5 Little Things to Never Overlook
I had an insightful and frustrating conversation with my friends on Facebook the other day. It all started when someone had misspelled my name in an email where I was copied and other outside professionals were addressed. I’ve known this person for over a year, and though I have a complicated name, I assume it will be spelled correctly in professional correspondence. It’s kind of a little thing, but little things add up to the big picture of how people see you. Little things matter, especially in a professional environment where your personal brand and future prospects hinge on how your are perceived.
To make sure you’re putting your best foot forward, here are 5 little things to never overlook when it comes to personal and professional relationships:
- Names. You have made an effort at networking events to remember the names of others, but maybe you’re not that great at it. Look for strategies to remember, like repeating the person’s name back as soon as they tell you. “Hi, I’m Jim.” “Hi Jim, I’m Adrienne.” That way you’ve said it, and heard it, and are more likely to remember. What frequently happens to me is that I meet several people in a group and won’t remember every name I heard, so I make a conscious effort to listen for the name to come up in conversation again, then I commit it to memory. Otherwise I may wait until they leave and then ask someone quietly, “What was his name again? I want to make sure I remember everyone.” Also, social media can help a lot because you may be able to look into an event listing or LinkedIn group for details to make sure you don’t forgot who you’ve met.
- Spelling. Once you remember someone’s name, please spell it correctly in writing! Based on the feedback I got from my friends, misspelling happens all the time, and clearly it sticks out. I had a dozen friends tell me, “Oh yeah, this person used to spell my name wrong every day.” I don’t want to overreact, but it seems rude to me. If I knew someone who did that frequently, I would think that they just don’t care, or don’t have a lot of respect for the people around them. It’s a little thing, but it should never be overlooked. If you’re a terrible speller, ask someone who knows the person or search for their name to avoid the faux pas.
- Title. Two titles may sound identical to you, but people have worked hard to get where they are, and your mistake might seem like a big thing to them. “Program Manager” and “Director of Programming” are very close, and might mean different things in different places, so make an effort to not overlook this little thing. Plus, we come in contact with so many different industries that consistency for titles between companies can’t be assumed. Be especially careful in print! I have seen numerous presentations where a title is wrong, or programs for an event with incorrect information, and for that there is no excuse.
- Company. I live in an area with a lot of non-profits, and some of us have similar names. I understand that Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women may remind you of the Women’s Resource Center, but if we’ve met a few times and you’re still referring to the wrong organization, it makes you seem oblivious. If you’ve had something wrong in your head and have difficulty getting it right, spend a little time reviewing the company website. Even if it’s just for an acquaintance, you should be able to spot the logo and name of the org and know what they do. Part of being well-connected and having a positive personal brand is taking a second to not overlook a little thing like what that acronym means.
- Gratitude. Saying “thank you” is but two syllables, and often does not feel necessary. Gratitude, however, should never be overlooked! Many professionals will share the importance of personalized thank-you notes, and even a preference for card and stationery that exists outside of email. Speaking more generally, letting people know you appreciate them is huge. Small gestures add up to making your reputation pleasant, positive, and supportive, so don’t forget to say thank you!
There are many small things like this that can make or break your personal brand and the success of your relationships. Active listening, remembering details about people, offering to help (for free), and connecting people with contacts in your network are all relatively small and require little energy and resources. When you employ many of these ideas and make them into habits, I bet you’ll see the difference in how favorably people view you—and maybe even how favorably you view yourself.