You’ve probably heard the expression “don’t sweat the small stuff.” While this may be an admonition to reduce stress and not worry too much, I think there is value in sweating the small stuff when it comes to details in your life. Details might make or break your chance for a new job. They might also affect your reputation when accumulated over a period of time. Here are a few points you should consider for why details matter.
1. Check your spelling and grammar. One of the biggest problems with job applicants and young employees is sloppy spelling and grammar. Sometimes spell check hurts more than it helps because it doesn’t pick up contextual errors such as there, their, and they’re or it is, its and it’s. If you need improvement in this area, don’t hesitate to ask for proofreading or become more familiar with grammatical rules. Another common mistake is misuse of a possessive apostrophe as in “want some hamburger’s?” or “patient care and what the driver’s are.”
2. Prepare for meetings. You should comprehensively prepare for any meeting you attend in order to best use your time. This applies to individual face-to-face meetings, staff meetings, and even parties, happy hours, and other gatherings. Learn who will be at the meeting and have some prepared questions or points about the content of the meeting. Consider making a goal in advance that could be a question you need answered, an agenda item to add, an amount to ask the donor, points to rehash from your last meeting, or some other relevant goal. Don’t be the person who lost a document or agenda that was emailed or distributed to you before. It is a real hassle for the meeting organizer to have to remind you the location and content of the meeting that was already sent out.
3. Don’t overpromise, and always follow up when you promise something. Be careful when you commit to anything, even as small as “I will get back to you” or “let me look in to that.” Recently, I invited someone to lunch and he said he would get back to me the following day. He didn’t and I asked again, only to be promised an answer the next day again. When he didn’t reply by his own deadline, I didn’t think he would reply at all, but he did the day after. Needless to say, he didn’t keep his word on what he promised himself. Think twice before you promise anything. When you do promise something, write yourself a note with a deadline so you remember.
4. Search your emails before you ask someone to re-send. I’ve had people ask me again for documents and messages that I sent them and others received. There may have been an issue with spam or a technical error, but the majority of messages arrive and all the recipient needs to do is search his own inbox before asking the sender again.
Small details like those mentioned above are very important when added together. Do you want to have the reputation as the person in your office who has it together and is on top of details, or do you want to be the person who is scatterbrained and has a reputation for missing details that cause inefficiencies for others? Consider reviewing how you organize yourself and how you deal with the details in your life. Some small changes can produce big results. Just sweat the small stuff.
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.
Interested in reading other AFF posts on career development? Visit our Professional Development page for a full list of resources.
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