Category: <span>Articles</span>

Build Your Career Security

Face it. There is no such thing as job security anymore. We’ve seen companies disappear and merge. Even if you’re fortunate and are with the same employer, job titles and responsibilities are changing. With each reorganization, people need an expanded set of skills to achieve position objectives.

Future-oriented, smart employees are changing with the times by casting off the old mindset of “what’s in it for me?” to “how can I help myself advance?” In other words, creating personal career security.

What’s career security? It’s establishing your own unique competencies and individual reputation in the your field. No longer should an employee blame his employer or coworkers for bad performance. Even when an individual finds himself in a difficult employment situation due to operational or economic conditions, the career-security test is how that employee handles the challenging situation. An individual must assume full responsibility for his own job performance.

It’s not as hard as it sounds. Technical competency is maintained by embracing continuous learning. Professional competency is established by knowing what customers and coworkers expect and delivering it. Here’s a list of career-security strategies that you can immediately implement in your work life.

Be cheerful. My wise mother always told me, “You can’t always be happy, but you owe it to the world to be cheerful.” People don’t want to be around complainers and grumps. Life is more pleasant and more work gets accomplished when an individual’s disposition is upbeat and positive. Don’t saddle your customers or coworkers with what ails you. Be cheerful about life.

Apologize. When confronted with a situation that needs to be corrected, simply saying “I’m sorry that happened,” no matter who is responsible, moves the conversation from problem to solution. This is a tough one for many people. Customers who need to get a problem resolved want to hear the words “I’m sorry.” Those magic words can avoid emotionally escalating conversations. You’ll find that you’ll quickly begin working together to find a solution.

Always take the high road. Not everybody you meet will be cheerful. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t take someone’s crankiness personally. Be patient, understanding and approach situations as if you can, and will, remedy the problem. Helping people and solving problems are opportunities to learn and shine. Take advantage of them.

Make the call. Because our business dealings are so interdependent on each other  “salesperson to production, production to supplier, supplier to manufacturer” we can’t always deliver answers in the time frame we’ve promised. When this happens, customers want one thing – to be kept advised of the status of the situation. Consider this example. You promise a customer you’ll have an answer by noon. At 11:45, the information you need is not ready. Would you rather make the call to the customer at 11:45 or get a call at 12:30 wondering where the information is? Career-security minded people make the call and avoid a potentially negative and damaging interaction.

Create perceived authority. An individual can’t possibly know the answers to all questions. And some situations are outside the authority level of an employee. When this happens, employees need to refer to a higher authority to get assistance. How this communication is stated to the customer directly affects how the employee is perceived. Many people will say to the customer, “I don’t know. I need to ask my supervisor.” Instead, to achieve perceived authority the response should be, “Good question. Let me check on that, and I’ll get back to you no later than noon tomorrow.” Which sounds more professional to the customer? The second response, of course. Framing the response to give yourself authority and accountability is another way to enhance your reputation. And you must keep your agreements!

Demonstrate accountability. Change and date your outgoing voice mail message daily. By telling the caller “This is Emily Huling. Today is March 5. I’m in the office today. I’m sorry I missed your call. Please leave a message and I’ll call you back within two hours.”  I have made myself accountable. Another way to demonstrate professionalism is to end all external e-mail correspondence with an e-mail signature that contains all the information found on your letterhead. If the receiver needs to forward the message, move it to a paper or automated file, or simply to get back to you in a way other than e-mail, all this information is handy. It means, I’m accessible and reliable.
We’re all in the career security business. At all times, be sure your actions show that you can be counted on to get the job done.

Emily Huling Selling Strategies, Inc. P.O. Box 200 Terrell, NC 28682
Phone: 888-309-8802 Fax: 888-309-7355

Mind Your P’s and Q’s

When I was growing up in the small western Pennsylvania town of Beaver Falls, my mother would send me off to school, friends, or family by saying, Now mind your p’s and q’s! Although I didn’t know the origin of the expression, I certainly knew it’s meaning be on your good behavior and mind your manners! Years later, I learned several possible explanations for this widely used phrase.

When ale was ordered in British pubs, the tabs would be marked “p” for pints or “q” for quarts. The publican and drinker were both challenged to keep the tab straight. Another notion is that a child learning to read might have trouble distinguishing p and q, and therefore was warned by the teacher to be careful. Along the same line, a typesetter needed to be attentive so as not to confuse the two letters when setting type. Regardless of what linguistic explanation you prefer, today the meaning is commonly understood as being mindful and correct in your conduct.

As adults, we don’t have mothers who send us off to work with helpful reminders and unfortunately many times it shows. Here are a few tips on how to mind your p’s and q’s in the workplace.

Say please and thank you. Even in these busy, frantic times, there is no excuse not to use these courtesies.

Get along with others. Greet people by name, smile, be approachable and friendly. This applies to everyone in the company from the cleaning people to the president.

Respect another person’s space. Do not use someone’s phone, computer, or work area without his or her permission. And, it’s inappropriate to read another’s mail or papers.

Attending meetings. Be on time, be prepared, and participate by listening and responding. Turn off all electronic devices.

Don’t waste coworkers’ time. Be conscious of taking someone’s time unnecessarily whether it’s work related or personal.

Ring-a-ling. Telephones should be answered by the third ring. Take a breath and smile. Answer with your full name, not just your first. It sounds more professional.

Change your message. Changing your outgoing voice mail message daily and dating it gives callers the confidence that you use your voice mailbox and will call them back.

Keep your voice low. Loud voices in open-floor, cubicle-filled offices carry easily and can be disruptive to others. Talk only as loud as necessary to be heard by the other party.

Privacy is the best policy. Watch what you say, where you say it, and to whom. Avoid being accused of speaking out of school or gossiping.

Watch your language and verbal emotion. Swearing is unprofessional and offensive. While some people want to believe using strong or loud language makes a point, it does the opposite. People quit listening when they feel the speaker has gone too far.

E-mail etiquette. Have a pertinent subject line, keep your message short, don’t copy anybody who doesn’t need to see it, and don’t use all capital letters. For external e-mail include a ‘signature’ which contains all the same information as company letterhead. (For a complete list of e-mail tips, go to and click on


‘free stuff.’)

If it’s broken, fix it or tell somebody. All workers count on equipment that works when they need it. If you find a printer, fax machine, or computer that needs repair, take the initiative to get things going to get it fixed.

Refill paper trays. Be considerate of the next user and the favor will be returned.

Practice good breakroom etiquette. If you make a mess, clean it up. Do your own dishes. If you take the last cup of coffee, make more.

Meeting people. When introductions are made in an office, stand up and extend your hand to shake hands. Make brief eye contact and smile. Keep your business cards in an accessible place on your desk should you need them.

So there you have it. A “q and d” (quick and dirty) list on how to mind your office p’s and q’s. Now make your mother proud!

Stress-free vacations are possible!

Emily Huling, CIC, CMC

You finally did it. You’ve scheduled a week away from work and personal obligations. No doctor’s appointments, no painful small talk with Great Uncle Harry, no Mickey Mouse parade down Main Street in Magic Kingdom. You and the love of your life are going on a Caribbean cruise. Passport – check. Cruise attire – check. Shore excursions booked – check. You even had enough frequent flyer miles to upgrade to first class for the flight to San Juan. The vacation you’ve saved for, planned for and dreamed about for years is just few weeks away. You have every reason to be on cloud nine. But you’re not. You’re stressed out!

Instead of envisioning white sand beaches and drinks with little umbrellas, you’re seeing images of what will be waiting when you return. You picture hundreds of e-mail messages, phone calls to return, and coworkers queued up at your office door within minutes of your arrival. How awful! Stress from taking extended time away from work is not uncommon. Here’s the good news. Good planning and preparation will zap vacation anxiety.

Start planning six weeks in advance. If there is ever a time to have a hard copy calendar, this is it. It helps to visualize and concretely note the timing of your work prior to and after your vacation. Record your vacation days and due dates of critical items. Even if you haven’t decided when you’re going to do the work that falls during your vacation, note the due dates. This is the point of reference to plan your pre-vacation time.

Create a backup partnership. Many offices have this in place year round. CSR colleagues are partnered for support when the other is out of the office. This coworker is briefed on projects, outstanding client and company issues, checks voice mail, e-mail, and in boxes once or twice a day. If you’re concerned about security and privacy, you or your IT staff can set temporary passwords for your time away.

Reset your diary system to change dates that fall during vacation. Some suspense items will automatically be set to pop up during your vacation time. Remember to change the suspense date of new items being posted during your preparation period. Take time to check what is already posted to those dates and reset them. On dates that can’t be changed, reassign items to your backup or remind her that suspensed work will need to be handled.

Eliminate any backlog. Let’s hope you don’t have a backlog. But if you do, know that this is the hairy mammoth that always roars when an employee is on vacation. It’s one thing to leave colleagues with current work to handle. It’s unfair and unprofessional to leave unfamiliar perils for others to fight off. Schedule time to get caught up before vacation.

Plan and work ahead. Posting your critical work on the hard copy calendar will remind you what you have to do and prompt you to work ahead. The salami method of time management will enable you to work on several large projects simultaneously and get things done. The idea is to take a slice at a time from different projects to stay on top of multiple accounts and various tasks. Create a timeline for each critical account documenting the things to be done and the target date. For example, you may have to move up the renewal meeting discussion from its normal time to accommodate your vacation. Work with your agency team, carrier, and client to work with a timeframe so your responsibilities are handled.

Advise your key clients and underwriters. We all work with others who rely on us to complete what we do so their jobs can be done. Send a courtesy e-mail two weeks before leaving to those you work with and let them know you’ll be on vacation. Do they have anything they need before you go? Let them know who your backup colleague is and how to reach her.

Practice the no-surprise policy. What could happen that no one else knows about and could materialize when you’re gone? Think hard about that question. Has a client had a recurring payment problem that may resurface? Have you been catching computer-generated rating errors that your coworker may miss when completing your work? Inform the appropriate parties of issues that may arise to avoid future problems.

Reassign management or leadership roles to another. If you lead a team, are the go-to person for a specialty line of business, or are the assigned company resource person people count on be certain to designate a backup person for those special roles. Putting someone in charge demonstrates confidence in your coworker, eliminates confusion during your absence, and will help you get up to speed when you’re back in the office.

Change your voice mail and set your e-mail automatic responder. Let people know who to contact in your absence and when you’ll be returning. Remember to leave both phone number and e-mail address of your backup person.

Make a commitment with yourself not to check in. The reason you’re doing all of this is to get away. Do not tell people you’ll check in or to call if they need you. Do not check e-mail. You’ll undermine your colleague’s responsibility as your backup and short change yourself of earned vacation time.

Recognize and reward coworkers who have pitched in. Show your gratitude with a heartfelt thank you and genuine appreciation for your coworkers’ efforts and support. If you feel you want to do something more, that’s fine. Just know that you’re all in this together and the best gift you can give your colleagues is to support them when they have a vacation to enjoy.

Emily Huling, CIC, CMC helps the insurance industry create top-performing sales and customer service organizations. She is the author of Selling from the Inside and Kick Your “But.” For information on her programs and products call 888-309-8802 or visit