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

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Dining Etiquette: Splitting the Bill

Photo Credit: The Economic Times

Photo Credit: The Economic Times

After a wonderful meal with great company, there is no worse way to finish the dining out experience than having confusion over the bill. No matter the circumstance, a business meal, a group of friends, or a celebration in honor of someone, this type of confusion can always make attendees feel uncomfortable (click to watch). In order to avoid any awkward moments, here are my tips for splitting the bill:

  1. Splitting the Bill Can be a Touchy Subject – The following are important to keep in mind as you plan group meals.
    • People do not want to “get stuck” paying for the expensive meals, additional appetizers, or alcoholic beverages of others when they do not consume the same. Not everyone can afford the same thing.
      • Food for Thought: When the bill is split evenly between people who did not actually order things costing the same amount, those who are charged more often deduct from the tip. This is not fair to the servers.
    • If going out as couples, it is often easiest to split the total as an even amount per couple; however, keep the first bullet point in mind!
    • Bringing cash (and a variety of bill amounts) when you know you will be splitting the bill is a good idea. You do not want to owe anyone money after the fact or be responsible for holding up paying.
    • For those who are comfortable with digital payment methods, consider using the apps like Venmo and PayPal.
  2. If You Plan to Split the Bill – Always make the plan known ahead of time!
    • If you are the organizer for a group get together, but you are not the host, you should let attendees know ahead of time the bill will be split. After receiving the R.s.v.p. list, send a confirmation note to all attendees including “reminders” and stating the plan for the bill.
      • For example: “A request to split the total for brunch as individual bills has been made of the restaurant. Brunch will be divided by what you order, not split evenly among everyone, in order to be fair to all. Thank you for understanding!”
    • If you make a reservation for a larger number of people, call the restaurant and ask if separate checks for a large group is possible. Also, ask if gratuity is added for a group of your size. Some establishments are unable to do separate checks; therefore, it is important to let your attendees know in advance if paying in cash will be necessary.
      • For example: “Please bring cash for dinner. We have been told splitting the check between so many credit cards is not possible; therefore, having cash will make it much easier for us to divide the cost ourselves.”
    • Always tell your server you wish to split the bill when he/she first greets you. This way, when you order, your server can enter your drinks and meals as separate checks.
      • It is very frustrating for servers to receive a joint bill back that says, “Put $25.51 on the red card, $34.22 on the blue card, etc..”
  3. Ultimately, Who is Responsible for the Bill?
    • Typically, if your boss/manager is present and extended the invite then it is his/her responsibility to cover the bill.
    • Similarly, with client lunches/dinners or interviews that take place over a meal, the hosting business is responsible for the bill.
    • If you are hosting a meal out for friends, family, etc., the cost of the meal and gratuity is your responsibility. Think of it as hosting at your home – You do not ask guests to pay for their meal in your home when you host; therefore, you should not expect them to pay when you extend the invitation to join you out for a meal.
    • If you are out to celebrate a special occasion for someone (birthday, promotion, etc.), it is customary that his/her bill is covered by the other people at the table. As a guest, be prepared to split the honoree’s tab – bringing cash helps!
    • If you are asked to evenly split a bill for a group whose meals are clearly not equal in cost, speak up in a polite manner. Simply saying, “Excuse me, everyone did not order equal amounts and I think it would be unfair to expect each other to make up for our portions. May we split the bill based on our meals?”

No matter your age or the setting, splitting the bill can always be a difficult situation to navigate. I hope these tips help you find a solution easily and relieve you of some dining out anxiety in the future!

