Frugal Friday’s Workwear Report: Shawl-Collar Knit Blazer

Knit Blazer: Alfani Shawl-Collar Knit BlazerOur daily workwear reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.

I was poking around for sweater blazers the other day, which are one of my favorite kinds of cardigans for work, and could barely find any under $300 — except for these from Macy’s, which kind of look amazing. I like the range of colors, the fitted shape, the shawl collar, and the price: $45. Oh, and it’s machine washable. Huzzah! Alfani Shawl-Collar Knit Blazer

Unfortunately, the plus-size version is sold out, but here’s a different plus-size option in teal.

P.S. Right now at L.K. Bennett you can get 40% off sale items with code MLK2016!

Seen a great piece you’d like to recommend? Please e-mail [email protected]

(L-4)

Comments

  1. Anonymous :

    Ladies I have a career advice question for the lawyers on this site.

    I graduated law school in 2012 from a regional school in the Southeast. I was on Law Review and graduated with a pretty high GPA. I had a hard time finding a job and ended up moving to Texas for a non-attorney position. This position is negotiating contracts for a large fortune 500 company.

    I miss home and would like to move back. I would also like to get on with a law firm an actually start practicing law. Its hard to network from so far away (about 5 hours drive) and I do not have any experience practicing law. My questions are:
    1. Has anyone else successfully made this type of move early in their career?
    2. Do you have any advice on making this move?
    3. Is this impossible?

    • I went the opposite way – firm, gov’t, now contract negotiation/management for a large, international company. I love my job and can’t imagine returning to practice. Anywho . . .

      Unless you are moving to the legal department of the company you work for, I have a feeling it is going to be challenging to get into a firm at this point, especially without being able to do a lot of on the ground networking at bar association events and the like. There may be varying strengths of barriers to entry based on what size firm you ware hoping to join. I think you should spin it as being great for a corporate practice group because of your contract negotiation experience. I would specifically outline challenging negotiations, the type of customer/entity you are negotiating with generally, how many contracts per year you successfully negotiated to completion, the dollar values of those contracts, whether any of them are government prime or subcontracts, etc. If you can show the firm that you have contacts with businesses by way of your current position that could help bring them business, that is helpful to mention as well. Scout firms with appropriate practice groups and find alumni, friends of friends, etc. Any possible connection that you might be able to use to not be a name on a piece of paper.

      If you are trying to jump from contracts negotiation to something like litigation, I think you are going to have an even more challenging time as you would essentially have to pitch yourself as a new grad/entry level attorney.

    • This might be a long shot, but I’ve had really good luck with the job postings put out by my school (also in the Southeast). They’ve led me to 2 good jobs, and seem to regularly get attractive postings. If you’re not already tapped in, check with your career services folks (they’ll be happy to help) and find out if your school has similar alumni postings.

      Also, tap into the local bars in areas you’re interested in working, particularly if you’re interested in smaller cities. I know that the city bar where I live is always posting jobs, and the leadership is really friendly and accommodating – I’m sure that they’d be happy to point an outsider who was interested in moving back to some resources. Good luck!

      • Anonymous :

        This is great advice. I routinely check the State Bar Association’s site, and have an interview from it next week. I will reach out to the local bar associations as well.

    • Can you do *anything* at all to get some actual legal experience on your resume? Can you do pro bono work through your local bar? Can you take on additional work (does your company allow moonlighting) doing contract work for a law firm? Contract work used to be exclusively doc review but now I understand some firms are using contract attorneys for substantive drafting and research work. Can you write an article for a legal publication? Alternatively, do you have any industry-specific experience now from your current job that would translate into legal practice? Does the industry you work in have a presence in you home town? For example, if you’re negotiating contracts for an energy company, has that provided you with any expertise in the energy industry or energy law, and does that industry exist where you come from?

      • Anonymous :

        Law firm work where I am is hard. I live in Texas but only licensed in Louisiana, so options are limited here. However, I believe my skills are very transferable, I think it just looks bad that my title is non-legal even though I do a lot of legal work. I often work with law firms and in house attorneys during negotiations.

    • No advice on geography. But, from the experience perspective, “negotiating contracts” may technically be a non-attorney position at your company (“contract specialist” or some such), but it is EXACTLY what tons of attorneys do.

      If you want to do corporate/transactional work at a firm, forget your non-attorney title and focus on what you’ve been doing. Frame your cover letter as “I’ve been handling contract negotiations at XYZ Corp — while I’ve enjoyed seeing negotiations from the in-house perspective, I’d really rather work with a variety of clients and industries to get to know the market, rather than just XYZ Corp’s positions, on these types of issues. Along with my initial experience in contract negotiations, I could bring my in-house perspective on how firms can bring value to their clients.”

      • I will also add that most firms are well aware that “contract specialist” or similar titles translates into legal experience. If your actual title is too vague to be helpful, perhaps you could add that type of phrase in parentheses after your actual title on your resume?

        • Anonymous :

          Thats a great idea. I probably need to add those types of buzz words and sell my job as more in house in my cover letters.

    • Biglaw partner :

      So, the challenge is going to be explaining to a firm why hiring you is better than hiring a fresh-out-of-law school grad. You have to strike a balance between acknowledging that you don’t have experience practicing and arguing that what you have been doing still can add value to the firm. Do *not* oversell your experience – in contrast to some of the other comments, I don’t have a very positive view of most non-attorney contracts specialists that I’ve encountered (who often have a fine grasp of the business points but no understanding of legal issues or what is reasonable from a market perspective in terms of critical legal terms), and I wouldn’t necessarily view that as giving you a foundation in transactional legal skills (I know you have a JD, but because you’ve been in a non-attorney role, I likely would still view your experience as primarily non-legal). It’s positive in terms of negotiating, but being a transactional lawyer isn’t just about negotiation – it’s also about documentation.

      It’s not that it’s not doable, but it’ll be challenging. You will likely need to take a paycut and be comfortable with coming in as a very junior attorney; you’ll need to make it clear that you’re comfortable with that. If you have a friend in private practice that you can trust to be honest with you, I’d ask that person to review your resume and cover letter and give you feedback on how you’re positioning your skills and experience.

      • Thank you for your comment. This exactly reflects my concerns. I do not have an issue with starting as a junior attorney but I feel like my title is a huge negative on my resume.

        • I think BigLaw will be hard, but a 5 atty firm doing commercial work? Someone with not much experience but who knows contract negotiation and wants to learn and is cheap might be a great fit.

          • Luckily my target city does not have any BigLaw firms. I also do not want to work BigLaw; the money is nice but I don’t think that life style is for me.

            Ideally, I would like to get on with one of the larger regional firms in the city. One with 2-5 locations and 50-250 attorneys. That is my goal, but I would also be happy with a smaller firm to get my feet wet and learn the practice.

          • Biglaw partner :

            I agree with this. I think that emphasizing wanting to learn will be critical – that’s the best way to sell your background. In fact, as I think about it, emphasizing that you have really enjoyed the business side but that you want to move on because you want to learn the legal side is probably the best way to go (also helps explain why you’re job-searching).

    • I’ve got a hopefully encouraging story for you. A girl who went to my law school (not T20 but good local reputation) a year behind me got a non-attorney license consultant type role straight out of law school . After doing that 2 years she was hired as the sole attorney at a start up! I had applied for the same position with my 3 years law firm experience and didn’t even get an interview! I don’t know how she sold herself but she definitely found a way to make it work.

      • Anonymous :

        That is encouraging. I feel like job searches really boil down to being at the right place, at the right time and having the right personality for the hiring manager.

    • After law school, I went to work for a small non-profit doing semi-legal work. After five years, I got a job working in government, then quickly transitioned to a law firm where I made partner. I am now in a semi-prestigious attorney government job. How did I make that first transition? I stayed in touch with law school friends and they vouched for me. Best way to get back into the legal sector is to work your contacts. Find out which of your law school acquaintances/friends is in a field or firm you want to be in. Meet with them. Network, network, network. And be prepared to come in as a junior.

  2. My husband is the best but his job is SO boring and he always wants to talk about it. We’re both lawyers but with different areas of practice (by definition mine is far more “exciting” than his, which he acknowledges). When we come home from work he will tell a story something like “I got a call from another attorney who disagreed with my interpretation of a clause of a contract (insert long description of what the particular type of clause was and how their interpretations differed).” When I talk about my job, I think my stories are more focused on things that happened to me at my job (co-worker got on my nerves, got two new files and one will require me to travel) and not the actual work that I do. I’ve tried the direct approach (i.e. saying “your work stories are SO BORING”) which was not well received. Is there another way I can approach this or should I just get really good at pretending to listen while I think about something else?

    • I am in a very similar position and would also like to hear how to deal with this.

    • Spirograph :

      My husband has a job that I do not totally understand, and he can’t explain half the relevant details of because it’s classified. I’ve chosen “get really good at pretending to listen while I think about something else.” We connect over other things. I figure he tells work stories to get things off his chest or otherwise digest what happened during the day, so politely letting him talk is just as supportive as actively listening.

