We’ve all been there. The boss comes in at ten to five and says ‘Oh, by the way, we need a quick report on the [name of client you’ve never heard of] account… by tomorrow… you can get that on my desk for the morning?’
The horror. The outrage. The pint that was calling your name. The complete terror of writing a report that doesn’t make the MD fall asleep within three pages of opening it.
But fear not, we have some helpful ideas for making that blank piece of A4 into a report that’s the work of corporate genius, and not a pile of donkey pish that’s used as lining for the boss’s cat’s litter tray.
- Number one rule in corporate writing, as in life and Starbucks orders, is KEEP IT SIMPLE. And (equally important for report writing) KEEP IT SHORT.
- Number two rule in corporate writing – don’t laugh at the phrase ‘number two’, and then…
- Focus on the important facts. Identify the key messages you want to get across and keep it sharp, snappy and sexy (…maybe not sexy, but you know what we mean). In other words, put an ‘executive summary’ of the really juicy stuff right at the start of the business report. Your boss and the rest of the management team are busy, busy people – they want to know the really world-shattering stuff that’s relevant to the business and the client relationship…and then get in a few rounds of golf before lunch.
- Know your audience. The same as you wouldn’t do a sexy strip tease for all your neighbours, same goes for writing reports – don’t show it all at once and be careful who you expose it to. By knowing your intended audience you can hone your language so they understand quickly what you’re banging on about, and usually get what you want. If you don’t get what you want maybe that’s the time to consider, ‘taking it all off’.
- Use it as a place to have a rant at everything that’s wrong with your job, boss or company, especially if you haven’t done your research and have tangible facts to back it up. Yes, we all know that Paul in Ops is a total dick but where is the empirical data on this? Have you compared Paul’s dickishness to others in the office? Have you tallied the results across all departments? Have you outsourced your research to see if it’s, in fact, a common factor amongst all Pauls? If so, brilliant – crack on, provide those statistics, show us your mighty pie chart and then you can conclude that Paul is, in fact, a dick.
- Use the dreaded business jargon, it’s dull and makes YOU look like a knobber. No point in optimising your organic growth potential in a saturated market, unless you and Paul from Ops are collaborating on making a business porno. (See even Pauls have their uses).
- Fill the report with hundreds of oh-so bloody exciting bar graphs and pie charts. By all means, include some data visualisation of the BIG insights, but don’t try and blind people to your woeful ignorance of this client by going bat-shit-mental with the graphs and charts – it’s not big, and it’s not clever. (Unless it’s about pies, then it’s amusingly ironic, so crack on).
How do you cope with the dreaded report request? Apart from running to the coffee shop of your choice and ordering a double espresso for ‘Dangerous’ with extra shots, what do you do to plough through the report, get it on your boss’s desk and still get out the office on time?
Easter. A time of daft rabbit ears, waistline-increasing levels of chocolate and the perennial favourite that is ‘The Easter Egg Hunt’… oh and something about a bloke with a beard popping back up from beyond the grave to tell us how lovely it would be if we were all nicer to each other (definitely no bad thing, but we’re so over the smock and sandals look).
So, if you’re more interested in the confectionery than the theology of the Easter season, you’d better get writing some invites to your Easter Egg Hunt. We all know you’ve got to hide a selection of ovoid goodies in fiendishly difficult hidey holes but how do you make your guests turn up in the first place?
- Put the date, time and place on the invite. Easter can fall at funny times during the year, so make it easy on folks and give ’em the blasted date.
- Include a map, directions and any special instructions, such as parking arrangements or how to avoid George, your over chatty neighbourhood watch coordinator.
- Include a postcode and directions for satnav-challenging villages. If you’re taking people ’round the back way’, do ensure there’s refreshments and shouts of ‘stop the clock, she’s found it’ when they arrive (Anneka Rice jumpsuits are optional).
- Use a pun or two in your invite text to add some colour. For example, ‘hop on over’, ‘hip hop hooray’, ‘it’s an eggstravaganza’ or ‘let’s get eggsploring’… (Ed: no more bloody egg-asperating puns)
- State if you need to bring your own basket (egg hauls can be cumbersome to transport) and if appropriate footwear is needed. Great Aunt Doris may need to re think her 4″ Manolos.
