Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, Newhouse School, Syracuse University. Editing for print and digital, new media journalism.

April 23: Tweet it? Live with it!

By · Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 · No Comments »

For the month of April, our blog will be devoted to polishing
your professional skills.
Everything you need to know about courtesy, manners and common sense.
And we do mean “need” to know.

APRIL 23

One way to keep a polished professional image is to watch what you say and what you share on social media. You hear this all the time. A great example is what happened to New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey yesterday and the professional way he handled the situation.

Six months after he had Tommy John surgery, he acknowledged the milestone event by tweeting a photo of himself yesterday. It showed him raising his middle finger, and it had been taken by his mother when he had been heading into surgery. But the Mets asked him to remove the tweet as inappropriate, according to an Associated Press story. Instead, Harvey deleted his entire Twitter account. Here are some key takeaways about his keen sense of professionalism:

  1. He explained himself. “I guess that was how I felt going into surgery, realizing that it was going to be a pretty long process ahead of me. So it was all fun and games. I guess that was my way of saying that I was going to try and beat the process.”
  2. He took ownership. “I’m not going to apologize for being myself and, you know, having a good laugh at a funny little picture. But I’ve kind of had enough with Twitter and I guess not being able to show your personal side, and I’ll keep those pictures to myself.”
  3. He moved on. “I think when you can’t really have fun anymore on a social media account, I think it comes time to get rid of it and, you know, I’ll have my fun with my friends and teammates who do know me for who I am.”

Read it. Learn it. Live it.
Be that person.

April 22: Surprise question? Answer it!

By · Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 · No Comments »

For the month of April, our blog will be devoted to polishing
your professional skills.
Everything you need to know about courtesy, manners and common sense.
And we do mean “need” to know.

APRIL 22

Picture yourself at an interview for a job that you really hope to land. The interviewer asks you one of those questions you’re not expecting, such as, “If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?” It’s the kind of question that is intended to test a person’s ability to think quickly and respond thoughtfully. In such a situation, your answer probably would not be, “I don’t know what you want.”

So remember that example at other times, such as when you are working on a project in a classroom or professional setting and:

In these instances, these people generally are not looking for one answer; they are seeking multiple ideas. They are hoping to generate excitement, which leads to energy, which leads to synergy, which leads to a shared vision, which leads to an even greater end result than one person, alone, could provide.

When any of these people hears, “I don’t know what you want,” it sends a signal that:

The professional way to respond is to ask follow questions (if you really don’t understand) or to put forth one idea (and ask, “What do you think?) or to repeat what you believe the person means (and, still, share a couple of ideas). Think of it this way: If the person really “wanted” something a particular way, that person would have given you a directive. But in these examples, that’s not the intention. The theme here is to listen, think and generate ideas.

Go back to the image of the interviewer asking the question about the animal. If an interviewee stalls, seems perplexed, doesn’t have an answer, or blurts out, “I don’t know what you want,” the interview pretty much is over — even if it lasts longer. The interviewer likely is already thinking of the next person on the list to interview — in the hope of meeting someone full of ideas and then offering that person a job.

Read it. Learn it. Live it.
Be that person.

April 21: No salutation? Think again!

By · Monday, April 21st, 2014 · No Comments »

For the month of April, our blog will be devoted to polishing
your professional skills.
Everything you need to know about courtesy, manners and common sense.
And we do mean “need” to know.

APRIL 21

Sadly, salutations seem to have gone by the wayside. By definition, a salutation is a greeting. Here are two examples from yourdictionary.com that are worth remembering:

a. An example of a salutation is when you write “Dear Dean” at the top of a letter

b. An example of a salutation is when you say a formal hello to someone

Salutations are a show of respect, common courtesy and conventional etiquette. Yet, they are rarely used. We could blame technology. Communicating via texting and Twitter has gotten us out of the habit. We could point to email vs. snail mail as a culprit; now that we don’t sign, seal and deliver, we are less formal in our writing. We could simply say that no one expects it anymore. But would that be accurate?

In the interest of maintaining what seems to be a good practice, we share examples of when salutations would be appropriate and, possibly, expected.

  1. Dear, not hey. When you do plan to greet someone in writing, be sure your approach matches the situation. “Hey” is OK with your friends and family. But in many cases, it’s a bit casual. When the dean, a prospective employer, a professional contact or a professor addresses you with “Dear,” then that is a cue to take a more formal approach in your reply. When in doubt or when initiating the contact, choose more formal over less formal. You can’t go wrong.
  2. Public places. Safety concerns sometimes put us in defensive modes in public places, and that is wise; use common sense for the situation at hand. But when passing someone in the hall or riding in an elevator — in places where you work, hope to work (think job interview), go to school or do business of some kind — then the polite thing to do is to make eye contact and smile. When someone “greets” you this way, respond in kind. When someone says “Hello” or “Good morning,” answer with your own greeting. Perhaps you don’t know the person. There’s no harm in sharing a greeting. If you don’t, you might be surprised later to find out that that person knows you, or knows someone who knows you … or … is the very person who will be interviewing you for that job you hope to land.
  3. Personal spaces. Appropriate ways to enter an office, even when dealing with open-door policies: “Excuse me,” “Hello, is this a good time,” “Thank you for seeing me.” What not to do: enter without saying anything; sit without being asked; start out with your question or comment before addressing the person in some way.

Read it. Learn it. Live it.
Be that person.

April 20: Want creativity? Here’s how!

By · Sunday, April 20th, 2014 · No Comments »

For the month of April, our blog will be devoted to polishing
your professional skills.
Everything you need to know about courtesy, manners and common sense.
And we do mean “need” to know.

APRIL 20

Creativity is all about asking questions, especially of yourself. Professional skills include more than knowing how to do something and how to do it well. You want to be focused and productive, yes, but also free to unleash your creativity. These key questions might help.

  1. How have I added value to the work I do and what I produce? You should make a name for yourself as someone who goes a step further than the basics of your job or your role in an organization. Those who do this have a better chance not only of keeping their jobs but also of advancing in them. Challenge yourself to be known as more than “a hard worker.”
  2. What have I learned? We make and mourn mistakes every day. We celebrate successes. Reflect on both and make your own list of lessons learned. When you know what has worked, then focus on repeating those things and building upon them every day.
  3. How have I had fun? Work can be serious and difficult. But that doesn’t mean it should be drudgery. Make time to make it fun. You will be more apt to be creative, too.

Read it. Learn it. Live it.
Be that person.

April 19: Want advice? Take some notes!

By · Saturday, April 19th, 2014 · No Comments »

For the month of April, our blog will be devoted to polishing
your professional skills.
Everything you need to know about courtesy, manners and common sense.
And we do mean “need” to know.

APRIL 19

It is a good feeling when someone asks for advice. If you’re the person seeking advice, know that you are not being a bother. People like to help other people. Still, there are some things to keep in mind to ensure you are not wasting another person’s time and that you are getting the most from that person’s counsel.

  1. Take notes. This part is common sense. Think of it this way: How can you have a 30-minute conversation about a matter that is important to you and not think even one thing is worth noting? It sends a wrong message to the person talking with you. At the least, you should be jotting down key points that will help you make your decision. Those points would be helpful if you use the recommended age-old method of thinking through all your options: take one legal pad, draw a line down the middle and list “pros” on one side and “cons” on the other.
  2. Ask follow questions. Remember that you are having a conversation, so there should be two-way communication. You don’t want to ask your first question and then just listen. The other person is taking signals from you — including body language. Your follow questions will help guide that person in the kinds of examples that are shared, advice that is given and even anecdotes that are told.
  3. Be open-minded. By virtue of asking someone else’s opinion, you are opening yourself to receiving different points of view. So keep an open mind. When you react with negative sentiments, you are being dismissive. Even if you are thinking these thoughts, try not to express them. Instead, hold them close so you can consider them later, after you have had time to think about everything you’ve discussed. Here are some comments to avoid: “But that’s not what I want to do …” “I’m not interested in that … ” “I was always told that’s not a good company … ” or ” I don’t want to live there … “

Read it. Learn it. Live it.
Be that person.

April 18: Compliments? Think first!

By · Friday, April 18th, 2014 · No Comments »

For the month of April, our blog will be devoted to polishing
your professional skills.
Everything you need to know about courtesy, manners and common sense.
And we do mean “need” to know.

APRIL 18

People appreciate compliments. It’s always nice to hear good things, especially when remarks are personalized. Be careful, though, because good intentions can cause problems in the professional world.

  1. Compliment that offends someone else. This can happen unwittingly when you are focused on one person or entity and don’t take into consideration the bigger picture. A perfect example is the student who stood up in front of a group of professionals and thanked them for the wonderful experience she gained from working with them as an intern. However, she also added: “I didn’t learn anything in the classroom, but I learned a lot in the newsroom.” She momentarily forgot the many professors in the room who helped her get the internship, making for an awkward moment for everyone. 
  2. Just too personal. Unless you know the person really well or you know the person outside of the professional realm, stay away from compliments about someone’s hair, or the perfume / cologne the person is wearing or the person’s wardrobe. Even then, hold off on those remarks if others are present. It could cause embarrassment for the recipient of your kind words. Pay special attention if you are complimenting a woman. Why? Because first you need to ask yourself if you would say the same thing to a man. Many a story has been written about just this kind of thing: how working women react when their gender — not their professionalism — gets the attention.
  3. Backhanded compliment. Keep in mind the definition of “backhanded,” and it will help you avoid complimenting someone in this way: “indirect, awkward, insincere, sarcastic.”

Read it. Learn it. Live it.
Be that person.

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