Author Archives: gopivajravelu

Business and trust

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Building trust is one of the most important parts of working with other people.

When you want to get hired, the hiring manager needs to trust your ability to do the job well. After all, she is sticking her neck out with her boss and saying that she thinks you are the best candidate for the job. You build that trust that by presenting the knowledge, skills, and previous work experiences to do the job in your resume and during your job interviews.

When you start working with a new boss, he will stop micromanaging you when he trusts that you’ll do good work without him watching everything you do.

If you want more responsibility, your boss will need to trust that you can handle more important projects without taking up too much of his time or hurting the company.

When a Board of Directors approves the annual budget, they aren’t voting on the numbers in the budget. They are voting on their confidence in the CEO to handle the company’s finances correctly.

Business is all about building trust and maintaining that trust. If you want to advance your career, you will need to act in a way so the people around you trust you.

How to prepare for your annual performance review

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The time leading up to your annual performance review is filled with mixed emotions. You hope you did a good job so you can get a large bonus, a raise, and maybe even a promotion. You want to know that you did your job well.

But there is also a voice inside your head that wonders if you actually did a good job. Maybe you didn’t perform up to your boss’s standards?

No matter what you’re thinking, your performance review is an important moment in your year. It will set your compensation for the year, what types of projects you work on for the year, and your chances of getting a raise and promotion at your next performance review.

Fortunately, there is a way to handle your performance review so you can climb up the ladder.

Performance reviews, from your boss’s perspective, are focused on how you did last year.

From your perspective, your performance review should be focused on what you will do next year to make sure you add more value to the company than in past years. Why is that important?

Because if you add more value to the company in the next 12 months than you did last year, then it stands to reason that you deserve a raise since you generate more profit. And as you take on more responsibility, you will eventually get a higher job title to match your new responsibilities.

There are a few things you can do to set yourself up for a performance review focused on the future.

Remember what projects you worked on

The first part of preparing for your performance review is largely introspective. You will reflect on the projects you worked on, what went well, what mistakes you made, and what improvements you made compared to past years.

Think back to all of the projects you worked on last year. If you need help, go through your email inbox and see what messages you sent and received.

Which projects met expectations, which projects did you do an outstanding job on, and which projects could have used improvement? Write each project down and a note about what the final result was for each. Then write down what you specifically worked on in each project. That should give you a sense of how much of the project’s success or failure was because of your work.

This is largely the area of your performance review that your boss will focus on. Making this list will help you understand what he’s going to say and prepare for it.

See what improvements you made through the year

Next, write down any improvements you made throughout the year. Did you get better at your job over the year and how did you get better? Did you take on any new responsibilities that weren’t anticipated in your last performance review? If so, what is the financial impact on your department and company? If you are making a larger financial impact, you might expect to get a raise or bonus for your work. Hopefully your boss noticed your new responsibilities and had the budget to compensate you. If he doesn’t, you can explain your improvement and ask for your boss to keep it in mind the next time there is a new budget.

Every workplace is different. If your company is one where your boss asks you to write down what you worked on last year and send it to him a week before your review, it’s a good idea to highlight the new responsibilities in a different section than your usual projects. This will remind your boss that you are doing more work now than you were last year. If there’s more money in the compensation budget, he’ll know that you deserve a piece of it.

Collect feedback you received throughout the year

Another way to see if you made improvements through the year is to check on the feedback your colleagues gave you. You can look at your email and see who said positive things about you. This is especially valuable if the people complimenting you are senior employees at the company.

If you made improvements in the year and your colleagues said positive things about you, you can expect a raise or good bonus this year. Again, it’s a good idea to send some of this feedback to your boss if he asks you to review your projects before your review. Ideally, send them before next year’s budget is allocated so he knows about your new responsibilities beforehand.

Think about where you want to be one year from now

Another part of preparing for your review is to think about what you want a year from now. If you want a raise or promotion, you should ask for more responsibilities during your review. So think about what tasks you could take on and what skills you want to learn. It’s especially helpful if these new tasks help the company reach its strategic goals. Write them down.

