Career Advice

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

Wear Makeup, Increase Your Salary?

Wear Makeup, Increase Your Salary?“How a Little Lipstick Could Add Thousands To Your Paycheck” — that’s the title of a recent Fortune article reporting on a new study. Anyone else feeling a little stabby? We thought we’d take a closer look at the research and discuss it here. Some questions to consider at the outset: Do you agree that “good grooming” affects your salary and career success? Do you think there are other correlations at play (e.g., women who make more have more money to spend on grooming, or successful women are more organized to remember to schedule things like regular haircuts and drycleaning)? 

So, the study: Last week, Fortune reported on some research about the effects of looking “put together” at work. Two sociologists found a new way of crunching data from a study that looked at how people’s ratings on attractiveness and grooming compared to their income levels. “Grooming” in this case meant how “put together” they looked, which included makeup for women. Their analysis revealed that for women, “grooming was actually more important than looks when it came to earnings.” Men’s grooming affected their salaries to a lesser extent, while men’s and women’s salaries got the same boost from being considered attractive. The sociologists found that “[A] well-groomed woman of average attractiveness makes about $6,000 more annually than an average-looking, averagely-groomed woman. She also makes about $4,000 more than her better-looking, but less put-together coworker.” Researchers saw this as a positive, concluding, “[t]he big takeaway here is that people can capture most of the attractiveness premium [through putting effort into their appearance]… It’s not just what you’re born with.”

A few years ago, we discussed the effects of makeup at work in an open thread that responded to a New York Times article about a similar study. That study found that when a woman chooses to wear makeup at work, it “increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness,” but the findings featured in Fortune seem to add a new angle to the issue.

This kind of article is ripe for satire — one example that touches on the issue is a McSweeney’s piece by Maura Quint called “How to Negotiate a Raise (If You’re a Woman),” which riffs on the double standards and other challenges women face at work. One part advises women on office makeup:

Do not wear too much makeup as this will make you look “cheap and unprofessional” nor should you avoid makeup as you will look “old and tired” and therefore more invisible than Wonder Woman’s plane. Question how Wonder Woman was able to afford that plane given the wage gap. Look into government grants.

Kat’s take: To me, grooming is much bigger than makeup — and it gets at a number of things we’ve talked about over the years here. A woman wearing a wrinkled suit with stains is not going to save that look with a swipe of lipstick and eyeliner, because the impression of a disorganized person is already there.

So, readers: What do you think about this new research (and accompanying headlines) — do you find it rage-inducing, or do you just feel resigned? Do studies like these affect your office-makeup habits at all? Do you ever wear makeup to look more professional, “likable,” or “competent,” or do you simply wear makeup because you like how it looks? Or, do you not wear it at all, no matter how it might affect you at work? 

Summer Reading Fun

books to read this summer working womenIs anyone else excited that summer is almost here? On the off chance anyone has some down time this summer, let’s discuss: which are the best books to read for fun? Which are the thrillers you couldn’t put down — the rom-coms that warmed your heart — the memoirs that made you laugh, cry, think? Which authors do you eagerly follow and read pretty much anything they write, and which best sellers were worth the hype? 

I’m happy to report that I’m reading books again — a few months ago I got a Kindle Paperwhite after hearing readers raving about them, and so I’ve been getting a ton of books out of the library as well as buying old favorites to “keep” on my Kindle. I’m also a fan (particularly for nonfiction or memoirs) of getting audio books out of the library.  Some of my recent reads (and likes):

Fiction I’ve Enjoyed Recently:

  • Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins — Yes, I just got around to this. I didn’t like it as much as I liked Gone Girl, which still sticks with me.  I’ve been trying to clear out my Pocket reading list, and found all these old articles I’d saved about Gone Girl, including an old New Yorker article comparing it to We Need to Talk About Kevin — that book looks like a much heavier subject matter (especially as a mom to two boys) but I may try to get into it.
  • Where’d You Go Bernadette?, by Maria Semple. A few friends and I were going to start a book club and someone chose this one as the first book — we actually never got around to discussing the book, but I read it and enjoyed it a lot.
  • Twenties Girl: A Novel, by Sophie Kinsella.  Kinsella is one of those authors that I’ll read pretty much anything she writes, and I hadn’t read this one yet, so I did.  It wasn’t my favorite book of hers, but it’s a solid, enjoyable book.  (My all time favorite of hers is The Undomestic Goddess — I highly recommend, especially to Corporette readers. I also was surprised by how much I enjoyed I’ve Got Your Number: A Novel.) (Word to the wise, with any Kinsella or other book written by someone who churns out content (Stephen King, Julia Quinn, whatever) — don’t binge read several books at once!)
  • The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.  I mentioned this a few months ago, and it’s a solid, enjoyable book loosely based on Wils/K-Mid’s romance. Here’s a free Kindle preview (first 7 chapters).

