Category Archives: Interpersonal Skills

Five Tough Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Soft Skills

Are you a team player?

“Mastering technology to get a job and keep a job is a fact of life. Yet, technical skills alone are not an avenue to advancement. For career resilience, it’s important to connect with others in authentic and meaningful ways. That means pairing digital skills with soft skills—behaviors, practices and core values.”

The above is a quote from an article on the IAAP (International Association of Administrative Professionals) Web site.  The article appeared in the association’s January/February 2015 publication. You should be able to answer “Yes” to all but one of the questions.  See if you can determine which question’s answer is a definite “No.”

These five questions should be reviewed often!  If you are happy with the job you currently have, a reminder of the specifics of these questions will assist you in keeping that job for as long as possible.

Here is a link to the article:  Five Tough Questions


For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Basic International Business Tips—Part 1 of 2

Perhaps you may have heard the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans,” and that statement certainly holds true when you or your boss have to do any international traveling. So, take a “working tip” from Richland College’s POFT 2312 Business Correspondence and Communication course on what you should do to improve your basic international business skills.


If you want to improve your business writing skills and knowledge of international business communications, consider taking POFT 2312 Business Correspondence and Communication from the BOSS program at Richland College.

Richland College, which is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road, offers both online and on-campus courses. For more information contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Free MS Office 2013  Snagit2014-11-16_11-57-07



WRITING TO WIN: Handwriting in the Age of Electronic Communication

by Royce Murcherson

Royce top picture

As an author and teacher in today’s digital world, I am bombarded with email heralding messages of all sorts. But the messages that stand out most in my mind are the ones that arrived in a small envelope either slipped under my door or dropped in my mailbox.

One in particular was from a student thanking me for teaching a great class and letting me know how much she appreciated the effort. It would have been easy to send an email added to an already long list in my exploding inbox. Instead she chose to write a note that did not go unnoticed. Here was an individual who chose to express a sentiment in a genuinely real way.

In this age of electronic communication, it is easy to overlook the simple value of a handwritten note. Why bother when you can email, text, or send digital greeting cards? It’s easier to tweet, post, email, or pin. It’s fast, it’s cheap, and unremarkable. But isn’t it better to do something thoughtful and unexpected that differentiates your message from others?

Where is the inherent value in handwritten notes? It’s authenticity. It’s not just the words you put to paper, but the deeper message you send. Ask yourself, when was the last time you received a real paper message in your ‘real’ inbox at work? Chances are you may not be able to come up with a date. This is what makes a handwritten note important. They give pause because they are seen so rarely. Here are some key questions to consider.

Handwritten notes require extra time to compose a thoughtful message and check your own grammar and spelling. These notes will also require a small investment in stamps, notecards, or stationery.

You send a loud and clear message to the recipient. You are taking the time to convey appreciation or thanks in a more meaningful way than typical electronic communication.

• acknowledge hard work
• follow up a meeting or conversation of importance
• recognize accomplishments
• recognize service anniversaries
• express thanks, gratitude, or appreciation
• celebrate birthdays
• offer best wishes

In today’s workplace, technology is a wonderful thing. It’s a tool that improves processes and solves problems. It also creates opportunities for more time to accomplish the tasks that will help us to be successful. But don’t forget to take a little of that ‘saved time’ and invest it in an old fashioned practice that will create a lasting impression on your colleagues.

For a more other discussions on persuasive business writing and workplace etiquette, see my book:

Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013

For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Writing to Win: The Great Untapped Talent Pool

by Royce Murcherson

Royce top pictureIn previous posts, I have always stressed the fundamentals of persuasive business writing found in my book, The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. But lately, an important book, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg has come to my attention. It’s an honest, frank work that focuses on an untapped talent pool in the business world. It continues offering vital information on how these talented individuals can become leaders, champions, and partners. Who are the people that make up this untapped resource? Women.

At first sight, you might think this is just another self-help book full of advice you’ve already heard. I did, until I spoke with a female executive in a fortune 500 corporation. I suddenly realized a simple truth.   Chances are many women in the business world have lived the challenges presented in Sheryl Sandberg’s book and may not have realized that there are reasonable and available options for overcoming these challenges.

What does all of this come down too? It comes down to women being assertive and understanding the value of internal networking. It comes down to collaboration and communication. There are companies that encourage women to seek a more visible role as senior leaders.

In my conversation with the executive who is currently involved in a women’s internal networking group, I asked, what is the biggest value? She responded, “It’s the opportunity to meet with my peers, other women, and be sponsored by senior leaders who are also women.” She went on to explain how rewarding it was to be in a group with like-minded high performing women with ambition. But most importantly, she stressed the importance of having ‘confidants’, other women who share the same goals and challenges.