Now that you assembled your past accomplishments and what you want to work on next year, practice your annual review. Practice by speaking out loud and recording yourself. Think about who will be in the room: your boss, maybe your boss’s boss and an HR representative.

The review will likely start out with your boss talking about your performance last year. After your boss talks about what he needs to (your performance, bonus, raises, etc.) you want to practice transitioning the conversation to new responsibilities for next year. Use the positive feedback your colleagues gave you as evidence that you can handle new responsibilities and higher value projects.

As a note, your annual review is not a good time to negotiate for a raise because the budget for the next year has already been set. There isn’t much your boss can do about a raise for next year if it wasn’t accounted for already.

But by setting yourself to work on higher value projects this year, you are putting yourself in a good position to ask for a raise before the next year’s budget is set.

Your focus on your annual review should be to get more important projects which demonstrates your increased value to your company. If you increased your value to the company, your boss will be able to secure you a raise and/or a promotion for your next annual performance review.

Human beings

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It’s easy to forget, but everyone around you is a human being.

Your annoying boss. Your company’s demanding customers. Your lazy co-workers. The CEO you’ve never met.

In today’s busy office, it’s easy to get annoyed, be short tempered, and think poorly of the people around you.

But it would be better to remember that all of these people are human beings. They have their own worries, fears, dream, hopes, and goals. Sometimes all it takes is a smile, a kind word, or a minute of your day to make them feel better.

If you treat these people well and understand what they want, they will enjoy working with you and they will reciprocate. Overtime, your office will be a friendlier and more collegiate environment.

Treating each person like a human being might be the most rewarding part of your climb up the ladder.

The biggest resume mistake you make and how to fix it

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When most people find a job they want, they fill out an application for the job and attach a copy of their resume. Seems like common sense. After all that’s how “career experts” tell you to increase your chances of getting a job.

Most experts suggest creating the perfect resume. One that is just the right length, has the best font, and has the best keywords. Then you just send it off to as many job openings as you can. Unfortunately that isn’t the best way to get a job.

The biggest mistake you make when writing a resume is using the same resume for every job you apply to.

You can’t use the same resume for each job because each job has different requirements for filling the position. And you are a person with a variety of skills, past work experiences, and education. You cannot fit all of those experiences in one resume so you should tailor the resume for each job to be for only that job.

You should create an individual resume for each job you apply to.

What you need instead is to make sure every word you put on the resume highlights how you can help the company. You do that in two steps: make sure you explain your previous work experiences clearly and then make sure the experiences you put on your resume are relevant for that specific job.

Of course, it would take a long time and much trial and error to get things right.

Back when I was applying to jobs, I came up with a system that helped me have both a great resume and only spend a few minutes updating my resume for each job. Here’s how that system works.

First we will create a “resume template” which is essentially a complete record of anything you could put on a resume. Put all of your work experiences on a resume in chronological order. Then add all of your jobs skills in a list below your work experiences (things such as writing Microsoft Excel macros, programming languages, specific industry knowledge, etc.). Add all of your education below your education (undergraduate education and higher). Now you likely have a two to three page document. Format the resume template to look like a standard resume, just longer. Pick a simple font: Arial or Times New Roman. Finally, space out the pages so they are easy for a hiring manager to scan quickly.

Now that you have a first draft of a resume, we need to polish it. Go to your university career services (if you already graduated, schedule a phone call through their website), hire a career counselor, or get your most career successful friend to look at your resume. Take that person’s feedback and improve your resume so your true skills are easily identifiable on your resume.

Now your resume template is complete and you know that the words on the page let the reader clearly recognize your past experiences. But how do you use it when you find a job you want to apply to?

When you find a job you want, you will need to cut your resume template down to a one page resume. If CEOs with 30 years of experience can get their resume onto one page, you can too.

