Mood and Manners

Mood and Manners

I was recently inspired by the quote above. It got me thinking about how our manners should be a thoughtful reflection of our overall character. While we all of course experience our “off days,” we should not let these affect our overall attitude toward others and our manners.

Whether it is a coworker, loved one, or a stranger, do not take out your frustrations on them.

  • If a waiter gets your order wrong or store clerk gets you the wrong item, do not get angry at and embarrass them. Instead, be polite and kindly ask them to re-do your order.
  • Traveling and way-finding in new settings induces stress on many people. When asking for assistance or checking-in with security or travel personnel, ask for things politely and always thank them after. Avoid a demanding tone and short response.
  • Loved Ones can be an easy target for taking out frustrations – If you know you are in a bad mood or have had a rough day, let them know you may not be in the best of moods and ask for their understanding to help you. If you know you need some alone time, simply let them know that.
  • Taking things out on coworkers can be detrimental to your career, professional appearance, and overall office/team moral. If you are having a bad day, keep your composure and breathe before responding to situations. It is better to wait and think than to react inappropriately and have to apologize later.

And always remember – Even when you are having a tough day, smile at others as they pass you and offer a kind greeting. You may not always get a smile or greeting in return, but at least you will know you presented a friendly face to another individual!

Sparkle On!

Alexandra

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Moving Day, Grab the Crew!

Moving Day

With a large number of individuals relocating during the summer, the ever popular “moving season” is upon us! Moving can be a stressful time with a “To Do” list that seems to grow by the second. To help reduce some of the stress, many people will hire movers to help with the process. How can you use movers to have the best move possible?

  1. Be Organized
    • If you have elected to have your movers pack your belongings, be clear about what you want packed and have those things organized. As the movers are packing the boxes, this is not the time to start throwing things out. Schedule time for yourself to “de-clutter” prior to the day the movers arrive to pack your boxes.
  2. Be Ready
    • If you are packing yourself, have everything packed and staged for the movers prior to their arrival. If the movers arrive and you are still packing boxes, this will delay their work and be an inefficient use of their time.
    • Ensure you provide the moving team with the correct address for both locations. Also, if there are special instructions for parking, loading dock location, or elevator usage, ensure you provide this to the team ahead of time.
  3. Be Courteous
    • Everyone is nervous about moving (mainly hoping nothing breaks), but this does not mean you should hover over your moving crew. If you have boxes or items that are fragile and need special attention or packing instructions, let your movers know this ahead of time and be sure to point out those items on moving day.
    • Have water and/or sports drinks to hand out to the movers, especially if they will be working in the extreme heat of the summer.
  4. Should I tip the moving team?
    • Tipping your movers is much like tipping waitstaff at restaurants, you base it on job performance. If you are happy with the job, tip the team. If you are unhappy and had problems throughout the job, you do not have to tip.
    • How much should I tip the movers?
      • In contrast to tipping waitstaff, it is more popular to tip movers a flat amount rather than a percentage of the moving cost. However, this amount will vary based on the extent of the move.
      • Suggested tip amounts (for each mover) are:
        • Short Move (less than 4 hours): $10 – $15 per mover
        • All Day Move (8 hours): $20 – $30 per mover
        • Extended Move (more than 12 hours): $40 per mover
        • Remember to individually thank and tip each mover! Do not hand an overall sum to one mover.
      • In lieu of tipping your movers, you can treat them to lunch. If you decide to do this, ask them their meal order!

 

To everyone moving this summer, enjoy your new homes!

Sparkle On!

Alexandra

Hey there stranger!

and

Hey y’all!

After moving into a new position with USO-Metro, I thought I would take a little time off to focus on the new role. Well… That hiatus ended up taking on a year (plus) life of its own. I have FINALLY had some time to work on new and creative pieces which I am excited to share with y’all.

As I continue to work on new material and pull from the experiences I have had, I am also looking to collect more ideas from my readers. What questions do y’all have and what do y’all want to know more about in the world of protocol and etiquette? Send me your questions and suggestions! You can submit them to my “Contact Me” page or comment directly on this post. I love being able to write posts directly focused on my readers and I look forward to seeing what y’all are interested in knowing more about!

