Do Mistakes Matter? (guest blog by elizabeth danzinger – founder of worktalk)

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A bank branch manager recently told about one of her premier bankers. His emails were full of misplaced capitalization, typos, and other glaring errors. When she tried to correct him, he said, “Look, I know my clients. They’re my friends. It doesn’t matter if there are mistakes; they know what I mean.” He had generated a lot of business, but his numbers were falling. Then the manager received a private email from one of the banker’s biggest clients. He wrote, “Please take Mark off my account. If he can’t spell, I don’t believe he can handle our finances.” This was a $5 million account. The client email became part of the banker’s personnel file. He was dismissed soon after.

Yes, readers may be able to figure out what the banker meant. But they will also figure out that he doesn’t care about details, and perhaps that he is ill-educated or ignorant. All these conclusions are bad for his credibility and for his employer’s reputation.

This “It doesn’t matter if there are mistakes” attitude is creeping into the world of business writing and leading to an erosion of quality. We are looking at a societal erosion of respect for standards, and business writing is just one domain where fighting the good fight is becoming harder than ever.

Here are four common reactions when managers point out writing errors, along with ideas to rebut them.

– “It’s my personal style”
When shown their errors in syntax, some folks say, “Those are stylistic changes, not substantive ones. You’re ruining my personal style.” But you can have a distinctive personal style that doesn’t involve outright errors. You can have a personal style of clothing at work that includes a wide array of options, but most people cannot wear dirty, saggy torn-up clothing to a business meeting.  Similarly, there’s nothing stylish about mismatching singular and plural, dangling modifiers, using an incorrect word, or allowing typos to stand.

– “Just get it done, even if there are errors”
In a fast-paced environment, the pressure is relentless to “get it done”. Sometimes “get it done” takes precedence over “get it done right”. But if you don’t get it done right, there are prices to pay. The reader may misunderstand and turn into a pesky pen pal asking for clarification. Or maybe the message will slide through, but the reader will come away thinking that the company which sourced the message is run in a hasty, slapdash manner. Is that what you want?

– “You’re just being picky.”
Yes, you are being picky. You are picking the correct over the incorrect. Is that so bad?

– “What difference does it make? They’ll understand me.”

In many cases, readers do figure out what that brilliant subject matter expert was trying to say. So is he right to proclaim that it makes no difference that the reader had to rub many neurons together to infer his meaning from the hodgepodge of words he had flung together? I say he is wrong.

The real problem is that the reader might think he understands but he might not really understand the scope and nuance of the writer’s meaning. Only a subject matter expert who takes the time to craft his message will be rewarded with the full comprehension that clear writing creates.

So, to answer the question posed above, mistakes do matter. Writing mistakes:

– Damage meaning,

– Hurt credibility

– Undermine branding

– Cause business problems when misunderstandings, wrong work, and mistakes result from slipshod communication

– Show disregard for standards and disrespect for the time the reader is taking to read the message.

The next time your employee says, “They’ll understand me anyway,” or “What’s the difference?” tell him that in your organization, standards matter too. And you are standing up for them.

©2018 Elizabeth Danziger

What does Worktalk do?

When communication is clear, business flows. When it is murky, the whole organization suffers. Worktalk enables businesses to harness the power of communication. Our training and coaching programs support you in creating better business results through better writing. Visit www.worktalk.com for more information.

FREE CONSULTATION

If you would like to relieve the communication pains your organization might be feeling, you are welcome to a complimentary 30-minute consultation with Worktalk’s trainers. We will recommend concrete steps you can take right away to reduce the number of mistakes in your corporate communication. Contact lizd@worktalk.com or 310.396.8303 to schedule a call.

Is Your Organization Having a Heart Attack? (Guest Blog by Elizabeth Danzinger – Founder of Worktalk)

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“Referred Pain” of Problem Communication
When a person is having a heart attack, her left arm may hurt. The illness is in her heart, but another part of her body is sending pain signals. When pain is felt in a part of the body other than its actual source, doctors call it “referred pain.” Referred pain occurs because of subtle nerve connections between the actual source of the pain and location where it is experienced. In other words, the locations seem unrelated, but they are connected.

