Is it time for a business etiquette makeover?

April 21, 2011

etiquette You see yourself as a professional and you put forth a lot of effort to make sure that others see you that way as well. In a world where perception is everything, it’s easy to lose your professional side even occasionally, especially when you get more comfortable with your colleagues.

While most businesses have office policies in place that should ensure (or at least guide) the professionalism of its employees, small and isolated offenses might not seem like anything to the casual observer, but to another they can add up to create deep resentment between co-workers, an article on forbes.com states.

“It’s like a marriage. It’s the little things that get under your skin and mount up after a while,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of EtiquetteExpert.com and author of Business Class.

There are a lot of thorny situations that require you to maintain your professionalism.

How do you politely say no to a favor request, or meeting invite when it’s the norm to say yes or accept the invite? How do you react to unwelcome chatter across cubicle walls? What’s your reaction when someone else receives credit for your idea or hard work? These issues and more are crossed by every professional at some point in their career, and often times repeatedly.

Emily Post, everyone’s favorite go-to etiquette extraordinaire offers advice on everything from everyday manners to on-the-job issues with clients, customers, vendors or contractors.

“Successful employment requires that you perform as expected, practice common courtesies, and solve problems as they arise. The office environment functions best when employees are respectful and considerate of each other and the workplace. This ranges from not eating someone’s lunch out of the fridge, to avoiding office gossip, to communicating respectfully to co-workers.”

Hopefully after the first few rounds of uncomfortable or inappropriate etiquette slights, you’ll learn how to handle your reactions in a more appropriate manner, as it’s imperative to keep in mind that you can’t control others’ behaviors, but you can control yours. Remember, perception is everything.

So while you’re reevaluating and readjusting your own professionalism, flip through Forbes’ picture edition of “How to annoy your co-workers without really trying” as a starting place.


Pay it forward: put financial literacy on your checklist for 2011

April 18, 2011

By Amy Johnson, senior manager, public relations

iStock_000015376854SmallApril is national Financial Literacy Month. It’s a reason to remind people to pay more attention to their personal financial health. Not just for 30 days but every day of the year.

You only have to browse the daily paper or online news to know that Americans are in serious need of financial guidance.

The New York Times reported this week that in 2010, student loan debt outpaced credit card debt for the first time.

A February study by Bankrate.com found nearly one out of four Americans (23%) have greater credit card debt than emergency savings and one in three of these are in the 30 – 49 age group.

Some of these statistics can be attributed to peoples’ poor choices. But how much more of it is really owing to the economic crisis far beyond any one person’s control? Too many Ohioans were simply caught in the crossfire and are trying hard to recover.

How can CPA’s help?

By sharing your expertise to help people move the needle in the right direction. That could mean speaking to a group of baby boomers at your church about estate tax changes, counseling someone on debt management or reduction, or helping a neighbor explore college financing options.

OSCPA has a wealth of tools CPAs can use to jump start your formal or informal financial education outreach efforts.

The Proud 2B a CPA Marketing toolkit can guide you through promoting yourself as a local speaker and becoming an expert financial resource for local media. It includes a client-ready quarterly newsletter and PowerPoint presentations that you can download and use immediately.

If you just want to point people to resources they can use on their own, Financial Fitness Ohio, a joint initiative of OSCPA and The Ohio CPA Foundation, offers timely articles, financial calculators and resources on lots of financial topics for the public.

MyMoney.gov is a consumer-friendly site that consolidates financial education help from over 20 different Federal websites in one place.

Check off for Financial Literacy

Helping kids grow into financially responsible adults is a passion and a goal at OSCPA. This November, CPAs will once again teach FETCH! in elementary classrooms across Ohio. This fun game teaches kids how to budget, spend wisely and save.

You can help be part of this fun event. We will be recruiting new volunteer teams this summer. To sponsor a FETCH! class, check off Yes for Fetch! when OSCPA members renew their dues in May, or anyone can donate now.

