18 July 2013
For accounting professionals building a career in tax, it can be difficult to decide what step to take next. Should you pursue further education or acquire a certification? If the latter, which one? Or are you better off just focusing on further work experience? There are many career paths one can take, but many are puzzled when it comes to deciding which credentials will offer the most in terms of professional growth and compensation. A Master’s in Taxation is a good way to improve your skills, gain the ones needed to pass certification exams, and accrue further hours of experience in the field. However, when compared to the Enrolled Agent (EA) designation given by the IRS and the Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) certification provided by state, does an advanced degree measure up? And which certification is better? At The Execu|Search Group, our Accounting/Finance recruitment professionals have been observing a strong uptick in demand over the last several months for tax professionals who have acquired their CPA. “Clients want to see that a candidate is committed to their career, and being certified shows employers that commitment because it’s the highest-level certification in the industry,” says Accounting/Finance Director Elisa Dammacco. “While being an Enrolled Agent or having your Master’s in Tax might suffice at your current firm, if you are looking to advance and increase your professional value, you need to obtain your CPA.” Acquiring your CPA certification will allow you to enjoy a variety of benefits that you might not have had otherwise. For instance, accountants who hold one or more professional certifications (CMA, CPA, etc.) can earn 32% more over those who don’t, including professionals with a Master’s Degree as well as those with less schooling. Many high-level tax and accounting positions also require that the candidate acquire his or her CPA within a certain period of time from obtaining the position, and for those positions that don’t require it, having a CPA can be the deciding factor between you and an uncertified candidate. Although as a CPA you will have the same tax-related freedoms and responsibilities as you do as an EA, a CPA will allow you to acquire a more well-rounded knowledge of the accounting industry, which not only presents you as a candidate who can approach your work with the big picture in mind, but also gives you greater flexibility for the future. Whereas an EA is strictly an expert on tax, a CPA can have a concentration in tax but must pass an exam consisting of four parts that address all corners of the accounting field. As a result, the CPA is considered the gold standard in accounting certifications, as it is one of the most difficult to achieve, and is therefore given the most consideration by hiring managers.
17 July 2013
Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking for a variety of reasons, but the quickest way to get comfortable is to get know your coworkers. Once you’re settled into your new position, it’s important to get a jump on conversing with your fellow employees. You’ll be seeing them quite a bit, and having a good relationship with them will make your workday easier and more enjoyable. But how do you come up with more interesting topics to talk about than the weather? Should you find yourself stuck on how to best spark a conversation with someone, consider these easy and effective conversation starters: Ask for help. It’s the easiest way to get talking at work and a great way to show you’re outgoing and invested. It also shows a level of trust in your coworker’s knowledge. Chances are you’ll need help in a new job anyway, so why not use it as a way to start getting to know those around you? Offer help. Even while you’re still in the learning process, you can ask during any downtime you have if you can help anyone with something. Should someone accept, you can begin talking about the project at hand; should he or she decline, you can ask about the project anyway to get a feel for what others are working on around the office. On Mondays, ask about the weekend. This is a simple and common enough question that shows courtesy and almost always gets a great conversation started. “Did you see that movie/game/show?” Movies, sports, and television are great topics for conversation, and if you find common ground, they’ll provide opportunities for future conversations. Just be sure to keep conversations appropriate for work. Likewise, talk about appropriate current events. If you have a newspaper with you from your commute in to work, ask if anyone’s heard about a recent story and pass it around to anybody who might be interested. Industry news is another, more focused source of conversation. Stay up to date on topics relevant to your industry and your department. Inevitably, you should find something that will initiate a great conversation with one or more of your coworkers, and could learn something in the process. Ask about places to eat or where employees go for fun. Oftentimes, a group of coworkers will go out together and talk over lunch, or they may have a favorite place to recommend and some may offer to go with you. Try to avoid sitting at your desk quietly during lunch; it’s the easiest, and most appropriate, time to communicate with those around you in and out of the workplace. Use your surroundings. If you’re in the kitchen, make a comment about someone’s lunch smelling good, or about the coffee. If you’re at the copier and someone’s waiting for you to finish, let them know that you’ll just be a few moments more and ask if they need it immediately. You may often find that people seem relieved that you broke the silence and are more than willing to start a conversation. When going out, ask if you can get someone something or if anyone would like to take a walk. At the very least, you’ll show that you’re thinking of your fellow coworkers. At best, one or two may join you and start a conversation on their own. Ask open-ended questions. This applies to many of the above points. Asking questions that require an answer other than “yes” or “no” encourage the flow of conversation and prevent awkward silences. They’re often more interesting and facilitate more effective communication. Remember, when using any of these conversation starters or any of your own, always keep the topics work appropriate and avoid gossip. It may be easier to get involved in the social politics of the office than coming up with your own icebreakers, but don’t do it. Gossip is dangerous and can lose you respect quickly. Instead, stay positive, show interest, and be friendly. If you make an effort, you’ll often find that many others are willing to do the same.