      • Anonymous :

        Yep, my coworker’s husband a job that is very classified and involves travel, but she also said she doesn’t really care. They connect over other things, still get lunch together (we’re on the same worksite), talk about coworker dynamics, etc. One of my best friends is a contractor for an intelligence agency and she’s not even supposed to say the name of it, but we still discuss general work issues, just maybe not what she is actually analyzing that day or whatever.

    • Heh, I’m watching this because I often feel like your husband in this scenario – my niche law job is extremely boring and esoteric, and I’m never sure how to talk about it to people outside of my industry (even to other lawyers). My husband is an awesome cheerleader for my work, but it’s so hard to try to explain what sort of things I’m working on when he asks about my day.

      • Yep, I’m also the husband in the OP’s scenario. My husband has become very good at faux listening and I’m totally okay with it. I do make an effort to not talk about work so often, but when something goes down at the end of the day, my husband is the one stuck listening.

    • My husband has several very boring hobbies (he’s into the technical details) and a boring (to me) career. If I shut him down on talking about these parts of his life, I would be hurting his enthusiasm for them and isolating myself from him. I don’t want to do that because I want him to know that I care about the aspects of his life that he cares about. While you may be more interested in daily happenings or the people at work, your husband just appears to be really into his actual job. Why would you want to shut that enthusiasm down? He’s lucky to care that much about his work. I’ve found that the best way to approach is to latch onto a detail or to, ask a question about it, and remember it so in the future I can apply it to a different story. DH’s eyes never light up brighter than when I ask how something is similar to something he was telling me about at a different time. Once I’ve figured out a detail to question him on, I feel like I don’t have to understand/engage with the whole story, but he feels like I’m at least trying.

      • Anonymous :

        This.

      • I feel this way about the hobbies I don’t share with my BF, for what it’s worth. He likes watching all the sports, playing golf, and riding his motorcycle; I like books, cooking, and barre workouts. He listens to me gossip about the barre studio sometimes and I listen to him talk about the technical details of his bike sometimes. Listening with active (if sometimes feigned…) interest is such a small thing to do for someone I care about!

        But yes. I do feel you, OP, on sometimes wanting to just go “I literally do not care about your anecdote from a baseball game you went to when you were 11, and how that ties in with your team’s current suckiness as demonstrated by statistics.” I just try to be a decent person and shove it down, since I know he does not particularly care about my play-by-play of my workout class.

    • Anonymous :

      I think you should get better at caring about what your husband does instead of writing it, and by extension him, as boring. Get more engaged. Ask questions. If you want to hear about things that happened to him, ask. Stop smugly congratulating yourself on totes telling better stories and having a more exciting job. News flash- a co-worker getting on your nerves is a really boring story. Try embracing having an intellectual convo instead of gossiping about your day.

      • I agree with trying to care, getting more engaged, and asking better questions. My job could seem very boring to some (I negotiate contracts), but my SO loves to learn about the industry I work in and the tidbits I can share about various products and such. Hell, he even asks about the various government regulations I deal with on a regular basis (no one has ever accused regulations of being interesting). He asks very pointed questions about that sort of thing, instead of going oh yea, so you negotiated more contracts today and works on some RFPs, snooooooozefest.

        It may be boring to you, but he is your husband, you should try to care about it even if it’s boring!

      • Spirograph :

        Eh, people have different interests, though. You can certainly care about your husband without being interested in the minutae of his work day. I don’t think the OP was saying that her husband is boring at all, just that his work and tedious stories about it are (to her). It would not surprise me if he thinks her stories about people are boring, because clearly he has a different idea about what parts of his day are worth talking about. I don’t see a problem with that. I tell work stories more like the OP, and I just figure my husband is humoring me the same way I humor him. Sometimes I even preface with “I know you don’t care, but just let me vent for a minute.” Good for you if everyone in your life is a sparkling conversationalist with exactly the same interests, but I don’t think that’s generally how the world works.

      • This. You know what’s really boring to my husband? Endless details about interpersonal relationships. You know what’s boring to me? The details of his hobby. But we enthusiastically listen to each other because we’re married and we love each other.

        • True… I do not care in the slightest about Sims or model trains but I will listen, ask questions and ask questions. My husband does care about politics but he’ll let me explain two-party convergence with salt and pepper shakers.

        • Anonymous :

          This is very, very good advice. If your attitude towards your husband is that he’s boring, and you can’t be bothered to make yourself available to listen to things he wants or needs to talk about, it will kill your relationship.

      • (Former) Clueless Summer :

        Agreed. I am the one in my relationship who loves to tell stories about the “boring” parts of my job – intricate legal issues, procedural quirks – and my husband isn’t even a lawyer. I am just trying to share a part of my life with him, one that I care about very much. I appreciate so much when he listens, asks questions and even engages with me on those issues and I try to reciprocate as much as possible by asking about his job, even though I frankly have no interest in the topics.

      • Senior Attorney :

        Good lord, yes! It’s rude and hurtful to tell the person you supposedly love that stories about his LIFE (because news flash — when you’re at work you are living your life!) are boring! Figure out something to be interested in, ask questions, and be nice!

        • Anonymous :

          And if you can’t be, you may not be married to the right person? Seems like a red flag when you’re mainly bored by the things your husband talks about. Did you ever have things in common?

    • Ouch. That has to be a bit hurtful for him. He obviously puts a lot of care/effort into his work and wants to share his day/issues/accomplishments with you. Telling him what’s important and meaningful to him is “boring” is…well, pretty cold. I know you may think your stories are more focused/entertaining, but that’s because YOU care about the people and work involved–they’re likely just as boring to him.

      Maybe reframe why you both are sharing–you work hard and need to share successes, frustrations, etc in order to get validation or comfort or simply to vent. Being a good listener is pretty pivotal to being supportive.

    • It may also be the case that the telephone call from counsel disagreeing with this or that clause is causing him stress (even if it’s low grade stress) and that rehashing the conversation with someone he loves makes him feel more settled. I’ve been known to rehash email exchanges or conversations that have left me feeling weird in order to get that uneasiness out of my system and put the interaction behind me, but to the person I’m rehashing it to it would look like I wanted to recount the contents of my daily email.

      TL; DR: If your husband is talking about his day at work with you, assume there’s a reason and that’s he’s not out to bore you.

    • Few things were as meaningful to me as when my boyfriend and I were out with a bunch of friends and he clearly demonstrated he listens to my boring work stories. Somebody was talking about how their company made them carry separate cell phones, and (software developing, non-lawyer) SO said — totally casually — that maybe they were worried about discovery issues connected to potential future litigation.

    • I think the reasons above for why you should suck it up and listen are good advice. But if it’s bugging you, perhaps you could ask him to put limits on when or how he discusses this — without calling it boring, of course. Is there a certain time/ place where your patience isn’t being tested as much? Something like, I can’t really absorb these details until I sit down to dinner, or I’ve gotten to decompress from work, or whatever.

      • This is actually really helpful! Just the kind of tidbit I was looking for. Now that you mention it, he does seem to do it right after work when I am feeling really drained. I might be more receptive to it at another time of day/ definitely after my blood sugar is up a bit.

      • Husband and I do this. We also will say to the other (very honest, no snark) “I can tell you aren’t processing this right now – can you let me know when you can absorb info?” (usually more related to logistical stuff, but still applies).

        Also, how senior is your husband? I was very like your husband when I first started practicing – nuanced details of procedure for litigation. AS I got more senior, you learn how to write and speak in a way that conveys the message without getting lost in the weeds. It took me a few years to be able to relate a story in a way that was meaningful to my non-attorney husband or other audience.

    • lucy stone :

      I am the boring spouse in my marriage by far – my stories are about contract discussions or insurance coverage, and my husband’s are about things you watch on Netflix. My husband does his best to listen, but he’ll often ask “Does this need 100% listening or should I just be nodding sympathetically?” Half the time it’s the latter, but when it’s 100%, he’ll actively listen and ask good questions. Mine will definitely be more interested if I describe how the other attorney acted or something funny that happened on the call.

    • I’m so surprised by these comments! My husband’s job is pretty interesting but he occasionally talks about things that are really boring. I just say candidly — this is really boring, let’s talk about something else. And if I’m talking about something really boring, he’ll say the same to me. No offense taken on either person’s end! Y’all are too sensitive.

      • +100. I catch my husband zoning out during my work stories, I zone out during his sometimes, whatever.Of course it’s rude to tell most people that they’re boring you, but your own spouse? Life’s too short to live like that. And everyone is boring sometimes, it’s not an indictment of their personality!

    • I am SO happy to see this thread! I thought I was the only one and have been beating myself up lately about feeling like my SO’s stories about his work are boring. He does a lot of computer engineering stuff and will launch into excited and detailed descriptions that sound like they are in another language and require a lot of background knowledge and understanding that I don’t have and don’t want to prioritize obtaining. My strategies are to try to figure out what it is that I CAN understand and ask questions about those; if I don’t get something, ask him to explain it in lay terms; and try to file away some details so I can ask about them later. I also usually just tell him if I can’t absorb it until I’ve eaten/rested and decompressed after work/finished doing whatever I’m doing.

      • Lorelai Gilmore :

        One small tip: I think one way to be less bored is to dig further in. So for example, you can say, “Oh, can I see the clause in question?” It gives you an intellectual hook to dig into. In my experience as a lawyer, almost anything can be interesting if you get deep enough into it. I’m not saying you have to (or should) do this for every work story – but if there’s something that does even slightly pique your interest, try going deeper instead of glazing over. Sounds like your husband will appreciate it and it may even get more interesting for you.

  3. Anonymous :

    How regional is the school? They may have good alumni networks. If you do a lot of 3-day weekends and use the weekday to network (bfast, lunch, coffee) and do informational interviews, you may get some traction. Do you like your job? Maybe in-house positions or clerkships would be good to apply to in your preferred area. Negotiating contracts seems to be pretty close to practicing law, except you get do deal with economics and we get to deal with boilerplate.

    FWIW, I went to a T25 law school in the SE, but was middle of my class and felt like I had to work very hard my first years out. Now I’m probably the most improbable biglaw partner ever, but here I am (SE US).

    • Anonymous :

      For poster #1 above . . .

    • Anonymous :

      The school is pretty regional and their alum network is not great. I have gone to some events for members in my current city, but nothing has materialized from it.

      I do like my job but I feel like I have gone as far as I can with the company. Its also oil and gas, and with the current state of the market, work is drying up.

      I have applied to all the in house positions in my target city (NOLA), but those are few and far between.

      Another barrier to my current job search is the fact that I am not licensed to practice law in Texas, so that narrows the opportunities in my current city.

      I do go home often, so I will take your advice and try to network during those long weekends.

      • Anonymous :

        Maybe apply for clerkship / circuit executive office attorney jobs? IIRC, each circuit has a lot of attorney jobs for reviewing the various appeals, pro se filings, etc.

      • With oil and gas, I would stick it out with your current company for a while longer. It is going to be hard to find a job with any smaller firm that does primarily oil & gas (which I imagine is your primary target group) in NOLA (or anywhere) right now.

      • I went to law school in NOLA and left with the distinct impression that being from there mattered most to firms. If you’re from there, which it sounds like you are, tell everyone you know from home you’re looking and work your personal network. You might also want to give your career services office another shot – go in, meet with them, stay in touch, go to NOLA bar events.

        • It absolutely is. It is a very small community.

          I think everyone knows I am looking…I need to realize things just do not happen fast, especially there. Since hitting 30 I have been anxious to move home and be around my family and friends and their growing families. Settling down has become a top priority.

          Thanks for your comments, I have the careers services website open in another tab as we speak.

  4. Baconpancakes :

    Speaking of knit blazers, any busty ladies have experience with the Caslon Knit One-Button Blazer? It’s sold out in lots of sizes right now, but presumably it’ll go back in stock in more colors soon.

    • I tried the Caslon one-button knit blazer, because I’ve had good luck with other Caslon pieces, like the Melody t-shirt and the longer zip jackets they’ve shown. I did not feel like the blazer fit well or was flattering. It made me seem lumpy and undefined. I am a strong hourglass shape with a bust, but all subject to the effect of gravity and children, if that helps figure out my issues with it.

      I actually recently purchased three of these cardigans from Macy’s. I would warn that they run SMALL. Heed the reviews. I normally wear a medium in Nordstrom lines and had to buy these in a large. Warning for hourglass shapes -the waist may not cut in quite as much as you want, depending on your bust/waist ratio But I thought they were very good quality for the money, and I would be able to things in my wardrobe.

  5. sweater jacket help :

    I really like these, but cannot have another gray or black item in my closet. Any recs on ones in actual colors — a real purple? Tiffany blue? I love the idea of swackets / jardigan / styles, but don’t want them to look like sweatshirts (one problem I’ve run into) with the fabric. I miss the boiled wool jackets of the early 90s updated versions of them — they were at least bright and warm.

    • Talbots has some boiled wool jackets right now and some lovely sweater jackets in some lovely colors–I’m a jewel toned person, so I look for purple, emerald, burgundy, etc.

      Lands’ End usually has a good range of sweater jackets too

      • Anonymous :

        They’re not a true boiled wool any more, but a wool knit. I’ve got one and it’s a lot thinner than the boiled wool jackets of 80s and 90s. Still warm, but not much more than a sweater.

    • Black is the perfect color though. I’ve seriously thought about transitioning my main wardrobe to all black and white.

      • Ha, I have this. Every time I go shopping, I realize when I come home everything is in black and white. It just always looks so polished!!!!

      • Shopaholic :

        +1 – I have probably 5-7 black blazers (that are not suit jackets) and still wasn’t pleased with the one I decided to wear today. I always need more black!

      • This.

        I experimented with color for a couple of years and decided that I was done with it (since I never actually wore the non-black clothing.) I have always worn lots of black (I’m from NY, what can I say?) and I decided to just carry on with it already. I do branch out into grey, and occasionally dark jewel tones (today I’m wearing a dark green top with black pants and shrunken jacket (not a suit.) But basically everything in my closet is black or goes with black. And I’m okay with this.

      • Black is the perfect color for some, but not for everyone. I look like death in black. I look SO much better in dark brown or charcoal.

  6. Anonymous :

    Sorry if this is a dumb questions, but:

    How do you teach your kids activities that you never learned yourself? For instance, my husband and I never learned to swim, ski or iceskate but would like for our kids to learn. We are both avid runners, so our kiddos come along with us, but we if we took them to a ski resort, we wouldn’t be skiing so how would they learn? Do we need to get an instructor for swimming, skiing and iceskating, and are kids usually happy to learn and do these activities on their own while we watch?

    • Wildkitten :

      Even if you knew how to do those things, the kiddos would want lessons, and would be happy to learn while you watch. Can you take lessons yourself to get a minimum competency?

    • Absolutely, hire an instructor and off they go. Most kids are thrilled, though they may decide they don’t enjoy one activity compared to another.

      I was obsessed with horses as a kid (still am!) and my parents were from a poor inner-city and had never even seen a horse in real-life. They got me started in lessons and I absolutely loved it–they would come out and watch, and when I was older/better they’d drop me off or read books while I rode.

    • Anonymous :

      Swimming lessons, skiing lessons, and ice skating lessons. Especially with swimming and skiing I think even parents who do know how should use a professional instructor.

      Also, learn yourselves! Don’t take them to a ski resort and not ski. Sign the whole family up for ski school. Ditto swimming. It’s a really important safety skill, especially if you will be taking your kids swimming.

      • Wildkitten :

        My comment is in moderation, but this!

      • +1 to professional instructors, regardless of whether you have the skill, yourself. I think learning is more fun for many kids with a group of peers, they take more ownership of it when it’s taught by a non-parent, and if the skill is difficult or frustrating, a non-parent teacher is often better prepared to patiently help. Teaching is a skill, too. Just because you *can* swim/ski/whatever doesn’t mean you can teach it.

      • Almost all ice rinks have some type of learn to skate program and it’s usually open to all ages. You can sign up for the lessons with your kids, if they’re hesitant to start on their own. My mom did this when I wanted to learn to ice skate and she actually continued with it long after I quit.

      • Agreed! I learned how to ski at the same time as my mother, and it was great.

      • Ski novice :

        We moved to Colorado but don’t know how to ski, so the entire family signed up for ski school last month and it was a blast! All the resorts here offer lessons, usually ages 4 through adult, and there are plenty of adult beginners out there. Go for it :)

      • You should 5000% learn how to swim. While I understand it’s really difficult, what if you are around water and you need to rescue your child but can’t because you can’t swim? Do never go on boats, go to a lake, ocean, party with swimming pool etc….Swimming is a general “life skill” to me. (I realize everyone has different opportunities in life and not everyone learns how to swim as a child).

    • Wildkitten :

      Even if you knew how to do those things, the kiddos would want lessons, and would be happy to learn while you watch.

    • How about everyone take some swimming lessons? Call your local aquatic center or YMCA or whatever. There are lots of classes out there geared to adults (even if you had a bad experience as a child or have a phobia) To me, knowing how to swim is as basic a necessary skill as knowing how to read. I’m not talking about swimming butterfly, but basic water safety skills so that you can help yourself and others in an emergency.

    • +1 to everything said above, but just want to stress the importance of swimming lessons for you and husband. Unless you plan to never be around water, I think it’s a safety issue.

      • As a former swimming teacher and lifeguard, I +1MM. Please teach your children – and learn yourself – how to swim as soon as possible. Even if your four year old learns nothing more than how to put her head underwater and not freak out and then turn over and float, that is better than nothing.

        Also – please do not let your children play in the pool with those floaty things that go on their arms if they cannot swim. The floaties can slip off and they give the user a false sense of security. Give your kid swim classes.

        (And one more note from the lifeguard: Do not drop your kid off at the pool and leave for the afternoon. A pool full of kids plus one or two lifeguards means nobody is really watching your kid. The lifeguards are just praying that if someone goes under, they will see them before it’s too late.)

        • X1000.

          As a former lifeguard, who still can’t go to a pool or a lake without scanning, swimming lessons are SO important. Do not rely on floaties or the lifeguards at a crowded pool. When the pool is crowded, I was honestly just scanning for emergencies. I wasn’t counting swimmers, running through scenarios in my head, or calling out more minor safety issues. Some pools (particularly water parks), are designed with blind spots or have inadequate barriers between deep and shallow sections. This is a huge safety risk.

          Really, don’t even rely on life vests. If you end up face down, they aren’t designed to flip you over. The only life jackets that can possibly–but not always–do this are the “horseshoe” style life jackets.

          FWIW, even as a former swim instructor, I would hire a swim instructor to teach my hypothetical children.

          • Anonymous :

            Former lifeguard here, too. Especially at water parks and beaches, parents are the first line of defense. Frankly, you should not be around water if you can’t swim. It is dangerous for everyone. My YMCA has adult swim lessons, and it makes me so happy to see that they’re well-attended. A lot of people feel a stigma about being an adult learner, but no one is judging you, I promise! We’re just happy you’ve decided to learn.

          • Also fomer lifeguard. YES TO ALL THIS.

            If you must have a life vest (heading out on a boat or something like that) at least make sure they are coast guard approved for you/your child’s weight. The rec center I worked at would only allow those kind, since they are designed to keep the head afloat.

      • Any recs on what age a child should be before swim lessons?

        • I would love to know this as well. My husband and I are not great swimmers, so it’s critical that my child have swim lessons as soon as it becomes beneficial. Is it good to start these before the age of three or are the perceived benefits not really there?

          • Meg Murry :

            My area has parent and child classes for kids under 3, and it’s really more about getting the kids comfortable in the water – they blow bubbles, kick their feet, etc, but it’s very rarely actual “swimming”. But it is a good introduction so they aren’t terrified, and if nothing else its a good way to wear your kid out on a Saturday morning so they will take a good nap on Saturday afternoon.

            The pool offers group swim lessons to kids then starting at age 3 – and it’s really child dependent. My oldest started at almost 4 and got almost nothing out of these lessons, we spent the bulk of the 6 week session just getting used to the teacher – he didn’t really learn to do what I would consider “real swimming” until almost 6. My youngest, however, wants to do everything his big brother does, and at 4 he’s learning to actually swim.

            I’d observe a group swim class before signing your kid up – at one pool in our area the youngest kids spend most of the class sitting on the edge waiting for the teacher to give them their turn, so a 45 minute class turns into only 10 actual minutes in the water – whereas another pool puts the kids in swim vests and has them in the water the whole class.

        • Gail the Goldfish :

          You can start pretty young. I was definitely “on a swim team” by age 6, so I think my parents put me in lessons when I was 4 or 5. I don’t ever remember *not* being able to swim, so it must have been young.

          • Same here! I was swimming from an early age in backyard pools and joined the swim team as soon as I could (roughly 6 yrs).

        • Spirograph :

          There are “mommy and me” classes for really young kids, under a year old, even. I know my mom took me and my siblings (she was a sahm) and I took my kids to one session of those but decided the time commitment for me/h to be in the pool too wasn’t appealing. Kid only classes at the YMCA start around 3 years old, and you progress according to skill. I honestly don’t remember learning to swim, I was that young.

        • Killer Kitten Heels :

          My mom (who still cannot really swim) had us in mommy-and-me swim classes when we were 3, because she did not want us to be unable to swim like she was – the class was basically mom standing in the shallow end helping us float and stuff, and as soon as we could swim on our own we got moved up into an independent class (I think I was 4 taking solo classes, my brother wasn’t ready until he was a bit older). Swim classes are so important! At some point every kid encounters a pool or a lake or an ocean, and kids who haven’t taken classes often make worse decisions about water safety than kids who have, at least in my personal observation.

    • To add a different perspective, it is awesome for kids to develop skills that their parents don’t have. I have a kid who figure skates and she surpassed my basic skating skills when she was 8 years old. I know some moms who are adult competitive adult skaters, and it can set up a weird competitive dynamic with the kid. It’s good for kids to have their special thing.

      • Former Figure Skater :

        The moms who skate themselves as adults (especially if they started as adults) are generally more chill, although I agree it’s kind of weird for the mom and kid to do the same activity. But the worst thing is the moms who were competitive figure skaters as kids and are now trying to get a do-over on their Olympic dreams through their daughters.

        • The moms who try to coach from the bleachers…ugh… skate mom’s job is to write checks, drive, and keep track of the schedule.

    • I agree with all of the comments suggesting that you should learn to ski, but if you really don’t want to learn to ski, skiing lessons/ski school is great “daycare” for kids while you go do other things in whatever towns are close to your ski resort.

    • This is probably too late to reply, but first – I think it’s awesome that you’re able to give your kids the opportunities you didn’t have. Next – for context, I lifeguarded and taught adult and kid swimming lessons for years. I started my kid in (parented) swim classes at 6 months. The earlier you start, the more comfortable they will be in the water. My 2.5 year old can’t swim, but he’s very comfortable in the water and that is the most important thing. We go every Saturday to lessons – the YMCA is very reasonable. When he gets to the unparented level (3 years old), he will stay in swimming lessons until he’s able to swim laps easily as a teenager. If adult lessons are offered at the same time (they often aren’t), it’s a great opportunity for you. Learning as an adult is difficult, but so worth it. I had lots of parents who signed up for lessons because they wanted to swim with their kids.

      For skiing – my parents learned when I did. The kids went with their instructor, the adults with theirs. Or you can sip hot chocolate in the lodge and stay warm!

  7. A question about sexism, mommy brain, and the level you are sensitive to it.

    One thing to note: Our company is predominantly male–there’s about 5 female employees out of 40.

    My boss is currently on maternity leave–she left in October and I’m filling in for her. Something came to my team’s attention–she had agreed to do a major task for another department, set a deadline, but it had somehow fallen through the cracks and it just came to my desk yesterday.

    One of my female team members laughed and said, “No biggie, we’ll just tell them (other department) that it was a mommy brain thing, they’ll understand.”

    I was quick to reprimand her. To me, using “mommy brain” as an excuse is so condescending towards women in general and working mothers in particular. To me, using that as an excuse or justification for a mistake just adds to fuel to people who think women and mothers aren’t as capable as men.

    I wasn’t brutal, but I was stern and matter of fact. I said saying “mommy brain” isn’t an acceptable excuse. It’s not a mistake due to being a woman or an expecting mother; it was just a simple mistake and that we as a department will apologize for it and make this task the first priority.

    She looked at me like I had rained hell upon her and like I had an extra head.

    Was I out of line? Over-sensitive?

    • Anonymous :

      I think you were much too harsh by the sound of it. You know it’s a common expression and tbh she missed a date while out on mommy-leave do it’s not crazy out of line. There’s a way to say “nah, I’m not blaming this on babies I’ll just say it was a mistake and fix it” without giving a stern reprimand.

      • Anonymous :

        This.

      • I hear you. I guess because this team member is a young, entry level woman who has a tendency to say thinks like:

        “Well she’s a mom, so you can’t ask her to work our major event after core hours”

        or “Don’t ask Jessica to help–she’s getting married and is probably sooooo overwhelmed”

        I’mt rying to coach her out of this benign/soft sexism/excuses, but I could probably soften my approach.

        • Anonymous :

          Yeah. You should. She’s young and entry level, she doesn’t know better because no one has taught her differently, and you just giving reprimands is not going to help.

          It’s not that hard to say “oh, ya know I am sure she is busy with her wedding, but I know her job is important to her and I’m not going to hold back on professional opportunities” or “actually lots of people have after work responsibilities so we share this around.”

          She’s not in a position to be taking action on these ideas, no need to go full on harsh with her.

        • Anonymous :

          That’s funny — does she think she’s psychic? I have been working a long time and maybe I’m on some personal autonomy kick, but I think that in the absence of documented psychic talents, it is preferred to let sentient beings tell us how they feel about tasks, requests, etc.

          And I think that Mommy Brain would be fine as long as we have “Juggling the Wife and Mistress Brain” and “These Cramps Are Killing Me Brain,” “OMG This Zero-Carb Diet Isn’t Going Well Brain,” etc. And there is such thing as Chemo Brain, but you’d never say that (but maybe your junior person would).

          • Edna Mazur :

            I had gestational diabetes and had to go low carb. I would definitely sign on for Zero- or Low- Carb Diet brain. It is no joke and also made me (can’t speak for others) ragey :)

        • Yes, this is a teaching moment. You were a little harsh on her, but I think you can say “Don’t use phrases like ‘mommy brain’ – we deal with enough sexism as it is around here, we don’t need to contribute to it. A more appropriate phrase might be ‘I’m sorry this slipped through the cracks, boss had a lot of her plate before she went out on leave. We’ll get right on it and I’ll get back to you by the end of the day with an estimated completion date [assuming this is a long term project and not a one-off task]”

          I’d also suggest she read the AAM thread on Mommy Brain to get some more perspective on how other women think about that phrase.

        • Take her to coffee/lunch (or at least in your office for a nice, friendly chat) and explain where you are coming from on this. Explain that with 5 women in the whole company, you have to be super sensitive about making statements like that. I would tell her your experiences with sexism from both men and women and how you have seen its impact. While she probably knows sexism exists, as a young entry-level professional, she hasn’t experienced it for herself and doesn’t understand how comments that may be perfectly fine socially (so many of my friends joke about pregnancy brain) are detrimental at work.

          • Ick, no. Sorry, but this approach would have totally turned me off as a young person. Either the phrasing is problematic or it isn’t. I wouldn’t like the idea of having to change my behavior because of the number of women in the company. I’m a person not a token.

          • Agree with TBK on this. The phrase is gross regardless, not because she’s one of a very small number of women in the company.

          • But as someone young and new, she probably has never been told the reasons that it’s gross. I only mentioned the five women because it may be a total change for her because so many schools are now more than 50% women and when the working world isn’t, it can require an adjustment in mindset.

          • I don’t think it does require an adjustment in mindset. In my last job, most of the office was female. In my current job it’s overwhelmingly male. I don’t feel like I behave any differently.

        • Your response was fine – she probably looked dazed because the problems in her statement had never been pointed out to her before.

          If she decides to have children and work one day she will be thrilled that people like you tried to get rid of the sexist idea that being a mommy makes you less competent.

    • Anonymous :

      I think the content was fine but the delivery was probably a bit harsh — she was probably joking (probably felt another woman was a safe space to make this kind of joke)

      • Hmm. I’m trying to see from different points of view, really I am…but I think women can be some of the worst at perpetuating poor perceptions of women and can be pretty sexist too

        • Anonymous :

          I don’t disagree, but that doesn’t mean a stern reprimand to a subordinate who was trying to excuse a mistake someone else made is a good way to deal with this.

        • Anonymous :

          My comment assumed you are both moms and it was a one on one convo – I do think it was not appropriate for her to say, and was appropriate how you responded if this was said at a team meeting or something.

          • Nope, neither myself or my teammate here are moms-and she said it during our team meeting on how to address this mistake.

    • Baconpancakes :

      Nope. The phrase “mommy brain” is the kind of “benign” sexism that holds back women professionally – both internally (not reaching for the promotion, not going after a difficult profession) and externally (not promoting because she’ll be focused on her kids, not hiring because she’ll take maternity leave and then quit).

      • AskAManager had a column on this the other day, too.

        • Yep, I was going to mention the AAM article as well.

          To the OP – I don’t think you were out of line.

      • I agree–I think it’s great that you called this out, and she probably would have been startled and uncomfortable no matter how you did it. I have had similar reactions when I point out sexism at work. The whole point is that you’re disrupting a norm. Of course people aren’t going to feel at ease.

        In my experience, gentler and more subtle comments usually don’t register, and therefore don’t change anything. Also, I can say that every time I have recognized ignorance or discrimination within myself, it was thanks to someone who called it to my attention in no uncertain terms, and was not prioritizing my feelings. I consider those people teachers in my life, and they’ve influenced me permanently.

      • I agree with this a lot. If I were the OP I would follow up with a quick one-on-one conversation to explain the background, but this kind of sexism absolutely affects women in the workplace. It needs to be nipped in the bud, if not drenched in Raid and then set on fire.

    • Anonymous :

      OMG, this is part of what is wrong:

      My boss is currently on maternity leave–she left in October and I’m filling in for her. Something came to my team’s attention–she had agreed to do a major task for another department, set a deadline, but it had somehow fallen through the cracks and it just came to my desk yesterday.

      She may be about to come back from leave, but a business should think twice about having someone do a major task while on leave. Unless it is mandatory or no one else has the skills, I wouldn’t let someone on leave take an assignment nor would I ask. It’s too risky for the business, too likely to result in bad work, and not letting the team develop as it should. Maybe let the person review / comment if they truly feel they need to work, but it is just bad, especially when it goes wrong.

      • Sorry I wasn’t clear–she wasn’t supposed to do it over leave–she had agreed to do the task two months before leave–it was something she was supposed to start and then hand off to me and the rest of the team to complete when she left. She just completely forgot it right after she agreed and never added it to our work list.

      • I don’t think the woman was doing it on leave. I think she agreed to do it pre-leave and then it just disappeared into the ether, only to resurface now.

    • Spirograph :

      For me, “mommy brain” was/is definitely a thing. I still need to write everything down, or I risk forgetting it 2 minutes later.

      That said, I would have been livid if anyone else had referred to my “mommy brain.” I never used the term, myself, and I made a huge effort to ensure that the fact of it didn’t affect my work. I don’t think you’re wrong in sending the message that this isn’t an acceptable word or idea to be using in a professional setting. I’m sure, since she is young, she doesn’t get yet that it’s one of a million insidious little things that can undermine women in business, but she has to learn sometime and better sooner than later.

      Your delivery may have been a little harsh, and she may also have been embarrassed if this took place in front of other colleagues. I don’t know if there’s anything to be gained by following up with her in private, but that could both help her understand and soften the blow a little.

    • I don’t think you were out of line or too sensitive.

    • I don’t think this is out of line or inappropriate. I agree with you that “joking” about “mommy brain” doesn’t contribute to a positive environment or women in the workforce, and it trivializes them.

      If an employee has attention issues or needs organizational help, that’s fine, but address those issues, don’t play it off based on kids. And the “busy with the wedding” thing, or suggesting somebody can’t stay late because they have kids – ick. Especially knowing that, I don’t think your response was unnecessarily harsh.

    • Yep, the phrase “mommy brain” is never appropriate in the work place. It’s hardly even acceptable among mothers who are friends. We all let SO much “benign” sexism slide every day and I’m glad you didn’t.

    • If she agreed to this late in her pregnancy, then “mommy brain” might actually have been at play – there have been a lot of studies that show that a bunch of factors (hormones, lower quality or less sleep, more energy expended on growing a baby) during pregnancy and right after birth can actually have an effect on memory and focus. So, I think perhaps you were too harsh. I agree that I don’t like the phrase “mommy brain” because it implies anyone who has kids (regardless of age etc) is silly and forgetful, but I think saying something along the lines of, “I don’t really like that phrase – I think we can just explain that she’s had a lot going on recently with her family.”

      You say, “It didn’t have anything do to with her being female or an expectant mother,” but it very well might have. You can acknowledge that pregnancy can have an impact on your work (just like any other major life change!) without giving into the cutesy soft sexism of “mommy brain”.

      BTW, if this employee is as young and early in her career as you describe, she may be picking up this soft sexism from elsewhere in the office – suggesting that someone not work an evening event because someone has kids is not something I would have ever even thought about when I was starting my first job – it was so far off my radar. Same with the phrase “mommy brain”. So she may have also been surprised to be so strongly reprimanded for parroting something she heard someone else say.

    • Lorelai Gilmore :

      Just one thought: your employee may think that she’s being supportive. I definitely said stupid things like that when I was early in my career, not because I was being intentionally sexist but because I thought I was supporting my other women colleagues! I think it’s completely appropriate to call out these types of comments, but assuming that you like this person and think she’s generally well-intentioned, I would do it over lunch and explain why it’s insidious to use those phrases.

  8. Anonforthis :

    I am thinking of going back to school for a professional degree and law school is starting to sound highly appealing. MBA, maybe.

    My background is weird. I graduated at the top of my class from an Ivy undergrad and an MA from a top tier school, both degrees in English. However I have made a successful career for myself in cybersecurity. My current job is regulatory in nature, and I work with a lot of lawyers on privacy and information security matters.

    I am in my late 20s, ahead in my career for my age, with several highly technical cybersecurity-related certifications. However, I love writing and am hyper-analytical. My interest in law school is less that I think it would greatly further my current career, and more that I think it would be fascinating. Internet law and regulation is growing so rapidly, and I think with my unusual background I could really excel as an attorney in this space.

    At the same time, I am on a fast career track and making a heathy six-figure salary already. So would taking out loans and taking time off just set me back? Am I crazy for even thinking about this?

    • Oh god major eye roll here. Have you done any research? If you’re trying to decide between a JD and an MBA get neither. You don’t go to law school because it is fascinating unless you’re just rich. You go because you want to work as a lawyer.

      Your background isn’t weird or special and won’t help you anywhere near as much as you think. Lots of people go to law school from impressive backgrounds. It’s a great way to go from being 8 years into a thriving career to being entry level with no skills or experience.

      Like, you’re just going to think this is harsh, but have you been paying attention at all to the world? Taking on $200k in debt because you just like writing and thinking about hard problems is stupidly naive.

      • This. I had a fascinating background which counted for basically nothing when I came out of law school. A few years in, it would help me go in house at my former employer, but then I met a guy and ended up in a different city and yeah…

        Don’t do it.

      • +1 – all of this

      • +1000 exactly.

      • Anon in NYC :

        I think the delivery here is a little harsh, but I’ll co-sign. Don’t go to law school or business school if you don’t want to be a lawyer or need it for career advancement. It’s all a romantic idea until the student loan bills start coming in, you realize that you’ve taken a 3 year hiatus on retirement saving, and you are emotionally ready for the next step in your life (marriage, kids, if that’s what you want) but you’re just starting over, career-wise, so think you ought to postpone those things to get your new career off the ground.

      • Yep, this.

    • If you are in the black, making a decent income and enjoy your job, you may not be too pleased if four years from now you are six figures in debt, and at the bottom of a very tall totem pole. Just sayin’.

