Bud Bilanich http://www.budbilanich.com Your Career Mentor Thu, 20 Aug 2015 14:59:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 Why You Should Always Use Plain English in Your Business Communications http://www.budbilanich.com/why-you-should-always-use-plain-english-in-your-business-communications/ http://www.budbilanich.com/why-you-should-always-use-plain-english-in-your-business-communications/#respond Thu, 20 Aug 2015 14:59:28 +0000 http://www.budbilanich.com/?p=7925

Kay Hutchings-Olsson is my go to person when it comes to writing.  Good writing can help you get the job you want, and then succeed once you’re in it.  She is an advocate of suing plain English in your business writing.  I am too.  Check out what Kay has to say about using plain English in your writing…

What exactly is plain English? Well, it’s certainly not “dumbed-down” or patronizing language – quite the opposite.

Plain English is clear, precise and effective language. It doesn’t over-simplify or omit words. Instead, it presents complex information in a straightforward way so it is more accessible and quicker to read. It is in fact surprisingly difficult to use plain language to describe complicated ideas and very easy to fill text with superfluous and inflated words.

In our fast-paced business world, knowing how to use plain English is a vital skill. People want and need to be able to understand and act on information quickly rather than wade through unnecessary words, unfamiliar jargon and sentences more tricky than a game of Jenga. It is not because they lack the intelligence. They lack the time.

Plain English respects the reader because it gets to the point quickly. So with that in mind, let’s look at what makes your business communications clearer and more effective:

Replace your “fancy” words and phrases with “plain” alternatives:

Here is a selection:

“as a means of” – to

“by virtue of” – because of

“in addition to” – besides

“in connection with” – with, about, concerning

“in lieu of”  – instead of

“at the present time” –  now

“in the absence of” – without

“on the occasion of” – on

“on the part of” – by

“with the exception of” – except for

“concerning the matter of” – concerning

“as a consequence of” – because of

“inasmuch as” – considering that, since

“notwithstanding” – despite

“antecedent to” – before

“in the vicinity of” – near

“at the present time” – now

“with regard to” – concerning, about

“until such a time” – until

“is authorized to” – can

“with the object of” – to, for

“it is probable that” – probably

“adequate number of” – enough

“in the course of” – during

“in receipt of” – have

Use shorter words:

Why use additional when you can use extra? Commence instead of start? Advise instead of tell?

Shorter words are not only clearer to understand, they also have more of an impact and can give your text more life. Longer words can sound bureaucratic and dull, and they won’t impress your readers or improve your writing style. Use a thesaurus to check the options for shorter words.

Use shorter sentences

You should try to use on average 15–20 words in each sentence. It’s best to use a mixture of shorter and longer sentences to improve the flow. If you find yourself writing a long sentence, it’s usually possible to break it up into shorter sentences.

Be active, not passive

Here’s an example of a passive sentence: The 2015 Best Company Prize was won by ABC Limited.

And an example of an active sentence: ABC Limited won the 2015 Best Company Prize.

The active sentence sounds better, doesn’t it? That’s because it is clearer, uses fewer words and has more of a “punch”.

Use “you” and “we”

Always refer to your reader as “you”, not The Client, The Customer, etc. When you use “you”, you sound more personal and friendly.

And always refer to your company as “we”. It’s fine to use “we” and “I” in the same text.

Use lists

Lists are a great way to break up information as they help your readers skim-read important points quickly, so use them where possible.

Give instructions

A command such as “Please send us the completed report by Tuesday” is the most direct way to ask someone to do something. It’s like a call to action.

The key to not sounding bossy or unfriendly is to include a “Please” and “Thank you”. Plain English in business communications should always be polite.

Use jargon only when you know 100% your reader will understand

Jargon can be very handy. It can save you time explaining certain points – but only if your reader understands the terms and phrases you use. If you’re not sure they will, don’t use them. And don’t use specialist jargon when writing to the general public.

