email

Before Hitting the Send Key

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What you Need to Know about Cross-Cultural Emailing

Cultural understanding can make or break any team, but especially an international one. Cultural misunderstandings can drive irreparable wedges in relationships. Not only is it important in avoiding potentially expensive and embarrassing blunders but it is also important in building cohesive teams.

When reading the emails of people from different cultures, we do not have the luxury of being able to read their body language as we do face-to-face; therefore the precise meaning of their words is extremely important. This difficulty is amplified when the emailer is from a culture different from your own. Understanding the cultural context of their words is essential to your overall understanding of intent.

How Email Varies from Country to Country

First, be aware that people differ—that we don‘t all have the same perspectives, nor the same assumptions about actions and behaviors. What is polite and assumed in one country isn’t necessarily so in another. For example, Americans generally shoot off many emails quickly and casually, and are generally straight to the point; however, in much of Africa and South America,  it would be considered rude not to add a personal touch and to get down to business right away. Additionally, in countries like Germany, there are clearly delineated formal rules for business emails.

Language Pitfalls

It is paramount to be mindful of potentially confusing idioms, jargon, or too much slang. For Americans, this might mean avoiding phrases like “bite the bullet,” which might be taken too literally by nonnative speakers.

Confusion can occur even between native English speakers from different countries. For example, in the U.K., “To table the discussion” in the parliamentary sense is to lay a topic on the speaker’s table for discussion, while in the U.S. “to table the discussion” means to postpone it until later.

Many countries — but not all — love to use sports references in business–everything will be a “homerun.” People from countries where sports analogies are not the norm may wonder why they have to run home or devine no meaning from a “sticky wicket” reference — it is all but meaningless to those unfamiliar with the sport of cricket.

Generally, to avoid language misunderstanding, make what you think is implicit explicit. Double-check your wording for idiomatic phrases that may not be universally understood.  Don’t assume that your reader understands your metaphors or analogies.

Differences in Culture

Of course language is just a manifestation of the differences in cultures. There are High and Low Context cultures. In High Context cultures, messages have very little meaning without an understanding of the surrounding context. France is very high context culture–you need to understand the culture in order to understand the intent. While a non-French speaker may think they are being friendly by putting “merci” at the end of their email, to a French speaker it is a passive aggressive “thank you–now go forth and do my bidding.”

On the other hand, in Low Context cultures the meaning lies mostly in the message itself. In many English speaking countries, for example, as well as countries like Germany, Norway, or Sweden there is less need to read between the lines, as from a young age they are taught to say what they mean and communicate directly. However, a “yes” in a high-context culture like Japan does not imply a firm commitment but generally means “Yes, I understand.”

If email is the only point of contact you have with someone, and they commit a cultural faux pas, it can be harder to overlook and overcome when all that is seen is the email address and not the person behind that address.

It’s important to know what is appropriate to say and do given a person’s position within the company. Integral to this understanding is Power Distance–which anthropologist Geert Hofstede defines as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. In a Large Power Distance country, the distance between bosses and their subordinates is liable to be more significant, and must be especially observed.  For example, in many Asian cultures, subordinates are more deferential to their bosses and authority, so be careful not to address bosses in a too familiar manner.  On the other hand, in low distance countries like the Netherlands and the U.K., bosses are seen as more approachable “equals” and language may feel somewhat disrespectful or mutinous, if you are in a leadership position receiving communications, as it may be far less deferential than you may be accustomed to.

When emailing to Large Power Distance countries, bosses may need to give permission to subordinates, so they should not be contacted directly. At the very least, the supervisor should be CC’d in the email.

While acknowledging differences in manners and values be careful not to overgeneralize. These are people too, working within their own cultural context of assumptions and predispositions, just we as you are. Not all Americans eat fast food in the slowlane of the highway (credit: the late George Carlin). Be careful not to attribute one action of one person to an entire country.

To mitigate problems of traversing different cultures, be as overt as possible with your intentions. Assume benevolence and don’t assume that actions you find hostile to be ill-intended. Whenever possible ask for clarification! This is a trust building opportunity!

Once you learn how other cultures interact, you’ll see how stereotypes about “rudeness” and other misunderstandings just melt away.