    • I don’t know, but there are a lot of lawyers in this field, particulary in DC and also in-house. I would recommend an informational interview (actually, as many as you can get, in part b/c these people may hire you) with them about their jobs and be candid about your curiousity about law school. But maybe take the LSAT first? If you are a rock star and have a bad LSAT score, I’d maybe not go to law school b/c no one will care if you are middle of the pack at a T4 school (compared to how you are doing now). If you rock the LSAT, your legal options will be much better. Sadly, some law degrees matter much more than others. And it’s a huge hit to earnings plus a huge cost, so for you the true cost is 3 years * lost salary + minimum 150K in law school cost, so it’s a huge gamble.

    • I’m one of the thousands of people who went to law school when the economy turned. I had already left my prior career and was struggling to find something new and decided to go to law school. I am very thankful that I’ve never had a hard time finding a legal job since graduating, but I am crucially aware of the fact that I am now years behind where I was before I left my other career. I’m starting at square one as a young associate, even though I’m mid-30s and had a very successful professional life before law school (because I AM a young associate – I understand it). I’m not gonna lie – I frequently have to swallow my pride and it’s not easy. I have $100k in debt. I enjoy the work, but I absolutely lament the loss of financial security and professional authority I had prior to law school. It sounds like everything is wonderful in your current career; I wouldn’t give that up on a whim.

    • No. You have valuable expertise and have seen in real life what lawyers do (not just watch a bunch of Law & Order). Sign up for an LSAT prep class. Write in for the old real exams and do several under timed conditions and see what your score is. There’s a book out there — it’s been too long and I forgot its name — that has charts that show the band for average acceptances at various schools based on GPA and LSAT. If you have a good GPA and can get in the high 160s/low 170s on the LSAT, you should have a good shot at a T15 school. You should play up your experience in your application essay and demonstrate how that has led you to an interest in law. It will help you stand out from the undergrads who may be very smart but who only have a very vague sense of why they’re going to law school at all. (The fact that you went to an Ivy will help you once you make the initial GPA/LSAT cut. An admissions dean once told me that she knows that schools and how rigorous their coursework is so she weights GPAs from different schools differently.)

      I would caution that you should be very sensitive to a school’s ranking. It’s stupid but the truth is that if you’re middle of the pack or above at a T15, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a job and the debt is a reasonable investment. If you can’t get into one of those schools, really evaluate whether you’re likely to get a good ROI. It may be that you don’t care, or that your past experience will make up for it and still make you a good value to employers, but it’s worth considering.

      • I seem to be in the minority here. But I do think that if law is what you really want to do, and if you can get into a top school (maybe these days it really has to be HYS or bust) it might be worth it.

        • I’m not negative on law school, but I think it’s important to note that you could easily trade something for nothing here. Your LSAT score will largely determine that.

        • Except, it doesn’t sound like she wants to actually do LAW. She likes her current job (which doesn’t need a JD) and just think law school sounds interesting. Which is not a good reason to go to law school. If she wanted to be a lawyer or really needed a JD in order to keep progressing in her field, maybe, but that’s not the scenario I’m seeing.

    • If you enjoy your career and are doing well financially, yeah, I think it’s pretty crazy to take on massive debt to start a whole new career. As an FYI, most people I know who have gone to law school with the intent to do something related to their pre-law school career have ended up doing something really different. Your background is certainly interesting and would probably help in law school admissions and maybe even in getting a job once you’re in law school, but internet law and regulation is a very small field and you’re unlikely to end up in it post-school. So this decision only makes sense if you still have an interest in being a lawyer who has nothing to do with internet law.

      If you do decide to go for law school, please think seriously about looking for merit scholarships at a slightly worse school than the best school you could get into. Based on your background, if you do well on the LSAT you would be well-positioned for merit scholarships at schools just outside of the T15 (or maybe even higher – there are a lot less applicants now than when I went to law school). The difference between, for example, Harvard and Wash U isn’t going to make a difference in your career unless you want to clerk for the Supreme Court, but the $200K of debt will make a huge difference in your life. But also consider where you want to practice after law school when choosing your school and try to go somewhere local. BC and BU have great networks in Boston, so if you want to be in New England after school, there’s no reason to pay for Harvard when you have a scholarship to one of those schools. But if you plan to move to California after law school, the BC/BU name is not going to have much weight out there and you’d be much better off at one of the UCs.

      • “If you enjoy your career and are doing well financially, yeah, I think it’s pretty crazy to take on massive debt to start a whole new career. As an FYI, most people I know who have gone to law school with the intent to do something related to their pre-law school career have ended up doing something really different.”

        This. I have quite a few friends from law school who intended to use their engineering/business/whatever background to get a jump in their legal career and ended up right back in the same position they had pre-law school because they couldn’t find jobs. Difference is they all had six figures worth of debt the second time around.

        Yes, I think you are crazy to give up what you have now to go back to law school.

        • Oops. I meant this, and also . . .

        • See my post below. This is different than all of those other fields. There is an insanely high demand for cybersecurity lawyers with technical expertise. And it’s not like real estate or something that goes up and down in waves. If you actually want to do the legal part of this – data breach counseling, regulatory counseling (for PCI, HIPAA, GLBA security standards) – it is a great career opportunity and you will have the possibility of raising your salary ceiling by a lot.

    • Anonforthistoo :

      OH HI fellow liberal arts grad who accidentally ended up in cybersecurity! The short answer is no, don’t stop working to do a full time professional degree program. Now for the longer answer:

      Are you in government or private sector? I spent the first 10 years of my career in government, and advanced degrees are NOT NECESSARY. I’m still feeling out private sector. There are definitely more degrees over here, but I think people more often use them as a foot in the door. You already have a foot in the door. You’re talking about two different things with law school and MBA. MBA you’re looking at a CISO, CIO, CTO type end game, whereas law school you would likely have more of an advisory and policy-driven role. My husband actually has a MS/MBA in information security (although he doesn’t work in the field), and most of his coursework revolved around planning information security strategies, cost-benefit of various tools and infrastructure, and incident response mapping. I’m a few years older than you, and will probably look into MBA programs if I decide I want to try to jump up to C-level (I’m currently just below the CISO, so middle-upper management), but I haven’t found it necessary so far. If you’re more interested in privacy, and you enjoy regulatory work, that seems more of a legal track to me, but you can do a lot of the same work without a JD.

      • Or you could also do an evening program if you are near schools that offer them if you find you NEED a JD to advance (Fordham and Georgetown). I have a friend who did government work in her chosen specialty, took evening classes (thus less or no law school debt) and is continuing to practice in her specialty.

    • Yes, the time and money involved in going to law school will set back. It might be worth it if you were desperate to be a lawyer (but even then you would need to have your eyes open about what being a lawyer in the current market means).

      It doesn’t sound like you’re desperate to be a lawyer. It sounds like you managed to leverage your liberal arts degree into a pretty interesting and well-paying career. If you’re looking for a new challenge, you don’t have to go back to school to get an MBA or JD. You could use your problem-solving skills by join a board, starting a charity, volunteer with a community group?

      If

    • Do not go to law school “because it would be fascinating.” Go to law school because you want to be a lawyer, or you want to do something that you can’t do without a law degree. Full stop.

    • If you love writing and are highly technical and analytical, maybe it would suit you to do some research and present it at some of the major security conferences instead of becoming a lawyer. A lot of white papers are not that well-written, so I’m sure your skills could help set you apart. There is so much room to do research in that space and it seems like becoming a lawyer would involve lots of mundane tasks – I have no doubt that having a technical background would be an advantage in some areas, but how much would you really get to use it?

      • Anonforthistoo :

        “a lot of white papers are not that well-written” omg this this this this. I started my cybersecurity career as a threat analyst, and cringed when I read some of these. I attribute 90% of my success in my career to the fact that I kick @ss at writing and presenting. My analysis and research were always sound, but the fact that it came out polished and coherent was what set me apart from the masses.

        I will never be the smartest or most technically savvy person in the room, but this is a field where a lot of people lack soft skills. Having them in addition to passable technical knowledge can shoot you to the top pretty quickly.

    • I went to law school after spending years in a regulatory position. I went so that I could advance in the industry I was in. If you want to go to law school so that you can work in a law firm, you will be throwing away your experience and it could be a big mistake. But if you want to learn more about what you are doing and bring a new certification to the table while staying in the same industry, law school could be a great experience.

      I went to law school without the pressures of a lot of my classmates. I knew that if I didn’t like it, I could leave and go back to my previous field. Seems like you are in the same boat.

      I also went to a good, but not great school and stayed in the city where I was already living. The school was the right fit for me and I got significant scholarship money. Staying where I was also allowed me to 1) continue to work part-time, and 2) maintain my business network. I didn’t graduate thousands of dollars in debt. In fact, I didn’t have any debt. It can be done.

      If you are in a similar circumstance to where I was, law school can be a great experience and can help further the career you have already invested in. P.S. I was also an English major undergrad.

      • YAY! Fruegel Friday’s! I love Fruegel Friday’s and this knit blazer from Macy’s! I would NOT wear it to work but will show ROSA.

        I am late again — busy billeing, but I wanted to put my own view in. You sound smart and if you want to go to law school and can afford it, go! If not, you will REGRET it later. Ask your dad to pay if he has money b/f you go into debt. That is what I did and dad is happy I am now a PARTNER.