So, as you can see, using plain English is a valuable skill that will serve you well in your career and it deserves your attention. After all, communication means nothing if your readers can’t understand what you are saying.

I love this advice.  If you read this blog regularly, you know that I do my best to follow it.

Kay is a great editor, proofreader and business writer.  If you want to get in touch with her, check out her websites:  www.khocopywriting.com and www.kholanguageservices.com/

Your career mentor,

Bud

 

 

 

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Stories Make Your Presentations Come Alive http://www.budbilanich.com/stories-make-your-presentations-come-alive/ http://www.budbilanich.com/stories-make-your-presentations-come-alive/#respond Tue, 18 Aug 2015 12:42:19 +0000 http://www.budbilanich.com/?p=7923

Members of my career mentoring site that their ability to create and deliver dynamic presentations is an important key to your life and career success. Many careers have been made on the strength of one or two great presentations.

Stories are the best way to make your presentations come alive. We all learn through stories. If you learn how to use stories effectively, you will become a great presenter – and get on the fast track to the career success you want and deserve.

I’ve come up with a simple three-step formula that anyone can use to create powerful stories that will help you make your point.

  1. Identify your truth – something that in your heart of hearts you know to be “true.”
  2. Think of the critical experiences you’ve had that have led you to this “truth.”
  3. Shape those experiences into a story that you can tell at the drop of a hat.

Here’s an example of how I have used this formula. It’s a real story I often tell – especially when I am doing a talk on the importance of putting yourself in another person’s shoes.

“One of the things that I know to be true is that if I am going to be a good communicator, I must meet other people where they are, not where I would like them to be. Let me tell you how I know this.

“Several years ago, I had an assignment to conduct a team-building session for a manufacturing plant manager and his staff. The client was a friend of mine. I knew him well.

“I arrived at his office about 5:00 the afternoon of the day before our session. He said, “Do you have an agenda for tomorrow’s meeting?”

“I said, ‘Well, first we’ll do A, then B, followed by C. We’ll finish up with D.’

 “He said, ‘Do you have an agenda?’

 “At first, I thought he hadn’t been listening to what I just said, so I repeated myself: ‘First we’ll do A, then B, followed by C. We’ll finish up with D.’

“He said, ‘Yes, I know. That’s what you just said. Do you have an agenda?’

“At that point, it dawned on me that he was looking for a printed agenda. I said ‘No, but we really don’t need one. I’ve done a lot of meetings like this. It will go fine.’

“He said, ‘I’m not comfortable winging it.’ So we created an agenda using PowerPoint.

“The next day, the meeting went off without a hitch. We followed the agenda that I had in my head and he had on the PowerPoint slide. Everyone agreed that it was one of the best meetings of this type that they had ever attended.

“As we were debriefing I asked my client what he thought of the meeting.

 “He said, ‘It was a great meeting, but I think we were lucky because we were winging it.’

 “That frustrated me. I wasn’t winging it. I had carefully mapped out the meeting in my head. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and how I wanted to accomplish it. I didn’t say anything to the client at that point because I didn’t want to damage my relationship with him.

“On the flight home, I thought about what happened. He thought we were winging it, and I thought we were following a well thought-out plan. The difference – he needs more structure than me. The piece of paper with the agenda was very important to him and his sense of order. To me, the paper wasn’t necessary, because I knew in my head what to do and how to do it.

“It became clear to me that if I want to influence not just this client, but anyone, I need to adapt my communication style to theirs. From that day on, I modify my communication style to meet the needs of the other person. I realized that I want to be influential, I need to adapt my communication style to others, not expect them to adapt their style to mine.

“This was a valuable lesson for me. By adapting my style, I become more influential and powerful. It may seem as if I’m yielding, when in fact, I’m taking charge of the situation,”

The story above illustrates how you can use my 1 – 2 – 3 formula to construct a story that you can use to make a point. First, identify your truth – something that in your heart of hearts you know to be “true.” Second, think of the critical experiences you’ve had that have led you to this “truth.” Third, shape those experiences into a story that you can tell at the drop of a hat.