Pay it forward

Your credibility and experience as a financial expert is invaluable. But so is your list of personal contacts. Tapping it is an easy way to help others that doesn’t require a huge investment of personal time.

Throughout April, a friend of mine is inviting Facebook friends to contact him if they need a job, have a job to fill, or are looking for a particular service for their personal or professional needs. In two days, he gave out four business referrals and helped 2 people land jobs simply by connecting his friends and business contacts.

Sometimes paying it forward pays huge dividends in helping people to improve their financial situation. Make April the month you put financial literacy on your priority check list.


Networking series: Mistakes you aren’t even aware of

April 13, 2011

This is the first post in OSCPA’s Networking Series, helping professionals at all levels navigate the changing rules – and venues – for networking.

networking No matter what walk of life you’re in, be it professional, college student, or something else, everybody networks. And often, you may be networking and not even realize it. It’s no wonder so many of us make mistakes that we’re not aware of. But when that contact you unexpectedly met on a plane last month never sends you the information he or she promised, you’re scratching your head and wondering if it was something you said.

Networking mistakes can show up in many forms, but unless you practice some self-awareness, you’re bound to keep making them with little or no positive results coming your way.

Don’t wait until a crisis

Repeat after me: There is no time like the present.

Waiting until you’ve lost a job and you’re suddenly in survival mode is a huge mistake, but one that’s too easily made by most people. With the explosion of social networks over the last several years, it’s easier than ever to maintain and grow your connections. Get out there and create a LinkedIn profile and actually manage it. No excuses!

Take care not to go overboard with your online professional networks (keeping your Facebook personal is probably a good idea), but also don’t discount in-person networking events completely either, which leads me to the next mistake…

Don’t make it all about you

If everybody out of a crowd of 500 went to the same event all expecting to make a sale, or do even a small amount of business, then nobody would benefit. If everybody is out to sell something, then who is attending solely to buy? This happened to Ivan Misner, author of “Don’t Make This Networking Mistake.” His advice: Don’t confuse direct selling with networking.

So why do people go to networking events? Misner sums it up best:

You go because networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Sometimes you go to increase your visibility and to connect with people you have never met. Sometimes you go to establish further credibility with people you know. And sometimes you may go to meet a long-time referral partner and do some business. In any case, the true master networkers know that networking events are about moving through the relationship process and not just about closing deals. Visibility leads to credibility which, with time and effort, leads to profitability.

Not being prepared

Elevator speeches aren’t just for trying to sell your company. Have one prepared so that you can really sell yourself in the process. Monster.com suggests practicing your pitch as well as your answers to questions about your career goals that might arise.

Make sure you know what you’re talking about ahead of time so that you can not only hold up your end of the conversation, but also so you can strike the perfect balance between casual and professional conversation (without talking about yourself too much, remember?).

Failing to follow up

People network for a reason. You want to add new contacts to your pool of business professionals who you can turn to for advice, referrals, favors, jobs, etc. But what good are these new contacts if their business cards just sit at the bottom of your briefcase?

“Sharing information — whether a website, article, report or phone number — with new contacts builds your credibility,” said Lynne Sarikas, director of Northeastern University’s MBA Career Center in an article on how to network for shy people. “So if you promised to email a report to someone you met on the plane, make sure you do that.”

“When you do what you’ve said you were going to do, it gives the other person the impression that you keep your word,” she says. If you don’t, you’re just another schmoozer.”

This just scratches the surface of networking dos and don’ts, but I don’t want to forget to mention the most important aspect of networking: your information. Whether you subscribe to the tried and true method of handing out business cards, or go the more technological route of “bumping” iPhones to swap info, it’s important to make sure your new contacts know how to get a hold of you so you’ll respond.

Go forth, and network

So let’s hear it. What’s working or not working for you? What’s the worst networking mistake you’ve made or have seen? Share your stories with me!

Get more info

OSCPA’s Career Center features several resources from Janice Worthington, president of Worthington Career Services and OSCPA’s career coach of choice.


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