Non-Fiction Books I’ve Enjoyed Recentlyish

  • #GirlBoss, by Sophia Amoruso – Yes, yes, I just got around to reading this one — I love that The Washington Post apparently called this “Lean In for Misfits.”  I got the audiobook out from the library and died laughing on a few walks — her story is really inspiring to me.

[Read more…]

Job Hopping: Yea or Nay?

Job HoppingLadies, let’s talk about job hopping: Do you view it as the only way to get ahead? Do you worry about being viewed negatively if you’ve had too many jobs in too short a time? What do you think is the minimum time to stay in one job?  

In the recent past, job hopping was universally seen as negative. It was said to make employers question your commitment and reliability, and job hunters were often advised not to include short-term positions on their resumes and to stay a certain length of time at jobs they hated to avoid tarnishing their employment history.

The GenXers and Baby Boomers among us — especially those with parents who stayed at one company for their entire careers (can you imagine that today?) — may still have a negative impression of frequent job changers. In the last few years, though, the news has been full of headlines reflecting an evolution in how short-term jobs are viewed. Articles that wonder if job hopping is “losing its negative stigma” or “losing its bad rap” and those that give tips on how to change jobs “strategically”  are just a few examples. While job hopping isn’t exactly welcomed by employers, surveys and studies have shown a change in attitudes, especially among Millennials, about switching jobs more frequently. Check out these representative stats:

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Professional Hairstyles: Do Ponytails Count?

Professional Hairstyles - Ponytails at Work | CorporetteDo ponytails count as professional hairstyles? Which are the best ponytails for the office?  Do you think 50s/cheerleader ponytails are no-gos for the office, or is any neat, easy hairstyle inherently professional? 

Have you guys been watching AMC’s Better Call Saul? It’s the prequel story to Breaking Bad, chronicling the path that small-time con-man/lawyer Jimmy McGill took to become everyone’s favorite drug lawyer (later known as Saul Goodman). One of the story lines involves Jimmy working at his brother’s BigLaw-esque law firm, and one of his main friends is Kim Wexler, played by Rhea Seehorn. Kim’s story is similar to Jimmy’s — she started in the mailroom, went through law school later in life, and is now working as an associate — but unlike Jimmy she’s squeaky clean. Without giving away too many spoilers, it’s so inspiring to see her efforts to make partner, including a long montage where she calls every single person she knows to try to bring on her own client. In another scene, she does so well on her first court appearance that the opposing counsel tries to hire her. In general, she’s a rockstar lawyer. She dresses professionally, too — but something I’ve been pondering is her hair: her most frequent look is a ponytail. Not just the low, harried ponytail many of us throw our hair into when we’re working in our office and want to keep our hair out of our faces — hers is curled, and part of her all-day look.  And while it isn’t super-high, it isn’t super-low, either. (In general, I think a lower ponytail is vastly better for being taken seriously.) Part of her character is that she’s earnest and kind of new to this world of BigLaw — so is her hair supposed to convey that as well? (Ah, here’s a picture of her ponytail from the back, below. And apparently the same actress wore the same hairstyle on another show where she also played a lawyer, but I’m not familiar with that show.) Maybe I’m biased against ponytails that feel too pageant/cheerleader as professional hairstyles? 

professional hairstyles ponytails

In the past, we’ve collected easy office updos (which included some ponytail looks), as well as discussed how to style long hair for interviews, but let’s discuss ponytails, ladies — what makes them appropriate (or inappropriate?) for the office or other big meetings? Are there different rules for women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s? 