Happy dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

How To: Appropriately Handle Work Stress

Photo Credit: My Pretty Pennies

Photo Credit: My Pretty Pennies

What is there to do when work is piling up on your desk and the requests keep coming in? Short of staying late and working extra hard to get it all done, how can you handle the stress level appropriately and graciously? Here are my tips for managing stress in the workplace:

  1. Minimize the Distractions
    • Put your phone away. If you are someone who keeps your personal phone on your desk, hide it in a drawer or keep it in your bag to prevent yourself from getting distracted or checking that most recent text which then turns into a long conversation.
    • Stay away from your social media accounts while at work (at least your personal ones). Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. can all be like a blackhole for losing free/spare time. What starts as a quick check for something you need to know can easily turn into hours of scrolling.
    • Keep office chatter to a minimum. While it is always wonderful to be friendly with your colleagues, sometimes it is necessary to say, “I would love to chat, but I have a lot to tackle today. Unfortunately, I have to cut our conversation short.” Just remember, this refers to personal/social conversations, not professional meetings or talks with your boss/supervisor. However, if a meeting is getting off topic and taking too long, do not be afraid to steer the conversation back to business so you can wrap up the meeting.
  2. Manage Your Time
    • Stay organized. Keep a running “To Do” list to track what needs to get done or what needs to be assigned. This is especially helpful if you are working on more than one project at once. Not to mention, checking something off the list is an incredibly refreshing feeling! Additionally, keep your work space clean. Working in a cluttered environment produces anxiety for a lot of people.
    • Prioritize. Evaluate your workload and decide what needs to get done when. Keep timelines in mind and be sure you are working on the matters that take precedence. Working between multiple projects is doable, but sometimes you need to focus all your attention in one direction.
    • Make a timeline or schedule for yourself. Break down your work into smaller, more manageable tasks and have checkpoints along the way. Think of it as setting mini goals for yourself to help reach project completion!
  3. Ask for Help and Advocate for Yourself
    • Delegate roles and responsibilities. If you have a large scale project, event, etc. you are working on and know you need assistance, ask your coworkers. Organize a team meeting and delegate roles and responsibilities to others. Just remember, do not pass off your work to others – they are there to help, not do your job for you.
    • Advocate for yourself. If your boss is continuously passing things to you and your pile is growing larger than what you can handle, ask to meet with your boss. Explain to him/her that the quality of your work is important to you and while you appreciate his/her faith in you for asking to do so much at once, you do not want to spread yourself too thin and compromise the quality of your work. Ensure your boss you will get the work done by discussing an achievable way forward.
  4. Remember to Breathe!
    • Literally breathe. Just take a deep breath and exhale the stress.
    • Every so often it is good to take a break from the computer. Get up from your chair and stretch or try a relaxing yoga pose.
    • If you have a few minutes to spare, take a short walk outside for a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air!
  5. Take Time for Yourself
    • Take Your Lunch Break. It is good to get out of your office and eat somewhere other than at your desk. Not only does eating at your desk keep you sedentary for longer, it also leads to eating more.
    • Use Your Vacation Days. After a long, high intensity period in the office, it is good to reward yourself with a little “rest and relaxation.” Planning trips (long or short) and having something to look forward to can be a big motivator to keep pushing through the busy times.

In stressful situations, what have you done to manage it well?

Just remember, you are capable of handling all you are being asked to do!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Tips to Succeed on a Telephone Interview

As if interviewing for a job is not nerve-racking enough, we often have to do it twice with most first round interviews taking place over the phone. Interviewing over the phone has a whole different feel and can cause you to feel anxious for it’s own reasons, but there are also plenty of positives. This week, I am sharing my tips on how to succeed on your next telephone interview.