As a first step, look at the job posting. That will give you a good start for what the company wants in a candidate for that position. You should also search for information about the company online. Look at the Glassdoor reviews for the company and the LinkedIn profiles of people who work there. See if there are any press releases about the company. You are looking for anything that will give you an indication about the company’s culture, what challenges they are having, and what they look for in new hires.

I highly recommend actually meeting with people from that company since they will give you the most accurate answers about what skills are important for getting a job at that company. Checkout my article about networking to learn how to do this: Networking.

Once you learn what is important to the company and what is not, cut down your resume to the one page that highlights your fit for the job based on your past experiences.

For example, if you are a software engineer who has experience in multiple programming languages and building web and mobile apps, your resume template will contain all of that information. Later you learn that the company uses Python and builds web applications so you will want to make sure those parts of your resume template make it onto the final resume for the job. If you still have space left on the page, you can add some of your other projects that are recent and impressive.

Or if you are a college student applying to a first job and you are an economics major, you can highlight the courses that best fit the skills the job wants. If you would be working on asset valuations in the job, you can highlight your Corporate Finance and Money And Banking classes. Also highlight any internships or side projects that highlight this experience.

In summary, the resume template system is:

  1. Create a resume template with all of your experiences.
  2. Learn what skills you need for the job.
  3. Select the experiences from your resume template that demonstrate you have the skills for the job and put them on a one page resume.

The goal is for the hiring manager to see that you have the skills to complete the job in a quick glance of your resume.

If the hiring manager sees you have the skills for the job, you will get a first round interview.

Now that you’ve crafted a specific, high quality resume for each particular job you are applying to, you are ready to submit your resumes!

Grow the pie

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Many people believe that our careers are zero sum games, where in order to win someone else must lose. That creates hurtful competition among colleagues and coworkers; people who should be working together and helping each other. People adopt a scarcity mindset where in order to get something you want, someone else cannot get the same thing.

But there are other ways for multiple people to reach their goals simultaneously. Economists have a term called grow the pie (highly technical, I know…). If there is a pie and four people, and one person takes half the pie, that only leaves half of the pie for the three remaining people. But what about if the pie grew to be larger. Or there was a second pie. Now everyone can get more pie, perhaps even more than all four people could eat together and everyone is satisfied.

In economics, a Pareto Improvement is when an individual becomes better off without making anyone else worse.

Careers can be similar. You might think that there is only a certain amount of money to give out in raises and bonuses, but what if the company produced even more profits this year. Then there is more money for the pool of funds going towards employee compensation.

Or there might only be one Director position open for people to get promoted to. But what if the company grows. Then there are multiple direction position that need to get filled, likely with internal candidates since the company is doing so well.

Rather than thinking of careers with a scarcity mindset, it’s best to remember that win-win situations are possible. If you work with your coworkers, you can grow the pie. And all of you can reach your career goals.

The importance of Emotional Intelligence in your career and how to develop it

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As your career starts out, the hard skills you learned in school will be very important. And if you excel as an individual contributor, you’ll get promoted to your first management position. From there on, your soft skills will become more important for future promotions than your hard skills. You’ll need to coach your direct reports, handle conflict within your team, and tactfully manage office politics. Building your interpersonal skills, and Emotional Intelligence, will help you excel as a manager up to Director, VP, and Executive.

Numerous studies show that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a trait great leaders have in common. Research shows that people with high levels of emotional intelligence are better at managing their stress, negotiating, and leading people. Daniel Goleman, the man who made Emotional Intelligence famous, noted that the qualities traditionally associated with leadership, such as intelligence, determination, and strategic vision, are required for success but are insufficient. Great leaders also needed other qualities – the qualities that he found associated with emotional intelligence. And these EQ qualities became even more important as employees reached higher positions on the corporate ladder. As someone got closer to the C-Suite, they needed higher levels of EQ to make the company successful and to move higher in his/her career.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize one’s own and other’s emotions and to manage them accordingly to achieve a goal.