I pressed for more specific reasons on how women could benefit from internal networking circles. She said, “…it gives you the opportunity to meet peers from other areas of the company and expand your awareness of opportunities within the organization.”

As I understand it, there are three big advantages to networking circles:

  • You build relationships.
  • You are able to increase awareness of greater leadership opportunities.
  • You build knowledge with specific discussions on issues that help women to increase their effectiveness and exposure in the workplace.

Being a teacher, I needed more examples of real-time value, so I asked her what chapters in the book have ‘stayed’ with you, that is, the biggest simplest rules to remember? Quickly, she said chapters two and four.

Chapter two according to Sandberg is time to “Sit at the Table”. So what does this chapter boil down too I asked? She said, “…from what I have learned from reading the book is that women should take their proper place and not defer to eat the children’s table, be assertive.”

She went on to talk about chapter four, “It’s a Jungle Gym, not a Ladder.” I asked her to elaborate and she spoke about yet another great metaphor, the jungle gym. Apparently, the author wants women to understand that the way to success is not always a straight line. Lateral moves are good, but sometimes backwards moves can be made to build your skill set and advance.

So, if someone were to ask me what was the value in sitting down and talking to someone actively involved in a women’s group whose intent is to expand their reach professionally and personally, I would have to say this. Think Chess.

Royce Chess


It’s all about strategy and patience. Be strategic and recognize that women represent the great untapped pool of talent. Be strategic and do something about organizing this vast pool. Be patient and know that knowledge building and forging relationships may take time, but the rewards can be great.

In his review of Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, Sir Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group stated, “…women in leadership roles is good for business as well as society.”

For a more expanded discussion on workplace etiquette, look forward to further posts, and see my book, Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013)

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010


For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Are You Just Hearing, or Are You Listening Your Way to Success?

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Take a “working tip” from Richland College’s POFT 2312 Business Correspondence and Communication course on how to enhance your career and leadership success by developing effective listening skills.

Some people don’t realize that there is a big difference between hearing and listening. As a result, they run the risk of jeopardizing their success at work as well as in other aspects of their lives.

According to experts, hearing is one of the five human senses—vision, hearing, sight, smell, and touch; while listening is a communication technique.

Developing an effective listening technique is vital for anyone who wants to be successful in today’s workplace. The ability to demonstrate effective listening is key to your success, and to ignore important listening strategies is to invite failure.

Review the list below that was developed by authors Thill and Bovée on important listening strategies that can help you succeed in your career. These authors also look at the flip side of the coin and identify behaviors that can reduce your effectiveness and ones that may actually be harmful to your success. So don’t just “hear”; learn to “listen”!

09-15-2014 Table FinalIf you want to improve your communication skills, consider taking one or more courses in the BOSS program at Richland College.

Richland College, which is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road, offers both online and on-campus courses. For more information contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

***Get a Free Copy of Microsoft Office Pro Plus 2013***If you are a student in the Dallas County Community College District, you are eligible to download a free version of Microsoft Office 2013 Pro Plus (or 2011 on the Mac) which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Publisher, and OneNote.

Source: John V. Thill and Courtland L. Bovée, Excellence in Business Communication, 11th edition, Pearson, Boston, 2015, p. 49.






2014 Trends in the Job Search Process

04-07-2014 - Classified Ad Image 466158975Technology and its offspring, social media, continue to impact the way people look for jobs. Not only are recent graduates competing for jobs but also mid-career job seekers and, yes, even baby boomers are all in the job market.

No matter your age or experience level, Arnie Fetig, who is head coach at JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, offers readers some valuable advice on how to make the most of the job search process. He offers 10 important job search tips that job seekers should definitely keep in mind.

1.  Consider the use of both online and offline tools to help create a “best fit” for prospective employers and yourself. Realize that you must stay actively engaged with today’s employers through the use of social media and mobile apps. Using friends to help boost your visibility and availability is also a great “offline” strategy.

According to career adviser Hannah Morgan and the web site Jobvite, personal job referrals accounted for 40 percent of the job seekers finding their best or favorite job. On the other side of the coin, the employer side, 64 percent of the job recruiters rated referred candidates as those of the highest quality—so personal contacts DO matter!

04-07-2014 - Mobile Job Apps 4619913072.  Get yourself acquainted with mobile apps and realize the role they play in looking for employment. Understand that mobile apps will continue to be BIG in the job search process, and the use of these tools will only expand.

3.  Vary your communication types. While older job seekers still tend to use paper resumes to present themselves to employers, younger people are a lot more comfortable with video and online forms of communication. Older workers will need to consider more flexibility by incorporating newer communication types into their job search.