In this case, here’s what I know to be true – effective communicators adapt their communication style to their audience. I know this to be true because of the incident I described above (as well as several other experiences I’ve had in my career). I can tell this story any time I want to make a point about the importance of adapting your communication style to your audience.

The next time you are asked to do a talk, use this formula to illustrate the main point you want to make. You’ll do a great talk and but yourself on the fast track to the career success you deserve.

The point here is simple common sense. Successful people are great presenters. Stories make presentations come alive. They are not difficult to create. Follow my 1 – 2 – 3 formula for creating and telling great stories.  First, identify your truth – something that in your heart of hearts you know to be “true.” Second, think of the critical experiences you’ve had that have led you to this “truth.” Third, shape those experiences into a story that you can tell at the drop of a hat.

That’s my career advice on how to create the stories that will brand you as a great presenter.

What do you think? Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment. As always, thanks for reading my musings on life and career success. I value you and I appreciate you.

Your career mentor,

Bud

PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to http://www.budbilanich.com/join to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

 

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Build Strong Relationships by Sending Positive Micro Messages http://www.budbilanich.com/build-strong-relationships-by-sending-positive-micro-messages/ http://www.budbilanich.com/build-strong-relationships-by-sending-positive-micro-messages/#respond Mon, 17 Aug 2015 12:24:28 +0000 http://www.budbilanich.com/?p=7921

As I mentioned in my birthday post, and as members of my career mentoring site know, relationships are an important key to your life and career success.

Tweets 121 – 140 in my career advice book Success Tweets deal with the importance of relationship building. You cannot create the life and career success you want and deserve if you don’t build strong, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with the important people in your life.

All too often however, your interaction style can have a negative impact on your career success. JT O’Donnell is a friend of mine and founder of Careerealism and Career HMO. You should check out her sites – she has some great life and career success advice there.

A while back I received an email from JT called “10 Signs Your Interaction Style Is Messing With Your Career:” JT really nailed it with this one. I asked her if I could post her thoughts here and she graciously agreed. Check out JT’s 10 signs that your interaction style is messing with your career…

  1. You feel like nobody is paying attention to your requests at work.
  2. Colleagues have informal meetings without you and then tell you the results and how they directly impact your job.
  3. Your boss dismisses EVERY idea you present to her.
  4. Co-workers always agree with you when you voice your concerns, but then you hear they said something entirely different to your boss.
  5. You have no close friends at the office.
  6. You’ve been told you aren’t “management material” yet.
  7. People get really quiet and don’t have any answers or comments when you speak.
  8. You don’t get selected for any team projects or special assignments.
  9. People love to tease you about how “honest” and “funny” and “shameless” you are at the office.
  10. You’ve been fired.

JT provides some great guidance here.

If you want to build strong relationships at work, start with your existing relationships. Tweet 123 in Success Tweets says, “Use every social interaction to build and strengthen relationships. Strong relationships are your ticket to success.”

I have found that little things make for strong relationships. In other words, sweat the small stuff.  It’s the small stuff that will help you build and maintain strong, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with the people who can help you create the life and career success you want and deserve.

A couple of years ago, I had an opportunity to preview a DVD on relationship building called, Little Things Mean a Lot. The DVD highlights the importance of sweating the small stuff when it comes to relationships.  It comes form the point of view that we send micro-messages in our interactions with other people. While micro-messages are often small, their impact can be enormous.  They can help or hinder your relationship-building efforts.

Micro-affirmations help you build and maintain strong relationships. Micro-inequities hinder your ability to build and maintain strong relationships.

These are important concepts that deserve a closer look.

Micro-affirmations are micro-messages that we send to other people that cause them to feel valued, included, or encouraged.