  1. Look the Part
    • Be dressed professionally, or however is most appropriate for the position. It will put you in the mood of that career opportunity and make you feel more in-touch with the opportunity you are pursuing.
    • Keep the desk or table you are sitting at neat. You do not want to have things cluttered around you or be distracted by other projects.
  2. Body Language – It still applies!
    • SMILE! 🙂 It will help to make you less tense during the conversation.
    • Talk with your hands. If you are someone who does this naturally, it can help you talk through interview questions and it will make you more engaged/lively in the conversation.
      • NOTE: In an interview or any professional interaction, be cautious of being too boisterous with your hand gestures. No one wants to feel like you’re jumping across the table at them or about to accidentally hit them.
    • Focus your eyes. Whether you look at a photo of the person you are speaking to, something directly in front of you, or your notes, try to focus your eyes and keep your head up. Looking around the room because you do not have a person to keep eye contact with can make you “space out” and lose track of the conversation or miss an important piece of information.
  3. Be Prepared
    • The great thing about a phone interview is you can keep your notes and research right near you!
      • Have a copy of your resume, the job description, and any other supporting material you submitted, printed out so you can reference it.
      • Keep the company’s or institution’s website open. You never know if you may have to look something up in a hurry.
      • Read the bios of the company’s leadership – This can help you to connect with them if they are your interviewers or it can help you impress the interviewer by being familiar with your employer’s background and showing your ability to connect on a personal level.
      • Know the mission and vision of the company and have a “plug” on how you can contribute to and enhance it.
      • If you know there are questions you are nervous to answer or think you may stumble over, prepare responses to them and write down bullet points to help you.
    • Prepare questions for your interviewer.
      • Honestly think about the things you want to know about the company, the work environment, the job itself, etc. and make sure you leave with a comprehensive understanding of the position.
      • Takes notes during the interview so you can look back at what you have discussed. If something pops up that you did not understand or did not get a full explanation of, go back to that topic and ask new questions.
  4. How do I end this call?!
    • After the interview is complete, ask about next steps.
      • It is perfectly acceptable to ask how the interview/candidate process works after this point.
      • If the interviewer asks you for additional information, be sure you know how to get it to the interviewer (email, website, in the mail, etc.).
    • Say thank you!
      • Tell your interviewer you appreciate him/her taking the time to interview you and for considering you for the position.
      • Actually say the words, “thank you.”
  5. Follow-Up
    • Send a thank-you note to your interviewer no later than 24 hours after the interviewer – the sooner the better. Express your gratitude and also restate your interest in the position.
    • If you do not hear from the interviewer by the date they say they will contact you, it is OK to follow-up with him/her; however, only do it once. Do not bombard the person on a daily basis trying to get information.

Overall, treat your telephone interview like an in-person interview. Give your interviewer your full, undivided attention, do all the prep work you normally would, and execute with confidence! Good luck on your phone interviews! Wishing you all much success and many second interviews and job offers!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Email Etiquette: Handling a Busy Inbox

In both our professional and personal lives, we often receive a high volume of emails on a daily basis. On those days when your inbox is so full you are almost scared to open it, how should you handle the massive amount of inquiries that need a response? Here are my tips for managing a busy inbox!

  1. Wait at least 30 minutes before checking your email in the morning
    • Help yourself to start the day on the right foot. No one wants to wake up and start answering emails right away. So, give yourself 30 minutes to get your day started without the distraction of technology. If there is a work or personal emergency that requires your immediate attention, you will get a phone call about it, not an email.
    • If you start answering emails, I am rather sure you will never be ready for work on time. Get yourself ready to conquer the day then go conquer!
  2. Skim your inbox to find the high priority subjects
    • When you first open your inbox, start by looking through the recipients and the subject lines to ensure you read the high priority emails first.
    • Make a mental list of the priority of the rest of your emails and work from that point.
    • If you know it is junk mail, delete it.
  3. Read your inbox emails and your written replies more than once
    • If you have an email that you know requires your undivided attention or further research, mark it is as unread and return to it once you have all the information you need. Nothing is worse than responding to an email and realizing you missed the key questions that needed a response or you left out the bulk of your reasoning and needed follow-up questions.
    • Read your reply more than once to ensure you hit the key points and your grammar, delivery, and thought process come across as you wish.
    • If you have an assistant or co-worker, ask them to proofread your reply if you are unsure about something.
    • If you are writing about a sensitive or emotional topic, write a draft response then step away from it for a while. Come back to it when you have thought about it more and then edit it. If you need to, do this a few times to ensure your email reads as you wish.
  4. Unsubscribe to the hordes of advertisements you receive
    • Every store, news outlet, etc. wants you to be part of their listserv… It is OK to say no or to unsubscribe.
    • Keep the places/sources you regularly use and unsubscribe from those that simply clog your inbox with the daily/weekly reminders.
  5. If you are going out town or will be unavailable by email, use an out-of-office automatic reply
    • Not only does this help to manage people’s expectations of when they will receive a response, it will also provide them with contact information in case of an emergency.
    • An example of a simple, yet effective out-of-office reply is:
      “Sir/Ma’am,

