbithole. Short video clips can play well on TikTok (particularly if you can find a way to hop on the sea shanty trend) and a link to your website in your bio makes it easy for people to purchase from you. Have a blog on your website to draw readers in, and then nudge them into your store.

From there, rely on the people. Gift a few of your products to friends or neighbors – if they like it, they’ll start spreading the word. Offer a great referral reward to inspire customers to talk about you. Maybe you can even network (online) with local businesses about cross-promotion opportunities.

Because here’s the thing. No matter when, I can promise you that I could come up with at least 15 different ways to get your business out there. You have to think creatively, and be prepared for some things to not work, but even right now, you can get your business, your products, your services out in front of people.

Know your limits.

The second part to “knowing your limits” would be “and know how to overcome them”. If you have no clue on marketing, figure out how to overcome that. Can you outsource this? (Marketing is one area where I strongly recommend at least some outsourcing – both because of expertise, and the time it takes). If you have no idea how to keep books, take an accounting class – you can do it for free online at Coursera, and since it’s your own business, you don’t need an actual degree in it. (Though you may want to hire an accountant for tax time).

I actually flipped it. I researched and took courses in marketing, and I’ve always done that myself (I mean, I literally make a career out of content creation now!). However, when I took a course in accounting…well, yes, I understood it, and I can do it, but the sheer amount of time it takes for me to keep books – I’m just better off outsourcing that to someone who enjoys numbers more than me. Acknowledging my limits and outsourcing that (I kept my daily books, but outsourced taxes and such) ultimately saved me money because I didn’t have to spend the time or pay fees when I inevitably screwed up my taxes.

Beyond the basics, you also need to set checkpoints. For instance, let’s say your business is in the making and selling of…gourmet dog treats. You can comfortably handle, working solo in your home kitchen, 10 batches of treats a day, making maybe 40 packages total. Make a rule early on that when you’re selling the equivalent of 35 packages a day, you’ll re-evaluate your business, consider hiring an employee, or expanding into a larger kitchen (or just getting a tool that will help you keep up!). Planning this in advance lets you stay ahead of your business growth and not get overwhelmed.

Right now, people want, or more, need, things to be delivered to their home, and that’s one thing that won’t be going away anytime soon. If you can structure your business to accomodate that, you will have better luck. In the future, however, new trends emerge. Not every trend will affect your business, but keep an eye out. One might just spark a new idea for expansion, or you might see the need to pivot your business a bit to accommodate (we’re seeing that now, as many small businesses have been scrambling to increase their online presence during lockdowns). Don’t just follow major business magazines – find a way to track the actual public’s demands – that will help you jump on new revenue streams before everyone is stampeding to do so.

Take this opportunity to start your business – don’t let fear hold you back!

Take Care Of Your Employees To Take Care Of Your Business

Last updated on: Published by: jasmine 4

The pandemic has certainly changed the face of business – companies shut down, putting people out of work on a temporary or permanent basis, while others arranged for employees to work from home. People have been struggling financially as they sit at home with a lot of free time but no income. Essential workers, who also happen to include most of the lowest paid professions – retail and food service – had to make a choice of keeping their job but risking getting a deadly illness and bringing it home, or giving up their job to protect their health.

Now, after months of lockdown measures, businesses around the world are starting to reopen, trying to figure out how to navigate the new world and recoup their customers when things are so up in the air. Small businesses, in particular, have a tough road ahead of them, since they generally don’t have the financial cushion a conglomerate like Amazon has. In light of that, what I’m about to say may sound insane.

The absolute best thing you can do for your business is go out of your way to take care of your employees.

And yes, this means spending money. For the past several years, there’s been a social movement to support small businesses over faceless corporations, and that movement has had a resurgence with this pandemic – one of the reasons is employees are generally more respected for small businesses. If the general public gets word that your employees love working for you, they will be more inclined to give you their money. If your employees feel respected and appreciated, they will work harder for you.

Take Care Of Your Employees To Take Care Of Your Business

Right now, take a moment to evaluate what you are and can do for employees. Are they paid fairly, a wage they can live on, even if that’s higher than your local minimum wage? Do you offer health insurance that is affordable and comprehensive? Do employees have paid sick leave?