Micro-inequities are micro-messages that we send to other people that cause them to feel devalued, slighted, discouraged or excluded.

Ask yourself, “When do I feel excluded, disrespected and devalued?” In most of these cases, you have been the recipient of a micro-inequity. The way you feel when you experience a micro-inequity is the way others are likely to feel when you engage in micro-inequity behavior. That means you should refrain from using these behaviors in your interactions with others.

Then do just the opposite. Ask yourself, “When do I feel included, respected and valued?” In most of these cases, you will have been the recipient of a micro-affirmation. Work hard to incorporate behaviors that are micro-affirmations into your daily interactions with others.

When you focus on sending micro-affirmations and avoiding micro-inequities, you will be better able to build solid, lasting relationships with the people in your life. And strong relationships are an important key to your personal and professional success.

The career success point here is simple. Successful people build strong relationships with the important people in their work lives. They adopt an interaction style that facilitates, rather than hinders their relationships. They send positive micro messages – the small things that show another person that you value him or her. They avoid sending micro-inequities – messages that demean people in small ways.

Your career mentor,

Bud

PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to http://www.budbilanich.com/join to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

]]> http://www.budbilanich.com/build-strong-relationships-by-sending-positive-micro-messages/feed/ 0 I’m 65 Today — and I Have a Birthday Present for You http://www.budbilanich.com/im-65-today-heres-my-birthday-present-to-you/ http://www.budbilanich.com/im-65-today-heres-my-birthday-present-to-you/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 09:22:04 +0000 http://www.budbilanich.com/?p=7918

Today is my 65th birthday. I was born on August 14, 1950 – that’s a long time ago. There are certain advantages to being 65. My health care costs have been lowered significantly as I’m now on Medicare. I get a free gym membership at 24 Hour Fitness. I get discounts at lots of restaurants and at the movies. All in all it’s pretty cool. Although I must admit that in mind I sometimes think that 65 year old people are old and decrepit, not young, vital and full of life like me – just kidding.

I have found that birthdays – especially milestone birthdays – are a good time for reflecting. And, the older you get the more there is for you to reflect on. So in today’s post, I want to offer my five best pieces of advice based on what I’ve learned in my 65 years.

  • It’s all about people. Relationships are the most important thing in this world. They will help you land jobs. They will help you progress in your life and career. They will bring much joy and happiness into your life. They will help you get through the tough times. Work hard to build solid, long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Say yes. Someone asks for your help. Say yes. You are asked to take on a tough assignment. Say yes. You are asked to take a lateral move. Say yes. You are asked to take a leadership position with a non-profit organization. Say yes. Someone asks you to mentor him or her. Say yes. Yes is my default answer. 999 times out of 1,000 I say yes when asked to do something. Saying yes has made a huge difference in my life. I’ve met some great people. I’ve had some wonderful adventures. I’ve had a great career. All because I said yes. Say yes – you’ll be happy you did.
  • Success is a journey – not a destination. Self-Actualization sits at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. Basically self-actualization means being all that you can be. It’s really an unreachable goal. I’ve found that when I’ve reached what I think is the pinnacle, there is always something else to learn, to do, to master. That’s why I say that success is a journey. There’s always something new to do, more to accomplish. Enjoy the ride!
  • Be thankful for what you have. Too many people spend too much time wishing they had more – a better job, more money, a nicer car, a bigger house. I am thankful for what I have. Being thankful keeps me centered. It reminds me of how lucky I am. Take stock of your blessings. I bet you’ll find that you have a lot to be thankful for. And, having so much, take the time to help someone who has less than you.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. You are a failure only if you learn nothing from the experience. Treat very setback and failure as temporary – and as a learning experience. Remember, what happens to you isn’t all that important. How you react to what happens is what really counts. While other people and events have an impact on your life and career, they don’t shape it. You are the only who can do that. Be gritty. Learn from your setbacks. Become better because of them.