Keep your eyes out for a new post next week!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

The Contents of a Great Email

Email Etiquette

Photo Credit: Inspired by This

In today’s day and age, email keeps us far more connected than ever before. Rather than picking up the phone or walking across the office building, we continuously send emails to our colleagues, friends, and family regarding matters from business to social plans and everything in between. So, how do you know if your email gets read or better yet, how do you know if your email actually served its purpose?

To ensure your emails are getting the attention they deserve, and by that I mean the right kind of attention, here are my tips for the contents of a great email:

  1. Subject Line
    • Use the Important Information Only. I once was working with a hospital director’s executive assistant on multiple visits for distinguished visitors and the aide asked, “For visit requests, please put Date of Visit, Name/Title of Visitor, and Meet Time in the subject line so I can see the main points quickly. Once I see that, I will know exactly what I am looking for in regards to planning and level of importance.”
    • Do Not Write the Message in the Subject Line. The subject line serves as a preview to the contents of the email, it should not read like a sentence or go on past the viewing pane.
    • Stick to the SubjectIf you need to discuss multiple topics that are unrelated with the recipient, I highly suggest doing so in different emails. This (1) ensures all your topics will be seen equally and (2) reduces confusion when answering questions by eliminating bunching responses together. If you do decide to include everything in 1 email, use an overarching subject line.
  2. Reply vs. Reply All
    • If you are placed on a group email thread and need to ask just the sender a question, reply only to the sender. There is no need to clutter everyone else’s inbox.
    • If you are sent a group invitation for an event, party, etc., submit your R.s.v.p. to the sender only. If you would like to know if other people are going, simply ask them yourself.
    • Only “Reply All” when all those on the message traffic will benefit from you sharing the information and it is pertinent to them. If you are the only person on the “To” line and the other people copied all need the information or are waiting for your direction then a “reply all” is appropriate.
  3. “To,” “CC,” and “BCC.” Always pay attention to which line your name is placed on in the email.
    • “To:” This means the email is directly to you and it is your responsibility to reply to the sender.
    • “Cc:” You are copied on the email for your awareness, but it is not your responsibility to take action. Allow the person on the “to” line to take action and send the first reply. If you need to comment or add information, do so after he/she sends the first reply.
    • “Bcc:” You are blind copied on this email, meaning it is only for your awareness. You should not reply, especially reply all, because the other recipients do not know you were included. If you need to discuss something from the email with the sender, seek out that individual only, most likely in person.
  4. Marking Something with “High Importance”
    • Only use this flag if your email is truly of high importance and needs someone’s attention quickly. Overuse of this flag will result in people skipping your emails because they will believe nothing is actually “highly important.”
    • If something is truly important and you do not receive a response in an appropriate amount of time, call the person rather than sending him/her another email.
  5. Greeting
    • Always include a greeting to the recipient at the beginning of your email. The type of greeting you use will vary based on the email being sent (formal, professional, personal/informal), but no matter what a greeting is always important! Here are a few examples:
      • Formal: “Dear,” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Professional: “Good Morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Personal/Informal: “Hey, Hi, Hey there, etc.” followed by however you address the person in your personal life.
  6. Closing / Signature Block. Yes, you need one! Do not ever send an email without signing it!
    • Use a proper closing that reflects the relationship/type of email you are writing:
      • Formal: “Sincerely,” “Very Respectfully,” “Respectfully,”
      • Professional: You can close with something that reflects your personality yet is still appropriate. For example, “Best Wishes,” “Cheers!,” “Many Thanks,” etc.
      • Personal/Informal: This type of closing is completely up to you and the relationship you have with the recipient!
    • Clearly identify yourself. Use your full name, title/position, and company affiliation in your signature block.
    • Include your contact information. Your signature block should include your office phone number, email address, and company/organization web address. Be sure the signature block template is company/office-wide!
  7. Review your email before hitting send!
    • Check your email for grammar and missing words (when you type fast, it is bound to happen).
    • Remove any uncommon abbreviations or text message lingo/short words.
    • Be cautious when using emoticons. Emoji’s are appropriate in informal emails or internal correspondence (between coworkers), but should not be used for professional or formal correspondence.
    • Ensure the email is addressed to the appropriate people on the appropriate recipient lines.
    • If you stated in the email you included an attachment, be sure it is attached before sending.