According to Goleman, Emotional Intelligence has five components:

  • Self-awareness: knowing one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and goals – and their impact on others
  • Self-regulation: controlling or redirecting disruptive emotions and impulses
  • Motivation: being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement itself
  • Empathy: considering others’ feelings, especially when making decisions
  • Social skill: managing relationships to move people in desired directions

As you can see, the first three components all deal with recognizing and managing your own emotions. You need to know the emotions you are feeling, how to control your emotions, and to understand why you want to achieve your goals. One important point is that EQ is not about being emotionless. Emotions are good and healthy. You should not allow your emotions to your control you, rather you should feel and manage your emotions productively. That is the core of Emotional Intelligence.

The last two EQ components are about how you relate to others. Do you understand others’ emotions and do you know how to help them be productive toward their goals and the company’s goals. You can see how these two components are so important for leadership at the office. Whether it is helping a direct report manage his emotions with your social skills or understanding your boss’s goals using empathy, you can improve your career by developing EQ.

So then we get to the question, how do you improve your Emotional Intelligence?

A great first step is to read Daniel Goleman’s book which made EQ popular. But that isn’t necessary. You can also get started at home with two techniques: The Mime Technique and the Shoe Store Technique.

The Mime Technique helps you develop self-awareness and empathy. It’s pretty simple but very powerful.

Turn on your TV (or Netflix for all of us Millenials) and mute the sound. Try to understand the context of the show or movie just from the characters’ body language. The first time you do this, it might be hard. But as you do this a few times, you’ll start to notice which facial expressions signal anger, sadness, happiness, and stress. This will help you develop empathy.

As you watch more shows without sounds or words, you’ll start to label the emotions more in your head. You’ll see the difference between someone who feels joy and someone who feels ecstatic, and all of the other varying degrees of happiness. You’ll see the difference between the levels of anger, sadness, stress, and every other emotion in between. This will help you develop self-awareness. As you notice the different emotions in other people (empathy) you’ll also recognize the emotion in yourself better (self-awareness). That will also help you develop self-regulation over time.

As you learn to see these emotions in other people, you’ll have a better sense of good times to talk about sensitive subjects with your coworkers or when to give coworkers some space. You’ll see when they are stressed about a deadline and when they are happy about an accomplishment. You’ll get much better at handling office politics when you see the body language and underlying emotions people project.

The Shoe Store Technique is also useful: you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, figuratively. When you talk to someone and recognize their emotions, whether it is happiness or something else, put yourself in that person’s shoes. Ask yourself: Why might they feel this way?

Try on a few pairs of shoes. There could be a number of reasons why someone is stressed: is his child sick, did her boss just reprimand her, did he get in a car accident last night? You won’t know the real reason why someone feels the way he does, but picturing yourself in several different scenarios that would cause that emotion can help you empathize with that person.

You’ll understand how he feels which helps you manage your own emotions while talking to him and you will feel his emotion so you can empathize and create a stronger social connection between the two of you.

This can help you build allies at work and to just be a nice considerate person.

Emotional intelligence is one of the most important skills for advancing your career. Even early in your career you can start developing it now and see its powerful benefits.

Give these two techniques a try at work this week and let me know what emotions you see around your office.

“I’m freakin’ awesome!”

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Several years ago, I met with a Senior Vice President at one of the nation’s largest banks to get his career advice.

Of all the great pieces of advice he gave me, one has stuck out through the years. He said that when someone asks you how you’re doing, respond: “I’m freakin’ awesome!”

It’s certainly over the top which he was aware of, but he’s right. People like to work with people who are positive and excited. Sure sometimes you won’t be doing too well and you might want to just say, “I’m doing okay. What about you?”

But people want to be around people who are positive.

And sharing a positive attitude will help you keep a positive attitude when you get to the office.

Showing up to work excited and happy will help you produce better work which is a prerequisite for getting raises and promotions.

The person you need to know to get promoted

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You go into work on time everyday and do everything that is expected of you. You complete your assignments on time. You get along with your coworkers. You understand how your job fits into the company’s goals. Your boss and your coworkers know that you are crushing it.