That’s what I’ve learned in my 65 years. Hope these lessons help you – no matter your age, or where you are in your life and career. You have my very best wishes for a lifetime of success and happiness. You deserve it.

Your career mentor,

Bud

PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to http://www.budbilanich.com/jointo claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

 

 

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How to Answer Tough Interview Questions http://www.budbilanich.com/how-to-answer-tough-interview-questions/ http://www.budbilanich.com/how-to-answer-tough-interview-questions/#respond Thu, 13 Aug 2015 12:14:51 +0000 http://www.budbilanich.com/?p=7914

Interviews can be stressful — at least that’s what members of my career mentoring site tell me.  I haven’t had a job interview for over 30 years.

There are several questions that you are likely to get in most interviews.  The article below provides you with some great ideas on how to answer these questions.

https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-supercommon-interview-questionsand-4-supermemorable-ways-to-answer-them?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=4%20Common%20Interview%20Questions%E2%80%94and%204%20Memorable%20Ways%20to%20Answer%20Them&utm_term=Daily%20Email%20List

You’ll notice that all four of the answers (and I think they are all great) suggest that you tell a story.  I love this advice.  I tell members of my site to use the S.T.A.R.T. method for answering any interview questions.

Begin by describing a Situation.  Explain what was happening at the time.

Move to discussing the Task you were asked to do to address the situation.

Then explain the Action you took.

Hopefully your Results were good, but even if they weren’t, explain what happened.

Finally, tell the interviewer what you Takeaway was.  What did you learn from this situation and task, the action you took and the results.

It’s that simple to answer almost any interview question.  It helps to anticipate questions you think you’re going to get and prepared answers beforehand.  But if you master the S.T.A.R.T. model, you should be able to handle any question that comes your way with confidence.

Your career mentor,

Bud

PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to www.BudBilanich.com/join to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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Today is International Youth Day. Joan Posivy has chosen today to launch her great new book, The Way Success Works: Decide, Believe, Begin To Live Your Best Life. The book is written for young people, but anyone interested in creating a successful life and career can benefit from its advice. I’m an old guy – will be 65 on Friday — but I’ve read this book and was inspired by its wisdom.

In this book, Joan echoes my thoughts on the importance of committing to taking personal responsibility for your life and career success. In the Foreword, Bob Proctor, an international best-selling author on success says, “The results you are getting in life – your happiness, health and wealth – are rooted in your actions. They are tied to what you do and don’t do, to the opportunities you seize or those you let pass by.”

Joan points out that it’s not enough to dream big and envision your successful future. It’s not enough to learn about success. She says that you have to step out, act on and apply what you’ve learned. Tweet 40 in my book Success Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Career Success Advice, All in 140 Characters or Less says…

“Vision without action is a daydream. No matter how big your plans and dreams, they’ll never become reality until you act on them.”

Action is the common theme here. One of the best actions you can take today is to order a copy of The Way Success Works. In addition to getting a great book, you’ll get some goodies that Joan has arranged for the action takers who purchase the book today. Joan has arranged for you to get five special bonus gifts that she has compiled specifically to help you get on the fast-track in applying the ideas in The Way Success Works.

Follow the link below to get your copy of The Way Success Works.

www.thewaysuccessworks.com

So stop dreaming and start acting. Click on the link below. Buy the book. Read it. Put its ideas to work. And you’ll be on the way to creating all of the success you want and deserve.

www.thewaysuccessworks.com

Your career mentor,

Bud

 

 

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Vision Without Action Is a Daydream http://www.budbilanich.com/vision-without-action-is-a-daydream/ http://www.budbilanich.com/vision-without-action-is-a-daydream/#respond Mon, 10 Aug 2015 12:42:26 +0000 http://www.budbilanich.com/?p=7908

My friends at Walk the Talk Company have published four of my books. The other day, they sent me an email discussing one of their new publications Sticking to It: The Art of Adherence. I do a lot of consulting in the pharmaceutical industry. Adherence is a term you hear there frequently. It refers to whether or not a patient takes the medication he or she is prescribed. Does he or she adhere to the treatment plan prescribed by the doctor.