By incorporating these extra touches into your emails, it will ensure you have proper email etiquette leading to your email receiving the type of attention and replies you desire.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

My Experience as a USO Elf

USO_LOGO_Project Elf_Script-01

This article is not related to protocol or etiquette; however, I found this experience so special, I knew I had to share it.

This Holiday Season, I had the privilege of being the Program Manager, or “Head Elf” as some affectionately referred to me, for USO-Metro’s Project Elf. Project USO Elf supports military children of junior enlisted service members, E-1 to E-5, by pairing them with Corporate and Community Wish List Donors who sponsor the children. These Wish List Donors buy the children gifts from their Wish List for the Holiday Season. This year, I am very proud to say USO-Metro supported over 1,200 military children in the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan region!

While this program was quite an undertaking, coordinating 1,200+ Wish Lists between 2 distribution locations from hundreds of Wish List Donors proved to be no small feat, it is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Planning for the program started as “Christmas in July” and gained momentum throughout the Fall. The build-up to the program was amazing!

On October 1st, the “North Pole” began receiving Wish Lists from children. The notes I read honestly made my day several times. One of my personal favorites was for a 6 year old girl, “She is girly and happy go lucky, very artistic, loves play dates and gymnastics! She has asked for: stuffed Hello Kitty doll, silver pageant crown & wand, ribbon baton twirler, Frozen Anna dress, sparkly silver Mary Janes, Melissa and Doug craft projects. She also likes Chick-Fil-A, My Little Ponies, and fun sparkly colors of Zoya (nontoxic) nail polish.” How adorable is that?! That is just one of the over 1,200 Wish Lists I received that reminded me of the pure joy and excitement the Holidays bring to children. Come November, Wish Lists were distributed to Donors and they were set loose to hit the stores while I stayed at the North Pole organizing the program logistics!

As soon as December 1st hit, I spent the first week of the month on “Sleigh Stops” visiting our Corporate Wish List Donors and receiving hundreds of Wish Lists from several companies. The level of excitement I saw in these donors and the giving atmosphere the companies built around my program was incredible. One company even had so many employees want to give to the program, that the employees started buying popular gifts for us to add to other children’s gift bags saying, “the more the merrier!” Once all the Wish Lists were collected, my amazing volunteers set-up and decorated the distribution sites.

DSC_0403

Project USO Elf Distribution Site #1 with over 800 Wish Lists ready for service member pick-up!


PC100105

Project USO Elf Distribution Site #2 with more than 400 Wish Lists ready for service member pick-up!

When distribution night arrived, I was instilled with an overwhelming sense of calm. That day, I knew all the hard work and long hours I put in were about to pay off – big time! Seeing the smiles and hearing the words of appreciation from service members who received gifts for their children was the only “Thank You” I needed. Realizing we (I would be remiss if I did not thank my amazing USO-Metro teammate and our HUGE volunteer corps. Without the volunteer hours put in by these dedicated, patriotic individuals, my job would not have been possible) had really made a difference in the lives of others was incredible.

This year, the Christmas spirit has not quite “taken hold” of me in my personal life. However, today I realized when over 1,200 military children wake-up tomorrow morning their Christmas wishes will come true thanks to so many generous citizens who wanted to give back and say “thank you” to our service members. Personally, the opportunity to play Santa for these military children has been a privilege and truly an honor. This year, Christmas took on a new meaning for me. I hope to continue to pay it forward to those so deserving of this special program.

“Merry Christmas to all and to all, a Good Night!”

Project USO Elf “Lead Elf”

To learn more about Project USO Elf, please watch Elizabeth Prann’s Fox News coverage of Project USO ElfFor additional photos from Project USO Elf, please visit the USO-Metro Facebook album.

 

Work-Life Balance: Having a Social Life on a Budget

Photo Credit: MyMoneyPurdue

Photo Credit: MyMoneyPurdue

As young professionals making our way in our careers and becoming established on our own (hello rent!), it is very common to go through periods when we struggle to keep a healthy work-life balance. Whether it is from a financial, time management, or relationship perspective, it can be easy to get lost in the world of “how to be a grown-up.” Realizing these as very real challenges to young adults, I am writing a three-part blog on “Work-Life Balance.”

This week, part one covers financials. In no way do I mean to be a financial adviser (I do not have a finance degree 😉 ), but I do have experience with “having a social life on a budget.” So, I am sharing my tips on how to maintain your social life while on a budget!