Communication is the Heart

Communication is at the heart of every organization. Do people understand each other? Do they know what is expected of them? Do they feel good about the people they work with?  To a great extent, the answers to these questions depend on how successfully managers and staff communicate with each other. Just as a physical heart might signal its distress by triggering pain in far-flung parts of the body, communication breakdowns often manifest themselves in a wide variety of organizational dysfunctions.

For example:

– Productivity declines when hundreds of murky messages and cc’d emails consume so much of an employee’s day that he cannot get his job done.

– Productivity also suffers when employees frequently have to ask each other to explain what they meant in emails and other documents.

– Budget overruns can occur when cloudy emails and instructions lead to misunderstandings that require repetitions and re-work.

– An operations bottleneck can result from employees not understanding directions for production.

– Workplace accidents may increase when safety policies and procedures are conveyed in roundabout, difficult to understand language.

– A morale crisis may ensue when employees interpret managers’ tone as disrespectful or angry.

Each of these issues appears as a separate problem, but at their root, they are problems of communication. Tinkering with the symptom will not alleviate the cause.

Is your organization experiencing referred pain?
Communication is ubiquitous but invisible; it underlies every work process, yet often escapes our notice. When confronted with an organizational problem, it makes sense to look for immediate causes. However, it also makes sense to delve into root causes. By searching for root causes, we can keep the problem from worsening or happening again.

I urge you to consider communication as a factor when you are looking at organizational difficulties. Doing so will keep you from wasting time treating pain in the arm when the problem is in the heart.

Does your organization – or do your clients’ organizations – suffer from referred pain? Could the root cause be a breakdown in communication? If so, contact Worktalk. We give employees the skills and insights they need to communicate clearly, succinctly, and respectfully.

©2017 Elizabeth Danziger All rights reserved

What does Worktalk do?

When communication is clear, business flows. When it is murky, the whole organization suffers. Worktalk enables businesses to harness the power of communication. Our training and coaching programs support you in creating better business results through better writing. Visit www.worktalk.com for more information.

FREE CONSULTATION

If you would like to relieve the communication pains your organization might be feeling, you are welcome to a complimentary 30-minute consultation with Worktalk’s trainers. We will recommend concrete steps you can take right away to get rid of the “referred pain” of ineffective communication. Contact lizd@worktalk.com or 310.396.8303 to schedule a call.

Goal Setting & Productivity – The Perfect Match

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Everybody loves a day at the beach, and we here at Treehouse are no exception!

Every workplace strives to be the most productive environment they can be, and many companies go to great lengths to try to push their workers to the next level of efficiency. At Treehouse, we’re no different, and seemingly have tried everything to keep an efficient and focused, yet fun workplace. Fortunately, we’ve found one solution that really seems to work for us: goal-setting. By setting both individual and company-wide goals, we’ve found our productivity and efficiency increase, while keeping our community fun and continuously learning more about each other.

We’re not the only ones who have noticed the positive results of goal-setting. Recent studies from both the Institute of Labor Economics and the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness have displayed that by simply setting a few goals a week, employees can improve their productivity by as much as 25%. That’s like adding an extra two hours to each of your eight-hour work days! Workers also found themselves more motivated to tackle the tasks they already had in front of them. Other studies show this accomplishment isn’t unique to individuals; in fact, entire workforces can increase their productivity and focus, simply by setting goals as a group.

Reaching these goals not only makes workers more productive, but also gives your workplace an opportunity to incentivize productivity with some fun teambuilding activities. We at Treehouse recently spent the morning on a sailboat in Marina del Ray, getting to know a little bit more about each other and enjoying our joint achievement. This day of fun and bonding not only allowed our workplace to relax, refocus and have a unique experience together, but it also has made us more driven as an office to hit that next set of goals together!

The holidays are the perfect time to make some room for fun at work – and this can be especially productive if some goals are set first to get there. You’ll be surprised by the increased focus, productivity and collaboration your office shows! Whether you’re out tackling the newest escape room with your entire office, going to dinner as a small team, or just taking the company out on the water like we did, it’s always nice to get a little taste of success.