      Thank you for you for contacting me. I am out of the office without access to/with limited access to my email and will not return until Monday, 23 February. If this is an urgent matter, please contact my office (or specify a co-worker if he/she is taking over your work in your absence) at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.

      I look forward to speaking with you soon. Have a great day!”

  6. Keep all your emails in archived/organized folders
    • You never know when you may need to reference an old email or find someone’s contact information.
    • Once you have responded to an email, move it into the proper folder. This will let you know you have replied to the email, reduce the number of emails in your inbox, and give you a place to look back to if you need to review a message in the future.
  7. Some emails need an in-person or phone response
    • If you receive an email you know you need to respond to, but do not feel it is appropriate to respond via email or that a more in-depth conversation should be had, call the person or schedule a meeting to discuss the matter.
  8. Have a technology curfew
    • Set a time for yourself when you put your phone/tablet/laptop away at night.
    • Do one final review of your inbox and ensure nothing urgent came in or that you missed anything from earlier in the day then turn it off until tomorrow! As I said about the morning email check, if there is a work or personal emergency that requires your immediate attention, you will get a phone call about it, not an email.
    • A lot of research has been showing exposure to blue-light (the light in tech gadgets) at night, prevents a good night’s sleep and reduces the amount of time you spend in REM sleep. A recent Washington Post article speaks to research on the matter.

I hope these tips help you to manage your busy inbox more successfully! Most importantly, remember everyone deserves a response, but be mindful of how and when you respond.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Stockings.. To Wear or Not to Wear?

When planning a professional wardrobe, a commonly overlooked accessory (or to me, a basic) is hosiery. While some may think it is “old fashioned” to wear stockings, I find it gives you an extra touch of polish and finishes off a professional look. In a more casual office environment, stockings may not be necessary; however, in a strictly professional environment, I believe they are a must!

  1. You Can Never Go Wrong With Flesh-Toned Stockings!
    • These are a legitimate staple in my wardrobe year-round! Pair them with a pencil skirt or work dress to finish off your professional look!
    • Find a pair that matches your skin tone and stock up! Unfortunately, stockings do run or get a snag in them so make sure you have quite a few pairs.
      • Word to the Wise: Keep a pair in your desk drawer in case you get a run at work. Also, keep clear nail polish handy to prevent a slight snag from turning into a major run.
    • Depending on the time of year, you may need different colored stockings. Just like you have to change your foundation and/or bronzer depending on how much sun you are getting, you should do the same for your stockings. You do not want your legs to look dark and the rest of you to look pale in the middle of winter!
  2. Does the Time of Year of Make a Difference?
    • Personally, I wear flesh-toned or sheer black stockings year-round. They truly are a wardrobe staple for me and give a more professional feel.
    • During the Fall and Winter, it is extremely easy to incorporate stockings into your professional wardrobe. From the tights and boots look to simply wearing stockings to stay warm, you can always make them work with your outfit.
  3. Colored Tights or Tights with Designs?
    • I caution you to tread lightly in this area!
    • A little color is always a fun way to add some flare to your wardrobe, but ensure your look stays professional.
      • I do not recommend brightly colored tights or wearing colored tights (pink, purple, red, etc.) with a neutral (beige, navy, gray, or black) outfit.
      • Only wear colored tights if they match the color scheme of your outfit and do not stand out in a distracting way.
    • Keep the designs professional!
      • You should never be caught in fishnets at the office.
      • Be careful with lace tights, they may be too sexy for the office.
      • Tights with small polka dots – cute!
  4. Still Unsure If You Should Wear Stockings?
    • The best designator of if you should wear stockings is to look around the office and at your management. If other women are wearing hosiery, that is a good sign you should be too!
    • At the same time, if no one in your office wears hosiery, but you feel more comfortable and professional doing so, then you absolutely can wear stockings.
    • Personal Example: I work in a military settings. Female Service Members are required to wear stockings as part of their uniform anytime they wear a skirt. In order to match this professionalism, I always wear stockings when I wear a skirt or dress.