  1. Always Plan Ahead!
    • If you know a celebration is coming up (someone’s birthday, an anniversary, the holidays), put a little money aside each pay period to save for gift giving.
    • Taking a trip soon or want to plan a trip? The same thing applies – set your money aside early in the pay period so you can gradually save and treat yourself to the vacation you deserve!
  2. Pay Your Bills On Time (or early, if possible!)
    • Not only will your credit score thank you, but so will your stress level! Keep a calendar with due dates of bills and/or put reminders on your phone for exactly which day of the month your bills are due. This will ensure each of your bills is paid on time and serves as a helpful reminder to set money aside when you know a bill is coming.
    • A lot of companies now offer automatic payment online. While this is a great idea, it is still your responsibility to ensure the payment went through and there is enough money in your account to cover the payment. NOTE: If you set-up automatic payment, always check the amount withdrawn to ensure you are being charged the right amount.
  3. Cut Costs Where Possible
    • Have you been looking forward to a night out? An easy way to save your money for the weekend is to pack your lunch during the week rather than eating out. You can also make your own coffee in the morning rather than taking your normal coffee shop run on the way to work. It is truly amazing how quickly all those little expenses add up to quite a chunk of change!
    • Rather than driving somewhere and paying for gas and parking, see if public transportation is available or if you can set-up a carpool.
    • If you are really looking to save more, consider cutting out some luxuries to give yourself a bit more freedom in other places. For example: If you have cable that gives a million more channels than you ever use consider downgrading your cable package.
  4. Track Your Budget
    • Keep a record of your income and your spending. The best way to start changing your finances is to realize just how much you really do make versus how much you are actually spending. By keeping a log of how much you spend and what you spend your money on, you will be able to identify areas where you can save!
  5. Take Advantage of Free Activities and Deals at Local Places
    • Most cities have a plethora of free attractions, museums, and monuments which anyone can visit. In DC, a great blog to follow is Free in DC! You can even find exercise classes and outdoor activities if you are looking for a discounted way to workout.
    • Attend happy hours when drinks and food are discounted.
    • Sign up for the rewards cards at your local grocery store and pharmacy/drug store – it can really save you a lot!

If you are mindful of what you are spending and make an effort to save a bit each pay period, you will begin setting yourself up for financial success. While all these cost saving tips are helpful, make sure you find a good balance between cutting costs and treating yourself. It is OK to treat yourself once and a while, especially when you know you have saved for it – That is the whole point of the work-life balance! Enjoy your social life and keep doing things with friends and loved ones!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

The Characteristics of a Great Volunteer

Photo Credit: Carmel Valley 5K

Photo Credit: Carmel Valley 5K

As a Program Specialist for a nonprofit organization, I rely heavily on my volunteers to ensure my programs run smoothly and to help me engage with our public. From preparation activities to program day, volunteers make my programs possible! So, what makes a great volunteer? Here are my thoughts on the characteristics of a volunteer you want on your team!

  1. Passion
    • Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about! Volunteers who truly relate to the cause they are supporting, will enjoy engaging with the individuals benefiting from your program and be enthusiastic about what they can contribute to the cause/program.
  2. Up for Anything
    • A “no job is too small” attitude is a must! From taking out the trash to helping with set-up and break-down of an event, a volunteer who is willing to help out wherever support is needed is essential. Not all jobs are “glamorous,” but they do support the greater cause and that is what is important to keep in mind as a volunteer.
  3. Initiative
    • This goes hand-in-hand with “up for anything.” Be a volunteer who is proactive and willing to jump-in when you see something that needs to be done – just be sure to follow the procedures laid out by the Program Manager.
  4. Knowledgeable
    • Educate yourself about the mission of the organization and the goals of the program so you can speak to about them intelligently when asked by a participant, sponsor, or even a friend considering volunteering!
  5. Sensitivity
    • Depending on the organization’s and/or the program’s mission, sensitivity to an individual’s personal information and reason(s) for participating in a program can be very important. Ensure you safeguard people’s privacy when volunteering with sensitive causes.
  6. Enthusiasm
    • Having an upbeat and positive attitude while volunteering is a necessity! No matter what task you are asked to handle, complete it with a smile 🙂

Now get out there and volunteer in your community for a cause you are passionate about!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra