Guest Post: Pumping at Work 101

Pumping at Work 101 | CorporettePumping at work: it’s one of the toughest parts of going back to work after maternity leave. In past posts we’ve covered what to wear to pump at work, how to manage pumping in different offices, pumping during work travel, and how to dress professionally when you go back to work (when your pre-pregnancy clothes still don’t fit). Today Reader K gives you some basic tips for pumping at work and recommends a few helpful products. Thank you, K! 

My best friend gave me great advice before I went back to work: The dread is worse than the reality. I was nervous about leaving my little guy with someone I barely knew; I was nervous I would not be as good at my job as I had been before I left for leave; I was nervous that I would sit at my desk missing him all day. Basically, I was nervous about everything.

But now, seven months in, it hasn’t been that bad. For the most part, I have managed to focus completely on whatever I’m doing, whether work or home life. That means I am really efficient at work and then don’t really check my email once I get home until after my son goes to bed. (Fortunately, we hit the baby jackpot and got a great sleeper.) The hardest part, though, was pumping at work. After reading comments here and talking to my sister and some friends, I got into my routine. (Pictured: breast pump overload, originally uploaded to Flickr by madichan.

Read the rest of the post on CorporetteMoms… (but feel free to comment, on topic, on either page)… 

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N.B. PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS ON TOPIC; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course I highly value all comments by my readers, I’m going ask you to please respect some boundaries on substantive posts like this one. Thank you for your understanding!

Managing Severe Allergies at Work

Allergies at Work | CorporetteHow — and when — should you tell employers about your requirements for an allergy-friendly office? Reader J wonders:

After reading your latest article, Frequent Doctors’ Appointments, I found the courage to write you. I do suffer from severe allergies (foods and aerosols). I have graduated from university (physics), some work experience (energy business) and added up some economics studies, because I was unsure about being able to handle a “normal” office job. By now, I believe more in myself and am searching for a job (consulting/energy), but I will have to tell my future employer about my limits: 1) The rooms in which I work must be free of plants (important!). 2) I might have problems working “on schedule” in August and September. (In our climate here I have been struggling with asthma attacks, circulation problems, and developing new allergies for the last 5 years.) 3) The office should be mostly fragrance-free. These are the “basic conditions” about which I plan to inform any prospective employer in the second interview. How do I best do it without kicking myself out of the game immediately?

Hmmmn. First, J, I’m sorry to hear that you have such severe allergies! I’m not sure that arriving with a list of demands is the best way to go about this, but I’m curious to hear what readers say. The whole letter reminds me a bit of the recent news story about the female academic who had an offer rejected because she was too “demanding” in her requests while negotiating. That’s one way to do it — give your employer a list of things you’d like granted after you have the offer in hand and are negotiating. But a few notes about your situation:

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Expanding a Suiting Collection

How to Expand a Suiting Collection | CorporetteHow to Expand a Suiting Collection | CorporetteHow can you expand a suit collection beyond the most basic colors? What is the best non-basic suiting color? Reader J wonders:

For my new job, I need to wear a suit every day, so I’m ready to expand my very basic (black, navy, grey) collection. I am thinking about a camel or khaki color, but I’m not sure if that is too summery/appropriate for fall. Would brown be a better choice to fit more seasons?

Great question, J! I went back through a bunch of Suit of the Week picks and have a few thoughts:

  • Buy suiting separates.  First, if you haven’t already been buying suiting separates, please do start doing so.  You’re going to have SO many more outfits to put together for a suit if you have the pants, the blazer (or two), a sheath dress, and a skirt.  On the more affordable end look to places like Talbots, J.Crew, Boden, and even some Macy’s EDV lines (such as AK Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, etc) for these kinds of suiting separates.
  • Go for a more traditional non-traditional color such as light beige or light gray.  Most people would not consider a camel/khaki or even a light gray suit to be an interview suit, but these are all traditional colors for suits.  I’d also consider a light reddish brown suit (clay? putty? darker than a khaki, lighter than a coffee?) or a light blue suit (also this or this) to be in the range of “normal” suit colors, and I think you’ll find that they’re surprisingly versatile.  I’d also put white suits in this category. Personally I never wore my dark brown suits much, but my “base” for almost everything is black leather (versus brown leather), and I’m a silver instead of a gold — if either of those were different then I might have gotten more wear out of them.
  • Have fun with texture.  Seasonless wool suits are great for versatility, and they’re the classic suit fabric for a conservative office… but you can have a lot of fun with textured suiting too.  Tweed suits (also here), twill suits, crepe suits, ponte knit suits, cotton pique suits (also here), linen suits, and more, all bring in different textures, even if they’re in conservative colors.  Look for conservative suits that have details such as leather suit details, ruffled suit details (also here), or even animal print accents… none of these things are typical on interview suits, but they’re a great way to broaden your wardrobe while staying in conservative colors.
  • Printed suiting separates can also add a lot of versatility but still read as conservative.  Consider a pinstriped suit (also here), a polka-dotted suit (also here), a checked suit, a plaid suit, houndstooth suits, or even a suit with stripes (also here). I’d also put colorblocked suits (also here) in this category.
  • Go for a colorful suit.  Colors are in right now, so if you’re looking for a trendy piece, consider a suit with a fun color.  Purple suits may be a good place to start if you’re comfortable in navy, but dark green suits or dark red suits are also more popular than they have been in previous years. (Cobalt blue suits were everywhere not too long ago, as well!)  You could always go for a fuchsia suit, of course, and really make a statement.  Colorful suits can sometimes age you, so I’d look for inspiration from high-end lines (Hugo Boss, Theory) or, honestly, more youthful stores like Limited, Dorothy Perkins, Boden, and H&M.