In Sticking to It, adherence is defined as sticking to your career management plan. The author offers a simple formula…

Focus X Competence X Passion = Adherence

You’ll notice that this is a multiplication formula. And, if you remember, when you multiple anything by zero, the end result is zero. In other words, if you have zero focus, or competence, or passion, you will have zero adherence to your career management plan.

This reminded me of the advice I offer in Tweet 40 in my book Success Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Career Success Advice, All in 140 Characters or Less

“Vision without action is a daydream. No matter how big your plans and dreams, they’ll never become reality until you act on them.”

The point is here simple common sense. You have to focus on what you want out of your life and career. You have to gain the necessary skills to get there. And, you have to act on your life and career success goals with passion.

You can make all the plans you want, but without focus and passionate action, you’re just daydreaming. Daydreaming is usually a waste of time. You have to act. Reminds me of the Henry Ford quote, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

So while it’s important to plan out your career success strategy, it’s even more important to enthusiastically act on those plans to make them reality.

Your career mentor,

Bud

PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to www.BudBilanich.com/join to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

 

 

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It’s Fun If You Say It Is http://www.budbilanich.com/its-fun-if-you-say-it-is/ http://www.budbilanich.com/its-fun-if-you-say-it-is/#respond Fri, 07 Aug 2015 12:42:52 +0000 http://www.budbilanich.com/?p=7906

You probably know Russell Simmons.  He’s a music, film and TV producer, clothing entrepreneur and all around cool guy.

Recently, I saw a great piece of advice from him…

It’s fun if you say it is.

You may be wondering what this has to do with life and career success. Fair enough.  But the answer is pretty simple.  Too many people dread too many things.  Some of the members of my career mentoring site who are out of work tell me that they dread looking for a job, redoing their resume, attending networking events, going on interviews.  Others tell me that they don’t like some parts of their jobs.  Some of my students tell me that they don’t like writing papers, working on group projects, or making presentations.

I understand, but it doesn’t have to be this way.  Remember, it’s fun if you say it is.  Whenever you find that you don’t want to do something you know you need to do, decide that it’s fun — not an onerous chore.

If you don’t like working on your resume, decide that it’s fun to see many interesting things you’ve done and how much you’ve accomplished.

If you don’t like networking events, decide that it’s fun to meet new people — and to get some free nibbles.

If you don’t like something that you have to do for your job, decide that it’s fun.  Make a game of it, see how fast you can get it done, and done right.

If you’re a student who doesn’t like writing papers, decide that it’s fun to do so independent research and learn something new.

If you don’t like working in a group, decide that it’s fun to bring a lot of diverse ideas together into a coherent whole.

If you don’t like speaking in front of a group, decide that it’s fun to share your ideas with other people — and to back in the applause afterwards.

In other words, choose to have a positive attitude.  Choose to see the important things you need to do to move your life and career forward as fun, not just as something you have to do.  I write this blog five days a week.  I like doing it.  For me, it’s fun.  But even if it weren’t I would decide that it’s fun because it’s important to my personal mission of helping as many people as I can to create the life and career success they deserve.

It’s up to you — onerous chore, or fun activity?  You’re in control.  Remember, it’s fun if you say it is.

Your career mentor,

Bud

PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to www.BudBilanich.com/join to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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10 Ways to Improve Your Professional Writing – and Your Promotion Prospects http://www.budbilanich.com/10-ways-to-improve-your-professional-writing-and-your-promotion-prospects/ http://www.budbilanich.com/10-ways-to-improve-your-professional-writing-and-your-promotion-prospects/#respond Thu, 06 Aug 2015 12:48:52 +0000 http://www.budbilanich.com/?p=7904

A couple of weeks ago, I featured a guest post from Kay Hutchings-Olsson on business writing.  That post was so well received that I asked Kay to send another one my way.  Here’s what she came up with.  Enjoy — and learn…

10 Ways to Improve Your Professional Writing – and Your Promotion Prospects

Do you feel your writing skills are holding you back in your career? Do you dread having to write important documents like reports, presentations, proposals, articles or newsletters? Has your manager commented more than once or twice that your professional writing is…a little unprofessional?