4.  Present your material in a manner that is clear, short, and targeted! According to Fertiz, job recruiters use to spend roughly 20-30 seconds reviewing each resume. Well, folks that review time is now down to 6 seconds!

5.  Make your information engaging. Become savvy at using links, video bios, infographics as part of the job search process and as part of the resume as well. There are a number of helpful online resume tools. These tools, which can help you build your online presence, include, CV Maker, and LiveCareer among others.

6.  Become part of the LinkedIn community, if you haven’t done so already and create a LinkedIn profile that shows more of your personal side (yet presented in a professional manner). Also, use the LinkedIn tool “Who’s Viewed Your Profile,” to help you use the analytics collected by LinkedIn for making your profile more appealing to potential employers and to engage with them. This tool is available to free users (some limitations) as well as to paid users.

7.  Follow companies of interest on Twitter.

8.  Prepare for group interviews. This interview process is being used increasingly by employers. You need to be ready for the prospect of being interviewed by a team as well as the possibility of being one of several job candidates being interviewed in the same session.

04-07-2014 Business Writing Skills 787719059.  Make sure your written communication skills are up to par. The use of “hard copy” may be on the decline, but good writing skills are very high in demand. You need to (a) be flexible, (b) have good grammar skills, and (c) be sensitive to and aware of the right tone and style needed for various communication platforms used today.

10.  Follow up your interview with a polite thank you message. Use this opportunity to get your name across the interviewer’s screen/desk again by highlighting the key points of the interview and how your skills can benefit the company.

For more details on Arnie Fetig’s job suggestions, visit his web site.

Get information on the BOSS program and how it can help you prepare for a successful career, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean,  972-238-6215.

WRITING TO WIN: Boost Your Job Application to the Top!

11-25-2013 Book Image - Royce MurchersonUsing the Toulmin Model to Write Persuasive Job Application Letters–One of the most effective ways to write persuasive job application letters is to use the Toulmin Model of Argumentation. This model is based on the work of Stephen Toulmin in his book, The Uses of Argument.

Persuasive job application letters are also arguments. You are arguing for your future. You are selling the idea of you being the best person for the job. And to sell yourself effectively, you will need to understand the three essentials in job application letters. These essentials are found in the Toulmin Model.

Three Essentials
Claim – This is a straightforward declarative statement. It could be something as simple as completing the sentence, “My years of experience and broad knowledge of financial analysis make me supremely qualified for this position.”
Support – It can emphasize work experience, or if recently graduated, emphasize academic accomplishments
Employer Expectations – Assumptions as to what the employer expects in a prospective employee

02-24-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_1Types of Letters
Job application letters sometimes called cover letters will work in tandem with the resume. The cover letter puts forth a claim that you are the best candidate for the job while at the same time addressing the prospective employer’s stated or unstated expectations.

There are several types:

  • Letters that respond to a job opening
  • Letters that are general inquiries when no specific opening has been posted
  • Letters that are targeted inquiries when you are interested in a specific job
  • Follow up letters such as a post-interview letter

All of these letters should include the Three Essentials:

  1. Claim – Why you are the best person for the job
  2. Support – Reasons why you are the best person for the job
  3. Employer Expectations – Attributes the employer will want to see in you

02-24-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_2The Need to Know Employer Expectations
After your initial claim, you must address the prospective employer’s expectations. Remember ‘the need to know’ mentioned in my previous blog?  The need to know your reader or prospective employer is very important. You must try to figure out what qualities and skills the employer will want in a new employee. You’re probably thinking, how do I figure this out? This is how you do it.

02-24-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_3Ask Yourself One Simple Question…
Why would this person want to hire me? Remember these are only assumptions, but common sense assumptions, so make a list. It might be reasons like experience, education, communication skills, interpersonal skills, and leadership skills.  Writing about yourself in these areas will help to address unanswered questions the prospective employer may have about you.

How You Can Remove Some of the Guess Work?
Research the Employer – Locate all relevant information on the company such as corporate vision, profit and loss, stock performance, and long term industry outlook. Knowing something about the company demonstrates your interest.
Research the Position – Locate information on salary range, customary duties and responsibilities, potential for growth.

02-24-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_4Persuasion is Power!
Understanding the art of persuasion, the power it wields, and the success it can yield is absolutely necessary in the job search. You will have many opportunities to sell your ideas when you’re on the job, but first you will need to land the job. And to do this, you will need the best tools. Think of the Toulmin Model as a new kind of toolbox, one that contains the essentials of success.

For a more expanded discussion on writing persuasive job application letters  and using the Toulmin Model of Argumentation in business writing, see my book, Royce Murcherson, PhD,  The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013) 1-11.

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

Toulmin, Stephen. The Uses of Argument. Cambridge University Press. New York, 1958.

