Posts Tagged ‘professional image’

Tips for Creating an Effective LinkedIn Profile

November 18, 2013 Leave a comment


LinkedIn is a great tool for researching prospective careers, building your network, and reaching out and connecting with people.  This should be an entirely professional social media tool, so keep your personal life out of it.  It really should function as an on-line resume and professional networking tool.  It takes some time and effort to create a great LinkedIn account, but if you do it right, it will certainly help you in connecting with the right people and getting a job.

Here are some tips on how to set up an effective LinkedIn profile:

  • Create an effective and informative professional headline.  This helps people to understand, in just a few words, who you are and what your skills are
  • Take time to write a clear, concise, and compelling summary statement.  Tailor it to what your target audience will be interested in knowing about you.  Be sure to include key words, industry-specific lingo and job-specific skills so that it is easily searchable
  • Carefully proof read your entire profile. Then, have at least one or two other people look over your profile; ask them to give you feedback on whether it is clear and accurate
  • Get a professional headshot done.  You want to be dressed in business attire and looking sharp.  This is about creating a positive and professional image – think about what message your photo sends about you and whether it fits with your career goals
  • Add industry relevant skills to your profile.  Once you have added these skills, start endorsing others for the skills that they possess.  This will, in turn, result in others endorsing you
  • Similar to endorsements, the process of getting recommendations is founded in reciprocity.  If you want others to write a recommendation for you, first write a recommendation for them.  Take time to write serious and thoughtful recommendations, as they are also a reflection of you.  When you write a recommendation for someone else, they are then prompted to return the favour and write one for you. Endorsements and recommendations add to your credibility
  • Customize your profile URL – go to your profile, click on Edit, click on Manage Public Profile Settings, on the right hand side of that page, click on Customize your public profile URL. This allows you to create a shorter URL that looks better and more professional on contact cards and resumes
  • Join groups that relate to your career interests and industries. Being involved in groups can help you to connect with people that you might not otherwise interact with

Email Best Practices

August 26, 2013 Leave a comment
email etiquette

email etiquette

When dealing with email communication I am frequently stunned by the lack of professionalism that I encounter.  Many times I receive emails that have no salutation or sign-off and no capitalization, grammar or sentence structure.  If these habits continue when the sender enters the workforce he/she will find that it will have a significantly negative impact on his/her career prospects.

You will find that if you take the time to write accurate, concise, and respectful emails that you will be perceived in a better light and will likely receive more positive and helpful responses.

Secondly, if you develop a strategy for effectively managing the emails that you receive, you will waste much less time will be responsive, organized and less stressed.

Below are some tips for helping you ensure that you are creating a professional image and effectively managing your email:

  • When writing emails it is always best to err on the side of formality.  Professional emails should include accurate punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, grammar and spelling. If you are not sure how to address someone, start with the most formal option eg. Dear Ms. Smith, then wait for the reply to determine how to address further correspondence.
  • For professional communication emoticons, abbreviations and slang acronyms like LOL are too informal.
  • Avoid the use of wallpaper or colourful fonts that are distracting and slow down the receiver’s ability to process the message.
  • When it comes to font type and size stick with the basic serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, or san serif, such as Arial, in the 10- to 11-point range.
  • Reread messages before sending.  This allows you to check the tone and content of the message from the reader’s perspective and enables you to catch mistyped words such as god instead of good that will not be caught by your spell checker. An articulate, concise and accurate email tells others that you are intelligent, professional and detail oriented.
  • Keep your inbox clean. Use electronic folders to archive messages that you may need to refer to in the future.  Keep the inbox for current items that you need to deal with.  This will help you feel organized and less overwhelmed and stressed.
  • Insert the receiver’s address last. This ensures that you do not accidentally send an incomplete email or forget an attachment. This is particularly important when dealing with a sensitive topic.  Better yet, if a topic is sensitive, don’t send an email go and talk directly to the person in order to avoid a misreading of your tone or intent.
  • Open an email once.  Don’t waste your time by reading an email and then leaving it to sit because you don’t feel like answering it only to have to return to the same email later.  Have a one touch policy, open it, answer it and then delete or file it.

For further tips on managing your email check out: Managing Your Email, Thinking Outside the Inbox by Christina Cavanagh.

Business Casual – What to Wear to Work

May 7, 2013 Leave a comment
Dress-Down Friday

Dress-Down Friday

If you want to succeed at work, you need to dress the part.  This is not a myth but a reality.  Your appearance represents your employer and your respect for your job as much as it represents your personal style.  Because of this, employers take very seriously the image that you create for yourself and their company.

