#1 Learn how to stop being apologetic and start “politely demanding”.
When talking to someone in a higher ranked position over email, do not use apologetic wording. It will make others think you aren’t confident and it will highlight your inexperience. Instead you must learn how to make what I call, “polite demands”.
Take these two wordings, for example:
I’m just wondering if maybe I could possibly get your opinion on whether or not I am ready to take on new features for this product. I think that I am ready and I would appreciate it if you could take the time from your busy schedule to find a potential project for me to work on.
Why is this bad:
- The most glaring issue is that it is too long and doesn’t get to the point quick enough. A busy person will likely glance at this without really reading it and move on.
- Saying “just” before anything undermines yourself.
- “Maybe I could possibly” is way too many ways to say “maybe”, a word you should avoid entirely.
- Don’t ask for an opinion, make a “polite demand” instead as shown in the email below
- “I think” is another undermining phrase
- Making a polite and apologetic request to take time from someone’s busy schedule is usually a poor strategy to actually get something done.
I setup a meeting with you next Thursday to discuss the possibility of taking on a feature in the next release. To prepare, I’d like to read about upcoming features. Do you know where I can find this list?
Why is this better
- This immediately gets to the point and doesn’t give your boss a chance to reject you unless they put in effort to do so by going and talking to you and cancelling the meeting. This is one example of a polite demand in that all you’re doing is scheduling a meeting, you’re not necessarily forcing or demanding anything.
- The question is a polite demand in the sense that it demands something from your boss, but it puts the responsibility on you to actually figure out the feature to add. This is much less threatening than an actual, impolite demand.
- No undermining or apologetic language.
Finally, there’s a browser plugin now to highlight apologetic language for you if you would like:
#2 Take notes
People like to know that the audience is listening when they are presenting something in a meeting. One way to let them know that you are paying attention is to take some notes both for your own benefit as well as the presenter’s.
#3 When to use bcc
Rule of thumb: if you send an email to a lot of people, always use bcc. This is so someone can’t just take the recipients emails and use it as their own personal mailing list or worse, sell it to advertisers or recruiting agencies.
#4 Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions
As a new employee, people will talk to you as if you know everything already. As weird as it sounds, you are the only one that actually understands how little you know. Make sure that people who make all sorts of assumptions about your knowledge are reminded that you are new to this. Ask people questions whenever something comes up. Don’t be afraid to ask about that acronym, what that procedure is for, or what that tool is. It is much better to ask “obvious” things sooner rather than later.
Your coworkers will also leave tons of stuff out when they talk to you so be sure that you ask the right questions to try and fill in the blanks. For example: what file format should this be? Should this be an executable?
#5 Do not be afraid to ask for things, you will not get things unless you ask
If you want something. You have to ask for it. Dropping hints or doing a good job doesn’t necessarily further your career. If you want to work on that project, if you want to start writing technical documents, or if you want to mentor employees then you need to either ask your manager or seek the opportunity another way.
#6 Always get things in writing
The saying goes “never put in an email what you wouldn’t want read back to you in a court of law”. This works both ways. If you want words to actually mean something then definitely get it (or write it) in EMAIL format. Do not use slack or another similar chat app since messages could be deleted. Once something is in email, it is set in stone.
You can check out my full blog at jobcannon.net