16 July 2013
Accounting interviews can be complex, and like any type of interview, the key to acing one is through preparation. Before an interview, most accounting professionals know to prepare for questions that test their technical accounting skills, such as numerical and psychometric tests, their accounting competency, and their memory of accounting principles. However, as important as it is to review and brush up on your accounting knowledge and how it applies to the position you’re applying for, it’s just as important to be prepared to answer questions regarding your “soft skills,” those intangible attributes and personality traits that don’t necessarily come across on a resume or through results on a competency test. “Many jobseekers have strong technical accounting skills, so to determine whether or not a candidate would be successful in the role, an increasing number of employers are asking questions that require applicants to demonstrate their communication skills as well as their ability to think and act strategically,” explains Jaclyn Logan, a Director within The Execu|Search Group’s Accounting/Finance staffing division. “Employers see the immense value in hiring professionals who can exhibit strong management, listening, and critical thinking skills, and are willing to pay them more and offer more opportunities for career advancement.” Below are some questions that hiring managers often ask to get a better understanding of each candidates’ “soft skills,” along with advice from Jaclyn on how to prepare for them: One of our biggest challenges within the organization is_______? What has been your experience with it? How would you manage it?: The purpose of this question is to see how fast you can think on your feet. To make sure you answer this question thoroughly, ask questions to get more information and break this information into smaller sub-sections. This will make it much easier for you to think of smaller scale examples of similar experiences. Explain how you managed each challenge, and summarize how this applies to the overall issue. If you don’t have experience managing the issue, state how you would go about solving the problem. Answer directly, be specific and show your organizational and analytical skills. What moment in your career are you least proud of? In hindsight, how would you have done things differently?: This is a general question to learn how introspective you are and to see if you can learn from your mistakes. If you can, it indicates an open, flexible personality. Don’t be afraid to talk about your failures, particularly if you’ve learned from them, because this is a critical attribute of a candidate with high potential. Can you recount a situation in which you called upon both your technical and managerial skills to achieve a goal: Hiring managers want the candidates who not only fully understand the technical aspects of a project, but can also communicate effectively and manage others. To answer this question successfully, you must give an example that demonstrates your abilities are well-rounded, not one-sided. How would you handle a situation with tight deadlines, low employee morale, or inadequate resources?: If you answer this question effectively, it indicates you have strong management skills. organizational skills, interpersonal skills, and the ability to handle pressure are key elements of effective management, so when you answer this question, you need to make sure you give a specific example of how these soft skills helped you overcome the issue. How have you grown professionally or adapted to change over the past few years? As new laws and regulations can change the accounting industry relatively quickly, the abilities to learn new skills and adapt to change are qualities that are sometimes more important to hiring managers than your experience with a particular program. Giving an example of a time where you took advantage of an opportunity for professional growth or you took the initiative to teach yourself a new skill will brand you as a proactive professional who values professional development and keeping their skill-set up to date.
