Career Advice

Below, find some of our recent career advice stories. Have a question for Kat? Check out the Contact page.

Feeling Jealous of a Younger Colleague

Feeling Jealous of a Younger ColleagueWhat should you do if you’re feeling envious of a colleague who’s younger than you, seemingly unappreciative of the opportunity you’re giving her, and also — in your opinion — inappropriately flirty at networking events? Reader J wonders:

I’m a 40 yr old business development manager at an engineering firm. I’ve formed a group of female colleagues that helps with networking and business that’s getting notice in my city (like a Stiletto Mafia). A few months ago one of the key ladies in my group invited my junior engineer in my firm to join.

This engineer is funny and smart but also a gorgeous 24 yr old. Now I am torn between wanting to be a mentor and jealousy. I am jealous that she has access to this group of high powered ladies that are my friends and doesn’t seem to grateful that I’m including her. This engineer also occasionally helps with networking. It’s frustrating to attend a business event while these men are flirting with her. She isn’t overt, but she is aware of her looks and plays them up.

I’d like to drop her from the group and ask her to focus on current clients vs networking. Am I being a hypocrite?

I think you’re being honest, Reader J — a lot more than most people would be in person. I don’t think this is unusual, though; I think a lot of younger women alienate good mentors by being too entitled (like the reader who expected her boss to help her network) or arrogant at work, or, here, too focused on other parts of life like flirting. (We have offered some tips in the past on how to network with older women that may help younger readers here!)

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Decorating Your Office Walls

Decorating Your Office Walls | CorporetteBeyond your diploma, what are the best ways to decorate the walls of your office while keeping a professional-looking workspace? Reader V wonders…

Hi! Any thoughts on the best wall decor to send a professional image? I currently have a lot of blank space — I want to jazz it up, and I also want to make sure it contributes to my office having a professional decor. Thanks!

Great question, V! We’ve talked a lot about office decor in the past, including decorating office walls and inappropriate office decor — but not in a while.  Some thoughts:

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Career Hiccups

career-hiccupsI’ve gotten a few requests lately to address “career hiccups” — how to deal with failing the bar, being awkward with coworkers, making a huge mistake — and I think this is a great question. So: let’s discuss.

For my $.02, I think that YOU are the biggest hurdle to get over after a career hiccup. You can say the right thing in the moment and after the fact, and coworkers either accept you or they don’t — but until you forgive yourself you’ll never be at the top of your game again. I remember a time in my career when I started a list of all the screw-ups I’d made, slight or otherwise. As in, an Excel spreadsheet (because that’s how I roll). And you can sit there and say, objectively, “Kat, that is crazy,” but in the moment it made perfect sense to me. Let’s remember everything I ever did wrong, in a sort-able chart! (Let’s just say this idea didn’t work out for the best.)

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Black Suits and Summer Job Interviews

interview suit - hot weatherCan you still interview in a black suit in the summertime? When you have to attend a job interview in hot weather, is there a better, lighter alternative to the standard black or blue suit? Reader D wonders…

I had a sudden job interview this week and had to wear a suit. Although they had air conditioning, it was very hot. My suit was black and it seemed too heavy. Aren’t there better alternatives to the black/blue suit when it’s over 80 degrees? Thanks!

Interesting question. We’ve talked about whether seasonless suiting is truly seasonless, as well as discussed lightweight blazers, dressing professionally for summer, and maintaining a professional look when it’s blisteringly hot — but we haven’t talked about this exact question.

I’m curious to hear what the readers say — my gut reaction here, possibly tempered by spending pretty much every summer since reaching adulthood in New York City is this: Not wear black? What’re you talkin’ about? So: with everything else, know your region (much like with colorful suits). Still, some notes:

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Should You Ever Hire a Friend?

hiring-friendsHiring friends: yea or nay?  Does your answer vary if you’re hiring a friend to be a colleague/equal versus hiring an assistant?  We’ve talked about interviewing with friends, but not the reverse situation, hiring a friend. Reader M wonders…

I work at a small law firm. I’m pretty junior, but I have a considerable amount of input on decisions about the business. We don’t have an HR department or a formal hiring process. We’re getting pretty busy and I think it’s time to hire a new assistant to help us handle the work. A friend’s girlfriend recently moved to our city and has experience working as an assistant in a professional environment. I’m thinking of asking her if she’d be interested in the job – I know how hard it can be to find a good job in a new city and I know she’s qualified, so I’d be happy to help her and add some one likeable and competent to our staff in the process. Is it always a bad idea to hire a friend?

Interesting question, M.  There are two things that concern me about this situation.  First: she’s your friend’s girlfriend — not your friend.  You don’t know if/how things will end between them, or how awkward it’s going to be if you have to choose sides.  The second thing is that she’ll be an assistant — and being friends with staffers can get kind of murky, particularly for women.  In this situation there are two considerations here — first, if you and she are pals around the office, your superiors might start viewing you as “one of the girls,” which isn’t going to be good for your career.  Second, if you know this person enough to let your hair down around her, socially, it’s going to be a bit awkward giving her assignments and acting like a boss with her. (After all, you need to be respected, not liked.)  There needs to be some separation between work and life — and to me this is way too little space.

Readers, what are your thoughts — would you ever encourage a friend to apply to an administrative/secretarial position at your workplace?

Psst: we’ve talked before about using friends to network, as well as competing with friends for jobs.

Pictured: New Best Bitches set of friendship necklaces, available from Etsy seller guiltyeocrc for $4.50. 

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Five Ways to Improve Your Focus

improve-focusDo you struggle with focus at work (or, hey, at home)? What tips and tricks have you found to improve your focus?  I am always looking for the best ways to improve my focus, but keep coming back to a few ideas…

  1. Eat that frog. I have yet to read the book of the same name by Brian Tracy, but I really like the idea: whatever you’re procrastinating on most — your “frog” — get it done first thing in the morning.  As in: eat the frog. (Half of the trick here is knowing what your frog is!)  Once the frog is out of the way, I find that my mental focus is a lot better — or, at least, I’m free to procrastinate on other things. [Read more…]