Readers: Please share any experiences you have had with emailing or communicating with people from cultures other than your own! Thank you!

What is Your Electronic Body Language Saying About You?

For years, office combat was waged in the open: man-to-man, woman-to-woman, woman-to-man. A boss’s crossed arms, raised hand, head nod, or arched back spoke to us in an unwritten languag that immediately relayed whether we were going to praised or buried.  Just as the subtle and not-so-subtle signals of body language contribute to your reputation, so do the nuances of virtual communication.  Collectively, these virtual nuances create your “Electronic Body Language.”

The rules of engagement have changed. More often, our main contact with peers and colleagues occurs through virtual communication.  And, at its core, an organization that relies on virtual communications carries an overall, but false, assumption — that we all share the same email standards of etiquette.  As emails are misunderstood and co-workers are offended, productivity and team cohesivenss  declines.  These misunderstandings are often the result of poorly communicated electronic body language and they lead people to develop an unfavorable impression of you.

Our research has brought a few salient points to light:

  • Over 40% of respondents check their email immediately when notified of a new message.  Given that it takes the average person 12 minutes to reengage in a task, this might explain a corresponding finding — that the majority of respondents feel that the volume of their email prevents them from completing their job.
  • Nearly all respondents feel “slighted” when someone takes too long to respond to an email that they sent.  However, when asked how long it took to become slighted, answers ranged fom two hours to one week.
  • 28% said that less than “one in four” office emails left them with a positive impression and/or motivated them to want to work harder with that person.

Traditionally, work relationships developed in a meeting environment. Visual cues helped fill gaps between words and their intended meaning. But in the virtual arena, without the benefit of these visual clues, the communications themselves take on added importance.  Believe me, people are still gathering data and forming opinions on your competence, style, gender, nationality, temperament, attitude, and so on.  Chances are, you’re basically a pretty great person, but if you aren’t careful, your electronic body language may be sending a very different message.

Understanding and appreciating your group’s attitudes around the use of technology is an important first step to deflect misunderstandings. For some managers, staff members who receive a significant number of emails or are frequently interrupted in meetings are unconsciously seen as important “go-to” colleagues.

In other situations, employees who are constantly available and quick to respond to emails are viewed as highly productive. In these office settings, high performance is inadvertently based on communication habits, not necessarily standard metrics. Yet few companies are explicitly aligning these habits with desired outcomes. A supervisor, for example, who asks to be “cc’d” on all emails conveys conflicting messages to his staff relative to work flow and undermines trust.

Managers are beginning to understand how electronic body language can work for them — how they can inspire colleagues and staff to put the needs of the team above those of fires burning in closer proximity. Often this means developing explicit rules of engagement for interactions and communications, understanding the unintended consequences of email or an invite to a meeting, and making sure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time.

If used effectively, electronic body language can motivate employees and colleagues to work effectively, instill creativity and to inspire confidence. The key is adopting policies that are universally understood and which genuinely reflect the company culture.

By identifying what we find acceptable, rude, professional and effective, good managers can improve team interaction and can manage the diverse standards applied inconsistently across individuals, functions, organizations, geographies, and cultures. Electronic body language will expose the unintended consequences of information overload and pose a visible and real deterrent to organizational fatigue.

Question for readers:  What steps do you take to project your true electronic body language?

5 Tips to Get Your Email Read

email symbol on row of colourful envelopes

“Did you see my email?”

“I have so much email, I haven’t had a chance,” Chris responds.  I groan on the inside.

Email remains the most popular form of business communication.  Research shows that the average business email account receives 81 messages per day, while sending 39.

There are only a handful of reasons people email each other at work, either within or without of their own organization.  As a result, the person getting your email is likely getting a lot of other, similar messages.  But your email is important, and you would prefer your answer sooner rather than later.  So, what can you do to get your message opened, read, and responded to?

1.  Start with a good subject line.

It makes a difference.  A good subject line significantly increases the chances that your message will be read.  Keep your subject line short, descriptive, and convey why your message is important to the recipient (as opposed to why it is important to you).

Consider the difference between:

“information relating to potential things in project”  and “Potential Project Delay”

or

something I’d like to talk to you about soon” and “Can I buy you breakfast tomorrow?