- Be aware that, for some, Easter is a highly religious experience and many may be fasting. Also, bear in mind that for others it’s a ready excuse to smear themselves with the melted remains of a bumper-size chocolate bunny – either way, be respectable and cater for all.
- Leave the word ‘Easter’ out of your invite – unless you want apocalyptic style abuse from your neighbours and Theresa May camping outside with a ‘down with this kind of thing’ placard. Forgetting to mention Easter in their ad copy got the lovely people at The National Trust and Cadbury (please send us free chocolate eggs!) into a spot of bother last year so we’d advise titling your ovoid-hunting extravaganza an ‘Easter egg hunt’ – unless your idea of fun is being chased down the high street by a rabid mob of irate Christians and Daily Mail readers (cue Benny Hill-style chase).
- Promise creme eggs or mini eggs on your invite: some egg fancier always buys them up in bulk in February and you’ll be left bereft, embarrassed and scrabbling round the shops, with nothing but Marmite and Pot Noodle eggs to appease your assembled throng.
- Use this as the time to try out your Dan Brown-level of clue mastery. No-one wants to spend three hours working out that your clue ‘where sun and sand at happier times did meet’ refers to your ornamental glass paperweight from the Isle of Wight.
- Make your egg hunt adult-themed and smutty – well, not unless it’s an adult party and all the eggs are the vibrating kind (Ed: could add a buzz to the party).
- However tempting it may be, use a walking app to make your ‘trail’ look like a penis. Stick with an Easter Egg – it’s easier to draw and less likely to cause any neighbour envy (tip – you can make it as huge as you want 😉 ).
LinkedIn is that strangest of things – a social networking site where you only connect to people you do business with (and we don’t mean like on Tinder).
As a social site, LinkedIn is all about connecting with, and widening, your work and business networks. So you’ll end up connecting with everyone from Derek in Accounts, to the CEO of a pipe-lagging business you met at that conference in Dudley. LinkedIn also shows you how closely you’re connected to other LinkedIn users, like some odd business-card version of ‘Six degrees of Kevin Bacon’.
In the LinkedIn universe (linkiverse?), a first contact is someone in your network, and a second contact is someone who’s bezza mates with one of your contacts. This ability to ‘stalk’ business contacts means LinkedIn has become a favourite tool of thrusting, aspirational sales managers who desperately want to ‘get an in’ with the Operations Buyer of their current number one target business.
So, if you’re going to actually get something useful out of this sea of business contacts and ex-colleagues, here are the dos and don’ts for using LinkedIn.
- Write a profile that grabs the attention. A short, concise personal statement, like you would find at the top of a CV will do just fine.
- Try not to sound like too much of a corporate clone. Make your LinkedIn profile concise, to the point and with an accurate explanation of who you are and what you do. And do put a photo of yourself on there so people know what you look like – remember, with social media, personality is everything and a human face (however hideous) is a big part of your online persona.
- Use LinkedIn as more than just an online CV. People used to use the site as somewhere to ‘show off their wares’ when they’d had enough of their current employer and were ready to jump ship. There’s still an element of this (recruiters LOVE LinkedIn as it does all the hard work of finding suitable candidates for them) but LinkedIn is much more about highlighting your skills, telling people what you do and generally making yourself sound like the slightly less egotistical winner of ‘The Apprentice’. So read our CV tips here.
- Send contacts a personal message when you’re adding them. It will help them place you and increases the chances they’ll want to connect with you. A simple ‘We met at that pipe lagging conference in Dudley, and I was interested in how you fill your tubes’ will probably suffice.
- Add in your statement the sort of work you are looking for, but check who you’re connected with first. There’s nothing worse than saying you’re looking for a new job, to then remember you’re still ‘connected’ to your current boss.
- Keep it professional. This isn’t Facebook for mates, this is for colleagues and networking. And, on that note, be very careful who you connect to – do you really want to be hounded by Derek the pipe lagger, just because you shared a beer once.
- Get someone else to write your profile – it’s a cardinal sin when it comes to LinkedIn. If you get your personal assistant/bored intern/mum to write your account profile, it’s not going to be a very accurate reflection of you, your style or your particular skills – it’s more likely to sound like someone kissing your arse. Take some time out from world domination and write this yourself. Be honest, big up your good points and don’t mention bankruptcy/court cases/lack of formal qualifications or anything that might detract from your majestic rise to business stardom and well-deserved riches.
- Leave your photo blank! This is a social media site and the managers you’re meeting from that logistics company next Thursday will be Googling you to try and see what your ugly mug looks like. Find a headshot that looks professional, approachable and try not to grimace too badly.
- Get too trigger happy with the shares and updates. Posting a few links to interesting articles occasionally is fine, but the people in your network REALLY don’t want to see every recent article you’ve come across shared in their timeline. Be selective and don’t bore people.
- Feel you have to list every job you ever did and a full list of all your skills. Yes, Linkedin is sort of like a CV/resume but it’s not a place to copy and paste your job description.
- Slag off your current or previous companies, colleagues or circumstances – remember this is a business site where professional standards will be expected of you.
- Under no circumstances use the phrases ‘show off your wares’ or ‘thrusting sales professional’ unless you work for Ann Summers/LoveHoney.
We’ve all got to earn a buck, and unless you’re self-employed or the offspring of a member of the landed gentry, you’re gonna need to find a job to earn a living.
This means there’s an urgent need to impress your prospective employer with your cycling proficiency badge and your ability to make the text go blinky-blink in Microsoft PowerPoint… and what better place to encompass these skills than in your CV or ‘curriculum vitae’ (that’s a resume, for anyone over the Atlantic).
Your CV could just be the document that brings you fame and fortune – so what do you put in this all-important resume to help seal the deal and win you that new job?
- Ensure your damn name and contact details are on it. Someone may have spotted you as the next thrusting buck needed for their dynamic doe-herding business, but it ain’t getting you no job offers if you don’t have your name, email address and telephone number on it.
- Make your email address appropriate – ihatemondays, tfifriday, biglover or other ‘personal’ addresses should be avoided.
- Keep it to two pages of A4. Done. Nope don’t argue. I’m sure it’s thrilling to you that you once worked in Iceland stacking the freezers with mini vol-au-vents, but unless it’s incredibly relevant, a very brief one-liner will do.
- Generally try to lead with your most recent work/life/study experience first. Yes, you can highlight previous relevant experience, but the older the job the more likely it is that technology, processes and biscuits will have moved on. Employers want to know what you’re doing now and that you’ve moved on from pink wafers, custard creams and Bourbons.
- Be honest. Of course everyone ‘expands’ their CV and adds some flare to doe herding (reindeer rearing, moose management, pudu performance appraisals), but if you blatantly lie, you will get found out and even the smallest lie will ensure your CV languishes in the outbox marked ‘Destroy – Exterminate – Shred like White House memo’s’.
- Explain gaps in your CV or why there was sudden change from management accounting to doe herding. Companies are not mind readers. Gaps in CVs often indicate unemployment, which can indicate you’ve been fired a LOT. If this isn’t the case, then explain – a good note is to put this alongside your role description – your reason for leaving. No one should have an issue with a change of career, career break or redundancy, but if you’re invited for interview then do expect to be asked to expand on what you’ve been doing in that time.
- Talk about achievements and not just what you did. Talk about how you helped increase sales, brought a team together or implemented a project. If it was taken forward, let potential employers know. Your innovative doe-herding harness might be just the thing we’re looking for.
- Tailor your CV for the role you’re applying for. We know, we know, sending out hundreds of CVs can be debilitating, but companies want to give you a job, they want you to be the best candidate and they want to know what you’ll bring to the table. Take the time, read the job description, candidate profile and their website – a little bit of legwork now might see you pole-vaulting across the finish line.
- Ensure your CV experience matches up with any online references. Discrepancies and inaccuracies lead potential employers to question your integrity and motives.
- Add pretty graphics, your photo, gifs or memes unless you work in this kind of industry. It distracts from what a potential employer is looking for – you! Unless you’re an actor or assassin there really is no need for a head shot (assassin, get it! sigh) and you should judge any company accordingly that ask for one.
- Post anything unsuitable on your Facebook and other social media accounts. If you’re going to have public social media accounts then be very careful what you post. In these technology based times, companies will google you and they’ll trawl through your recent Malaga trip, the rants about your company and the ill-advised theft of last year’s novelty Rudolph. Your public online presence should be professional and we’ll be posting tips on how not to writte your Linkedin bio soon.
- Start your CV or covering letter with a diatribe on all the things the company can do for you and what you want from them. Remember, you’re not alone in trying to sell yourself for this role, in what is an unfortunately saturated market (yes, even doe herders are ten a penny). So YOU need to stand out: you need to show employers what you can bring to them, not vice versa.
- Be tempted to just copy your job description, verbatim. Job descriptions are necessary but dull. They’re also available online and with agencies, so it doesn’t show that you’ve made much of an effort.
- Ramble. Be succinct, with a list of key elements. If you’ve had a ‘varied’ career and the roles don’t link in with the job you’re applying for, feel free to gloss over, or extract, the key pieces of info that somehow make up that special little nugget called ‘relevant experience’.
- Just include your qualifications and educational background, even if you’re straight of out school/college/uni. Employers want to know about your life experience, even if it was helping at scouts, volunteering for a charity or that Saturday job you had on the doe farm, it all involves dealing with people and building skills. Tell employers what you learnt from these experiences – just don’t lead with ‘I never want to do stock check for Tesco’s ever again’.
- Get your mum to write it. Get a trusted friend or colleague to read it over, check for typos and spelling mistakes, but employers can spot Mum (or Dad) CVs a mile off.
- Add referees to the end of your CV if you haven’t checked with them that they’re happy to provide one. You’d be amazed how many people do this – and your sixth-from-last previous employer may not remember you, rate or like you.
The leaves are turning myriad shades of gold and rust on the trees, the huge, spindly-legged spiders are once again returning to their haunts in the corner of the living room, and across the land, families are arguing about whether it is, or is not, cold enough to justify putting the central heating on – it’s Autumn, folks!
And as any self-respecting Brit will tell you, there are only two dates in the Autumn social calendar worth worrying about:
- Halloween – the coming of the Autumn’s evil spirits, the Day of the Dead, or the night Cheryl from the local pub dons an ill-advised catsuit and emits a feral growl at anyone who’ll listen.
- Fireworks/Bonfire Night – the day we all gather around a giant bonfire and set off fireworks to commemorate the day some bloke in a massive hat almost succeeded in blowing up the English Parliament with gunpowder (yeah, we’re not sure why this is suitable for kids either…)
If you’re going get everyone along to your Halloween bash/Bonfire Night extravaganza, you’re gonna need to craft some ghoulishly great copy for your invites.
Here’s the dos and don’ts:
- Be creative. Go wild, indulge your inner puns, dodgy Paint and Photoshop skills and overuse of Halloween fonts…(hello ‘Onyx’ my old friend).
- Remember to give the location and a contact number – you’ll be amazed once you’ve covered your invite with pumpkins and Trump effigies that there’s no room to tell people where they need to assemble.
- Give the date/time… always useful to know when we’re supposed to turn up, before midnight, lest you want a pile of Cinderella-style pumpkins littering your doorstep.
- Be clear if you are expecting people to RSVP (or materialise ghostlike out of thin air), come in fancy dress (and the dreaded couples costumes), or bring something (severed head, booze, zombie survival kit).
- Go mad with the alliteration or throwing in a pun or two, just don’t overdo it. Halloween Hijinks, Poltergeist Party, Ghostly Get-together…the list is (sadly) endless.
- Go old school/vintage – an intricate lace-patterned gothic-style invite, with archaic terminology can work particularly well. Remember this was the time of Stoker, Mary Shelley, Poe (but not Pooh), gothic romances etc, so feel free to take inspiration from literature. Think soiree, affair, reception rather than party. Be very formal; i.e. ‘Your presence is cordially requested’.
- Use language to create a little bit of mystery and intrigue (and a lot of internet searching) by promising Nanty narking and that everyone will be tight as a boiled owl (Ed: nope, I’m none the wiser either).
- Start your first line of the invite with the words ‘Fancy a big bang?’. It’s a cliché, it’s dull and unimaginative – use at your peril or fear of derision.
- Use any other clichés. The same goes for witches brew, the witching hour and spooktacular…….
- Be a knob when people don’t turn up in fancy dress. Their body, their choice.
- Make the invite so cryptic that your intended guests have no idea they’ve actually been invited to the party/firework display of the century.
- Forget to state if it’s family friendly, and what time carriages can come and collect as some of your guests may have babysitters to relieve (Ed: no, not like that, you filth-monger).