Paid vacation is another area to look at. Definitely offer a certain amount of paid time off, and encourage people to take it. Business culture in the United States right now encourages employees to either not take their vacation or to feel guilty about taking it, neither of which is good for their mental or physical wellbeing. Instead of allowing your employees to “buy out” their vacation at the end of the year, encourage them to take the time – it will pay off for you in the long run.

Once the basics are addressed, consider added benefits. Maybe you can arrange a tuition reimbursement program for employees studying topics that will help them in their work. Bring lunch in once a week or plan a monthly coworker night out at a local pub – trivia night provides a great bonding experience! Address birthdays or other major life events.

Consider any uniform policy you have. If employees are required to wear certain items while working, the company should provide those items free of charge to ease the financial burden on the employees.

Embrace Employee Appreciation months! Create a clear-cut and quantitative policy to evaluate performances and provide a prize for the highest ranking employee each month. Something like a gift certificate for a massage or an extra day off can go a long way towards an employee feeling appreciated. And to keep things fair, provide additional, optional training for employees in case they want to improve so they can win the following month.

Also, make sure your employees feel comfortable coming to you with issues and suggestions. An environment that feels safe and open is sure to build employee loyalty. Be prepared to work with employees through hardships, because even though work is meant to be a professional environment, it is such a massive part of life, work intersects with their personal life – a schedule change to accommodate childcare is a minor inconvenience to you, but solves a huge hardship for them.

While you prepare to reopen, take into account everything you can do to help your employees – the expense will definitely be worth the reward!

Make Yourself Portable With A Mobile Office

Last updated on: Published by: jasmine 2

In my post last week, I mentioned a mobile office, and while I’ve used one in some capacity for years, it occurred to me that others have not. As more companies allow people to work from home, I thought it might help to share what I keep in my mind so that everyone can work from wherever they want!

The Bag

The bag is one of the most important things.  If it’s not big or strong enough, it won’t carry your things.  If it’s not well-organized, you either can’t find anything or have to completely unpack it to work.  Neither is ideal.  I recommend a scrapbooking bag or a diaper bag, but if you’re willing to pay a bit more, you can use a bag designed for a mobile office.

Laptop/Tablet

Maybe you use a laptop for work, maybe you can get by with just a tablet, maybe you need both.  Computers and electronics are, of course, up to your personal preferences, but I’m a fan of Sony Vaio and Lenovo laptops.  If you’re looking for a tablet, right now I have Samsung, and it’s…fine, although I’ve had issues with the company.  My next tablet will likely be an IPad or a Windows Surface – I want much better handwriting recognition!

Battery

Get a portable battery so that you can work from wherever without worrying about running out of charge.  This one from Anker will keep you powered up for a long time on multiple devices.  Just remember to recharge it at night!

Portable Hotspot

You likely will want access to Wi-fi.  In the USA, it’s generally pretty easy to find free wi-fi somewhere, but if you’re traveling the world while you work, I strongly recommend a pocket hotspot – a lot of countries don’t have widespread internet.

Notebook/Binder/Folio

You definitely want to have paper handy.  I know everything’s going digital these days, but sometimes you just need to scratch out a quick note.  Someone in sales might be able to get away with a simple legal pad folio, or a small spiral-bound notebook, whereas a writer may need a full binder.  Either way, make sure you keep it organized.

Pen Case

This goes hand-in-hand with the folio.  Pack a few of your preferred pens in various colors – black, red, blue to start – as well as a few highlighters.  You can also put a tablet stylus in here, if you use one.

Expanding File Folder

This is the best way to store your paperwork.  You can keep it organized, you can label it, and once a week, you can go through it so you only carry the essentials with you.  Use it for expense report receipts, notes, research, time trackers, and so on.

Charging Cords

Don’t forget the charging cords for your different devices, or you won’t be able to use the power bank!

Earbuds

Sometimes you need to drown out background noise.  Use earbuds to listen to a music playlist or find an ambient noise soundtrack online.  They also come in handy if you need to make a call in a public place, allowing you to use your phone hands-free, keep the call relatively private, and block out most noise.  These are worth investing a bit more money in a good pair.

