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Ch-Ch-Changes: Tips to smooth the transition to a new job

new-job

Adjusting to a new job is tough. Whether you’re making a career change after just a few months, or many years, transitioning into a new role can be downright scary. Changing jobs means meeting and trying to fit in with all new people, it means a new routine, perhaps a new schedule, a new commute, and obviously, a new set of tasks and expectations. 

I recently started at AMPED after more than ten years with my former company. I went from being a wealth of knowledge and someone who others relied for all the answers, to being the one who knows almost nothing. My commute time more than doubled, which means my alarm clock now goes off an hour earlier. I sit at a desk the majority of the time now, when previously I had a good mix of sitting and being on my feet.

These are all things that have taken some getting used to and I’m certainly no expert in the career change department, but looking back I realize that there are a few things that have really helped my transition go a bit more smoothly. The following are a few suggestions for you if a career change is in your future.

Practice your routine. In the days or weeks leading up to your first day at the new job, take some time to test out your new wake up time, commute, parking, etc. Even if you’re not able to try the drive at the time of day you’ll actually be commuting, do explore all the possible routes. Feeling confident in my new commute definitely helped calm some of my first-day nerves. Nobody wants to make a bad impression by being late on the first day so if you can squelch even an iota of that nervousness by not being concerned about getting lost, you’re in good shape!

Ask questions. You will undoubtedly get bombarded with information in the first days and weeks at your new gig. It will be entirely too much information to take in at once, but by engaging and asking questions, you may just retain a little more of that information than you would by listening alone. Likewise, nobody expects you to get everything right on the first try. If you’re feeling uneasy about a task you’ve been assigned, ask for help! Your co-workers are your best resources.

Accept invitations. It can be intimidating asking questions of those aforementioned co-workers if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. One of the best ways to get to know the people you’ll now be spending more time with than some of your own family, is by accepting their invitations. Whether they invite you to happy hour, or for a quick coffee run, it’s important to accept the invitation. Getting to know your co-workers outside of work can help you feel more at ease when you need their help back in the office.

Immerse yourself. Everyone learns differently, but in my experience, the best way to really “get it” is to fully immerse yourself. I was so scared to answer the phone for the first time, but I took comfort in the fact that the hold button was my new best friend. Any question that came in could be answered by someone in the office. And by fielding those questions and finding the appropriate person to answer them, I was learning something by listening to the response. Take the opportunity to listen in on conference calls, request that your co-workers copy you in on email responses so you can later use them as reference. Even if the information isn’t immediately relevant, it’s likely that you’ll benefit from it at a later time.

Stay positive. This is probably the hardest of all. Even after four months, I get frustrated when I don’t know how to do something, don’t know how to answer a member’s question, or mess up something that should be really easy. But it’s important to remind yourself that nobody figures it all out right away. The President probably gets lost on his way to the bathroom in his first few months in the White House, right? The bottom line is that we learn from mistakes, and we all make them. Beating yourself up over it just isn’t worth it. If you can manage to stay positive, even despite all of the inevitable mistakes you’ll make, you’ll be so much better off in the long run.

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When your publisher's contract is up for renewal: Tips for the RFP process

publisher rfp

If you’ve worked successfully with a publisher over a period of time and you’re happy, is it necessary to go through the proposal process when your contract is up for renewal? My answer is “Yes, definitely.” Why? Because the board and staff have a duty to their association to ensure the best deal possible. Technology changes, new players come into the market. Without exploring and revisiting the agreement, you may miss out on additional savings.

Having just gone through the publishing RFP process with one of our clients, I have a few quick tips to share.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Associations send out RFPs for publishing all the time. Do a little digging and find an RFP to use as a template. Trouble finding a sample? Pose a question to your peers on ASAE Collaborate or your state society of association executives’ online community – someone is sure to step up and share their RFP. An online search will yield samples as well.

Know what you have. My client has a lot of “extras” with their current publisher that are offered to members and would be hard to replace. Value-added items might include a digital version of your publication, a mobile app, complimentary member access to related journals and magazines in your publisher’s catalog or member discounts on any related books they publish. Although these items don’t have a particular dollar value attached to them, they provide solid member benefits.