15 July 2013
Though our intentions are always in the right place when searching for the right candidate, we can sometimes be blinded by our desire to find a great fit fast. This rush can lead to a number of hiring mistakes, common tropes that may seem helpful but only harm the process—and possibly the business—in the long run. That’s why it’s important to take your time, evaluate each candidate closely, and tailor your approach to work for you. To be safe, you may find it helpful to enlist a recruiter to help you along the way. Here are 5 of the top mistakes that hinder these good practices and how working with the right recruitment firm can help you avoid them. 1. Hiring for “hard skills.” It can be all too easy to see a resume that matches up perfectly with the job requirements and think you’ve found your hire. Seeing the required “hard skills” in writing on a resume—years of experience, proficiency with certain software, etc.—is enticing, but what about the candidate’s “soft skills?” Knowing that a potential employee is friendly, cooperative, and a great communicator can often be just as important, if not more so, than knowing that he or she has experience with a specific skill or program. Something like Excel proficiency can be easily taught, whereas people skills and other intangible qualities are a bit more difficult to coach. How recruiters can help: When a recruiter is contracted to assist in the hiring process, they will conduct an interview with a variety of candidates, whether on the phone, via video chat, or in person, prior to recommending who should interview with you. Recruiters will make sure a candidate is qualified for the position, but should you emphasize that certain soft skills are needed or desirable, he or she can then narrow down the pool of interviewees to those who have both types of skill sets. 2. Hiring the first qualified candidate to come your way. Although you may have an immediate need, hiring too quickly can sometimes turn out poorly for both the company and the candidate. You want to make sure you have enough time to properly get to know the candidate in person, weigh them against other candidates, and reference check before making your decision. This way, you can be sure that the candidate is truly qualified for the skills and tasks required of the position. How recruiters can help: It can be tough to find the best possible hire in a short period of time, so recruiters are often able to expedite the process. In addition to prescreening candidates, a recruiter may already have an arsenal of candidates in mind for you. It may just so happen they have already met with qualified candidates before for other positions and they may be able to send them your way before searching for more, thus kick-starting the search early. 3. Hiring the same type of person over and over: In many companies, it can be beneficial to have a staff comprised of diverse personality types. Study after study has shown that we are more likely to hire people we identify with, or people who share similar traits with ourselves. But the best way to stir creativity and collaboration is to have a healthy mix of employees who are all well-suited to their positions and display a wide variety of work styles. How recruiters can help: Whereas it may be difficult for a hiring manager to remain unbiased while hiring, recruiters can do so more easily, and can often help assess and hire for your company’s needs more accurately. It’s natural for us to hire those who share similar values, and in some cases it is important to do so, but an unbiased recruiter can help you make the best choice for your company as a whole. 4. Hiring a poor cultural fit: While hiring diversely can be useful, it’s still important to remember that your company has its own culture and way of doing things. Every organization is different and, therefore, someone with the right credentials still may not work well within your business. It’s important for candidates to make sure the company is a great fit for them, but making a smart cultural match is a mutual effort. Making a poor one can result in both an unhappy employee and employer once again finding themselves in the hiring process sooner than expected. How recruiters can help: They can help find that balance between different working styles and cultural fit. If a hiring manager can detail the type of work environment he or she is hiring for, a recruiter can keep that in mind while searching for candidates and ensure that only fitting candidates get sent to the employer for interviews. 5. Hiring from narrow job descriptions. If you need a great candidate, you write up a very specific description so only those best qualified apply, right? Maybe not. As we stated above, certain things can be taught on the job, and sometimes finding an employee who will get along with his or her coworkers, or one who is a quick and adaptive learner, can be more valuable than hiring one with specific experience but less-than-polished people skills. So being stringent on requirements and writing an extremely narrow job description could turn away potentially great candidates who don’t fit the exact description you provide. How recruiters can help: Provide the details, and a recruiter can write up a job description that targets specific types of candidates for your company. They can also make sure your job listing reaches a wide audience of possible applicants and then help narrow down the candidates in the selection process. This can ensure that you’re attracting the right candidates and interviewing only the best available, and therefore, making the best choice for your company’s long-term goals.
14 July 2013
According to a recent study, the average person logs onto Facebook 14 times per day on their phones alone. Assuming most of us get 8 hours of sleep, that’s nearly one log-in per hour—not including each log-in on a computer. This naturally suggests that most of us check social media at work, but is this necessarily a bad thing? If you have the mentality that using social media tools impedes employee productivity, think again. Microsoft recently released a survey on social media use in the workplace which found that the use of social media tools at work actually has the opposite effect. The survey, which polled nearly 10,000 information workers in 32 countries around the world, resulted in a surprising 42% of those polled saying that they felt their output increased during the workday when social media tools were accessible. So what does this mean for you as an employer? If you have strict rules in place about social media use in your office, it may be time to loosen up the screws. Fortunately, only 5% of those polled answered that they ignored company policy and used social media against their employers’ wishes, but a much larger 37% said that they could do their job better if management was more supportive of their social media use. This could be for a variety of reasons. It’s been proven that taking quick breaks throughout the workday to look away from work and recharge for a few minutes increases productivity, and a quick Facebook break might just be an excellent way to do so. Tools like Facebook and Twitter allow for socialization, which is a great way to re-energize. In fact, of