Cloud Storage

Technically, this won’t go in your bag, but it’s good to have set up.  I have a cloud drive set up on my website, but you may want to use Google Drive or Dropbox, or another service.  Backing everything up to the cloud means you’ll never be without your files, so if you need to access something on a different device, you can!

Optional Extras

There’s other things to take into account, depending on your work.  Nowadays, there’s so many options, you can find a portable version of just about anything you need.  A scanning wand allows you to reduce the amount of papers you have to carry around, whereas a portable printer lets you print records or invoices wherever you are.  Think about your daily tasks and make sure you have the tools you need.

Studies have shown that people who work from home (or the coffee shop) are often more productive, so make yourself mobile!

Why You Need To Hire A Freelance Content Creator

Last updated on: Published by: jasmine 0

The business world is constantly changing, and in the current world, with the internet bringing together people from all around the globe, it’s important for businesses, big and small, to connect with clients. Typically, this is done through content – blogging, newsletters, social media. Engaging in content marketing shows the company cares, not just about the sales, but about the client’s satisfaction with the products or services they’ve purchased, and content marketing has the added benefit of keeping your company in the forefront of people’s minds.

But how are small companies and entrepreneurs supposed to keep up with content marketing? Blog posts aren’t just ten minutes of time, and putting together a newsletter takes even longer. While you could hire a full-time specialist, in many cases, the best option is to hire a freelance content creator.

Time

In my opinion, time is one of the biggest benefits of outsourcing content creation. A good blog post, one that actually helps readers and covers the topic in depth, can take several hours to finish, from research to execution to editing. And really, that’s not all that’s involved. Once the post is published, it needs to be promoted, and a month or two later, revived. The external links can become out-of-date and need to be updated. All of these things take time, and time is at a premium for entrepreneurs. By outsourcing, this is one thing that’s off your plate.

Knowledge And Research

Research isn’t just time-consuming, it’s also important to know where to look. Depending on the industry, the information you’re looking for may not automatically pop up in Google. A professional content creator knows how to find information and sources, can do so more quickly, and can go more in-depth than someone who’s thinking about the hundred other tasks on their to-do list that will more directly lead to tangible results.

Another benefit to a professional content creator is their knowledge, skills, and training. Things like SEO (search engine optimization), eye-catching titles, and calls to action – these are all crucial to good content marketing, but they take time to learn, and there’s numerous ways to achieve them, not all of which will work for you. For instance, I favor organic SEO, which means using on- and off-page techniques (optimized keywords, rich content, and mutually beneficial linking) to achieve higher positions in search engines, and I’ve developed my skills in doing so over the past decade. Other companies, perhaps in an extremely small niche, may not see results quick enough from organic SEO, and benefit from reviews, paid linking, keyword stuffing, heavy analytics (I’m not saying these are bad, despite what you may have heard – I certainly can see need for them). Some may need more video content, some need more graphics. It’s important to tailor your content to your audience and your goals, and developing those skills take time – not something an entrepreneur has to spare.

Hiring a content creator allows you to hire someone who specializes in what you need, with connections and experience. It also, particularly when outsourcing, allows you to adjust your strategy – if blog posts aren’t working, you can hire someone focusing on video marketing.

Easier To Post Regularly

Blogs, newsletters, and social media all need to be consistently maintained. This may mean two Instagram posts a day, three blog articles a week, one newsletter a month, or it may be as specific as blog articles Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, with newsletters on the 7th, the 14th, the 21st, and the 28th of each month. Regardless, if you don’t maintain that connection with clients, they will forget about you. And keeping up with these channels can be involved. You have to plan in advance, keep up with deadlines, backlink, track giveaways/contests/series, and so forth. A freelancer can take all of this off your plate – all you have to do is give them a heads-up if you need something specific, for instance, a post about an upcoming sale you’ll be having. Other than that, you can be assured that a good professional content creator will make sure everything goes up in a timely manner without you having to stress about it.

