Status Reports: An Often Overlooked, but Key Career Success Tool

Dice.com is a great career advice site for people in the information technology field.  I subscribes to their blog.  You can too at http://www.dice.com.

The other day I saw a post written by Scott Herrick of Cube Rules (http://www.cuberules.com) about the importance of writing regular status updates to keep your boss informed of that you’ve accomplished during the period you’re updating.

Scott listed four benefits of writing these regular updates…

  1. Your updates prove your work delivered results.
  2. Your updates can positively influence your annual performance review.
  3. Your updates help you keep your resume up to date.
  4. Your updates help you create a career communication system.

You can see the entire blog post here.  Scott is on to something in this post.  I agree with him when he says that your status report…

“Can be the lynchpin that holds your business results for whoever needs them, whenever they are needed.  When you change your lowly status report to a killer status report, you can prove your worth once a week — every week — to your manager or a potential hiring manager.”

This is very true, but only if do a good job in writing it….

Tweet 113 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Write clearly and simply: short words and sentences, first person, active voice.  Be precise in your choice of words.”  Good writing will set you apart and put you on the road to personal and professional success.  Unsuccessful people are poor writers.  They are unclear.  They ramble.  Their emails, letters and status reports are a series of long sentences filled with big words that don’t really say anything.  You can’t catch people’s attention by writing this way.  You need to write in a clear, crisp, concise manner.

I try to write like a journalist.  I use short sentences with a simple subject-verb-object structure.  My writing may read a little staccato-like, but it communicates.  People tell me that they can understand my points and the reasoning behind them.  And that’s what I want when I write.

Your objective in writing at work, especially when it comes to status updates, is to communicate – not to impress others with your vocabulary.  In a recent post I mentioned the time I was speaking with my niece about my book Straight Talk for Success at her college graduation party; I said that I’d tried for an “avuncular hip” writing style.  She said, “What does that mean?”  I replied, “Avuncular means uncle-like.  I wanted to sound like a hip uncle to people reading the book.”  She came back with a great question: “Why didn’t you just say so?”

She was right.  Everybody knows what “uncle-like” means.  A lot of people, including magna cum laude graduates like my niece, don’t know the word “avuncular.”  I was just showing off my vocabulary by using that word.  As a result, I didn’t communicate effectively.

Write with your reader in mind — especially when you’re writing status reports.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to read aloud what you’ve written to get a feel for how it will sound to your reader.  Write in short, simple sentences.  Use the simplest words you can to get across your point, while still being accurate.  Write fast.  Get your thoughts on paper or the computer screen as quickly as you can.  Then edit and rewrite until you’ve said exactly what you want to say.  One of my first bosses always told me that rewriting is the secret to good writing.

Spelling counts, too.  Correct spelling does two things for you.  First, it shows that you have a good command of the language.  Second and more important, correct spelling demonstrates that you respect both yourself and the reader.  Misspelled words stand out like sore thumbs to readers.

Don’t just spell check your documents.  Proof them.  Spellcheck often won’t pick up improper usage in words like “your” and “you’re,” “hear” and “here,” and “their” and “there.”

The same holds true for punctuation.  Make sure that you know how to properly use periods, question marks, commas, colons, semicolons, exclamation marks, quotation marks and apostrophes.  If you’re not sure about punctuation rules, spend a little time on the Internet learning proper usage.

I like the Poynter Institute for good information about writing.  While the information on their site www.poynter.org is aimed at journalists, there is a lot of very helpful information about writing and editing there – especially in the article in “Tip Sheets” which can be found by clicking on the “Reporting, Writing and Editing” button.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  Successful people keep their manager up to date by providing regular status update reports on their work.  High quality status reports that communicate well and reflect your accomplishments are dependent on your writing skills.  You can develop your writing skills by following the career advice in Tweet 113 in Success Tweets.  “Write clearly and simply: short words and sentences, first person, active voice.  Be precise in your choice of words.”  Writing is not difficult if you write in a manner that communicates well.  In general, this means, being clear, concise and easily readable.  Use short sentences and the smallest word that communicates exactly what you want to say.  Write with your reader in mind.  Read your writing aloud before sending it.  This will help you get a feel for what your reader will experience.

That’s my career advice on writing regular status reports that can help you create the life and career success you want and deserve.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us – and show off your writing skills – in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.

Bud

PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to http://budurl.com/STExp to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site last September.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb/

 

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