It is absolutely imperative that you create a good first impression in an interview; but, that attention to detail and effort needs to shine through on a daily basis.  You want to ensure that you are dressing on the high end of what is acceptable in your workplace. “If everyone wears jeans every day, a suit would be too much, as it might convey arrogance; khakis would make a much better choice. The idea is to stand out, not stick out” (Importance of Appearance in the Workplace |

If you take the time to ensure that you are looking professional everyday you will see an increase in your confidence, will command more respect, and be perceived as highly capable.

To show a couple of students how to navigate the business casual, casual Friday, business formal . . . conundrum we took a field-trip to the mall and took over the dressing rooms to pick-out and price-out some work appropriate attire.  Here are the results of our excursion.

Dress Down Friday:

Dress-Down Days

Dress-Down Days

The biggest mistake that people make on dress-down days is to think this is the day that they don’t need to care.  The reality is that even if you want to wear jeans, you should still look professional.  Pairing a dark wash jean with a shirt and blazer is the perfect way to still look sharp.

Where we shopped:

The Gap

Adam is wearing dark-wash jeans $69

a button up shirt $35.99

and a Blazer $98

Steph is wearing dark-wash jeans $79.95

a neutral t-shirt $19.95

and a Blazer $89.95

Business Casual:

Business Casual

Business Casual

Business Casual

Business Casual

Think business not casual and you will probably be on the right track. Business casual is usually dress pants, button up shirt and tie for men and a modest and tailored dress or dress pants and blouse for women. The word casual is just thrown in there to confuse you.

Where We Shopped:

The Gap:

Adam is wearing khakis $59.50

a dress shirt $35.99

and a v-neck sweater $44.95

The Bay:

Steph is wearing a blue dress with a peplum $99

and in the second photo a beige and white dress $139

business casual

Business Casual

When choosing a dress for work be sure that the hem falls at or just above the knee.  Avoid heels that are above 1 1/2 inches high.  A good rule to follow is the shorter the skirt the lower the heal should be.

Business Casual

Business Casual

Banana Republic:

Adam is wearing dress pants $198

a purple dress shirt $74

and a v-neck argyle sweater $95

In the second photo also from Banana Republic,

Business Casual

Business Casual

Steph is wearing a white dress $160

and a white blazer $160


For many, you will only need to wear full-business attire for interviews, presentations or

days when you have important meetings.  Otherwise, the dress-code in many workplaces is business casual.  There are some industries that expect full business attire on a daily basis such as banking and business consulting. To create the best impression, pay attention to what others at your workplace are wearing and be sure to stay on the more formal side.



Traditional Business Attire includes:

Traditional Business Attire

Traditional Business

Women: Skirt suits or pant suits with formal business blouses or tops, stockings, closed toe and heel leather shoes, and appropriate business accessories including a brief case, leather folder for pads of paper, and a conservative pen. Women were encouraged to keep jewelry, makeup, and perfume subtle and elegant. (Human Resources/

Traditional Business Attire

Traditional Business

Men: A suit and tie. However, selection of the suit should involve mindful consideration. A CNN report on dress codes suggests than traditional business suits for men should be wool in medium to dark colors. The dress shirt should be white or blue, coordinating with the color of the suit. Lydia Ramsey, a business etiquette expert, suggests solid colored silk ties, and a quality belt that matches the man’s shoes as accessories with a business suit. (What Is Traditional Business Attire? |


Where We Shopped:

Banana Republic:

Adam is wearing a suit jacket $475

dress pants $198

a dress shirt $74

and a tie $74

Steph is wearing a suit jacket $240

dress pants $124

and a coral blouse $74

Ahead of the Game – Forming Great Professional Relationships

January 15, 2013 1 comment

Networking on the Court

At just under 5’3” you may be surprised to find me every Wednesday at the Rec. Centre basketball courts ‘dominating’ a game of pick-up with 6’2”+ colleagues from across campus.  When I first started playing about 3 years ago my most recent experience had been when I was on the grade 8 team.  At that time I was tall, but not particularly skilled.  Since then I have not actually grown; so, I am now short and still not particularly skilled.

Then why on earth when a couple of the guys from my office asked me if I wanted to play did I agree? According to the Harvard Business Review, “High-stakes activities that ally you with disparate individuals around a common point of interest are the best way to forge tight connections. Whether you join people in sports teams, community service ventures, or interdepartmental initiatives, engaging with them in this new way creates stronger ties.”

It didn’t matter if in the first few months I couldn’t stop laughing every time I ran down the court with the ball because, not only was I getting a great workout, I was demonstrating that I was a team player.  I would show up, work hard and even if I couldn’t get a basket, I could intimidate the other team with my witty and well-timed trash talking.  Although for probably the first year, my main role was comic relief, I have now progressed to the point where I can hold my own and, on the odd occasion, be a decent contributor to the team.