Respect confidentiality. Whether it’s a confidentiality clause in your contract that prohibits the sharing of specific information or a “confidential” statement on provided information, respect the agreement with your current publisher. If you have a question about whether or not the release of certain information is in violation of your agreement, err on the side of caution or consult your attorney. In the case of my client, we couldn’t provide revenue figures, but one publisher was resourceful and found the information on our IRS 990. Another publisher declined to submit a proposal because they didn’t have the information or know where to get it.

Be available and responsive. Potential publishers are sure to have questions. Respond to their questions in a timely manner, just as you expect them to respond to you quickly. Don’t be surprised if the publisher wants to have a conference call instead of emailing back and forth. Ask a committee member to participate on the call with you; you may not be a subject matter expert, especially if you publish a scientific or medical journal. Including someone knowledgeable in the subject on the call will help ensure that all the publisher’s questions are answered.

How is our process ending? It looks like we’ll be staying with our current publisher, but everyone agrees we spent our time wisely. We can say with certainty that we have the best publishing fit for our organization.

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The end is the beginning: Next steps when a meeting is over

start finish

You thought you were finished, but the work has just begun . . . for the next one.

The quintessential mark of professional meeting planning is the ability to facilitate continuous improvement. If you don’t think of the next one NOW, it will be too late. The longer you wait to start planning the next event or conference, the less opportunity you have to improve it.

We just concluded organizing the largest MS meeting in the world. Close to 9,000 MS specialists, researchers, clinicians, advocates and allied health professionals from 92 countries convened in Boston in mid-September.

The wrap up involves not only making sure we pay all the bills and collect all outstanding receivables, but also making time to reflect on and document the success and lessons learned from the meeting to position the organization for greater success in its future meetings.

Here are five things to keep in mind as you conclude your meeting.

Hold a debrief. Find out how each member of your core team felt about what just transpired. Review stats of demographics and responses in attendee surveys. Meet with your vendors and reflect on each aspect of the meeting planning. Share the results with the leadership. Ask your committee members what they say were valuable lessons learned and what were worth repeating. Between the various stakeholders’ comments, you’ll see a pattern of laudable aspects and not-so-ideal scenarios that may have taken place on the show floor. Plan to repeat aspects of the meeting planning that worked, re-strategize and re-think clunky processes or services.

Document. Once you know what’s replicable and what needs to be changed, write a memo outlining the recommended changes. Keep photos of the rooms to help you remember set-ups. Record data of usage of services (Wi-Fi, web clicks, access views) and specs of technical requirements. Consider writing three report levels: one for sharing to anyone who asks; one for the board of directors with outlined suggestions; and another for the staff with the nitty gritty details to help in future planning, vendor hire, contracting and negotiations.

Celebrate. Have you written personal thank you notes to key team members and vendors? Leave voice mails of thanks for that special touch. Throw a get-together with staff and vendors, if they’re local, to tell them how much they were appreciated. Share photos of the events among staff to reminisce the outstanding work that everyone just did. Write letters of recommendation to vendors’ staff who did an outstanding job.

Purge. Go through your network and paper files and remove doubles of draft copies. Save the final version of any print material. Delete unnecessary emails. Sort emails and save only problem-solving or communication threads where decisions were made. Label the inboxes and file away.

Rest. When everything is finished, take time off to recharge. Shut down your phone and don’t check emails. When you come back to the office — your energies will be renewed. You will feel more confident. When you have everything recorded, you won’t need to remember how you want to execute the meeting next time because you’ve already thought about it. You will have more excitement for the next one and the cycle of excellence continues.

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Dos and Don’ts for Outlook Efficiency

Our team recently participated in a webinar detailing how to save yourself an hour every day using various tools in Outlook. It inspired me to review my very first blog post and see what else I’m doing to save myself time every day. I came up with these Dos and Don’ts to make sure you are saving time and not wasting it in Outlook.

DON’T duplicate efforts. There are so many great tools in Outlook—Inbox, Task List, Calendar—just make sure you aren’t over-using them. An example of overuse: keeping an item in your inbox, flagging it for follow up in your task list, and adding a calendar reminder to attend to the item. One of these methods will suffice on its own. Do you need to respond to the email? Keep it in your inbox. Is it something that needs action from you but not a response to that email? Copy it on to your calendar and delete it out of your inbox.

