4 Tips to Befriend Your Coworkers

As you know, I recently started a new job. When leaving JCC Association, I knew that I would probably never again have a team of such epic proportions. I will probably never have a boss who I not only respect as a colleague, but consider to be a close friend. I knew that, more than anything, I would miss my coworker soul-sister, Mackenzie, who had become my confidant and lunch buddy and mutual stress reliever over the course of almost two years.

Starting in a new office, on a team of five and within a department of twenty-five, meant I would have to break in to pre-existing social circles. Unfortunately, I can’t rely on my wicked PHP skills to make friends.

To those who know me well, it might come as a surprise that I didn’t immediately pick up some new friends (who am I kidding, it surprised me the most). I know very well that it can take three months to start to feel comfortable in a new place. I know it took me four months to meet Mackenzie and another two to get the courage to make her be my friend (though she’d say I didn’t “make” her do anything). That being said, I came in wanting people to like me and be my friend. I’m nice! I bake things! Be my friend and I’ll make you awesome cookies!

Ok, maybe this is extreme.

Ok, maybe this is extreme.

I’ve been here for a little over a month, and it’s time for me to take some real initiative to make friends. These tips are as much for readers as they are reminders for myself that friendship is a two-way commitment. I can’t just expect people to invite me to lunch or happy hour.

Tip One: Ask questions

Of course, this starts with your coworkers’ names. If you’re anything like me, you may need reminders of names. But once you’ve got that down, learn about who they are. Your coworkers are more than just their position within the department. Find out about their hobbies, where they went to school, what they were doing before their current position, etc. This is an opportunity to find things in common with your colleagues and to plain and simple listen.

Tip Two: Spread the love

Personally, nothing brightens my day quite like an unexpected compliment. Compliment your coworkers on a piece of clothing or the way they’ve decorated their cubical. Remember to be genuine. If you say that you love that bracelet, actually mean it. Don’t Regina it.

I Love Your Bracelet

Tip Three: Be helpful

Offer help for everything from collaborating on project ideas, taking on projects that seem to be dejected by your colleagues, or even just giving advice on where to go for brunch. When someone approaches you and asks for help, do whatever you can (within the confines of your position and the law, of course) to help. Better yet, help with a smile. You’ll become the person who is known as friendly and eventually, people will come to you with more than just work help requests.

Tip Four: Invite them out

At the end of the day, you have to be the one to take initiative. Even after you’ve learned all about the person, spread the love, and were super helpful, you may still be the one who has to offer the invitation. Plan in advance, and invite them for a future date. Be open to scheduling something in the future and be conscious of their work schedule. If your colleague is staying late every night working on something, perhaps offer to schedule for a future date.

That being said, if you get a clipped decline instead of reception to rescheduling in the future, respond warmly but without attempt to change their mind. It may be a sign to let them come to you in the future instead of forcing something that may not be meant to be.

Nothing wrong with alone time.

Nothing wrong with alone time.

At the end of the day, you still may not end up becoming friends with your coworkers. It may never go beyond friendly hellos and head nods. You are at work to focus on, well, getting work done (getting that paycheck, advancing that career). Remind yourself that you tried your hardest, but sometimes it just isn’t meant to be.

Don’t give up all hope. Remember, if you’re awesome, eventually people will come your way.

Alexandra WhiteAlexandra is a WordPress & front-end developer who builds awesome things. She loves craft beer, apple cider cookies, and traveling to new places (especially when the trip is free). You should follow her on twitter and maybe you can become internet friends. Or maybe even IRL friends.

What I’ve Learned From Reviewing Books

If you know anything about me at all (and if you don’t, that’s cool too, you’re about to learn), you know that I’m a writer. Poems and short stories, yes, but also novels. I someday want to sell these novels and, if I am very lucky, make a living off of that.

So I write. I attend a writing group. I have a personal blog. I participate in NaNoWriMo. And I also write book reviews. And, as it turns out, writing book reviews has been great for more than just getting my name out there. My writing is improving, I’m reading self-published works and books I wouldn’t pick up on my own, and I’m storing away valuable information for future use.

Future and current novelists will, at some point, have to email people and ask them to kindly review their book in exchange for a copy of the book. There are  ways to find people to review your books (users on Goodreads, reviewers on specific websites, etc., I’ll let you do the research). Users find me because I’m listed as a reviewer on SFBook.com.

Here are some things to take note of when asking someone to review your book:

Be Personable But Quick
Take the time to craft me a personal email. Say, “Hi Vanessa.” Tell me your name and what you want. Don’t ramble and tell me too many personal facts about yourself, don’t put yourself down (“I am but a humble self-publisher…”). I want you to get straight to the point. I have a lot of these emails to go through, and I would rather you didn’t waste my time.

Watch Your Grammar
If you have grammar mistakes in your email, you likely will in your book. I’m not interested in reading your novel if I’m stumbling through your email.

Include Synopsis and Information in the Email
I really don’t want to download the synopsis you’ve attached in a Word doc. I don’t want to have to search Goodreads to find your novel. Give me links. Include the synopsis right there. The more work I have to do, the less inclined I am to do it.

Don’t Bug Me
If I politely say no thank you to your novel, do not ask again. Do not say, “Are you sure? I’d really appreciate it.” I will delete your email and never respond to you again because you’ve clearly disrespected my response (and annoyed the crap out of me). However, if I say “no thanks” to your email, there’s no harm in responding and thanking me for my time. A rejection doesn’t mean I’m not open to future requests, just that I can’t review the novel at this time or it isn’t my kind of book.

Your First Chapter Best Be Good Great
I can read the first chapter of most books on Amazon. If your email piques my interest enough, I’m heading to Amazon. If I read the first chapter and I am sufficiently intrigued and your writing is good, I might write a review. The first chapter of your book needs to make me want to read more. It needs to have a solid concept, interesting and realistic characters, and writing that is neither cliché nor redundant.

Here’s an example (details ommitted) of a book I recently decided to review:

Hi! My name is John Doe, and I’m the author of A Really Cool Book, a fantasy novel recently released by Publisher. I would very much like to send you a copy to review for SF Book Reviews, if you’re interested.

SHORT, INTERESTING SYNOPSIS HERE

Any other information you wish to include here. Some include links to Goodreads/Amazon (helpful), others include a link to the book’s page on their publisher’s website, and others include a note about the content (whether it is violent, contains profanity, etc.).

Please let me know if you are interested in getting a review copy or if there’s any more information I can provide.

Thank you for your time!

Any other questions? Leave me a comment, I’m happy to chat.

Vanessa is a digital media coordinator by day and a writer, novelist, and badass cook by night. In her spare time she haunts used bookstores, gets serious about tea, and loves a good stout (Russian Imperial, please). Follow her on twitter and instagram if you wanna be buddies, and maybe check out her writing blog.

On Finding Time

I have too many hobbies. I know this. I’ve been told, many times, that I need to stop spreading myself so thin and freaking focus.

It’s a problem—a real problem. There are too many things that interest me. Let’s talk about a few: I write novels, poetry, and short stories, and I want to someday make this my living. I love to cook delicious food and bake new recipes. I love and am very passionate about tea and how it relates to culture and society. I adore the French language. I really want to garden. I READ. I want to do more yoga. I’m super interested in herbs and natural remedies. I love craft beer.

Now, let’s talk about the things I have to do: work a 40 hour work week, make time for Jacob (and friends), freelance (2 – 5 hours a week doesn’t sound like much, but it is), and write book reviews (for sfbook.com).

This does not include the much needed time to relax, scroll through Tumblr, and maybe watch a few (or 10) episodes of Buffy.

I have a lot of interests that I really wish I had the time to delve into more deeply.

So, how on earth do I find time to do what I do?

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It’s pretty simple, really. Prioritize. I obviously have to work, so I work. But in the mornings, if I have time (and I do about 3x a week), I write a 10 minute writing prompt. I make editing and writing and reading a priority. I freelance. I cook. I get to see/talk to friends a few times a week.

I don’t do much else. So many people say, “I don’t know how you do it! You do so much!” I mean, sure, I do a lot. But I spread it out.

That’s the thing—I want to focus a lot of my time all of particular things, but I just don’t have the energy or time. By spreading myself out (and making sure not to spread myself too thin), I am able to find time to enjoy all of my favorite things.

Still not sure how I find time? Let me break it down. My main hobbies include writing/reading, cooking/baking, tea, yoga. Here’s how I fit them into my life (as an example).

Monday: writing/reading & cooking
Because it’s the first day back at work, Monday is usually no-freelance day. I come home, cook myself dinner, scroll through Tumblr, and then I write. I write and I edit. I catch up on bills. I usually stay at my computer. Sometimes I watch 2 – 4 episodes of Buffy before crawling into bed.

Tuesday: cooking & yoga & tea
I do yoga IMMEDIATELY when I get home (or else I lose motivation). After yoga, I cook, and then once I’ve eaten I make myself a cup of tea. I usually get a lot of freelance work done.

Wednesday: craft beer & writing/reading
I pick up my CSA (community supported agriculture) at The Community Tap, a local beer store. Sometimes, my old roomie is working and I will try a new beer, sit down with my journal, and do some writing or read.

Thursday: yoga & friends & reading
Yoga right when I get back from work, unless I am meeting a friend—in that case, probably no yoga. But definitely some reading before bed (or Netflix…). Freelance work, of course.

Friday: writing & writing & writing
Because of writing group, Friday is usually ALL about the writing. Plus it’s the weekend, so I go to writing group, work hard, come home and watch Netflix. Or else go out with some friends. Depends on my mood, of course.

Saturday: what am I lacking?
Saturday is usually a “what did I not do this week that I really want to do?” Let’s be real, sometimes the answer to that is DRINK. Sometimes it’s read, sometimes I really want to meet up with some friends. Sometimes Jacob and I go out for bike rides, sometimes we try a new restaurant (or an old fav). Saturday is my DO WHAT YOU WISH day.

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Sunday: food & reading
Ahhh, grocery shopping day. We like to hit up Whole Foods to feed my inner foodie. I love it. We buy little fancy cheeses, gourmet hummus, delicious macadamia nuts. Lemme tell you—this is when I really get my fix. That and preparing much of the food throughout the week. In the evening, there’s a lot of prepping food for the week to come.

So, there you have it. I am not miraculous. I am not amazing at getting a million things done. I prioritize. It all comes down to being organized and to knowing what I need and want to get done. Sometimes I take it moment by moment—what do I really want to do right now(could be Netflix, could be writing, could be those dishes I want to get done)? Sometimes I look at my whole week—will I have time to freelance tomorrow? If not, I better get it done today. Will I be able to write tomorrow? No? Work on some stuff today.

As I get older, I get better at knowing myself and accepting myself. I am better at predicting my moods (I rarely freelance on Monday because it is MONDAY). I accept that I do not need to force myself into doing anything—I do what I crave when I have free time. I read when I am dying to finish a book. I sleep when I want a nap. I make myself a cup of tea when I am feeling sad.

The more I know myself, the more I can do and the happier I am. Funny how that works, huh?

So—do tell. How do you find time for your hobbies? What are your hobbies? Any gems to share?

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Vanessa is a digital media coordinator by day and a writer, novelist, and badass cook by night. She loves used bookstores, is way too serious about tea, and doesn’t give a damn if she wears the same outfit 2 days in a row. She totally wants to be your friend, so you should follow her on twitter & maybe check out her writing blog.

Working a Work Conference (Part 2)

The morning I went to the work conference, I was pretty sure I was going to get sick.

This wasn’t because I had come down with the case of the flu or had food poisoning, but because it felt like my insides were turning inside out. I was so anxious about going and having to survive several days in a sea of people I didn’t know. I was certain this was going to be terrible.

And like most things you’re dreading, it was all over before I knew it. I had successfully made it through all five of my social media presentations. I found a group of people I could talk to. I even did pretty well at casino night.

Minute by minute, the conference went by. The worst part was breakfast, where I’d go down to the big room full of tables alone and quickly scan for someone, anyone that was a friendly face. And after that, it was sitting in rooms and listening to speakers or milling about at cocktail hour.

When it was finally over and I was back home, I sighed relief that I had survived, and not altogether terribly. My presentations went great, if I may say so myself. I had walked around for several hours in heels. I even tried moonshine (which was strangely endorsed by everyone there, and was considered some sort of “initiation” into my first work conference with them. Verdict: the lemonade kind is dangerously delicious. The cherry kind tastes like nail polish remover smells).

I won’t say I wasn’t shy and anxious and overwhelmed the whole time. That would be a lie. I was in a constant state of stress, trying to appear like the cool and collected new girl who gets to sit on social media all day at work. But, I will say that it got easier as it went on. My presentations were a great icebreaker. My roommate was the sweetest thing, who introduced me to several of her friends. People were curious about what I thought about the company, being such a newbie in a room full of veterans.

If Present-Day Lauren were to speak to Pre-Conference Lauren, she would say this:

  • Practice yoga. Or learn to meditate. Or take some deep breaths. Or something. It is okay to be nervous, but don’t let nerves ruin you.
  • Don’t wear a necklace where the pendant has a tendency to fall off, no matter how cute it is. Having a charm fall down your shirt in the middle of a presentation is a little awkward.
  • Every single person who is going to the conference has been a new kid at one point, too. Know that you’re not the only one, and not the last one, and rely on those who have been there to be your guide.
  • Even though it may feel like it, it isn’t the end of the world.

Next time, I’ll be ready. Maybe. Probably. The odds are in my favor. A few weeks after the conference, people still remember my presentation—someone came up to me today to ask me about my dog, which I talked about frequently—and that feels good. So, what do I need to say to Pre-Next-Conference Lauren? Just breathe; you’ll do just fine.

Lauren is a social media professional/web content manager/overall awesome editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.

Working a Work Conference (Part 1)

I’m terrified — and it’s not for the reasons you may think.

I am going to my first you’re-going-as-an-employee-not-an-intern conference tomorrow, where I will be speaking in front of nearly 200 people about what it is to be a social media professional. Strangely, it’s not the presentation that’s freaking me out, but everything else about the conference.

I have worked at my current position for just under three months, and am still relatively unknown across the international company. There’s someone doing the social media and writing these newsletters, but no one really knows who. That’s the whole point of me going to this big girl conference: to meet people.

It isn’t really a secret that I’m a shy person. I am a proud introvert. So the idea of going to a conference where I don’t know anyone for a few days is just nauseating.

Like, how do you in a totally non-creepy way approach someone and be like “Um. Hi. I don’t know anyone here. Who are you?”

I’d feel 80,000x more comfortable if I knew one person who could introduce me to people. I’d feel 80,000x more comfortable if I was on a somewhat first-name basis with any one of them. While I’ve emailed many people at my new job, I haven’t had the opportunity to meet many face to face. How am I supposed to find the ones I sort of know mingling in with the crowd?

Some research says I should look for how people are standing. Find open groups of people and enter in. Which sounds great, but THEN WHAT? Dilemma: How do you just enter into a conversation of people uninvited?

Probably my main course of action will be to remember that there will be others there in the same boat, attending the conference for the first time. Then again, a lot of people who work here are ones who have been here for years. It’s intimidating to be the new kid in the crowd and it’ll be difficult not to be the most awkward one in the room.

Don’t be a wallflower. Don’t be a wallflower. Don’t be a wallflower. This website gives good advice: “others might assume you’re not worth getting to know if you’re not putting forth effort [by being a wallflower].”

There will be cocktail hour, thank goodness, which I hope will help some.

Maybe they’ll approach me, or I’ll find some stroke of underlying confidence that’ll carry me through.

Or maybe (probably) it won’t be as bad as my over-anxious brain is making me think. After all, I made it through my first days of high school, college and several jobs without knowing anyone and I made it out alive, right?

But, for the sake of relieving some of these worries, do you have any advice? What is the best way to break the ice in these types of settings?

Lauren is a social media professional/web content manager/overall awesome editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.

What I wish PW had taught me

Professional Writing taught me a lot. I am forever in gratitude to an incredible program, wonderful professors and fellow students, and internships that (mostly) prepared me for the workforce.