Fear not, because here are 10 effective ways you can improve your professional writing and create the impression you want.

Think clearly

 

In order to write clearly, you need to think clearly. Writing that lacks clarity is usually the result of unclear thinking. If your writing is confusing it’s unlikely your clients or colleagues will want to spend their precious time trying to work out what you mean.

So, make it easy for them and yourself by clarifying your thoughts with these 6 key questions: Who? What? Why? When? Where? How?

When you answer each question, you’ll be able to structure your writing more clearly, with all the important points in place.

Organize your thoughts and ideas

 

Once you’ve gathered together all the information from your 6 key questions, plus any other content you might need, put it all on the page. Don’t worry if there’s no structure or it looks messy at this stage. Your aim right now is to collect all your points in one place.

When everything is together on the page, you can start to tidy up your writing and put it into a coherent order.

You might need to group your information into sections. To do this you could copy and paste them onto separate pages or print them out if that helps you find the logical order for your content so it flows properly. Use headers to help you work out the order.

Use specific headers and sub-headers

 

Clear writing includes clear headers. They act as signposts, guiding your reader smoothly through your content, telling them at each stage what to expect.

The headers should, of course, be relevant to each piece of information you present. Don’t use vague titles – be as specific as possible. Remember that many people scan read documents for the gist of the content and to see whether it applies to them, so headers are very important introductions to the content.

Make your text easy on the eyes

 

Whatever you do, especially if you are writing content to be published online, don’t make it physically hard to read. That means you should use:

  • a legible font, like Arial, Courier or Garamond
  • a font size no smaller than 12 points
  • plenty of white space – don’t make your reader wade through long blocks of text
  • shorter paragraphs – break up your long text into shorter, easier-to-read paragraphs
  • bullet points and numbered lists
  • sub-headings
  • bold text to highlight important points

Edit what you’ve written so far

 

Editing can be difficult, especially if you feel everything you’ve written so far is essential. This, however, is rarely the case. Most first drafts require a hefty dose of editing.

Be brutal and go through your writing to check for waffle, unnecessary repetition, and overly long sentences. Your aim is to present your information in as few words as possible. Your colleagues and clients would much rather have a three-page report that’s clear and concise and well written, than a wordier five pages that’s full of superfluous content.

Use examples to add interest

 

So, you have your core message, everything is in the right order, but you feel it lacks some spark.

Depending on what your core message is, it could be a good idea to use some examples to highlight your points and strengthen your case.

This could come from client testimonials, experiences or interviews. You could include stories or analogies that would appeal to your client. Always consider the people you are writing for, and consider what would interest them.

Avoid jargon and explain references

 

Don’t assume your reader will understand any jargon, abbreviations or acronyms widely used in your company. If you need to use them in your text, always explain the meanings.

The same goes for references – they might not be obvious to your reader, so explain them clearly somewhere on your document.

Don’t leave your reader hanging, wondering what on earth you mean.

Include some visuals

 

Just as you might use some examples, stories or analogies to bring more life to your writing, you can also use visuals – graphics, illustrations or photographs.

People like to look at visuals as it can help them process information more quickly and effectively, and visuals can also help you explain your core message more efficiently too. For example, complex information can be simplified by the use of graphs or pie charts.

Don’t pack as many visuals into your text as possible so it looks cluttered and confusing. Make sure the visuals are well produced and relevant to your document. The aim is to enhance not weaken the quality of your writing.

Use plain English

 

What is plain English? It’s clear, straightforward writing that helps people to easily understand even complex information.