        I would LOVE to learn more about Cyber security. My Macbook Air never get’s viruses, but my Windows work machine always has to be updated for viruses. I think this is b/c of the cyber security issue I read about in the NY Times. Is there a gradueate program for peeople like me who want to learn more about cyber security? I would LOVE to audit some classes and mabye get a master’s degree in it, so that I could mabye teach if I leave the law to get MARRIED and have children. YAY!!!

        This weekend, Dad want’s me to start asembling tax documents again. FOOEY b/c I think I just did it, but he says it was a year ago. He want’s the acountant to get moving on all of our return’s so that he can go on vacation. YAY!!!

    • I considered an MBA a few years ago, and I have a very similar background – working in IT unrelated to my actual degree. I was making ~$225K annually, which I bring up because multiple interviewers zeroed in on that, asking why I was pursuing an MBA when I was already making so much money. I had a fairly standard response that I was working in a niche area and looking to broaden my usefulness, but it was clear that these folks (typically previous grads from the high ranked schools I was looking at – typically pretty successful) thought that it was dumb to throw away a lucrative career and that I should instead work on broadening my skill set without going back to school.

      I was accepted into a couple top programs and was very nearly seduced by the brands and prestige. But, in the end, I just couldn’t quite rationalize everything – spending all my savings and taking on some loans as well in order to get a different job that *might* pay as well as my current job. I wound using the b-school acceptances as leverage – went to my boss and said that I was considering leaving to go back to school but wondered if there was anything that could be done to broaden my skill set in my current role. My company was great – spent the next few months giving me a taste of a few different areas and supported me in taking on a new different project that was a stretch for me.

      Five years down the road, I couldn’t be more pleased with my decision. I got a new job 18 months ago thanks to the new skills I pressed for at the old one. I lost no income and have no student debt. To be sure, there are occasional moments where I look sadly at my name with no impressive string of letters behind it or at my LinkedIn profile with no prestigious school on it, but believe me, those moments are far, far, far outweighed by satisfaction with my choice.

      • Along these lines, will your current employer support you taking certain related courses or some certificate program? Given your success and the fact that most lawyers don’t even feel that 3 full years of law school is a practical necessity, I think you could probably try to target the kind of additional knowledge you want to get an edge without needing to go whole hog to 2 or 3 years of grad school, with all the concomitant sacrifices.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I’m a lawyer but would love to get into cyber security work. I’ve read quite a few books on the topic and have been on some cases about hacking and I love it all. Can you tell me a bit about how you got into it?

    • I disagree with everyone here. I’m a cybersecurity lawyer. There is a DESPERATE need for attorneys with technical backgrounds in this field. Do you have a CISSP/the technical expertise to get one? If so, you are going to be highly coveted. Do it if you think you’d like being an attorney.

      • See, that is what I thought – that this is an area that is rapidly growing and in need of folks with this kind of background.

        Yes, I have CISSP and CISM.

        • I think what’s troubling to me is that you say you’re “thinking of going back to school to get a professional degree” and mention the possibility of an MBA as well. You shouldn’t go to law school because you want a professional degree. You should go to law school because you really want to be a lawyer. It may very well be that your field has a need for lawyers and a law degree could be an asset for you, but from your post I don’t see that much understanding of what lawyers in your field do and why you want to do that instead of what you’re doing now. Maybe you have that and your opening sentences are just a distraction, but I think you need to think long and hard about that. Because if you’re still at the “should I get an MBA or a JD?” stage it doesn’t sound like you really want to be a lawyer.

        • I think there is a difference between the CISSP/CISM and “highly technical” certifications – and I say this not to disparage (I do think they can sometimes be valuable), but there’s a certain attitude about the CISSP and if you are one of the anti-CISSP crowd, I would think you would truly despise being a lawyer. If you do find it valuable, I think it might be a more enjoyable career path for you.

          • This is fair, and it should definitely be noted that your work as a cybersecurity lawyer will be very different than if you are trying to be a CISO or the like. For instance, when a client comes to me with a breach, I don’t instruct them on how to identify or contain the problem – I help them coordinate a forensics team (internally or externally), instruct them on how to preserve evidence, and once I get the forensics report, help the client determine what is legally required or advisable given what we do or don’t know happened to their data. On the proactive security side, I advise the client on legal requirements and best practices for safeguarding the data they have, but I don’t actually go and implement it for them – I’ll say you need to hire a pen tester and give recommendations on who to use, and will review the results to ensure that all of the relevant systems were tested, but I’m not actually conducting or directly supervising this testing.

            Some technically-inclined people enjoy this high-level approach, while others get frustrated without the hands-on experience. Really up to you which you prefer.

  9. So, I am losing my job. I have such mixed feelings because they offered me a really decent package, and I am pregnant and this will translate into a 6 month fully paid maternity leave and it’s pretty easy to explain my hiatus, but I am extremely p*ssed because I am a rock star performer with a solid track record and what happened is dirty politics, old boys club, and favoritism pure and simple.

    I am in no way asking for legal advice- have all that set for next week- but for ladies in senior type roles that come with severance–I should be negotiating this, right? I think what they offered is fair if this were a standard run of the mill layoff for budget reasons, but paying me to leave so they can bring in our new CEO’s buddy (who by the way per the paperwork i will spend the next 3 weeks training) to not replace me, but replace the woman they fired above me, makes me want to get every last penny out of them.

    And to add to the fun, since I’m 4+ months pregnant (my boss was going to find out this week at our 1:1, instead, he laid me off!), the idea of job searching for an exec role NOW seems absurd–so I’m basically going to consult for a while, have a baby, then look for something in the fall so I don’t have to immediately start a job and put it on hold for a baby.

    Whaddya think? This is more for commiseration/anecdotal advice as I will be working through an att’y to make all final decisions.

    • *hugs* – this is awful. I wouldn’t totally exclude job hunting now though – I would definitely starting looking to some extent. My (govt) law office is about 50% female and most of us have kids – no one would bat an eye at waiting 6 months for a new hire to start if they were the right fit/a good catch. Govt hiring cycles/processes can take ages anyway.

    • We sacked pregnant people or people on leave during the recession. It went over so badly that we have trouble recruiting and need to get major HR approval to sack anyone with young children even now.

      So, I’m so sorry that this has happened. If anything changes there, it will be b/c of this and you and you may give them quite a legacy as they show the world who they are.

      • Truthfully, I could give or take this job. It was really flexible and well paying and i kicked butt. Major house cleaning, new leadership, office politics…frankly, I lasted longer than I thought and longer than many colleagues.

        I’m mostly just moping around (and feeling pretty justified after calling some of my in-company friends and mentors who agree this is a completely cowardly, slimey, political thing) because I KNOW I’m good, my numbers and reviews say it, my team is kicking @ss this year….and this was a 100% creative way of moving a buddy into a new role that is technically by the skin of its teeth passable by HR due to how they did it.

        If I weren’t pregnant (or if I were on leave already!) I’d take the package and run and go job hunt on my old employer’s dime. It just leave me now in a spot where I do…what…for 4-5 months till baby comes (work wise. I am planning to be a killer fun SAHM with my 2 existing kiddos this spring!), then job search along the way with the goal of finding something before my severance runs out at the end of the year? Just seems so….non aggressive.

        Gotta love that they wan time to spend almost a month training the guy taking my job…just just transition, but full on training.

        • Getting Older & Better :

          So sorry, know this is difficult now, but could work out…
          This happened to a close friend a few year back and ended up working out perfectly. She pushed back and got extra severance time due to pregnancy, Got almost a year paid leave with baby! Delayed job search til few months after birth. Enjoyed the “kid time” and communicated with her contacts. Had a great job offer when she was ready to go back. She is at a better firm with more opportunity. Ending up being a win situation..

          • this is what my former boss, in-company mentors, etc. have been telling me and I do agree. It’s just such a weird feeling to be taking no real “action” right now.
            -I don’t have to go hacking down to bare-bones expenses (we have a huge emergency, my salary isnt’ changing, and we can live with slightly but not very tightened belts on DH’s salary alone)
            -I can’t go guns blazing networking, because I wouldn’t take a job if offered one in the next 2 months (unless it was some crazy unicorn) given that i’d then have to hop out for more months than i’ve been there

            My action items are reach out to friends that are consultants to see if they need sub contracting, start pinging network for short term consulting engagements, talk to daycare about pulling my kids down to part time for a while (mainly so i can see the nuggets) and talk to a lawyer/negotiate severance. I guess I can go order some paint and paint the nursery?

          • Just out of curiousity why would you not take a job if you could be there for only two months before six months mat leave? Canadian asking so maybe it’s a cultural difference? Not saying it would be terribly popular with an employer here but if they hired you when you’re pregnant then they know that’s what’s going to happen and are taking the long view on you as a valuable employee

          • I’d absolutely take it. The cynic in me says I’d be burning a LOT of energy for a pretty slim “What if”. And I won’t *not* look, but am being pragmatic.

    • Hugs, I am sorry. One thing I’m wondering is how much paid mat leave (if any), you’d be getting if you were there when you had the baby? It seems to me (no idea about the legal aspect, but I know you have that covered), that you should be getting severance on top of whatever leave you’d be paid in 4+ months if you were still there when your child is born.