Bringing “Thanks” to the Workplace

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With the holiday season right around the corner, people are starting to shop for gifts for friends and family, prepare festive foods, invite guests over to celebrate Thanksgiving, and maybe even decorate their houses. Although this season is a fantastic opportunity to spend time with loved ones and be thankful for what we have, we often forget to bring that thankful holiday spirit into our workplace. In fact, according to a survey conducted by John Templeton Foundation, Americans are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anyplace else! We think employees and employers should take the time to demonstrate their appreciation for those within their office, as doing this can boost morale and increase productivity. Not to mention, you’ll feel great for making someone’s day a little bit brighter. Here are some suggestions to incorporate gratitude into the office!

Write a thank-you card:

In this day and age, where we communicate primarily through email, phone, and social media platforms, we rarely (if ever) receive handwritten notes. This Thanksgiving, consider showing your appreciation for an employee by giving them a handwritten thank-you note for something they may have done for you. According to an online study by Harris Interactive, “53% of employees would stay at their company longer if they felt more appreciation from their boss, and 81% said they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.” So employers, get out your pens and start writing!

Thank the people who never get thanked:

There are inevitably people in the office we typically forget to thank. These people put in an immense amount of effort into their work and nobody even realizes it. For example, when was the last time you thanked the janitor who cleans your office every night after you leave, or the intern that makes your life easier without you even realizing it? Psychologists say that being appreciated can energize individuals, promote healthy sleep habits, increase productivity, enhance happiness, and even decrease blood pressure! So take time this holiday season to thank the people you rarely acknowledge on a day-to-day basis.

Incorporate gratitude your company culture:

Employers can integrate gratitude into their companies in numerous ways! For example, you can develop a company gratitude journal, where both employees and employers can make notes of things (even anonymously) they are grateful for in the office. According to Forbes contributor, Nancy Collamer, explicitly stating what you are thankful for produces serotonin and dopamine — the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals, which reduces anxiety and stress, thereby increasing productivity and promoting happiness. If you’re an employee, maybe suggest implementing an office gratitude journal or gratitude bulletin board to your higher-ups.

Volunteer with your employees or coworkers:

Especially over Thanksgiving, there are endless opportunities to volunteer and give back to your community. For example, you can arrange a company trip to help out at a local food bank or food kitchen. If your office is too busy to volunteer during this hectic season, you can always create a “donation box” and have people donate items they want to give away and then drop off this box off to a local organization. Knowing that you made a positive difference in someone’s life will not only make your day brighter but also provide you with some great health benefits. In fact, a report conducted by A Corporation for National & Community Service concluded volunteering decreases depression, reduces stress, and provides individuals with a sense of purpose and fulfillment!

We hope you were inspired by some of these suggestions and consider incorporating these tips into your own workplace. All of us at Treehouse Partners wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love and happiness (and of course, great food)!

Sources: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2016/11/14/why-giving-thanks-is-good-for-your-career/#6d44724659d1

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2015/03/19/5-surprising-benefits-of-volunteering/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/thank-people-who-never-get-thanked-pawan-kumar/

Join our Hipster BBQ!

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Music in the workplace is proving to be more helpful than hurtful.

Listening to music in the morning is a great way to start the day, especially when commuting to work. Whether it’s the radio or your personal playlist, the tunes boost energy and make the drive a little less drab. However, in most workplace settings the music stops when the work begins.

At Treehouse Partners, it’s just the opposite. Music is not only always playing, but dancing and singing along are also widely appreciated and encouraged. It can be mundane working in a silent environment, especially when it’s a smaller or shared office space. In addition to making the workday a little more fun, music has been found to increase productivity and effectiveness.

In a recent study, researchers at Cornell University found evidence to support the notion that working while listening to “upbeat” music can lead to increased productivity, cooperation among coworkers and more hard work. It’s no different than a workout class for example, everyone in the class is in sync as a result of the beat, which leads to more unison and cooperation throughout, not to mention an increased energy in the room. The same is true for us in the Treehouse; whether it’s a slight foot tapping to the beat or full-on singing and dancing, everyone is engaged in not only the music, but also their work. Being in sync with the music leads to in sync coworkers who are more willing to work together. By incorporating music with a strong beat and energetic vibe, a new type of professional environment emerges that benefits both employees and employers.

Our playlists in the Treehouse vary almost daily, but a consistent favorite is Hipster Barbecue on Pandora. The playlist includes songs from the Arctic Monkeys, The Head and the Heart, and Vampire Weekend to name just a few. Hipster Barbecue always seems to get the office feeling groovy in the mornings! A recently discovered favorite of our CEO’s is Poolside Hits, which is great for an afternoon energy surge.  Diana, our Recruiting and Operations Manager is the old soul of the office when it comes to her music preferences. She prefers classic rock and loves the Beatles; her playlist choices are great for any time of the day! While we may not always agree on what playlist should be on at any given moment, it is safe to say music is always playing in the Treehouse and according to Cornell, we’re doing it right!

Music for the professional soul is the new office trend, you’ve heard it here first. What do you listen to during your workday?

Follow along with our favorite playlists on Pandora and Spotify!

https://play.spotify.com/user/chelseybaeb/playlist/5xnpyMj7u1HA74ayREI74c

Not Another Boring Newsletter (A Message from our CEO)

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Friends and Partners,

As you may have noticed, we don’t send newsletters.  I am asked almost daily to share my insights and thoughts on the current state of recruiting, hiring, and general talent management, but haven’t done so on a mass scale… until now.

The first half of 2017 has been a bit… well… weird.

We had SEVEN people in the past six months turn down offers from our clients.  To give you some context, we had FOUR people in the previous six+ years turn down offers.  In a bit of a panic, I sought answers.  As it turns out, The Treehouse is not alone in this significant uptick in “candidate flight.”

In a recent study of recruiter sentiment, 90% of recruiters said they believe the market is candidate-driven, up from 54% in 2011. Recruiters also indicated the second biggest obstacle in hiring is “lengthy hiring practices” of companies. Furthermore, nearly 50% of declined offers were due to candidates accepting another job, up from 37% in early 2015. This isn’t a challenge, it’s an opportunity, but if we want to continue to attract, hire, and retain the best talent, we need to adapt and refine our approach.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re in a buyers’ market, and therefore, I believe there are a few better-practices we can (read: need to!) act on. Candidates are still looking for great places to thrive, so let’s not give them a reason to look beyond the opportunities you have:

  • Process: Don’t lose candidates to sloppiness. Organizations don’t need an overly-sophisticated interview process, but they do need an agreed-upon approach and timeline – Who is on point for scheduling, communicating, and managing the interview process? Who will be conducting interviews? What interview format will each interviewer use? How many stages of interviews? What is the decision-making criteria
  • Momentum: Don’t lose candidates to other priorities. A slow or drawn-out interview process is a great way to lose a candidate to another firm (which has moved faster and more decisively). To keep high-potential candidates excited and connected, offer a cadenced, structured, and intuitive interview experience.
  • Communication: Don’t lose candidates to procrastination. Ensure a 24-hour turnaround on scheduling, interviewing, feedback, and next steps – this is for candidates, but also any recruiter with which you’re partnering.
  • Pull the Trigger: Don’t lose candidates to indecision. When you find the needle in the haystack, be prepared to make the hire – the best talent won’t wait long before exploring other options. We’ve seen some amazing candidates fall through the cracks because clients over-deliberated and second-guessed. When you know, you know.
  • Offers: Don’t lose candidates to a nickel and dime strategy.  If you know the candidate is right, make a fair, or more-than-fair, offer. You never want to start an important working relationship with the awkwardness of a negotiation for marginal dollars.
  • Closing: Don’t lose candidates to the unknowns. The offer conversation is NOT the time to identify potential risks (e.g., counter offers, other opportunities, family situations, travel tolerance, etc.). These need to be addressed during the interview process so there are no late-stage surprises –  the offer and closing should feel more like a champagne toast than a poker game.

When we started this company seven years ago, organizations could get away with a little sloppiness, but today, these are the table stakes. I don’t want to come across as critical or preachy, but the changing landscape is real, so, together, we need to do the basics brilliantly! As always, please let me know if you have any comments or questions… and have a great holiday weekend/week next week!

Many thanks,

Kate Pletcher, CEO of Treehouse Partners

PS – Perhaps it goes without saying, but it’s also important to focus on retention of your “A” Players… if you’ve got a good crew, make sure to respect, empower, and reward them!!!

 

Bruin Career Insights: Top 10 Tips for Job Seekers

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Check out this great video our CEO, Kate Pletcher, made for UCLA Bruin Career Insights. She shares her professional insights on what qualities rise to the top and what steps you can take to stand out from the crowd – what you learn from this might just help you land your dream job!

New Year’s Career Resolutions

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Now that 2016 has officially come to an end, you may want to reflect on the past year and assess your performance in the workplace. Do you have any bad habits that are hindering your success? Are there any skills you need to refine? Do you need to put more effort into your job?

New Years is the ideal time to develop goals to improve yourself and enhance your performance at work. Although skeptics state that resolutions don’t stick, as people forget about them merely a couple of months later, research indicates approximately 46% of people keep their resolutions for at least six months, while 8% keep them for the entire year. Though these numbers seem relatively minute, individuals who decide to make New Year’s resolutions are about 10 times as likely to keep them than those who attempt to achieve the goal through a different trajectory. Thus, you may be better off starting 2017 with a promise to yourself as to what you will improve on throughout the year. Here are some of our favorite work-related 2017 resolutions:

Take advantage of the morning: Although many of us are guilty of going through the morning in a half-asleep, unproductive daze, experts suggest using this time to develop goals for the day and try to complete your hardest tasks first, when you’re fresh. Studies have shown that people who do the most “painful” assignments in the beginning of their work day are not only more productive than others but also achieve more success in the long run– so this year, take your morning coffee with a double shot of espresso!

Maintain your online profiles: With all the chaos that goes on in your daily life, perhaps you have forgotten to update your online profiles, such as LinkedIn. Did you learn a new skill you forgot to include on your page? Do you have a professional photo you haven’t yet uploaded? Is there someone you want to connect with but have not yet? If you haven’t maintained your various online accounts, you may want to start now, in 2017, as these profiles can be utilized for networking and potential job opportunities in the future! Also, if you’re actively searching for a job, employers often view your social media presence to determine whether or not you’d be a fit within their company culture. So make sure you also take the time to scroll through past account activity and ensure you don’t have inappropriate posts from years past!

Stay hydrated: Inspired by one of our own employees at Treehouse Partners, this resolution, though seemingly trivial, is crucial for your everyday life! In fact, numerous studies have demonstrated that dehydration leads to lower mental performance in the office. Furthermore, it is estimated that up to 75% of the U.S. adult population goes through their normal day in at least a mildly dehydrated state. Luckily, the solution to this problem is relatively simple and easy to implement — drink more water!

Enhance your public speaking skills: Surprisingly (or not surprisingly!), public speaking is the one thing people fear more than death. This skill is also increasingly utilized as an individual climbs up the corporate ladder. Thus, it is critical to enhance this ability at an early stage and become comfortable speaking in front of a group of people. To achieve this, take a public speaking class (https://www.toastmasters.org/), or practice speeches in front of a group that you’re already comfortable with. Even if you’re not at a point in your career where you absolutely need to master this ability, being able to speak confidently in front of people you don’t know will help you with any prospective job interviews as well as when you eventually do reach a higher level in your career.

Although these are some of our favorites, you may have come up with resolutions based on your own unique strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless, whatever your resolution is — whether career-related or personal – the most important thing is to have a safe and wonderful New Years! Happy 2017 from Treehouse Partners!

 

 

Election Politics in the Workplace

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With elections coming up this week, the topic of politics is likely to come up in the office. This poses a challenging question — how do you discuss such a controversial topic in your workplace? What’s the line between being opinionated and being just flat out inappropriate? These are critical points to consider, especially during this election, as Americans seem to be more divided than ever. Here are some tips to express your views in a professional manner!

Play Nice: A certain amount of debate is healthy in the workplace, as it exposes you to a variety of opinions and perspectives; but it is important not to take it too far. If you see that your colleague is getting frustrated when discussing a particular topic you disagree on, try to tread lightly or end the conversation by agreeing to disagree. If you find that you’re the one getting worked up, change the subject, or politely exit the conversation. Also, try not to let someone’s political views change the way you perceive them. Remember, you’re at work, and you need to maintain a professional relationship with your co-workers — this will be much harder if you’re holding a grudge because of your differing political opinions.