Although I am not likely to be scouted by the WMBA any time soon, this activity has certainly been positive for my career because I have gotten to know, respect, and enjoy a lot of people at the university that I would otherwise not had much interaction with.  The formation of these relationships happens “because these conditions allow for unscripted behaviors and natural responses to unexpected events — things that rarely show up during business lunches or office meetings where impressions are managed and presentations are carefully rehearsed. People will see you as you truly are, and vice versa. Common activities also offer opportunities for celebration and commiseration, which generate loyalty and form close working relationships.” (Strengthen Your Network with Shared Activities)

When I see my bball colleagues on campus there is a common bond, a friendship, and a warmth that I feel, that makes me think well of them and them think well of me.  The one surprising and concerning thing that I have noticed over the course of 3 years of playing a pick-up sport on my lunch is that there is only one other woman that I have ever seen out there.  If young women don’t take these opportunities to connect with colleagues in this fun and critical way, they will be missing out on a foundational aspect of business networking.

Since, January is a time when people make all sorts of resolutions to get active, I challenge you to take it to the courts, or fields, or rink, with your colleagues.  You will all be healthier and more successful for it.   No skill is required – just come and see me play and I will prove it.

What Not to Do In An Interview – The Dick and Jane Series Contd.

November 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Do not show up late, but don’t be too early either:  Take the time before the interview to find out exactly where you are going and how long it will take to get there and then plan to be there about 10 minutes early.  If you end up getting there a lot earlier, take a breather, go get a drink of water, find a rest-room, but do not head into the main building until about 10 minutes before the interview.  It will seem a little odd if you are sitting in the office for 30 minutes before they are ready for you.

Do not show up unprepared:  You want them to know that you are specifically interested in this job at this company, so do your research.  Read their mission and vision statement, review the job description, find any documents that you can on the company’s strategic plan etc.  Also pay attention to what is in the news that relates to that industry.  You want to be up to date on current affairs and how they may impact the job that you are applying for.  If you are not prepared an employer will feel that you are wasting their time and are not dedicated to the company or this specific job.

Do not chew gum, bring your cell phone in (even if it is on vibrate),  wear perfume or cologne, wear anything too casual or revealing (no cleavage, no baseball caps, no yoga pants [yes that includes lulu lemon]  I don’t care if they cost as much as a suit, they are not appropriate).

Do not ask about holiday time, sick days or other perks during an interview.  This sort of stuff is fair game when you are negotiating a job offer, but not at the point of an interview.  If they are going to be an important factor in your decision to take the job, you should take some time to find out what the salary range is and  benefits are ahead of time.

Do not complain:  Don’t complain about your old job, your current job, your boss, the weather, your cold, how tired, stressed, rushed, overwhelmed, anxious, . . . you are.  Just don’t complain.  Employers are looking for someone that they want on their team, someone who is going to be a positive addition, not bring them down.  Not only is it entirely inappropriate to complain about past employment or bosses, but that negativity will compromise more than just your sanity.

For further tips on interview etiquette check out:

Preparing for an Interview – the Dick and Jane Series:

November 5, 2012 2 comments

I would like to say that this video is an extreme example of what not to do; however, I have been told many tales from employers that make Dick look like a pretty good candidate.

  1. The reality is, like everything in life, you get from it what you put into it.  If you want to impress, take the time to get to know the company that you are interviewing with. Read the mission and vision statement, look for strategic plans and other planning documents that will help you understand what the company’s goals and challenges are.  Stay up to date with market trends and information that may be impacting them at the moment.  If you can reference current conditions in that industry and show your awareness, they will see that you are a focused, diligent and generally aware.
  2. Think of an interview as a conversation about possibilities, a chance to learn and an opportunity to share information. Make the most of your interview: relax, take the time to respond clearly, and be yourself. The more worked up you allow yourself to get about an interview, the worse you will perform.
  3. Practice potential responses out loud, in front of a mirror or patient friends and family members. Discover various strategies, transitions, and lead-ins for answering different kinds of questions, talking to one person or a group, and changing topics or focus.
  4. Practice asking questions. Employers will expect you to ask one or two questions at the end, so prepare something ahead of time.
    Ask things like: What are your priorities for this position within the first 6 months?
    What are you looking for in an ideal candidate for this role?
    Do not ask things like:    What is your vacation allotment?
    Do you have a maximum number of sick days that employees can take?
    If you ask the right sorts of questions, it will give you an opportunity, once they answer it, to follow-up with further examples of how you would be a good fit.  If they mention that their ideal candidate would be exceptional at multi-tasking and time management and you did not highlight that in your initial responses, now is the time.
  5. Anticipate commonly asked questions by interviewers and develop a set of related responses that you can mold to a variety of individual situations. Prepare responses that cover the main areas that just about all employers are going to want to know about.  Such as: ability to work in a team, ability to work independently, communication skills, work ethic and reliability, interpersonal skills and conflict management, multi-tasking and time management skills, project management and organizational abilities, career goals, greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses.
  6. Choose an interview outfit that is clean, respectable, and modest.  What you wear tells them how seriously you are taking this interview.  If you show up in a suit, they know that you respect them and the job.  If you show up in regular pants and a sweater, you are not too keen or interested in making a good impression.  If you show up in jeans and have a baseball cap on, then you are wasting their time.