But you can’t seem to get noticed for a raise or promotion. That can get frustrating for even the hardest working employee.

If you are doing your job well, the reason you aren’t getting noticed is likely because the right person hasn’t noticed what a great job you are doing. That person is your boss’s boss.

Your boss’s boss is the person who approves your performance reviews and raises. She’s also the person who picks your boss’s replace should he leave and hires others at your boss’s level across the company. If she doesn’t know who you are, you won’t get selected when those jobs open up.

She’s also one of the best mentors you can have. She has a better strategic vision of the company’s goals than your boss does and she has more access to the executives. Talking with her can get you thinking like a senior team member before you’re promoted into those positions, and if you’re already thinking like a senior team member then people will see your leadership potential early in your career.

Ideally your boss would make it clear to his boss that you’re doing a great job. And then your boss’s boss would realize what a great job you are doing, but that doesn’t always work out. Sometimes your boss isn’t a great communicator. Sometimes your boss’s boss doesn’t ask about the employees two levels below her. Sometimes your boss is threatened by your success and fears you might replace him.

Whatever the reason is, you can still get noticed by your boss’s boss.

Whether your boss’s boss knows you or not, a good way to talk to her is to ask for industry advice or ask about the company’s goals.

If your boss is a good communicator and supports your professional development, ask your boss to introduce you to his boss. If not, I’d suggest sending your boss’s boss an email requesting a short meeting to learn about her career path, the company’s goals, and general questions about how your industry operates. Checkout my article about how to ask for advice: How to ask your boss for help.

Once you meet with her, you can do some general check ins. You want to check in when you have something valuable to add to her life. Some good ways to keep in touch are:

  • Volunteering to work on a cross-departmental project. Your boss’s boss is likely involved in this type of project since it involves multiple teams that report to her.
  • Sending your boss’s boss a congratulatory email if she does something noteworthy, such a speaking at a conference or being recognized in a company wide memo.
  • Letting her know when your boss does a good job on a certain project. This both helps you keep in touch and keeps your boss happy.
  • Asking about the company’s strategic vision and how her department plays a role in reaching that vision.
  • If you see a news article that relates to her work, you can email the link to her saying, “Just in case you missed this, I thought you’d find this article helpful: [link]. No need to reply.”
  • If you happen to have a hobby in common or a similar life situation (like your kids playing in the same soccer league), you can talk about that when you see each other at the watercooler.
  • Asking to meet as a mentor once or twice a year, most likely with your boss also present. You can talk about what additional skills you should learn to help the company.

While you are doing this, keep in mind that you still report to someone else so you should ask the majority of your work related question to your boss. And you don’t want to undermine your boss by going straight to your boss’s boss when you have issues. Talk to your boss’s boss about interdepartmental questions, the company’s strategic goals, industry topics, and casual watercooler talk. These topics are appropriate for someone two levels above you without challenging the organizational hierarchy.

With all that being said, your boss’s boss can know you and like you, but if you aren’t doing good work, you still won’t get the promotion or raise. If you do good work but don’t know the right people, you won’t get promoted and will get frustrated that your work goes unnoticed. If your boss’s boss likes you as a person but you don’t do good work, then she won’t risk her career by promoting you. But if you do good work and your boss’s boss knows you do good work, then she will promote you when the time is right.

Master the basics by doing your job well, demonstrating leadership skills, and adding value to the company. Along the way, get to know the leaders two or three levels above you in the org chart. Then your boss’s boss will help you climb up the ladder.

The Peter Principle

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The Peter Principle is a management theory that says an employee will continue to get promoted until he is in a role where he is incompetent.

In other words, if Sam was a great Associate he gets promoted to Senior Associate. Since he was also a great Senior Associate, he becomes a Manager. Once again, he does a great job as a Manager so he gets promoted to Director. But he’s not a good Director so he never gets promoted again. That’s unfortunately because Sam is now doing a job he isn’t good at which is hurting the company.

As a result, the Peter Principle says that a company is made up of employees who are working in roles they are unfit to be in. That’s a pretty grim outlook.