Regardless of how awesome PW is, there are a few things that I wish they had taught me. Some of them are related to the program, some would make good Writers’ Bloc workshops, and others simply I wish I had known beforehand.

Better technical writing
This might just relate to me—but the technical writing class I took was crap. I brushed it off and didn’t think it would affect me. But then I was given a writing project at work (back in January, you can read all about how I failed here). If I had had a better, more competent technical writing professor, I truly think that I would have done better with this project (though I still would have struggled). Technical writing is more important than I ever realized and students need to recognize the impact it might have on their future careers.

Analytics workshop/class
I am not the only one who has come across analytics in the workplace and been faced with a pretty big learning curve. We never spent time learning about analytics (the various tools, best practices, etc) in school, and now it’s something that just comes with the territory of my position. I’ve had to learn a lot about Google Analytics in a very short time (Facebook Insights and others included), and a workshop or at least practice compiling a social media analytics report would have been great as a student.

How age, privilege, and class affects us in the workplace
I truly did not realize how much my age would affect me in the workplace. I am young (24). When I started I was really young (22). I couldn’t understand why no one liked my ideas unless they came from someone else or why people seemed to brush me off as a silly little girl until my boyfriend said, with a shrug, “Well, you’re young.”

A heads up would have been nice. Some advice on how to deal with age discrimination and even class discrimination in the workplace would have been helpful. It’s something that I’ve struggled with navigating, especially as a—I hate this word—Millennial. I have grown up calling professors by their first name and chatting with bosses as if they were friends, but not all businesses work like that. I didn’t know that I need to tread lightly. I suppose that relates back to office etiquette, however—a potential workshop idea.

lightly

How to negotiate bonuses and raises
I learned how to negotiate salaries (sort of, and I have never actually done it IRL), but I definitely never learned about bonuses and raises. One of the most helpful things that PW did to prepare me for interviewing for jobs was to have a mock interview session. Something like that would be equally helpful for learning how to negotiate bonuses, raises, and all of that stuff. Something else to note here is that PW is largely made up of women. Negotiating can be especially hard for us ladies (which is bullshit, but it’s still true), so learning how to navigate that would have been really helpful. I still don’t have a grasp on negotiation and I probably won’t for a long time.

Being asked to do things that aren’t in your job description
How does one handle being asked to do things that aren’t in their job description? Do we just do it without complaint? Do we bring it up? Do we refuse? How do we tread lightly in this situation?

Social media workshop
Social media is ever changing, so a class might be difficult or even a little much. Regardless, some help in the social media area would have been appreciated. Workshops on best practices and strategy, and especially analytics, proving the value of a solid strategy (or ROI). Social media etiquette is also a good one.

Email etiquette
PLEASE—do not be that person who replies all to everyone in every email. I know this but not everyone does—something to consider when it comes to workshops? It would also be a good place to include discerning when to be formal/casual and more little nitpicky things about email. Do I say, “Hey Ali,” when I’m opening an email, or do I say, “Hi there,” or do I say, “Good afternoon”?

How to deal with colleagues who aren’t so nice
Group work fails in this capacity because at the end of the day the group is over and you can leave those suckers. Coworkers are forever (or until you quit/leave). And, let’s face it, there will always be crazies. You will always have to deal with people who do not like you, or who you do not like, or who try to make your life a little harder at your job. But—let’s say a coworker is harassing you and basically being an all out bitch—how do you handle it? Talk to her directly? Go to HR? Talk to your boss?

And I don’t mean the employee handbook way. I mean the stop-harassment, deal-with-the-problem way. I mean in the real-life way. Because life is not by the employee handbook.

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Office politics
This is not really something that PW can teach us—but workshops can. Professors can. Internship advisers can. Bosses can. I never really got an introduction to office politics until I was out in the workplace and I was making mistakes left and right—of course, every office is different. But it’s something to consider.

BE A LITTLE HARSH WITH US
No one was really harsh with me about my writing in school. Okay, so harsh might be a little much, but no one was really nitpicky with my writing. Now I am a big girl in the real world and people are not always nice about the failings in my writing. Expectations are high in the workplace and no one likes to be surprised with that shit—I definitely didn’t feel prepared for how much more difficult things can be in the workplace compared to how I was treated/graded in college.