Stop sending emails with subjects lines containing only a form of greeting.  Please.  Unless you are Barack Obama, no one is going to read your message titled, “Hey!

2.  Begin message with the most important information first.

Get to the point and to the part that is most relevant to the recipient.  Every morning begins with scanning the inbox and pausing to read the preview pane of messages that might get opened before being deleted or ignored.

Ensuring that your critical component is in that preview pane will increase the likelihood of your message being communicated.  It will be refreshing for your recipient to not have to read a big long explanation while searching for your point.  Make your point first, and provide whatever background information or explanation you feel is necessary below.

3.  Be brief.  Use bullets.

When providing background information for your main point, strive to make your points in bullet form, rather than long sentences.  If you must use a lot of language, and email is your only true option, then write as briefly as possible and incorporate plenty of breaks so it looks like you are sending less.  White space (breaks between paragraphs) make it easier to read and less intimidating.  If your message is too long, it might get “saved” for that elusive “later”.

For example:

  • Use bullets.

  • Long sentences are too much work for reader.

  • Write brief sentences.

  • Break up text to create white space.

4.  Consider your recipient.

There are, (gasp!), other forms of communication available to you.  You may prefer email, but be aware that everyone doesn’t share your affinity.  Your goal is to get your message heard.  If the recipient is known for not reading and responding to email, then why send an email?  Find out what they prefer, and contact them that way.

5.  Develop your Reputation

Become known as someone who:

  • Is responsive to email messages that you receive.

  • Adds value to the conversation.

  • Is respectful of people’s time and doesn’t send unnecessary or hard-to-read messages.

People respond more quickly to others who respond to them. If you are known for never reading or responding to your email, why should someone take the time to read yours?

 

Are You Addicted to Email?

According to Radicati, “The average corporate worker spends a quarter of his/her work day on various email-related tasks. In comparison, the time spent in personal meetings accounts for about 14% of the typical day at the office, and phone conversations occupy only 9% of the typical workday.

In addition to this whopping 25% of your daily work effort, is the time it takes to shift gears in and out of your work flow to accommodate the incessant interruptions.

Recent research shows that having your smartphone at hand dramatically increases the interruptions as “checking habits” become, well, habitual and obsessive.

Email is a critical component in professional communications, yet it is a significant detractor to productivity.

That 25% of each day rapidly builds up into over 1 full work day each week.  What would YOU do with one extra day each week?  What about an extra day from each person on your team or throughout your organization?

Think about it.

Each week.

Each employee.

More than one full day on email.

They don’t like it any more than you do.

We all recognize the problem, but how, exactly, to address it?  Here’s one way:

Try setting aside “email free” time periods.  Everyone says things like this, it’s like the age-old joke of new mother’s napping when their babies sleep.  Just doesn’t happen.

But give it a try.  You will be amazed at how much more you get done.  No one is recommending that you turn off email for  day or anything drastic like that.  Just 90 minutes.

Take your first 90 minutes of the day and close your email, tuck away your smartphone and work.  If you’re in an office, put out a “do not disturb” notice or whatever you need to do to block off that time, and time yourself.  At the end of 90 minutes, take a break.  Get a healthy snack, go for a short walk.

Ideally, create a second 90-minute interruption-free block of time each day.  But I know you’re busy and the world will come to a crashing halt if you don’t check your email more often, so start with just one.

How often do you check your email?  Do you think the interruptions are significant?

Do What You Say. Say What You Mean.

When you work with others primarily through email (or text or IM), instead of eye to eye, saying ‘no’ becomes easier.  Saying ‘yes’ becomes easier, too.  Tapping out excuses on your keyboard is exponentially easier than making the same excuse in person (right?!)

Most people aren’t even aware of the promises they are making and breaking countless times each day.

So, Stop!

Right now.

Make the decision to be more thoughtful in your electronic communications.

Pause before saying no.

Pause before saying yes — don’t commit to something unless you are certain you can follow through.

Do what you say you’re going to do.  Every single time.

Let others know as quickly as you can to renegotiate deadlines when you can’t.

Whether you notice how easily you make and break promises or not, it is guaranteed that others do.  Your reputation is being shaped and refined each time, and reputation is everything to continued success when working from home.