    • Regular poster, anon for this :

      I don’t have any advice on the negotiation point, but I would not rule out job searching now. I was in pretty much an identical position as you (told I would get laid off when I was about 4 months pregnant and was offered 6 months paid leave). With those 4-5 months that I had to basically do nothing at my firm, I aggressively job searched and received 3 job offers (2 from BigLaw and 1 from a leading gov’t agency). I was very visibly pregnant when I got these offers and was upfront that I was pregnant. I was pleasantly surprised (actually, shocked) that these companies were willing to hire someone who wouldn’t be working for several months (I told all of them that I would only start after my 6 month leave from my prior firm). The world is changing. Pregnancy isn’t an automatic disqualifier for a job as it may have been 20 years ago (or even 10 years ago).

      It’s much easier to get a job when you currently have a job. Also, if you get a job now while still with the current firm, you don’t have to explain to anyone that you were laid off. This is key. Best of luck. It sucks but you’ll get through with it. You are a rockstar and I’m sure something better will come through.

    • small reaffirming update: have had 2 and counting people on my (soon to be ex) leadership team reach out to me saying two different flavors of “this has completely shaken my faith in the company, I am confident I will not be here in a year, what a bunch of loons.”

    • Having been through something similar recently, I just want to say that there is more to negotiate than the amount of the severance package. Look carefully over your severance agreement (and try to get someone familiar with employment law in your state to do the same if you can) to see if there are any clauses that are unfavorable to you etc. You can probably have some modified or struck.

      I wasn’t able to increase my severance package (which several people told me was actually very generous though the standard for my position at my company), but I did succeed in having multiple changes made to the agreement itself. Turns out that might end up being helpful to me, since my old employer is now calling me about consulting help which I would have been barred from doing under the unamended agreement.

      • Thanks- good advice. That’s exactly what I’m going to work through the lawyers on next week.

        Curious though- did you attempt negotiating severance and though you couldn’t increase, you got your initial offer? I also plan to talk through with the lawyers what happens if I try to negotiate–how likely are they to pull the offer. it’s truly a good offer, but it screws me out of my almost $50k bonus, which I more than earned and would get in 3 weeks. Others have (so says my inside sources) successfully left with their bonus before distro time.

    • Can you negotiate for healthcare?
      I did this.

  10. I just need to vent. I made some budget adjustments to start throwing extra money at my student loans. Got my first paycheck of the year and due to increase is taxes/insurance and no raise, I’m now making less than last year, making all my rebudgeting basically moot. Just can’t seem to get ahead.

    • I’m sorry to hear that. It is a terrible feeling.

    • Since health insurance is tax deductible (towards your standard deduction), can you decrease your withholding? Will you be getting a refund for 2015, which would suggest you can modify your W-4?

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  12. Anybody have a PMP here? My company is sponsoring me for mine.

    Tips on compiling hours? Did you like your education class? Online or in person “boot camp”?

    • Yep, I’ve had my PMP for about a year now, have managed projects for ~8 years. Compiling hours should not be too difficult, just make sure that the named supervisors on your application will agree to the numbers you’re submitting– if you’re one of the lucky ones who gets audited, you’ll need them to answer some questions, and the better-prepared they are ahead of time, the easier this process will be.

      I did a week-long training class with RMC and it was money well-spent. I felt very well-prepared for the exam, and the training materials and practice exams RMC gives you with the training are very, very much like the actual test (in fact, taking my test I felt like I’d seen some of the questions in my studying.)

      The content of the PMP exam is not difficult to master- but it’s helpful to understand the type of questions they’ll ask and to know what to expect, and I thought RMC prepared me exceptionally well for that aspect of the exam.

    • Anonymous :

      I recommend an in-person class (ask around for recommendations), and schedule your exam as soon as possible after training, so the information is fresh in your mind.

    • Engineering PM :

      I did the 4 day bootcamp with PM Study and found it to be essential for completing the exam. I took the exam on the Friday after the 4 Day Class.

  13. Sanity check, please!

    I just lateraled as a associate. At my old firm I was a top performer, partnership fast-track, top 5% biller, etc. But I ran myself into the ground to maintain that and it was bad for my well-being and family.
    At my new firm I have decided to take a much more balanced approach and, consequently, I feel like I’m being perceived as a disappointing hire or an underperformer. For example, I’ve been asked on multiple occasions if I “leave early” because I have children (I’m leaving at a very normal time, but not staying until every partner leaves)

    Has anyone figured out how to exist somewhere in the middle? Somewhere between always being a “yes-woman” and being seen as the resident slacker? It may just be a firm culture thing, but I have to think there’s a way to be an average associate and have that be enough.

    • It’s a good question. I leave early b/c I have children. I’m not PT or anything and I take a lot of work home. I won’t want work pushing into the pickup-dinner window, so I’d want to say Yes (a truthful answer), but I think it’s often shorthand for “can you do important work that is time-sensitive,” so I usually say that I come and go depending on how each day goes (the non-answer answer that is also truthful) so I can feel out the person and the exact question they’re trying to ask.

      It’s like I have a code to crack or something.

    • “I have to think there’s a way to be an average associate and have that be enough.”

      Yes, it’s called being a man. Unfortunately, it’s not an option for women. It $ucks. I’ve been there.

    • What’s the tone of the question? If it’s not necessarily judgmental, I think you can respond with something like, “Nope!” or even “Yeah, I’m done with what I needed to do today/I like to leave at a reasonable hour to do X [and then log on at night — if it’s true]/I like to cook dinner at home/I started at XX and I’m done for the day/etc.” You shouldn’t have to justify leaving when you do, but I think you could assume good/neutral intent for the question in some cases

      A middleground is possible at some firms. I think you have to set your own internal barometer of “this is how much work I’m willing to do” and live by it as best you can. I have worked in biglaw firms (admittedly relatively humane ones!) for several years and I know how much work I can do before my work product starts to suffer/I start to hate my life/etc., and won’t take on additional work if it puts me over that limit if I possibly can. I am not the A-star super gunner as a result, but I do OK and am very well reviewed and somewhat appreciated (again, all in a biglaw context).

    • Woods-comma-Elle :

      Very good question.

      I have found this to a degree, but only now that I’m a senior associate at the firm I joined straight from law school. To some degree I’ve paid my dues when I was junior/mid so it’s easier to do what I like now. Obviously I still work late when needed (which is more often than I would like) but I’m very firm about setting my boundaries where I can, because nobody else is going to do that for you.

      There is a difference in being a top performer (ie being good at your job, getting stuff done, being respected) and billing what is needed on the one hand and being at work all. the. time. on the other hand. To some degree your work will speak for itself, but often not until you’ve been somewhere for a while and they can see what a superstar you are, so it may be harder to create boundaries at a new place, particularly if there is a facetime culture.

      Oh and I don’t have kids and I don’t think that should matter.

    • I think that it’s really important to prove yourself at a new firm, and in my experience, the best way to have good work-life balance is to briefly sacrifice it in order to prove yourself. I get an enormous amount of latitude because I’m a known quantity in terms of performance and dedication, but I invested serious time and effort to prove that to my new firm when I lateraled. My work-life balance briefly suffered (as in, life was nonexistent for a while), but now no one bats an eye at when I leave. The question I would ask myself in your shoes is whether or not you made that initial investment when you came to your new firm or of their first impression of you was as someone whose goal was to be no more than an average associate.

      • I can see your point, but I’ve also seen the opposite happen pretty regularly, where someone doesn’t set boundaries from the beginning and then finds it impossible to later on, because the partners know they will respond to emails at midnight/sacrifice a vacation when asked to/pull multiple all-nighters in a row. It’s really tough to strike a balance between proving yourself and establishing that you have to have some semblance of a life outside work.

        • I agree with 12:28. I think that the face-time mentality works when you are a brand new associate. At my firm, new associates get a great reputation by always being willing to put in the hard work and work long hours. Frankly, it’s really the only way to set yourself apart as a new attorney.

          As a lateral, though, I think you have to go into the firm setting the boundaries you need, and then break the barriers by doing killer work, full stop. If your performance is routinely outstanding, the hours won’t matter as much. Especially as you get more senior and get more expensive, most clients aren’t going to pay for you to churn hours anyway. Set yourself apart by doing great work. It may take a little longer b/c it’s not as obvious, but if you are pleasant to work for and with, and do great work, it will come.

          • It’s not about face time, but rather about people’s first impression of you being that you are more interested in policing your boundaries than in investing in your professional future. People’s first impression of you – cultivated over a period of months when you start – needs to be that you are eager to help, to learn, and to get established at the firm. Does that mean you need to answer emails at all hours? No. But it does mean that you need to be careful about how your establish your boundaries.

            Quality of work matters, but let’s not kid ourselves: availability – not face time, but the willingness to be reasonably available and to pitch in when there’s an emergency – is part of the job in most firms. You can do the best work in the world, but if someone has to make a decision about staffing a demanding project that may require some late nights and your reputation is “the person who has to leave at 5:30,” you won’t be chosen for that. You don’t want your boundaries to be your professional identity.

    • I’m struggling with this right now because I really like to make bedtime. And I have to leave at 5:30 many days to relieve a nanny. I kind of figure they knew I had a small child when they hired me. And I don’t have any interest in eventually making partner, so average sounds great to me.

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