Cost

Like I said before, you could hire a full-time content creator to handle this for you, but it’s likely going to be more expensive. In addition to regular full-time pay, you’d have to deal with health insurance, taxes, benefits. Plus, a lot of small companies don’t need a full-time content creator. So now, you either need to convince someone to come on board part-time, or you’ll have them sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

A freelancer allows you to hire them to do what you need and no more. No need to worry about healthcare, taxes, and so forth. It makes life a lot easier, and content marketing is an area where I really think this is a better solution for most companies.

Flexibility

Businesses grow and evolve. It just is what it is. Situations change, and maybe blog posts were great for when you started, but now videos would be better. Maybe you started your hotel as a place for leisure travelers, but ended up carving out a niche in the business travel world. The person who was perfect to handle your content when you began may not always be the best fit, and when you outsource, it’s fairly simple to find a new person who will be a better fit for what you need.

When I ran my pet care business, I started with the intent of working with animals in general, but I carved out a niche for myself in special needs animals – fear and aggression issues, or geriatric pets. My content on my blog and on social media had to evolve too, so that my clients could relate to it. Now, I was writing my own content, and with the business growing so quickly (too quickly), I was not great about consistently posting (I really needed to outsource!), but I had to consciously adjust my content calendar to fit the direction my business had taken.

Constant Flow Of New Ideas

One of the hardest parts of content marketing, in my opinion, is the ideas. I can write about anything (I may not be the best, but I can put words on paper), but maintaining a constant flow of relative topics…that’s rough. However, professional content creators know how to find or create new ideas, how to repurpose a basic concept into something more innovative for you, and how to repeat ideas when necessary without sacrificing quality or novelty.

Content creation is one area that, when done right, can provide a significant boost to your business, yet can – and likely should – be outsourced without sacrificing your own vision and control. You cannot be an expert at everything, and when it’s so simple to hire someone who’s better equipped to help you, why would you compromise?

My Best Tips For Business Etiquette

Last updated on: Published by: jasmine 0

As a millennial, I know that plenty of the work advice I was given growing up is outdated now, and I also know that school didn’t really prep me for work like that guidance counselor said it would. I think it’s hard to say things apply to every job because the business world has gotten so very diverse in office culture that it’s just not possible anymore, but there are a few corporate etiquette rules that I always follow, and they’ve served me well in a variety of industries.

Be Early.

Seriously, this is my number one pet peeve. Do not be late. Ever. Don’t be late to work, don’t be late to a meeting. Show up early. Show up really early. When I work in an office setting, I tend to show up at least half an hour before I have to be there and then read in my car for a bit. Once, I had a job interview, and I was running some errands before it, so I left extra time. So much extra time that I ended up being an hour and a half early. I picked up some Starbucks and chilled around the corner. Then I pulled into their parking lot 20 minutes early, killed time for another 10 minutes, and walked through their door 10 minutes before my interview. They’d seen me park – they knew I was there. Showing up so early showed that I took the interview seriously, waiting to walk in showed I respected their schedule. But if you plan to be just on time or only a little early, you will be late. You will hit traffic, or run low on gas, or something, and you will be late. Or you’ll walk in on time, having forgotten something important. Plan to be early, take a moment to gather yourself, and walk in 10 minutes before you have to be somewhere.

If you’re working from home, the same rule applies. Have everything you need ready to go before your start time, and begin just a minute or two ahead of time. It makes a huge impression on your supervisor – and gives you some leverage if lunch runs a bit long one day.

Make Small Talk.

I’m not great at small talk, particularly with strangers. In general, I find it annoying and a waste of time. Do it anyway. The reason is twofold. One, small talk can help build a connection to the other party, which can lead to smoother interactions. Ask how their weekend was before you tell them what you need them to do. If you pass by in the break room, ask how their day is going or what book they’re reading. It’s quick and can make work just a bit easier. The second reason is it can be useful. I don’t know how many times I slide into my normal small talk, and the other person (clients, particularly) say something that I need to know that may not have come up otherwise. Small talk isn’t just questions, though. You also need to have some canned answers. You don’t ever want to be controversial at work, so having a series of pre-prepared answers that you can just whip out is good. “How was your weekend?” Good, I went to the Saturday Market and spent way too much money *self-deprecating chuckle*. ~or~ It was fine, I was just really lazy all weekend. I strongly recommend you include the self-deprecating remark. Everyone thinks they spent too much or was lazy, so it’s automatically bonding.