Keep your promises (even the ones you make to yourself).

Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. — Abraham Lincoln

Newsflash: Sarcasm hard to Communicate Electronically

There’s a study for everything. Psychologist Justin Kruger, PhD, and Nicolas Epley, PhD, of the University of Chicago have published their results (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 89, Nov. 5) that illustrate how sarcasm isn’t easily communicated electronically.   Is there any wonder in this result?  Without that eye-roll, verbal emphasis, pause, or wink, sarcastic remarks often fall short of their intended mark.

Krurger and Epley find that people overestimate both their ability to effectively communicate their intended tone in an email message and their ability to correctly interpret the tone of messages written by others (whether funny, sarcastic, or serious).

Why?  The disconnect has been attributed to egocentrism — when people have a difficult time detaching themselves from their own perspectives and understanding how others will interpret them.

But this isn’t about you.  Right?  You get it.  Others could use the help, but you – you’re funny, clever, and your co-workers and friends “get” your snark.

Unfortunately, not at often as you think.

In the initial part of the study, participants sent messages via voice recording and email.  The speakers and writers each anticipated a 78% success rate in effectively communicating their designated messages.  The participants recording their messages were close — 75% of their messages were received as expected.  But only 56% of the email messages were correctly received. That’s little better than half!!

Wait!  It gets better — the receivers of said messages anticipated a 90% accuracy rate.

Wow.  That’s a lot of unmerited confidence on both sides.

Inspired by previous research by psychologist Elizabeth Newton, PhD., Kruger developed additional experiments to delve deeper into the social phenomenon of egocentrism and hypothesized that the sender assumed that the receiver had the same understanding of intentions, motivations, and information.

In 1990, Newton tested the ability to tap out the rhythm of a well-known song and predict listeners’ ability to guess the song.  Tappers predicted a 50% success rate.  Success rate was actually 2.5%.

Reason being, according to Kruger, is that tappers “hear” the full, complete, song in their minds as they tap, but listeners hear only the random tapping.

“It’s impossible not to hear the song as you’re tapping away,” says Kruger. “So you have a hard time separating yourself from your own perspective and realizing how impoverished the listeners’ data really are.”

Comparatively, email writers “hear” their intended tone while forgetting that recipients don’t have access to all that extra information.

Kruger and Epley repeated their first experiments, but this time the email writers were required to read their messages aloud before sending.  Half of the writers read their messages with the intended tone, the other half assumed an opposing tone —  sarcastic tone for a serious message, or a serious tone for a sarcastic one.  Epley explains that the point was to force participants to step outside of their own perspective and to negate some of the egocentric impact.

It worked.  Participants who read their messages as intended still over-estimated the recipients’ ability to accurately interpret the message, but those that read their message in an opposing tone no longer did.

How can this help you?

Anyone who has ever been asked if they really meant something they said in an email that they thought was clearly funny or sarcastic, can attest to the unintended consequences of misunderstood tone.

When composing an email that contains emotional content, read it out loud.  Read it in various tones of voice.  Remind yourself that there is roughly a 50% chance of being misunderstood.  Ask yourself if this is a message better delivered over the phone or in person.

Do you have a great story about unintended consequences of an email that you or someone you know sent?  We’d love to hear it.

Save Our InBoxes!

Email overload.  It’s getting out of hand.  We spend an alarming amount of time each and every day simply responding to email messages.

Why?  And, more importantly, What can we EACH do to reduce this problem?

For years, we have been coaching people, teams, and organizations on the importance of managing email.  We have helped countless groups establish protocols that have helped to increase productivity and to unchain people from their ever-growing inboxes.

But it’s not enough.  Current research has shown that the average amount of time that each person spends during their workday on email is growing.

We need to get the word out, and here’s an excellent resource that can help you today.

It’s called the Email Charter.

The core principle in action is that every single one of us has to take responsibility for reducing the amount of time spent on email by our colleagues.  Here’s problem, as viewed through this lens:

For each email that you write, you are creating “work” for others.  Our instincts tell us it takes longer to write than to read, so reading an email should take less time than it did to write it, right?  Wrong. It takes longer to respond to an email than it does to write.  Here’s why:

When you “check your mail”, your process is more apt to be like:  scan your inbox; decide what to open; open it; read it; think about whether you need to respond or not; compose the response; edit your response; send your response.

