I spent last evening helping my best friend revise her cover letter and resume for a fabulous job opportunity. As we worked back and forth on a few drafts, the text began to reflect her personal ethic and approach to work in order to make her application stand out from the rest.
As my friend worked to articulate her perspective on approaching work, I reflected on some of the great professional advice I’ve received in the last few years. I thought I’d share the advice that has made the biggest difference in the way I work.
Make a recommendation. The key to managing a product or process and explaining your work is to demonstrate that you have evaluated a variety of options and that you’re prepared to make a recommendation for action. Don’t leave all the decision making to your superiors. First of all, they’ll never have an opportunity to see you how insightful you are. Second of all, they’ll start to wonder what you think if you aren’t making it clear from the start. Be brave. You’ll never become a decision maker unless you demonstrate that you're prepared to make some decisions.
Give specific feedback. Whether you’re testing your mom’s chocolate cake recipe or commenting on a colleague’s presentation, don’t just say, “It’s great!” or “Hmm, it’s okay.” Provide specific and actionable recommendations, like “The cake is very chocolaty, but not moist enough. More butter needed!” Or, “The introduction to your presentation is strong, but you spend too much time on the data before making your recommendations. How about cutting slides 2 and 3?”
Delete ruthlessly. If you ever feel that a sentence or paragraph or email might just be a little too long, or contain words that don’t mean something specific in the sentence, or that you’re just possibly blathering a little too long, it’s time to aggressively delete. (See what I did there?)
I blame high school teachers for the epidemic of textual flabbiness - with their “3 page minimums” and “500 word essays.” Concise text is memorable text. Don’t use more words than you need to. This applies to conversation too. Get to the point quickly and focus only on the most relevant information.
Eat the dog food. Try your product from a customer’s perspective in order to improve your services.You’ll be better at your job if you do more ride-alongs. Switch places with one of your colleagues for a day. Do their job and take a course or two from their perspective. Meet directly with learners to observe their pain points. Don’t assume you know how your products and services are being used until you see for yourself.
Image Credit: Melissa Gray on Flickr