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1. Should I stick with a stable job in an office I enjoy or say yes to a new and more lucrative offer?
Option three: "Go to your boss, tell her you've gotten an offer, and ask if she'll match it," says Robin Ryan, career counselor and author of 60 Seconds & You're Hired! (Of course, there's an art to doing this: You want to make clear that you love your job and aren't just using it as a bargaining chip.) "She may say no, but there's a good chance she'll say yes. Whatever you do, though, do not bluff, because you could end up unemployed."
2. Is an advanced degree worth the time and money?
Depends on the degree. MSN Money personal finance columnist Liz Pulliam Weston calculated which degrees pay off over time in salary. "Advanced degrees in business, education, engineering, law, and science do," she says. "But the average liberal arts and social sciences master's degrees typically don't." Her advice: Talk to people in the positions you see yourself in someday, and ask what degrees they have and whether they needed those degrees. If you just want to spruce up your résumé, Ryan suggests seeking credentials from professional associations or getting short-term seminar "degrees," which, depending on the field, can provide the desired education, networking opportunities, and salary increases.
3. Which e-mails can I not answer?
Those where you are cc'd; messages to more than three people; all one-liner e-mails ("Done," "Perfect," "Sounds great"); messages that start with "FYI"; thank-yous to thank-yous. "If it doesn't bluntly request a comment back, assume it's just for your information and don't reply," says Ryan. Endless discussion chains (Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re:) should be handled by phone or in person after two to three e-mails, says Will Schwalbe, co-author of Send: Why People E-mail So Badly and How to Do It Better. And when higher-ups send answers to a question, give them a break. "You've asked, they've responded, and now you can do them a favor by not cluttering their in-box with 'Thanks' e-mails. But if you're a boss, err on the side of responding, because people take it quite personally if you don't."
4. When should I send a handwritten thank-you instead of an e-mail?
Ignore your mom on this one: It's an e-mail world now. "People expect such an instant response that an e-mail within 24 hours is often preferred," says author and corporate productivity consultant Julie Morgenstern. It's okay, however, to follow your e-mail with handwritten thanks. "Busy people are getting more than 100 e-mails a day," says Pamela Eyring, owner and director of the Protocol School of Washington. "If you want to stand out, you can showcase appreciation with a good note."
5. What should I give my boss at the holidays?
A lovely note showcasing your appreciation. "The most meaningful gifts I get are the thank-you cards from people who work for me, and that's all I ever want," Morgenstern says. But if you feel you simply must buy something, says Penelope Trunk, founder of the Brazen Careerist blog, "your only goal is not to be wrong. So in my book, that leaves food. Wine could be wrong. Art could be wrong. Food can't be. The only thing is, if your boss is overweight, try not to buy really fattening foods."
Arianne Cohen is a Manhattan-based writer. Her exploration of the world of tall people, The Tall Book (Bloomsbury), will be published in January 2009.
Additional reporting by Brooke Kosofsky Glassberg and Kate Sandoval.