Tell me about your best and worst interview experiences.

To Be Out or Not To Be Out? That is the Question

June 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Coming Out at Work

When completing my master’s degree I lived with three other roommates, all of whom were gay.  Being immersed in the life of three partially-closeted women gave me great insight into how challenging it can be to manage your personal and professional life.  Some were not ‘out’ with family but were at work or at school; some were only ‘out’ with a close-knit group of friends . . . This made managing how I spoke about my roommates very challenging, what information I could and could not share, to whom and when, when parents and friends called was a constant struggle. Thankfully, all three of my roommates have gone on to fantastically successful careers and are now leading lives where they are “out” in all contexts. I have been to two of their weddings (although all 3 are now married) and have the pleasure of raising my kids alongside one roommate who had twins just one year before my second child was born.  There were certainly many steps along the way that were challenging and infuriating, but the end result for all of them has been a happy, open life.

I would love to write a post on this topic that says that you should not have to come out any more than any heterosexual should have to come out; that you should be able to just exist as you are and that your personal relationships are of no more bearing on your career than anyone else’s.  That being said, I want to advise based on the realities of our world, not an ideal reality that may not exist, yet.

When reading some statistics on this topic that were published in the Harvard Business Review, I was feeling pretty optimistic:

85% of fortune 500 companies have protective policies that address sexual orientation

42% of closeted employees said they felt isolated at work verses only 24% of openly LGBT employees

52% of closeted employees felt that their careers had stalled, versus 36% of ‘out’ employees

Based on these numbers I was feeling pretty confident about recommending coming out at work.  Then I read the last statistic.

There are still 29 US states in which workers can be fired for being gay. WTF!!!

After a huge exhale and a few choice words, I re-thought what I should write.

Thankfully I live in a country where we have come a long way in promoting and protecting the rights of LGBT individuals and couples.  However, across the world and from one workplace to the next the reality is going to be dramatically different.  Because of this I would recommend taking a close look at governmental and company policies, paying keen attention to the attitude of your boss and co-workers and making a decision based on how you feel when you have taken all of that into consideration.

Another factor in the decision on whether to come out at work is not only the impact that it can have on your personal happiness but the affect it can have on your professional growth.  People are more likely to get promoted if they have good solid personal relationships with their colleagues and bosses.  Many people that are closeted at work go to great lengths to avoid conversations that are personal.  Because of this, you may be losing out on developing those strong professional relationships and may be more likely to be passed over for opportunities.  This is likely reflected in the statistic above regarding the percentage of closeted employees that felt their career had stalled.

I have had students in my office who have questioned whether or not they should include participation in LGBT campus organizations on their resume. My advice is that if you include it and an employer chooses not to hire you because of it; would you want to work at that company?   If you include it and a company sees it as an excellent example of your community involvement, event planning abilities . . . and they hire you based on that and all of your other accomplishments; would you want to work for that company? You should have your answer.  Plus, this makes the coming out process much easier as the message has been set at the outset of your employment.

However, if you want to break into an industry or company that is renowned for being conservative, you may not want to put that on your resume and may want to wait until you get the job to negotiate the tough decision of whether to be out or not.  Sometimes once people have an opportunity to get to know you and respect you for your knowledge and work-ethic it is easier to break down some of those barriers.

As much as I would love to say just live a completely open and out life, I know that there are many individuals that, based on their misguided beliefs, may hold it against you.  All you can do is make the best decision you can with the most and best information you can find and then, trust your instincts.

I would love to hear your insights and experiences with being out at work, so please post a reply to this post.

Lastly, to those of you who have come out at work and have helped to create a more open and inclusive workplace for all I want to say a big THANK YOU!  It is your bravery and determination that are making the future brighter for others.

Below are a couple more articles on this topic that you may find useful:

Coming Out

Seven Views of Coming Out at Work

Being ‘Out’ Brings Advantages

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