Readers, which were the first suits you bought beyond black, navy, and grey basics?  What colors (or patterns) have been the most versatile, and been worth the purchase price? 

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N.B. PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS ON TOPIC; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course I highly value all comments by my readers, I’m going ask you to please respect some boundaries on substantive posts like this one. Thank you for your understanding!

Homing from Work – What Personal Tasks Are OK/Good to Do At Work?

Homing From Work | CorporetteThere was an interesting article in Greedy Associates a few months ago about “homing from work” — trying to achieve work/life balance by getting personal errands done during the day.  I hadn’t heard the phrase before, but it’s obviously something I did while working long hours at the law firm, and something I’ve advised people to do (to certain degrees) when, for example, advising people to try to fit social visits with friends into breakfast or lunch dates, getting a midday workout in, or even keeping a recurring appointment (therapy, personal trainer) or a frequent doctor’s appointment.  Still, other times I’ve advised people to avoid doing things at work (for example, not having long wedding planning calls at the office), either because it’s unprofessional or it’s bad for work/life separation.  So I thought we’d discuss:  what do you think are things that are appropriate to do at the office?  What are the things that are almost BEST to do at the office and make you more productive and happy, and which are things that are acceptable — but just barely?  What are the things that are “hard NOs” in terms of homing from work?  My own list might look like this, I suppose:

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Foot Tattoos and Interviews

How to Cover Your Tattoos for Interviews | CorporetteShould You Cover Your Tattoos for Interviews? | CorporetteShould you cover a tattoo for an interview?  What if it’s in a place that’s hard to cover — should you go the extra mile just for the interview?  Reader A wonders about her foot tattoo:

I am a 2L at a Midwestern law school and going through the interview process for next summer. I would like to build my professional wardrobe, but shoes always stump me. I have a tattoo across the top of my foot; a quote in black ink. I would like to cover it up for interviews and other conservative, professional events, but still look feminine, professional, and seasonal.

The compromise I have come up with is either wearing a pant suit with black leather booties or a skirt suit with black pantyhose and pumps. Either option is too hot for the summer and prevents me from wearing other colors.

Any advice for cute, professional shoes that would cover my ink and allow me to lighten up my wardrobe?

Great question, reader A!  I was just talking with a reporter about looking professional with tattoos, and I’m surprised we haven’t covered them since our interviewing with tattoo sleeves post a few years ago.  In general, I agree with my old advice, which is that you should a) avoid getting visible tattoos in the first place, and b) keep your tattoos covered for interviews, big/first meetings, court appearances, and more.

Here’s the thing, though: a foot tattoo is kind of hard to cover up easily.  Something to keep in mind when interviewing is that a very conservative job may require you to keep a tattoo covered almost all the time — so consider beginning as you mean to go on.  By this I mean: If you’re ok with taking the steps below on all but casual days (after you’ve gotten to know your office, of course), then great.  But if this all sounds like a lot of work and you plan to wear regular pumps or ballet flats 90% of the time, you may want to consider just leaving the tattoo exposed during part of the interview process (such as the second round of interviews), since this will weed out a lot of fit problems with your future office early on.

That said — here are some solutions for covering tattoos that may work for you if you want to wear the most conservative, safest outfit choice for an interview — a skirt suit, nude-for-you pantyhose, and comfortable pumps or flats:

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Alumni Mentoring and Networking: What Works, What Doesn’t

Alumni networking | CorporetteHave you found great mentors through alumni events? What is the best alumni event (or networking event in general) that you’ve ever attended? I attended a great Northwestern networking and mentoring event last week through an alumnae group I’m involved with, Council of 100, and in our small group sessions the topic got around to general networking events organized by the school — what NU was doing that was good, what it was doing that was bad, and so forth. To be honest, neither of my institutions — Northwestern and Georgetown — have really great alumni networking systems in place. Students reach out to alumni for informational interviews, but there is no established system (at least that I’m aware of) for students to discover alumni that may be off the beaten path (like, say, me). One of the great ideas I thought we came up with was to have an alumni database organized not just by company, but by favorite professor or class at the college — then you could look up people who were like you and see what paths their careers had taken.

Anyway, I’m curious, ladies — have you found mentors through alumni events? What is your school doing right (or wrong)? Are you involved in alumni events?

(Pictured: Board of Governors Dinner, May 2010-2, originally uploaded to Flickr by Alan C.)

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N.B. PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS ON TOPIC; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course I highly value all comments by my readers, I’m going ask you to please respect some boundaries on substantive posts like this one. Thank you for your understanding!