DO sort by date/conversation. This one is an absolute must. It keeps your inbox tidy by collapsing all messages from a single conversation in to a single item, keeping the most recent item on top, regardless of the sender. Bonus: it spares you from the embarrassment of not responding to the most recent email in a conversation. To set your inbox up to sort this way, select View > Date (Conversations) > check “Show as Conversations.”

Wiseman - Sorty by Date-Conversation

DON’T be afraid to delete emails. Guess what? When you delete an email, it does not go in to some deep, dark black hole of forgotten emails. Keep your inbox tidy so it can be your to-do list! Delete emails that you’ve attended to—you can always search through your “Deleted” folder later on if you need it.

DO use the “recurring” feature on your Calendar. There are so many tasks that I only need to do once a month or even once a year that I would completely forget about if they were not on my calendar. To speed things up, I use the “recurring” feature (Appointment > Recurrence). You can set it to recur daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Within the weekly option, you can specify certain days of the week (MWF? Tues-Thurs?). For monthly, you can select a specific date (10th of the month) or week (second Friday of the month). Yearly has the same options.

Wiseman - Calendar Recurrence

DO use “Drafts” to save time. I find myself sending the same emails over and over: responding to questions about a specific event, detailing steps on how to access a certain portion of a website, etc. When I notice this happening, I save a draft of the email: open a new message, type or paste the message, close out, hit “Yes” to save changes —this saves it as a draft. The email is now in my draft folder for quick copy-and-paste access when I’m responding to an email.

Wiseman - Save changes

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How to become a better proofreader

red pen

Proofreading is a skill that can be learned. Believe me when I say that I learned it the hard way. Your writing may be eloquent, insightful, even witty, but if you get someone’s name wrong -- (McFarlane? I thought it was McFarland.) or incorrectly calculate a United Way deduction in a graphic (What? It’s twice a month?) or simply don’t know your facts (Oh, it’s Canada – not Canadian – geese.) – they will never forget it. Neither will you.

Besides years of making mistakes (see preceding paragraph), three things have helped me improve the accuracy of communications for which I’m responsible: Training, a checklist and a two-sets-of-eyes rule. 

In one of my first writing and editing jobs, it was suggested (OK, mandated) I attend a Proofamatics class. I am pleased to see that the company still exists and its techniques are the same. Proofamatics teaches you to look at a document multiple times, each time looking in different places for different types of errors. If you simply start at the first word in the upper left corner and read to the end, you will read for comprehension and overlook errors.

For example, if you’re proofreading a newsletter, you might first read the headlines, bylines, subheads, photo captions and authors’ biography paragraphs. Then, verify names, titles, numbers, times and dates. Finally, read the body text. This divide-and-conquer technique works best when you print out the pages, so you can see multiple pages at once and easily mark corrections. 

My proofreading proficiency took a second leap forward when I created a checklist, at the suggestion of my husband, who was once described as an “engineer’s engineer.” Engineers love checklists, and for good reason; they present a systematic way to make sure every step in a process is completed. And, because I don’t read from top to bottom, front to back, a checklist helps me get back on track if I’m interrupted or take a break, which I highly recommend during marathon proofreading sessions.

Over the years, I’ve modified my proofreading checklist many times to reflect different types of publications and new technology. For example, my first checklist referred to bluelines; my current one lists hyperlinks. You are welcome to a copy of my checklist, however, please know that every situation calls for different “checks.” For example, I check “TOC with actual.” That is, do the headlines and page numbers in the table of contents (TOC) match the actual magazine or newsletter content? Your documents or web pages may not have a table of contents, but they might have footnotes, address blocks or some other element not on my checklist. The point is to create a checklist that meets your individual needs.

Finally, implement a two-sets-of-eyes rule. This is particularly important when you are proofreading your own writing. Ask someone else to proofread your work before publishing it in print or online. Suggest your backup proofreader use your divide-and-conquer technique and checklist.

The techniques I’ve shared here will add time to the process, but I firmly believe that it’s time well spent. Few people will notice if your newsletter or magazine is published a day behind schedule, but leave their name off a list (Randy, I know it’s been almost 30 years, but I still feel terrible.) and they will remember forever. So will you.

If you are interested in a copy of my proofreading checklist, please email me.

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