To sum up this blog post, let me just say—a lot of what I felt blindsided by in the workplace is stuff that you just have to learn on your own. Professional Writing did a fantastic job training me for a full-time job and teaching me how to be a top notch employee.

MSUPW: What would you add the above list?

Vanessa is a digital media coordinator by day and a writer, novelist, and badass cook by night. She loves used bookstores, is way too serious about tea, and doesn’t give a damn if she wears the same outfit 2 days in a row. She totally wants to be your friend, so you should follow her on twitter & maybe check out her writing blog.

What Is Email Marketing? (AKA What I Do At Work Each Day)

Some of you may have noticed a certain passage in my by-line that goes a little something like this: “Noelle is an email copywriter (yes, that is a thing).” Some of you might know what that is, and others might not.

In short, I am someone who works almost exclusively in the writing, editing, sending, and analyzing of emails.

The company with which I am employed is a marketing company of sorts that runs a series of charitable websites. What can be confusing about this is that the company itself is for-profit—we just happen to work with a LOT of non-profits, and all of the products and sales we offer have a charitable component. We also have petitions, and we have a “click-to-give” function that allows users to click a button at the top of each site’s home page: from there, a donation is triggered from viewing the various ads we put onto each site.

We have several teams devoted to the running of each website as well as the content/ads/offers that are on said websites and we have a team devoted just to email (that’s where I come in).

I currently work with about 8 other writers and designers, creating email campaigns that blast up to 7 days a week / 365 days a year. My daily tasks include constructing links with the correct origin codes and UTM tracking, writing up copy for ads for everything from sales to petitions to alt tags, and making sure that the designers in charge of the HTML aspects of each email have the ad/folder names and other information they need to make their portion. I also help write the text-only versions of each email, so that any users who don’t necessarily have the ability to open an HTML email can still see what we’re offering (it is true that some email campaign programs will generate the text-only file for you, but we prefer to customize what goes into them a bit more).

The majority of the emails I am in charge of are focused on getting users to go to the websites and click their respective charity button, but we also encourage them to check out hot sales or discounts, donate to specific charitable/topical organizations, and encourage the signature/sharing of petitions and other types of longer content.

Once this is all said and done, we then test each email by sending it out to people on our team to check for errors or linkage issues before each mailing is then scheduled and set to blast the following day.

Some other things that come into play:

Mailing Time
There’s a great deal of data out there about what the best time to blast an email is—we choose to blast most of ours starting very early in the morning (4:00 a.m.) to mid-afternoon (noon-ish).

A/B Testing
When we have more than one hot promotion running at the same time, sometimes it’s unclear which item should be featured where and at what time. We use A/B testing and other metrics to see which offers or products our audience prefers. We can also do this sort of testing with just subject lines as well.

Analysis Of Data
After all of the emails are written/designed, tested, and blasted, we then take a look at various bits of data ranging from clicks to open rates to how much revenue certain links made and what other outside effects could have impacted results (we’ve had things come into play like news events, day of the week, etc.).

Planning
Weekly/bi-weekly meetings of all shapes and sizes go into developing where we need to promote certain events/newsworthy items—for instance, one of our email campaigns promotes awareness for autism, so it made sense to include content that mentioned Autism Awareness Month throughout April.

Project Management / Working As a Team
Each person on the Email Team (or E-Team, as we are sometimes called), is responsible for his/her share of work. Each person has their own set of things to write/design, and then other members of the team are there to edit/critique them.

All The Spreadsheets and Calendars
We have to make sense of what we’re posting in each email each day/week, so we use Google Docs, Google Calendar, and various Excel spreadsheets and templates to help stay organized/efficient.

Prior to graduating, I had no idea this kind of work existed, or that it would be something that would require so many of the skills I gained from PW. Just goes to show that you never know what kind of work is out there.

Now You Know Something

Noelle is an email copywriter (yes, that is a thing) and occasional freelance writer. When she’s not typing or running, she can be found eating, sleeping, quoting a movie, or curled up in an easy chair with her nose stuck in a book. Sometimes she tweets too.