those polled, 39% felt that there wasn’t enough collaboration in their workplaces—something that social media can apparently fix, as a whopping 68% agreed that they use social media at work largely to communicate with colleagues. There are several ways to increase collaboration at your company and many businesses, large and small alike, are going as far as reorganizing their office layouts to encourage employee communication. But with 40% of those surveyed agreeing that social media use in their office has resulted in increased collaboration, there may be a much easier—and cost-effective—way to get coworkers talking. A less surprising finding of the study showed that the group that consistently ranked highest in its desire for increased social media use was that of the 18 to 24 year-old age bracket—probably the most social generation thus far. It’s well-known that two of the most important factors for millennials are work-life balance and a feeling of trust and independence in the workplace, so the freedom to use social media is a much-desired perk for them—and, apparently, an effective productivity booster. An even higher concern than productivity loss amongst those polled was that of security in regards to confidential information, but should you lay down strict policies or even internet blocks on social media, your employees, especially those in Generation-Y, may feel that you don’t trust them enough to get their work done or respect company privacy. This should not be the case, as employees who feel their organization trusts them are more likely to feel more at home and work harder. So invest some trust and social media freedom in your employees—after all, millennials are predicted to comprise nearly 50% of our workforce by 2020. While communication may have been the main focus of social media upon its conception, the sites that make up today’s social media giants—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—have all evolved to incorporate many new uses. As a result, there are several reasons besides communication and employee productivity that incorporating social media into your office culture can help, rather than hurt, your company. For example, many businesses are now using these sites to develop new marketing strategies, advertise their services, share information with others in the field, and create an internet footprint that could potentially lead more clients to their doors. And while many organizations already have a Facebook and/or Twitter page of their own, allowing employees to log on during work could encourage them to share updates, news, and information across these pages with their personal friends—thus expanding your business’s audience and professional network.
11 July 2013
With just one season standing between now and December, many financial services professionals find themselves lowering their heads to the daunting Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification exam. Holding the certification, which is the gold standard in the industry, is a testament to your hard work and knowledge—but passing the exam can be difficult. According to the CFA Institute, only one in five test-takers pass. This is why candidates with the certification are so sought after by recruiters in financial staffing and hedge fund recruitment: they are top-tier professionals proven to be significantly ahead of their competitors. So, are you thinking of getting CFA certified? Testing time is already here for this year, but there will be another Level 1 exam in December, and all Levels will test again next June. Here are some steps you can take to prepare yourself: Preparation Get—and stay—organized. It takes a lot of focus to master the amount of material required for the CFA exams. The best way to make sure you stay on track for all 18 sections of material is to plan out which sections you’ll be studying during which weeks, and how many hours per week you plan on dedicating to them. The CFA Institute measured the workload necessary to pass the exam at a total of 250 hours of studying. So register early, get your materials early, and spread the hours out as manageably as possible. Only you know your schedule and what you can work with. Start early, end early. When you map out your study plan, make sure to start your coursework early enough that you can leave an extra month open prior to testing. This will allow you another several weeks to review and refresh your memory on all that you just absorbed. While you should have put aside time to review as you went along, you want to leave plenty of time to go over the material as a whole in order to grasp the big picture as well as the finer points. Sign up for a review course and buy a study packet. There are a number of resources on the internet to aid in acquiring a CFA, but don’t inundate yourself. Purchase your materials (there are several levels of study packets available, ranging from strictly notes to a complete workbook of notes, practice questions, instructions, and a final review) and sign up for one review course. Rely more on your studying than on the review class for preparation, but use the class and materials to go over weak points as you go along. Studying Read, solve problems, and review. There is a lot of reading to be done for the CFA exam, so focus first on the readings when studying. Find what method works best for you—some prefer to solve practice problems as they go along, while others prefer to get through entire sections before putting pen to paper. Whichever way you find most comfortable, make sure you schedule routine review days and practice tests as checkpoints to make sure you understand the material before proceeding. A great way to do this is to review the Learning Outcome Statements (LOS), or objectives, provided with each section. Make flash cards and carry them with you. Not only does it help to take notes as you go along, but jotting down key points on flash cards and reviewing them on your commute to work or during your lunch break can help you retain vital information throughout the months of prep. Many financial services professionals juggle an already full schedule with their CFA preparation, so having access to notes without lugging around stacks of information can be helpful. If you need to travel even lighter, there are a number of flash card apps for smartphones available across a variety of providers and operating systems Use your calculator. When working on problems, practice using the calculator you’ll be using for the test. It’s important to know all the functions the device provides in order to be quick and efficient with each set of questions. Although the test is 6 hours long, you want to make use of every minute on every question. Knowing the tools available to you can only help and may reduce stress during the exam. Though difficult, obtaining a CFA certification is an excellent way to boost your career and open new possibilities for your future in Financial Services. According to the CFA Institute, the average salary for a CFA professional is over 50% higher than that of a non-certified candidate in the same role. So amp up your credentials! Sign up for the next round of testing, get your materials, and plan out your study schedule to acquire your CFA today.