But like all theories, it’s written on paper and we don’t live on paper. When we reach a role that is too difficult for us, we can learn from our mistakes, seek education, get mentors, and become competent in our new roles. Over time, we turn our failures into success, get promoted, and repeat the cycle again.

Getting the most out of emails at work

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Anyone with more than 30 years of work experience can tell you how email has changed business. Maybe your boss has told you how it’s changed work: You can get answers to questions much faster, reference old conversations with a quick search in your inbox, and even work remotely now because of it. But like all types of communication, you need to use it well to get the most out of it.

Use it well and your coworkers will know what a great job you do. Use it poorly and you risk everyone thinking you’re a fool. Sometimes it’s a fine line between the two and being on one side or the other can influence if you get the next promotion.

As email has taken over the world, some people have learned to use it well and others just get by. Unfortunately, the way people prefer to use email changes from company to company and office to office, but there are a few common principles for communicating well no matter where you work.

One of the keys to using email well is knowing when to use another form of communication. In today’s work environment, there is no shortage of ways to communicate: Email, instant messenger, phone calls, texts, and face to face communication. For sensitive topics, face to face (or video chat if you work remotely) is the best. Sometimes you need to see each other’s body language to get the full message across.

Phone calls are great for quick and urgent conversations. If you need a decision quickly from your boss, giving her a call is a great way to go. How many times have you had a meeting with someone in person, but when the phone rings the other person interrupts your conversation to answer it? It happens all the time. There’s something about a phone ringing that makes everyone think the call is urgent and important, and that’s why phone calls are great for quick questions.

Email is good for things that will need to be referenced later, aren’t time sensitive, and require some consideration by the recipient before replying.

When you’re on the receiving side of emails, use inbox rules effectively. Two of the more effective tips are highlighting your boss’s emails in a different color and your boss’s boss’s emails in another color. That will allow you to pay extra attention to them. Your boss likely sends you emails for things that you directly need to work on so you will have an easier time tracking your projects and deadlines.

Your boss’s boss will likely include you on emails that are more long term in nature, such as emails for your department’s strategic priorities, interdepartmental projects, or industry news. This will give you a better sense of your company’s goals. As I’ve written before, understanding these goals can give you an advantage for building job security and determining your company’s financial health: Two things that will help you get promoted.

Also use inbox rules to file emails on particular subjects to certain folders. If you have projects working with a particular client, you might want to have all emails to and from that client go to an “ABC Project” folder. That will help you reference to those emails faster in the future and give you a quick way to track the communication on the project. It will also keep you less distracted since you will only look into those folders when you want to work on that project, which can increase your productivity. Just make sure you go through all the folders once a day, likely first thing in the morning or before you leave at night, and read through the emails. You don’t want to miss an important email from HR just because you’re automatically sending their emails to a “Company Social Events” folder.

As another tip, keep a folder in your inbox named “Feedback” where you store a record of your accomplishments, praise from coworkers, completed assignments, and feedback from your boss. When the time for your annual review comes around, you can refer back to this folder as a list of what you worked on during the year and how it turned out. (And if you’re interested in negotiating your salary down the road, keeping this record of feedback and what you’ve accomplished can be useful for making your case for a raise.)

If you use Outlook, checkout this link to learn how to setup inbox rules: Manage email messages by using rules. If you use Gmail, checkout this link: Create rules to filter your emails. If you use Hotmail, just kidding, no one uses Hotmail.

Sending a clear and action-oriented email is more difficult than being on the receiving end of an email.

Step one of writing a clear email is to know what you want as a result of the email. Do you want advice from the recipient? Are you only telling the recipient some information and don’t need a response? Are you trying to schedule a meeting? It’s a good idea to only have one objective from the email and to plan around that.

Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. What level of formality do you need when you talk to this person? Write your email in that level of formality. How will she feel about what you are writing? If it’s a sensitive subject, you might want to send an email to schedule a time to talk in person. If it’s not a sensitive subject then you can get straight to the point in the email. What follow up questions will the recipient have? Anticipate and answer as many of these questions as you can in the email.