Some thoughts from poking around the Internet: The Muse gives ponytails an enthusiastic thumbs up for professional hairstyles, and Buzzfeed has this niceish twisted ponytail for work, which I like so much I’m adding it to our Work-Appropriate Hair board on Pinterest. [Read more…]

What Not to Wear to Work

what not to wear to workHere’s a fun question as we slide into summer with lots of summer interns and summer associates: what NOT to wear to work?  Obviously: every office is different, so know your office.  My usual guidelines for readers are these:

  1. If it’s on this list (below) of questionable items, do NOT wear it until you’ve seen your boss several midlevels wear it. Note that these people do not count as “your boss:” another summer intern, a staffer/subordinate, or someone else very junior at the company (e.g., a first-year associate). (See the interesting discussion in the comments — a lot of bosses have earned their right / have enough credibility to get away with dressing however the heck they want — just because they feel ok about wearing something doesn’t mean they’d want to see a summer intern or first-year wear it.)
  2. When in doubt, stick with classics. If it wasn’t commonly worn as workwear five years ago, question whether it’s appropriate at your conservative office — classic styles and prints tend to go over best. Track pants, culottes, ballerina-style lace up shoes… these are in a different ballpark than pencil skirts, button-front blouses, sheath dresses, and blazers.
  3. If it makes noise at all, it isn’t appropriate for the office. Cheap fabric — arm parties — loud necklaces — any sort of a shoe that makes a loud sound: be wary.

(Pictured at top, in case you like them for the weekend or evenings, clockwise: romper / eyelet cami / maxi skirt with slit / pencil skirt with slit.)

My list of “please do not wear this to your conservative office” would include:

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Making Time for Therapy

Reader C has a great question about work/life balance — and keeping a standing therapy appointment without being perceived as lazy.  I can’t wait to hear the readers’ tips!  Here’s her question:

Hi! I’m a newer BigLaw associate. The stress of the job has caused my mental health to take a hit and so, I’ve started seeing a therapist with whom I have weekly evening (8 PM) appointments. In most other professions, asking to see a therapist “after hours” would easily be okay, but given the “constant availability” expectations of my firm, I think this may be difficult. Is there a way to firmly, but respectfully carve this hour out for myself once a week without being perceived as lazy?

Great question — I think this is a pretty common thing BigLaw associates go through, and kudos to you for taking care of your mental health. We’ve talked about taking time for frequent doctors’ appointments before, but I don’t think we’ve talked explicitly about making time for therapy and other standing appointments.  Here are some tips:

  • I really believe that most employers really do want you to have a work/life balance — but also to get stuff done. I’d be shocked if people give you too much push back on having the appointment. If and when it comes up with your supervisors, I  don’t even think you need to get into too many details here — just have an apologetic note in your voice when you say, “I have a standing appointment tonight at 8:00, but…”
  • Make yourself available after the appointment as needed, and let people know that.  “I’ll be back in the office at 9:30,” or “I’ll be back on email at 9:30.” Then, do it.  I know therapy sessions can sometimes be emotional, but whatever you say you’re going to do, make sure you do it.  (You may want to check out our discussion a few weeks ago about answering work email at home.)
  • Know your colleagues. If there’s one of your superiors who only starts work at 6PM, you may have to handle him or her in a different way, and be more direct, but also more persistent by reminding them regularly that you’ll be out of pocket, checking in with them as soon as you’re you’re out of the appointment, and possibly even setting up a backup (paralegal? secretary?) who can definitely be available for the whopping 90 minutes you need to yourself.
  • Finally, know the peculiarities of your work schedule. If your work requires you to frequently have a late-night deadline (i.e., if your company has a regular pouch going from NYC to DC on a nightly basis), or if you work with colleagues or clients in a different time zone who are still in full work mode when you’re leaving at 8 PM — then I would strongly consider shifting your therapy appointment to another time, like first thing in the morning. Another option that I know some readers have mentioned is having a therapist who they only see via Facetime/Skype/or on the phone — if you find such a therapist, he or she may offer even later/earlier appointments than 8 PM (or be in a different time zone entirely so the hours are later/earlier than a local therapist could offer.)

Ladies, for those of you who go to therapy or other standing appointments, how do you make time for the appointment and let your colleagues know? What kind of pushback have you come up against, and how have you dealt with it? 

Pictured.