Discuss Less Controversial Topics: Although you and other fellow employees are sure to have conflicting opinions on a wide variety of topics, perhaps focus on the subjects that are less controversial. For example, you most likely won’t hear heated debates regarding which flavor at Baskin Robbins is truly the best, whereas you might with extremely contentious social subjects. By focusing on subjects that people tend to be less passionate about, you allow for a more open discussion between you and coworkers, while reducing the probability of someone getting upset.

You Interact with Your Coworkers Outside of Work: You may think it’s safe to openly express your opinions outside of the office, but you need to be mindful of who can see or hear what you’re saying! For example, writing a politically-charged comment on your Facebook wall or at happy hour—even if it’s funny—can easily offend someone, and tarnish the reputation you’ve built for yourself in the workplace.

Keep an Open Mind: Lastly, keep an open mind. Even if you are a diehard liberal or conservative, listening to what others have to say will open your mind to a wide variety of perspectives. Doing this may also allow you to learn more about topics that you didn’t have much knowledge about before. And who knows? Maybe someone will say something that makes you reconsider your own beliefs! Remember, if we all had the same, uniform perspectives, life would be much less colorful!

We hope that you take these points into consideration when discussing the controversial topic of politics in your own workplace. And remember… no matter what side you’re on, the most important thing is to get out and vote!

Job Search Tips for Millennials

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The workplace is constantly evolving as more and more millennials graduate from college and start searching for jobs. With the constant influx of young, college-educated individuals entering the workforce, merely finding a job is difficult. Of course, recent grads also need to look for jobs that pay fairly well or have significant upward mobility, as they likely have a mountain of loans that they are buried in. Forbes gives helpful survival tips to millennials to help them deal with the competition  Here are a few summarized tips, along with our own advice.

Keep Working!

Even if your dream job isn’t available, it is better to keep yourself occupied than to wait around for the perfect position to open up. Perhaps you could become an intern in your field or volunteer for an organization you are interested in. By taking initiative and actively sharpening your “soft” and “hard” skills, you will not only enhance your resume, but also gain experience needed for your field. Eventually, you’ll have a strong resume that can stand on its own, which will increase your chances of getting your perfect job.

Think About Graduate School

While I absolutely loved my experience at UCLA-Anderson’s School of Management and have seen a great return on my MBA, I strongly urge you to refrain from applying merely because you’re confused about where to go with your life. If you just want to move up in your career, look for programs with night classes so that working full-time is still possible. Nevertheless, make sure to only apply to graduate school if you are sure it will pay off or if it is a field you actually want to study.

When searching for loans to fund higher education, consider getting one from a family member or close friend rather than the government. Your family loves you and is there to support you. As a result, they may be able to help by giving you a loan at something less than a 7.9% rate! Also, try to keep from getting into more debt than your expected annual income upon graduation (For example, an endeavoring teacher wouldn’t get a loan of $120,000).

Roommates Are Great

Not only can roommates make fun companions, but they can also split the monthly rent cost and save you money. Forbes.com advises to “not spend more than a third of your gross income on rent” and “ideally, keep it to no more than a quarter”. One of the only ways to do this is by finding a roommate (or two!). Keep in mind, though, that you will need to find a place where both of you could live comfortably based on your budgets.

Embrace Failure

Of course, it is inevitable that you will come across a time in your life when you fail at a task or job. But just remember, it’s how you handle your setbacks that truly define your character.  Try to learn from the experience and not be ashamed of it or deny that it happened. Jan Slinger, CEO of Spanx also advises to redefine your definition of failure to mean not trying. The outcome of a given situation doesn’t matter as long as you take a risk – and that’s something to celebrate rather than fear!

Do What You Love

Although it’s important to stay busy even if your dream job isn’t available, try to find work in a field or for a company that interests you. If you’re enthusiastic about what you’re doing, you’ll enjoy going to work. This will amplify your skill set and increase your productivity, which will, in turn, lead to more money. The alternative can be forcing yourself into a profession you dislike, and then eventually leaving years later to follow your dreams. It is much easier financially and emotionally to start off doing something you enjoy.

We at Treehouse Partners know how crucial it is for companies to hire employees who have a passion for what they’re doing. We are dedicated to finding enthusiastic, enterprising candidates for our clients each and every day.

We hope that you benefit from these valuable pointers and consider them when making your job-related decisions!