My Blog

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to introduce the person you've been dating to the people they'd eventually have to endure.

Thanksgiving is a great time to sit back and reflect on ourselves and review our personal and professional growth throughout the year.  We should all be thankful for all that we are given and continue to find the silver lining and aggressively target opportunities to play to our strengths while still growing ourselves and our competencies.  And, in the event you are traveling with significant others, in-laws, or other family – I hope all goes well!

Hope your turkey turns out great!

Til Next Time,

Michael

The social age is wildly fascinating to me. The ability for all of us to connect electronically at a moment’s notice has totally revolutionized the way we engage in and maintain professional relationships and friendships. Thus, it should not be a huge surprise that we have let some of this social media connectivity creep into our retail relationships. We now, more than ever, expect our big box retailers as well as many of our beloved boutiques to have an online social presence so that we can stay abreast of their latest sales and products. More importantly, we have started to lean on these retailers to provide us support when transactions or interactions go south. And, naturally, the truly exceptional retailers have adapted their offerings to acknowledge this level of support we require. To someone of my parents’ generation, though, the concept of social customer service is incredibly baffling. So I wanted to take a moment to recognize some of the great ways to optimize your own customer service through social media outlets.

Live Chat is a lifesaver for those of us who don’t have the time or the energy to wait on the phone on hold. It allows us to multitask and remain active as we wait for a message response from a specialized agent on the other end who is able to access back office support systems to investigate our concerns. Simply have the relevant order, product, or shipping information at your disposal, and be sure to provide the online rep all of the required information for them to leverage the tools at their disposal (i.e. their internal systems for CRM, Billing, Order Management, etc) to provide you quick and easy help. Also – don’t be afraid to ask for partial (or full) refunds if you were not satisfied. Many companies will be quick to provide you a coupon or gift certificate towards your next purchase for your trouble.

Facebook messaging or Tweeting has given us an outlet to issue cries for help directly to our retailers, either by direct messaging, tagging, or mentioning them in a post. Superb retailers will almost always respond in a timely manner to social outbursts, and in many cases they will look to follow you in order to provide more immediate resolutions the next time you need assistance. When dealing with these sorts of conversations, try to get the company’s representative to have a direct conversation as soon as you can so that you can provide them critical information like frequent shopper/traveler numbers without having those be publicly visible. Allowing reps to have more direct access to your consumer profile (if applicable) will always get you better service than an ordinary customer off the street.

Online help forums or complaint sites can be useful as well for ensuring that your complaint is rightfully handled.  It’s as easy as googling “Delta Complaints” (or, of course, an equivalent mechanism for your preferred company of complaint) to get to the right place.  Often times, you are simply asked to indicate the time and nature of your complaint, and you will be rewarded with amenities from the appropriate customer care department in order to repay you for any inconvenience you may have endured through a transaction or interaction with your company of interest.  I personally have chosen this route many times and, while the repayment might not be to my liking, I am at least usually given something in return for my woes.  And something is always better than nothing.

I’m not the king of complaining and I don’t try to be, but if there is a provider out there who isn’t meeting your expectations, the only way to change that is by saying something.  So please be smart when you embark as a consumer in the social age.  You might be pleasantly surprised at what the customer service you are provided yields you.

Til Next Time,
Michael

Quick note on working while traveling…

If you plan to work (or do personal activities) on devices while traveling, be sure to do the following to make sure you are being safe and not inviting your neighbors to eavesdrop on your personal data:
-reduce screen brightness
-angle devices away from those sitting next to you
-reduce volume on calls, webinars, or online training/videos
-wear a headset or earbuds to ensure you are the only one hearing your audio
-invest in a privacy screen for your laptop/devices that will make sure only those looking straight onto the screen can see it
-be aware of people all around you, not just those in your immediate proximity

I know I have said before that most times it does not matter what we are working on because nothing is hardly ever that “top secret”, but in some cases it is just a respectful thing to do and makes you less of a target in case you do run into a bad apple that it trying to poach or stalk on your information.

Til Next Time,
Michael

My colleagues, friends, and I have recently engaged in significant talks about what is and is not appropriate attire for work. Inevitably, we fall all over the board as it relates to what is the best bet in terms of work dress. However, I think we can all generally agree on a few principles and best practices as it relates to acquiring and coordinating a good office wardrobe.

First, you should always dress at least as well as your coworkers or clients. This is so that you are meeting them and collaborating with them in attire that is comfortable for them, as you are neither underdressing them or severely overdressing them. Some will argue on the latter point in that statement (e.g. the typical “management consultant” that feels they should be in a three-piece-suit every day regardless of the client culture to justify their $250/hr charge-out rate), but I will always argue that showing up in a suit to a factory floor where even the top dog on site wears jeans every day is overly arrogant and will cause for you to be unfairly judged by the majority of the workforce unnecessarily.

Second, you should still aim to dress in something that fits you and makes you comfortable. Let’s face it: many of us struggle with various personal hygiene or appearance deficiencies that we need to care for when we go to put ourselves together in the morning. If you, like I, tend to be warmer than average on a temperature scale, it would be advisable to wear fabrics that are more breathable so that you aren’t sweating through your shirt just walking to a 9 AM meeting. If you are an especially tall person, it is important to select clothes that are proportional to your frame so that you don’t have to be self-conscious about wearing clothes that don’t fit. Ill-fitting clothes are one of the most inexcusable offenses anyone in the working world can make in my opinion. I know it can be costly to replace a wardrobe if your weight or muscle mass change, but in order to look the part, it is really important to dress in proper fitting clothes. You will ultimately be more comfortable and confident in whatever you do.

Third, there are several ways to “dress the part” without breaking the bank. One of my favorite sites for advanced men’s wardrobe on a budget is dappered.com, which aims to help aggregate style tips, large retailer sales, and under-the-radar merchandise that is available (often for a fraction of the cost of big name premier brands). Another great option for building a professional and sufficient wardrobe is to try out thrift stores. It is pretty easy to tell the quality of an item with a cursory inspection, and often times some of the merchandise will still have original tags on it because it was never worn. Just be sure to dry clean whatever you purchase, and you are all set as far as I’m concerned to start embracing “reclaimed” clothes.

While the conversation surrounding “dressing the part” is something that probably needs to be done specifically for each person with respect to their own colleagues, clients, and corporate culture, I believe the guardrails above at least help tailor the conversation to the things that matter when thinking about how to dress for success in your respective arena.

Bonus: here’s a great short video on finding a jacket that fits, courtesy of Birchbox Men, leveraging one of my favorite shows for the discussion: Suits (a MUST WATCH if you enjoy witty humor, Corporate America, and fashion in the Big Apple).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2otfm8vwEA&feature=youtu.be&noredirect=1

Til Next Time,
Michael

Seriously, how much longer do I have to wait for this functionality? The majority of my job is E-Mail, PowerPoint, and Excel. If only I could create, edit, and do advanced functions in PPT on iPad, my life would be incredible. No more heavy laptop, no more bulky battery cord, no more unreliable Lenovo. I am sure that your typical iPad doesn’t have near the processing or computing power to accomplish this, but can someone please figure it out?

And before you suggest it, no, I’m not ready for Windows 8/Surface tablets yet. Too pricey and I’m still mad at Microsoft for oppressing me for so many years. Maybe someday though.

Just my rant for the day. Hopefully someone reading has fantastic news for me on a hack or workaround… Anyone? Bueller?

Til Next Time,
Michael

For those of you who don’t know Mike Rowe or have never watched his show on The Discovery Channel, he essentially profiles some of the “dirtier” jobs in America by shadowing as an apprentice to learn how tasks are accomplished for the typical laborer.

Back in 2009, Mike was invited to do a TED Talk on his profession and reflect on what it has meant to him.  While the story he uses to open up the conversation is a bit grotesque (it wouldn’t be a “dirty” job if it weren’t though), the message he provides and the lessons he shares are really remarkable.

We are entering an age where the value of previously-considered commonplace jobs (e.g. electricians, carpenters, plumbers, welders) has almost been forgotten.  I completely appreciate his sentiments on the need for a PR campaign for work.  Trade school enrollments and skilled labor training remains at an all-time low.  Our infrastructure is rapidly declining and the American Society of Chemical Engineers has stated time and time again that we have drastic investments in our infrastructure required just to keep things like roadways and bridges passable.  I know I have talked previously about the value of work of all kinds.  And while I generally push more for technology skills/training/jobs, his presentation is a calm reminder that we need to encourage people to enter into professions of all kinds if we want to continue to remain a viable world power.  The time is now; let’s all get to work!

Hope you enjoy it!

Til Next Time,

Michael


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