8 Basic Tasks Your Boss Assumes You Know How to Do

Making Introductions

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Employers assume that the people they hire know how to perform certain tasks. For example, your boss will expect you to know how to write a professional email and answer the phone properly. Those tasks are pretty simple, but others are a bit more complicated—for example apologizing for a mistake. That's not something everyone knows how to do. Here are eight tasks, some simple and some not, that everyone must master:

  1. Sending a Professional Email: If you are under the age of 30, it's very likely you have been using email since you've known how to write. What you may not know is that there's a big difference between sending email to your friends and using this medium for work-related correspondence. When writing to your friends, you might write in all lowercase letters, use slang and abbreviations, and perhaps even let misspellings and bad grammar slip by. Contrast that with professional email, where these same things are among the "do nots" to which you should be attentive when corresponding with coworkers, your boss or clients.
  1. Writing a Memo or Business Letter: It's hard to imagine having to send a paper copy of a memo or letter instead of an email, but it could happen. In case it ever does, you should know how to do it properly.
  2. Answering the Telephone and Making Phone Calls: You've been making and receiving phone calls your entire life. Of course, you know how to do this very simple task: you pick up the phone and say hello (or if making a call, ask for the person to whom you want to speak). That's fine for personal phone calls but not for business calls. When you answer a call, always identify yourself and state the name of your department or company. Give your name to the person who answers the phone when you are the caller and then tell him or her who you are trying to reach.
  1. Making Introductions: When you meet someone new, it is polite to introduce yourself to him or her. It is also good manners to introduce people to one another. In a work-related situation, it is always best to use first and last names. For example, say "Hello. I'm Mary Smith" when you meet someone for the first time. You can also do this when you run into someone you've met before but whose name you don't remember. In that case, you can add "I know we've met before but I'm afraid I've forgotten your name." Chances are they don't remember yours either! When introducing others say, for example, "John Jones, I'd like you to meet Peter Smith."
  1. Taking Minutes at a Meeting: Many jobs involve attending meetings, at least occasionally. Often it is required that written records, called minutes, be kept of these gatherings. At some point, the person running the meeting may ask you to take these minutes. When doing so, you must record the names of the attendees who are present and carefully take notes summarizing everything they discuss. You will also have to type up the minutes after the meeting.
  2. Writing a 'To Do' List: Either frequently or occasionally, you may have to juggle multiple tasks. The best way to keep track of all of them is to keep a 'to do' list. Write down all the tasks for which you are responsible, prioritized by due dates. Whether you use a phone app, computer software or a piece of paper, make sure you can either check off or cross out items as you complete them. Also, note the date. Don't delete items because you want to be able to keep track of the ones you've completed.
  1. Apologizing for a Mistake: In order to apologize for a mistake, you will have to admit you made it. That's a hard thing to do, but it's necessary. It is imperative that you act quickly—as soon as you realize your error, talk to your boss or whomever else it will effect. Try to have a plan in mind to correct the mistake.
  2. Calling in Sick: No one likes getting ill but, even more than that, most people hate calling in sick to work. A precarious job market has led us to believe our presence at the office (or wherever your workplace happens to be) is of the utmost importance. While it is true that you shouldn't take sick days unnecessarily, you should try to avoid infecting your coworkers. Stay home if you have something they could catch! Make sure to follow your employer's notification procedures.