That small talk, those connections, can also lead to new opportunities. If one client remembers you as always being friendly, they may want to hire you at their own business. A coworker who enjoys working with you may take you with them to bigger and better things when they move to their next role.

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Do A Proper Handshake.

Eye contact, firm grip. It’s not that hard. I favor two pumps, as one is abrupt and three seems like overkill. I really don’t know why it is, but a good handshake can gain you a lot of respect. Use it when you meet people, and when you say goodbye – and always thank them for their time.

Update: Post-COVID, handshakes are a bit more taboo. You still should know how to do a good one, but keep a little bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag and read the room. Don’t be offended if they want to forego physical contact.

Stay Quiet.

Don’t interrupt people and listen to what they’re saying. When they finish a thought, wait a second or two before speaking. This gives them time to continue if they only intended to take a breath, gives you a moment to gather your thoughts, and, if you’re negotiating, puts a bit of pressure on them to give you a better deal. When you do respond, use active listening to make them feel heard – just summarize what they just said, and then add onto it. Seriously, if you stay quiet, you can get really far. People should always be waiting to hear what you say next, not wondering when you’ll shut up.

Use Proper English.

I am not a very formal person, so I use slang when I’m talking to friends and family, but in a professional setting, never. Whip out everything you learned in English class, and make sure you speak properly. This goes for emails, too. Avoid acronyms, make sure you use proper punctuation, and proofread everything you type. It makes you look smarter.

Follow The Chain Of Command.

If you have questions or complaints, follow the chain of command. It’s rude to skip to the top when someone on a lower rung could handle it. When I was an executive assistant, I could go straight to upper management, but often I worked with the lower-level managers. This also means don’t skip people, even if you can. Again, I was working for the top dog, and I could have authorized plenty on my own, but it’s better to avoid stepping on toes. Ask the person lowest on the totem pole who has the required authority and only move up the ladder if they refuse your request. If you have a complaint about a coworker or company policy, you could go straight to HR, but your supervisor will appreciate you going to them first.

Another benefit to this – the bottom is where stuff gets done. In most offices, there is no one more valuable than the receptionist, the assistants, and the worker bees. Make friends with them!

Underpromise and Overpromise.

Contradicting statements, right? My rule of thumb is underpromise on specifics, overpromise on generalities. Can you solve this problem? Absolutely, I’ll have it taken care of right away, it isn’t an issue at all. Can you learn this program? Yes, I can, despite the fact I’ve never done anything like this before. How will you solve this problem? Well, I can make x happen, and possibly y, but z…I can see, but there’s pretty much no chance. (Then you make z happen.) Overpromising on generalities is a go-getter attitude, and is seen as efficient and hard-working. Underpromising on specifics makes it look like you went above and beyond. I’ve used this in every job I have held, and it’s never failed me.

Meeting Agendas Are Gold.

Most business meeting etiquette is covered in other sections, but there’s one tip that will make you stand out. So often, people forget about meeting agendas. It’s a lovely little paper (or email) that you send/receive in advance that tells you what topics will be covered at the meeting. That’s it, they are just that simple. But here’s the thing – you can prepare. If you’re hosting the meeting, sending one of these out, lets people prepare in advance, which means the meeting will be more efficient, and also helps you avoid getting off topic, which, again, efficient. And if you receive one, actually use it. Read what will be happening in the meeting, do your research on the topic, and write a few questions in advance. On that note, take notes during the meeting, and if you hosted the meeting, email the notes to all attendees afterward as follow-up. Doing so shows you were listening and ensures no one missed anything.

Details Matter.

Details show that you’re on top of things or that you’re a mess. If you’re having a video meeting, make sure the area behind you is clear and neat. If you’re ordering lunch for a meeting, make sure you consider any dietary restrictions (I generally made sure I had at least two vegetarian meals, and two things that were gluten free). Keep dossiers on people you work with (that sounds stalker-ish, but you have no idea how handy it is to know someone’s coffee order, or that they have three kids). If you’re handing in a report, put it in a binder or report cover first. These are all small details, but they build your reputation.

Are there any of these that you disagree with? Did I miss something important? Let me know in the comments!