This article is the last in a four-part guest series written by Royce Murcherson, PhD, on how to improve your writing skills and behavior. Dr. Murcherson is a faculty member in World Languages, Cultures, and Communications at Richland College in Dallas.

For more information on BOSS course offerings in communications, the BOSS degree and certificates, and how the BOSS program can help you with your career, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean,  972-238-6215.

Writing to Win: How to Keep the ‘Mood’ Out of the Message

11-25-2013 Book Image - Royce MurchersonHere’s the thing about electronic communication in the business world nowadays. You rarely have to face the person on the other end so it becomes easy to hide behind a wall of transactions like “reply and delete,” “follow-up, clean up, and forward.” In the section on ‘tone’ in my handbook, I wrote, “Do not think of email as some protective covering.” Actually, it should go something like this, do not think of business writing as protective covering. It’s anything but…..your writing and the tone you create in your messages can make you an open book, that is, open to other people’s interpretation. Try not to let this happen.

You will send many messages in the workplace. Typically, most of them will be in the form of email and instant messaging. But depending on your job, you may also be tasked with more formal writing such as letters, memos, and progress reports to name a few.

Just as the singing contestants in the NBC series, The Voice, work to create the most beautiful tone and win the contest, you must also work to create the most appropriate tone in your business writing. How? By understanding the origin of tone, and understanding what it takes to ensure your tone is always appropriate. Because the concept of tone is challenging and requires explanation and exercises, let’s confine our discussion to two basic questions and some solid advice.

02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_1Question # 1: What is tone?

In my handbook, I explain it in this simple way, “Tone is Attitude. And attitude is a state of mind that can be passed on in our words.”


02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_1Question #2: How do you know when your tone is appropriate?

Your tone is appropriate when you take the ‘mood out of the message’.


Solid Advice                                                                                                                                       Understand Emotional Mine Fields                                                                                                To keep the mood out of the message, know how to navigate the emotional mine fields. It’s good to have a happy and upbeat attitude. But what about the times when you are not particularly happy and upbeat? These are the times when you must work to keep your mood out of your message. Think about sleepless nights, car troubles, family matters, and workload deadlines. These can drive the tone of your message and can wreak havoc in business communication.  On the flip side, think about successes? Don’t let them go to your head. Remember, you are a member of the team and must treat your colleagues with respect. It can be easy to slip into the, “I’m the king of the world” attitude (Titanic, Twentieth Century Fox, 1997).

Avoid Booby Traps in the Mine Fields                                                                                            As you make your way through the mine fields, don’t be caught off guard and let your emotions lead you into the trap of…….

02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_2

             Being Contentious – Don’t use combative, bombastic language that    suggests you are the conqueror and your colleagues are the conquered.  Remember, cultivating teamwork means success for all.


02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_2         Being Arrogant – Don’t use high flying over-bloated language that would suggest you’re the smartest in the room.  Remember, it’s possible you have a lot to learn from your teammates.


02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_2


       Being Bossy – Don’t use pretentious and domineering language as if you have been given the ‘alpha’ role. Remember, this decision likely rests with others.

Why is it Important to Keep the Mood Out of The Message?                                                   Know that your mood can be caused by a single emotional response or a conglomerate of them. Emotional responses include such things as anger, sadness, indifference, arrogance, and sarcasm. If you need to take some time, take the time and write when you are feeling calm, clear, and objective.                                                                                                                

Know that your readers may misunderstand and think your emotional response is their fault, or that you are directing your anger at them when in fact you are angry with yourself.

Know that electronic messages are practically eternal in cyberspace. They may never be fully deleted either on the server or in the minds of your colleagues.  

Know that words have consequences.  What you think is acceptable or funny may be offensive to others. Do not use slang or overly familiar language. Do not use text-speak. Do not use expletives of any kind. Use Standard English and practice good grammar and spelling. Stay away from humor.

02-10-2014 Guest Blog - Royce Murcherson Image_3GOLDEN RULE – THE MESSAGE CREATES THE IMAGE                                     Some of your colleagues will never have the privilege of meeting you face to face and building a traditional working relationship. They will have to rely on your messaging. So, make your messaging worthy of ‘who you truly are’ and ‘how you wish to be known’.

For a more expanded discussion on tone in business writing, see my book, Royce Murcherson, Ph.D.,  The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013) 1-11.

Clip Art, provided by Microsoft Office Professional Academic, 2010

This article is the second in a four-part guest series written by Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., on how to improve your writing skills and behavior. Dr. Murcherson is a faculty member in World Languages, Cultures, and Communications at Richland College in Dallas.

For more information on BOSS course offerings in communications, the BOSS degree and certificates, software productivity classes, and the Microsoft Office Specialist Certifications; contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean,  972-238-6215.