09 July 2013
Attracting and retaining top talent may not be as hard as you think. It’s no secret – the way to bring in talented employees, and keep them there, can be attributed to one, singular concept: happiness. Whether they are employed in a full-time role or in a temporary job placement position, employees across the board want a few universal things such as, the feeling that their work is appreciated, they have the opportunity to grow, and they feel supported by their organization. In short, the employer who creates a work atmosphere that employees feel lucky to be part of, is the employer who will ultimately keep employees there. For all those employers looking for ways to keep their office superstars, read on for our tips: Start on the first day: Start by making a good impression the very first day by making the day more fun for new hires. Why? Studies show that many workers decide whether to leave a new job within their first few months, so you want to make sure your firm makes a great impression early on. To do this, consider creating more personalized orientation programs. For instance, Wipro, a business process outsourcing firm, tested a new orientation system on new hires that focused on highlighting their individual abilities. After six months, those who went through the orientation program were up to 32% less likely to quit than those who hadn’t. New employees are also more likely to stick with a job when they find a social group early on, so consider connecting like-minded people instead of assuming ties will form naturally. To do this, consider a short orientation program in which new hires are grouped by their similarities and interests. It can also help to set up informal meetings with new hires throughout their first three months of employment to check in on them to address any concerns they may have as well as to discuss their performance. An organized and effective orientation program will help new hires develop a strong connection to your company, which will in turn, allow them to be more efficient employees. Provide educational opportunities and hire from within: Providing both educational opportunities, as well as opportunities for advancement and upward mobility, may keep employees interested in sticking around. Good employees deserve to be nurtured in professional development programs, and doing so will ensure employees feel their potential has been recognized and rewarded. Professional development programs can also help the organization improve its bottom line as they make great employees even better employees who are fit to take on higher positions within the company. Discuss advancement opportunities from the start: Management should discuss advancement opportunities with valued team members from the beginning of employment. Knowing that there is the possibility of advancement lowers the chances that employees will begin pursuing interest in other companies. Stop them from prematurely searching for future employment by letting them know their position in your company is valued and that there is room to grow. Be fair and equal: Employees want to work in an environment where they feel they are being treated fairly. Consciously creating a positive working environment will support your staff and their endeavors, whereas oversights on work equality can drive talented employees to other companies. Promoting equitable treatment, and using good judgment when assigning projects or tasks, or giving raises and other bonuses may go very far in terms of employee retention. Don’t let them feel invisible: A common complaint that you may hear during exit interviews is that the former employee felt their contributions went unnoticed by senior managers in the office. Employees who feel invisible are often unhappy because they feel their contribution to the company is going unrecognized, and may feel that their value is being overlooked and neglected. As an employer, take the time to meet with new hires to find out their strengths and talents, and meet with every employee periodically to check in on their well-being from time to time. This will not only make them feel appreciated and acknowledged, but also give you an accurate reading of your employees, and how you can help them grow professionally. Reward them: A fail-proof method to increase employee satisfaction is to reward your workers. Giving your valued employees monetary rewards, such as gifts, or bonuses, or a promotion and new responsibilities, tells them they’re doing a good job, and rewards them for that performance. Rewarding your employees is key to retaining staff, and making them feel appreciated. Even thanking them for their work on a frequent basis will raise motivation. Be flexible: The possibility of a flexible work schedule can be very appealing to a potential candidate, and to current employees who may need the flexibility. If it’s not crucial that employees work every hour of their workweek from the office, offer some flexibility in where and when they can work. Different tactics will work for different employers but one option that increasing numbers of companies are using is the offer that employees can work one day a week from home. Make work fun: Do little things to make work enjoyable for your staff. One method that is commonly used is catering. Ordering lunch every now and then as a company treat, or making the effort to celebrate birthdays and other holidays can make work more enjoyable for employees. An easier idea is to set up a suggestion box where workers can put their complaints, suggestions, and comments. This way you can hone in on what your employees want improved, or what might make their work life happier. Use these tactics, and your company will be on its path to becoming a more appealing place to work, and you’ll find yourself attracting top talent while retaining the stars you already have. Keeping your staff engaged, motivated, and happy may also ensure that you’ll have a productive and successful organization.