Every time you engage in this process, you are removing yourself from your flow of work, you are diverting your attention and it takes time to regain that rhythm.

Now, think about this — every time you compose an email message, you are creating the same interruption of work for someone else.  Here are some very common email “habits” that add to the overloading of our inboxes and unnecessary consumption of our collective time:

  • Open-ended questions that are time-consuming to answer.  For example, “What are your thoughts on this?”, “How do you think we should proceed?”  Quick to ask, not-so-quick to answer.
  • “CC” – so easy to click and add multiple recipients, but each additional recipient exponentially increases the amount of time your email is consuming.
  • “FW” – forwarding and/or cutting and pasting text from other resources creates an increasing burden of time as your recipient scrolls, reads, and sorts through to find the salient points.
  • Links and videos – easy to add, but each link and video can take minutes to view.

We love the internet.  We love our email.  It takes an iron will not to linger and peruse all the wonderful, distracting nuances of the world wide web, and to share our discoveries with others, and they with us.  “Just copy a link, paste, and send … and boom, the world’s cognitive capacity takes another hit!”

All of these things contribute to the massive consumption of our work week.  We need to get it under control and we need to do so now.  I don’t recall any of my job descriptions (ever) including “checking email” as a line item, and yet, when I’m not careful, it can consume my day.

Book Your Email Vacation Now!

Email ‘vacations’ decrease stress, increase concentration

UCI findings could boost on-the-job productivity

— Irvine, Calif., May 03, 2012 —

Being cut off from work email significantly reduces stress and allows employees to focus far better, according to a new study by UC Irvine and U.S. Army researchers.

Heart rate monitors were attached to computer users in a suburban office setting, while software sensors detected how often they switched windows. People who read email changed screens twice as often and were in a steady “high alert” state, with more constant heart rates. Those removed from email for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates.

“We found that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and experience less stress,” said UCI informatics professor Gloria Mark. She co-authored the study, “A Pace Not Dictated by Electrons,” with UCI assistant project scientist Stephen Voida and Army senior research scientist Armand Cardello. The UCI team will present the work Monday, May 7, at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Computer-Human Interaction Conference in Austin, Texas.

The study was funded by the Army and the National Science Foundation. Participants were computer-dependent civilian employees at the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center outside Boston. Those with no email reported feeling better able to do their jobs and stay on task, with fewer stressful and time-wasting interruptions.  Measurements bore that out, Mark said. People with email switched windows an average of 37 times per hour. Those without changed screens half as often – about 18 times in an hour.

She said the findings could be useful for boosting productivity and suggested that controlling email login times, batching messages or other strategies might be helpful. “Email vacations on the job may be a good idea,” she noted. “We need to experiment with that.”

Mark said it was hard to recruit volunteers for the study, but “participants loved being without email, especially if their manager said it was OK. In general, they were much happier to interact in person.”

Getting up and walking to someone’s desk offered physical relief too, she said. Other research has shown that people with steady “high alert” heart rates have more cortisol, a hormone linked to stress. Stress on the job, in turn, has been linked to a variety of health problems.

Study subjects worked in a variety of positions and were evenly split between women and men. The only downside to the experience was that the individuals without email reported feeling somewhat isolated. But they were able to garner critical information from colleagues who did have email.

The Army is examining use of smartphones and such applications as email for soldiers on battlefields, said David Accetta, spokesman for the Natick facility’s research and development section. “This data may very well prove helpful,” he said.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UCI news, visitwww.today.uci.edu.

Email Overload

What’s going on here?

Our research, completed in 2010, revealed that the average person spends 30 minutes PER DAY deleting, or thinking about deleting, email!!

When did email become our work product and why do we have so much?!  It’s getting out of hand.

No one expects you to be a drone and tap away at your computer endlessly, tied to your machine for every minute of every day, but 3o minutes deleting email?  Over the course of a standard work-week, that’s 2 1/2 hours.  In a month, 10 hours; in a year 120 (15 eight-hour workdays).  That’s a lot of time you’ll never get back.  And that’s just you.  Multiply that over your project team, department, or company, and you just might feel a little ill.