Professional writing isn’t the same as literary writing. You’re not trying to impress anyone with your inventive metaphors or fancy vocabulary. Your job is to write your message clearly and concisely so people can understand what you mean and act upon your message.

To make sure your writing is simpler, easier and quicker to read, use:

  • shorter words: free instead of complimentary, buy instead of purchase. Typically, earthy Anglo-Saxon English is much more effective here than the flowery Latin equivalent.
  • active not passive sentences: Millions of people worldwide use our product instead of Our product is used by millions of people worldwide. Active sentences are punchier and shorter.
  • one word instead of several: use to instead of as a means of, by instead of on the part of, and so on.

Plain English is never patronizing. In this fast-paced world where we need to access information quickly, it’s a sign of respect for your reader.

The ability to explain complex terms in a simple way is a valuable skill – especially in business.

For more on plain English, visit: http://www.khocopywriting.com/kho-copy-blog/when-it-comes-to-your-writing-keep-it-plain-and-simple

Redraft and proofread your writing

 

Every document needs redrafting, perhaps even completely rewriting, before it’s good enough. During this process, go back over the other points in this article to help you structure your ideas.

Once you’ve redrafted your text, check it again for clarity. Does it flow properly? Is the core message clear? Is it easy to read and understand? Then put your writing away for an hour or two, and take a break from it.

When you return to your writing, you’ll need to start the proofreading process.

Never skip this part. You don’t want to risk wasting all your hard work because you’ve overlooked some spelling, punctuation or grammar errors and typos. Get someone else to read through your work too, if possible.

Remember to also check all your facts, such as numbers, dates, times and names. Mistakes can be costly, not just for your company, but your career prospects too.

If you use these 10 tips, you’ll not only improve your professional writing and impress your boss, you’ll vastly improve your career prospects too.

Great advice from Kay Hutchings-Olsson on writing well — an improving your chances of getting a promotion.  I suggest you print this post and keep it handy.

Your career mentor,

Bud

Kay Hutchings-Olsson is a freelance copywriter at KHO Copywriting (www.khocopywriting.com) and an editor, proofreader and business writer at KHO Language Services (www.kholanguageservices.com). You can also find her on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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How to Deal With Negative People Who Can Be a Drain on Your Self Confidence http://www.budbilanich.com/how-to-deal-with-negative-people-who-can-be-a-drain-on-your-self-confidence/ http://www.budbilanich.com/how-to-deal-with-negative-people-who-can-be-a-drain-on-your-self-confidence/#respond Wed, 05 Aug 2015 12:10:26 +0000 http://www.budbilanich.com/?p=7902

My talk on self confidence is by far the most requested of my presentations.  I did one last week and have another scheduled for next week.  It seems that lots of people are looking for ways to boost their self confidence.  Members of my career mentoring site will tell you that I offer three bits of advice when it comes to self confidence…

  • Choose optimism.  Believe that things will work out, then do the work necessary to make good things happen.
  • Hang around with positive people, jettison the negative people in your life.
  • Face your fears and act.

But, as this article points out, you can’t always avoid or rid yourself of all of the negative people.  Sometimes you just have to deal with them.

In general, I like the advice in this article.  However, I do take issue with the fourth piece of advice, “If only [name] had the experience/wisdom/work ethic that you did!”  To me, there are two problems here:

  • First, you’re validating a complaint about another person when you don’t have all of the information about the situation.
  • Second, you’re engaging in gossip — never a good thing.

I like the other advice in the article because it demonstrates that you’re listening and have some degree of empathy for the person who is complaining.  I really like the fifth piece of advice, “Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you’re upset because…” Reflective listening is a great way to shut down negative conversations.  It shows the other person that you get what he or she is complaining about without validating it or engaging in gossip.

Take another look at the article and try out some of these tactics the next time you have to deal with a consistent whiner.

Your career mentor,

Bud

PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to www.BudBilanich.com/join to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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