08 July 2013
In a previous post, we discussed what questions candidates should ask a hiring manager during the interview process to gauge whether the culture, practices, and attitude of a company would make it a great place to work. There are a number of things you can ask to determine whether or not the company would be a good fit for you, but sometimes, questions can only get you so far. What are some other ways to measure appropriateness for you? How can you tell if you’ll be happy working there? Here are five ways you can begin: Pay attention to how the hiring manager, and any senior management you might meet, acts. Just as you arrive to an interview or a first day professionally dressed and on your best behavior, a hiring manager or supervisor should do the same. A lot can be said about a company that promotes or hires high-level executives who don’t represent the business well. Likewise, a polished, friendly, and outgoing professional is a good indicator of a company that takes itself, and its employees, seriously. Observe their communication skills. Companies that operate on a professional level and respect their candidates make a point of communicating effectively, professionally, and respectfully. For example, emails with numerous grammatical errors and unprofessional phone conduct should both be red flags. Most good hiring managers understand that it can be discouraging for candidates who spent time and effort perfecting and customizing their resumes, cover letters, and portfolios down to the last comma to receive a sloppy response. Those who don’t may not have as much respect for their company and the candidate as you would hope, and that may reflect on the company that hired them. You should especially be wary of poor communication skills as you get further into the interviewing process, as you may very well find these faults in your future manager. Make sure they respect your time. Companies that respect their candidates and strive to maintain a great corporate image usually won’t insist that you drop everything and interview right away without first informing you about the details of a position. Be aware if you feel pressured. Should a hiring manager offer you an interview, the ideal way to do so is usually to ask when would be a convenient time for you, or to offer several days that might work for both you and the company. Ask for a tour. Is the office organized and running smoothly? Do its employees seem comfortable? In a company that’s enjoyable to work for, you will generally find that people seem happy, work in an organized fashion, and are friendly with one another. Another great sign is seeing open doors versus shut off rooms, as that can indicate a high level of communication and openness in an organization. When you need other opinions, check with sites like the Better Business Bureau and Glassdoor. These are great tools that allow for anonymous reviews and are generally accurate as to the honesty and integrity of the company’s mission as well as how they treat their employees. While the only certain way to determine whether or not a company is for you is to see for yourself, it is always helpful to see what others are saying, particularly those who have worked there in the past. You should always remember to trust your instinct when considering an offer. After the interviewing process, during which you hopefully asked the right questions to scope out the company, you should have a better idea of how the business operates than when you initially applied. If you don’t, trying the above methods could help. Of course, sometimes the only way to be certain is to take a job and try it—but, remember, you should steer clear of any job that you feel isn’t a good fit for you.
03 July 2013
Networking events can be nerve-wracking. You might find that after you’ve finished a conversation, you’re too busy breathing a sigh of relief to process what you just learned, or who it was you even spoke to. It will greatly help you to remember all the personalities you’ve socialized with once you get home, when you can actually do something with the information. What follows are some easy tips on how to remember names at any networking event. Focus on the people you’re conversing with – Have you ever been introduced to someone, and then seconds later, you haven’t a clue what their name is? Often times, people going into a conversation at networking events tend to plan what they will be saying, and end up focusing too much on themselves. Rather than getting stuck in your head, try and take a deep breath and relax. Genuinely listen to the other person and hear their name instead of anxiously awaiting your turn to speak in the conversation. Use their name – Using their name after you learn it will help cement it into your mind. Casually drop it into a statement you’re making or question you’re asking. For example: “Nice to meet you, Lisa.” Don’t be afraid to ask again – If you don’t quite catch their name, don’t be afraid to ask for it again. Similarly, if you’ve forgotten their name, ask for it again. The sooner you raise the fact that you’ve forgotten it, the less embarrassing it will be (they may even have forgotten your name too, which gives them a much-appreciated opening to asking for yours again too!). For example, you can say, “I’m really sorry, but I’ve forgotten your name. Would you mind repeating it?” Make an association – Making an association in your mind is a great way to attach the person to the name. For example, you might think “Claire was wearing that beautiful green top.” Or “Mike is the quirky soccer-loving teacher.” Get their business card – After you have finished speaking with that person, scribble down any details you can on the back of their card. This will help remind you who they are later on. Check that you have the pronunciation right – If the name is difficult to pronounce, double check that you’re saying it correctly or ask them to spell it. This can provide a nice segue into asking for the meaning or significance of that person’s name, making for a more personal connection.