Why?  Why do we get so much email that we don’t read?  I’m not talking about email lists that you sign up for giving you the latest sales from your favorite store.  Those aren’t counted in this research.  This research focused specifically on work-related email messages that were sent by real people to real people.

Does this mean that, even after all this time, many people still don’t understand how to use email effectively?  Yes, indeed it does.

What can you do?  They answers are not as simple as they appear on the surface (as is true for our most persistent problems).  For the sake of this article, we’re going to take a look at how a simple shift in your attitude toward email can help reduce the number of unwanted messages that you send and receive.

First, understand the purpose of the “TO” and “CC” fields. “TO” requires action.  “CC” requires none, it is a “for your information only” indicator.

Second, use “CC” sparingly.  Sending your manager or team leader multiple messages every week in which no action is required from them is just an annoying way to say, “look, Boss, I’m doing my job!”; “look at me!  look at me!”; “still here, working away!”  like some yappy little dog.  If you don’t feel trusted to get your work done, then that’s a different conversation you need to have face to face with your team lead.

Finally, resist the temptation to “CC” your team lead / manager whenever you feel a dispute is in the works and you want an “official” record of your position. This culture of “CYA” – “cover your … ahem, derriere” leads to unnecessary email messages and wasted time.  Take your dispute off-line and work it out in person.  It will be infintely better, trust me.

We get too much email.  We send too much email.  We delete too much email.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Start taking control through the judicious use of the “CC” field.

This article is the first in a series designed to help reduce your email overload.  Please share with us any comments / stories you have about your own email situation.

Review: The Power of Reputation

The Power of Reputation by Chris Komisarjevksy, Amazon, 224 pages, $16.50

Here is a book review by Brianna Snyder of Women@Work.

Reputation Matters

How to manage your most important brand – you!

By Brianna Snyder/Women@Work

We’ve all been in the business of reputation management since middle and high school. Back when we were concerned with popularity and how we were received at the dance, at gym, at the cafeteria, we were all — some more clumsily than others — learning how to navigate the choppy and awkward waters of social interaction and public persona. We know now how crucial those lessons were to how we became grownups.

What Chris Komisarjevsky explores in his book The Power of Reputation is the importance of reputation to your business and your career. Reputation, he says, is trickily personal andprofessional — “One thing is for sure: there really isn’t any distinction between our personal and our professional reputations,” he says — which brings the challenge of figuring out what’s sharable in the workplace and what’s best kept at home.

The key, says Komisarjevsky, is to be genuine. In other words, be your engaged, interested, competent and sincere self. The writer shares anecdotes throughout the book (both personal and from colleagues and friends) to reinforce the idea that a reputation is the soul of a career. The writer breaks down what a reputation is and means, how it’s built on caring and respect, values and good communication. He incorporates the still-new challenges of social media and managing your online reputation and emphasizes the need to be mindful of the consequences of Facebook and blogs. He calls this “the double-edged sword of the digital world” — you can use these digital places to enhance an already-good reputation or watch in disbelief as these same places dismantle it.

We all know what makes our mechanic the best mechanic, our dentist or lawyer the best dentists and lawyers — these are the people we trust not just to be honest with us (though that’s infinitely valuable) but to do a good job. We trust that they know how to do their work, that they’re well-practiced and careful, and that they care about their jobs and us, whether they’re mending a tooth or a flat tire. They value our time and they do their jobs well. That alone is enough of a foundation for a great reputation.

Notable Quote:

“We are in an era in which the demand for candor, understanding and clarity of purpose is greater than ever before. Transparency creates confidence and underscores authenticity.”

Instant Recall:

  • Research what you’re selling — whether it’s you or your product — “to the point at which you believe there is nothing better out there.”
  • Talk to people. Let them know you care about them and their needs. Listen to them.
  • Respect your clients and your colleagues. The more you give, the more you get.
  • Be personal and personable at work; share your interests, passions and ideas.

Read this book if…

You’re just starting a new job or business, or even if you’re beginning to think about who you are in your career, what your personal “brand” might be.