Let’s go on to two example emails to demonstrate how to craft a great email. The first email is a weekly status check to a client on behalf of the entire team. It purely provides information to the client and does not need a reply.

To: [client] [The To line is for people who need to reply to the email or who the email is directly addressed to.]

CC: [team member 1], [team member 2], etc. [The CC line is for anyone who needs to know what’s going on but doesn’t need to take action on the email. In many business emails, that’s unfortunately too many people…]

Subject: Weekly status check-in [The client probably expects this email every week so keep the subject line short and consistent every week.]

Hi [client],

The weekly status report is below. [This is a regular, expected email so get straight to the point. The topic isn’t controversial or difficult to talk about so no need to gently ease into the subject.]

Thank you for your team’s help getting us the data this week. We have analyzed the dataset and started running regressions on it. There have been no issues running the regressions so far. [Talk about the first point, in this case what work was done this week and a thank you for the client’s assistance.]

Next week, we plan to have some of the analysis complete and can start making the final report for your team. We will let you know if we need assistance but we don’t plan on it at this time. [The previous paragraph talked about last week, whereas this paragraph talks about next week. Since it’s a separate train of thought, it goes in a different paragraph.]

No reply needed. [This takes the pressure off the client to think of a response. She can still reply with “Thanks for the update.” if she wants, but she doesn’t have to.]


[Your name]

Bear with me on the lack of specifics in the email. Each company sends status reports to their clients differently. But that email template should give you a guide for deciding who goes on the To line of an email, how to group your points into separate paragraphs, and how to let the reader know that you don’t need a reply.

The other email we will look at is for when you need advice on something from your boss.

To: [boss]

Subject: Question about forecasting inventory for the XYZ Project [Let your boss know that you have a question about a certain topic. This will let your boss know how important the email is based the XYZ Project’s priority. It also lets your boss know that she will need to spend a little more time on this email since you are asking a question instead of just providing information.]

Hi [boss],

As you know, I am working on the financial analysis for the XYZ Project. I completed the statements of cash flow projection for the next 12 months earlier this week. That went smoothly. [Give a little context and status report even though she probably knows this information. It helps her get into the mindset to remember your project since she has so many other projects to manage.]

I moved on to forecasting the income statement, but I’m having trouble with it and would like your input. In particular, what document should we use to forecast inventory for the next 12 months? [Be very clear about what question you are asking. Also, you’re more likely to get a quick reply if you ask “Yes/No” questions, but if you need a detailed answer with a “who/what/when/where/how” question, plan for a longer wait time before getting a reply.]

Here are some solutions that might work:

  1. Brian has some reports from our inventory management software with industry averages. The reports are attached to this email. They are reliable reports but they are not specific to our company.
  2. The warehouse has the numbers for the past 12 months. I could use that to estimate future inventory but we will have a lot of guessing in our numbers.
  3. I can use the projections from the sales department. My concern is that it is based on sales quotas rather than inventory numbers which might be too optimistic.

[If you present a problem, also provide possible solutions with some positives and negatives about each choice. Don’t make your boss too much or he might think he’s doing too much of your job. And give your boss as much information as you can which is why this person is attaching the inventory reports to the email. It will allow his boss to see if those reports will work.]

Can you let me know which option you think is best? [This is a good action oriented question to end the email. The boss can simply reply with: “Use option 2”. You are taking the work off your boss so you will get an answer faster and more accurately.]


[Your name]

In a previous article, I wrote a sample email for setting up an in person conversation about a sensitive subject. Take a look at it through this link How to ask your boss for help without looking stupid.

Using email can be tricky, but learning to make your coworkers’ lives easier by writing good emails is well worth the time investment. Staying on top of your emails and getting quick, helpful replies from your coworkers will make you more productive. It will also make working with you more enjoyable for those receiving your emails.

Give these principles a try to increase your productivity at work.