Overall, you want the stockings/tights you wear to enhance your professional appearance and not take away from it. If you have never worn stockings, give them a try! You may end up loving the way they finish off your professional look!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Polished Professional? Nail Polish that is…

Thanks to a wonderful friend and one of the most professional and proper gals I know, this week’s topic is hand and nail care in the workplace. The question I received was, “What are your thoughts on nail colors and what is appropriate for the workplace?”

This is such a great question! Although it may seem like a trivial detail, your hands truly do stand out in the workplace. While shaking hands during introductions, taking notes/typing at meetings, dining with other professionals, and especially talking with your hands, a lot of attention is drawn to your hands making them a focal point. As a result, keeping your nails manicured and your hands presentable is extremely important!

Now, I know what some of you are thinking… “Keep my hands manicured? I cannot afford a weekly/biweekly manicure.” I completely understand! If you are able to afford getting your nails professionally done, go for it, but for those readers who are not able to do so, it is perfectly OK! You can certainly have great hands and nails without the professional care.

  1. Moisturize Your Hands
    • Keep an unscented or very lightly scented hand cream in your desk. If you shake hands a lot or have a hands-on job, your hands have a tendency to dry out (especially during the dry, cold winter months). Dry, rough skin during a handshake is never a good thing. :/ Your hands also look much more presentable when you they are not dry, cracked, or red.
    • Put on cream after you shower or right before bed, it lets the cream set while you are having some down time.
    • Use cuticle oil or cuticle cream.
  2. File Your Nails and Keep Them Shaped
    • Always keep a nail file handy, you never know when you may break a nail.
    • Although pointed nails have been in fashion lately, avoid the “claw/talon” look unless you work in the fashion industry and need to follow all the trends.
    • Keep your nails at a reasonable length. Typically, your nail should be as long as your finger or just slightly longer (when you are looking at your nails from the palm side of your hand).
    • The graphic below shows the main nail shapes. For the office, I recommend the 3 shapes on the right (rounded, squarely rounded, and oval) or a short square shape.

      Photo Credit: Style Craze

      Photo Credit: Style Craze

  3. Nail Color and Design
    • I suggest a nude color, pale pink, or a French manicure.
      • I use a lot of Essie nail polishes. Here are a few of my favorites:

        All Colors from Essie

        All Colors from Essie

    • If you do choose to have colored nails (i.e. a darker shade in the fall/winter), be sure it is subtle and matches your professional wardrobe.
    • Stay away from overly long, bright, and decorated/bejeweled nails.
    • If it is a holiday and your office participates in celebrations, having colored or decorated nails is OK, but I would only keep them for the few days surrounding that holiday.
  4. Keep Your Nails Clean
    • When your nail polish begins to chip or fade, take it off! Having chipped nail polish is very unprofessional and it does not look appealing.
    • If you do not wear nail polish, keep your nails filed and shaped. You can also put a clear coat or nail strengthener on to add a simple shine to your nail!
    • Clean under your nails so dirt and grime do not show.

With all these tips in hand, go pamper yourself and make your nails look fabulous!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra