Q: My colleagues frequently complain that my emails are too long. Because my thoughts seem to occur in “long form,” it takes a lot of time to edit, shorten, tighten and cut an email from several paragraphs to one. When I’m rushed, upset, emotionally invested or trying to be thorough, this is especially difficult.
Must I really be so superficial and minimalist that my emails seem more like telegrams than thoughtful communications? Should I have to suppress half of my communication impulses? What if I don’t have time for this extra work?
A: If your emails constitute a brain dump, in which you share every thought crossing your mind, then you are being inconsiderate. Skipping the editing step may be faster for you, but your colleagues are forced to spend time sifting through verbiage to figure out what you want.
To solve this problem, you must specifically define what you’re trying to accomplish with each email. Once you’ve figured that out, clearly state your goal at the beginning. When you’re finished, review your work and remove any comments unrelated to that objective.
Of course, you may still hear complaints, because people have different communication preferences. “Comprehensive communicators” strive to fully understand the circumstances, so they like having a complete picture. “Concise communicators”, on the other hand, just want basic facts and action steps.
When one type shares information with the other, problems frequently arise. Comprehensives may believe their succinct co-workers are withholding information, while the concise folks feel bombarded with unnecessary detail. So when crafting an email, you should consider the recipient.
Finally, here’s one last suggestion. You state that it takes time to “edit, shorten, tighten and cut.” Since any one of those four words would have been quite sufficient, you may also want to review your writing for redundancies.
Q: I’m afraid an old mugshot may hurt my chances of getting hired. Ten years ago, after being laid off at age 49, I decided that I could afford to take early retirement. A few years later, I was falsely arrested and accused of battery. The case was eventually dropped.
Because my retirement projections were overly optimistic, I have recently begun looking for work. My record can easily be found online, so I’m concerned that any application I submit will be rejected before I even have an interview. Any suggestions?
A: The bad news is that this mugshot is not your only problem. After 10 years of retirement, you must also convince employers that you are truly motivated to return to work. The good news, however, is that both these obstacles can be reduced through networking.
Whenever applicants have difficult circumstances in their background, networking becomes critically important. Personal contact can create a positive first impression and provide a chance to explain complex facts. And a referral from someone familiar usually increases employer confidence.
Many books and online resources can suggest networking strategies, but the key to success is putting in the effort. Job seekers often waste valuable time sitting in front of a computer when they should be trying to connect with people.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter officecoach.