Career Advice

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

Cute Office Supplies: When To Use Them

Cute Office Supplies | CorporetteOur post the other day about the cute file folders got me thinking: When should a professional woman actually use cute office supplies? Should you use them only in a home office? Only for presentations? As part of a cohesive system for all of your office work? (Pictured: Smiley Face Binder Clips, $4 for 40 at Amazon.)

For my $.02, I’ve always loved cute office supplies — something about going to Staples or Kate’s Paperie or the like takes me back to the happy feelings of back-to-school shopping. (Yeah, I was that kid.) But once I got to my law firm, this is how I actually used them: for personal things in my office only. I had a nice folder for keeping track of my CLE credits, and a nice folder for holding my old timesheets and the like — things that I filed myself and didn’t need to hand off to someone else. They sat on my desk (as part of my organized office system) and made me happy — but they were but a small pop of color amidst the seas of red Redwelds, brown Bankers Boxes, and beige manila folders. It was still worth it to me to seek out pretty things and buy them, but it was just for a bit of silliness to cheer me up at the office.

Ladies, when do you use cute office supplies? Do you have a place for them in your life?


N.B. 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 we highly value all comments by our readers, we’re going to ask you to please keep your comments on topic; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. Thank you for your understanding!

Do You Send Holiday Cards to Friends and Colleagues?

MoMA Evergreen Doves Holiday Cards | CorporetteHoliday cards: do you send them? To friends or colleagues or both? What kind of cards do you send, and do you have any rules about it? It’s been eons since we last discussed holiday cards! (Pictured: MoMA Evergreen Doves holiday cards, $18.45 at Amazon.)

For my $.02, I think there are two kinds of people: those who send cards, and those who really don’t. I’m definitely in the first camp, although I’ll admit that the kinds of cards I’ve sent to friends and family have definitely changed since I’ve had kids. While I used to send pretty cards from museum stores and so forth, now I go to Shutterfly, Minted, or the like to get custom photo cards. But I don’t send those cards to people I know through the business (and because business is e-based, sending a physical card seems weird anyway!) — and I can’t see myself sending them to coworkers in my law school days unless I counted them a friend first, colleague second. (Over at CorporetteMoms we’ve talked about how to avoid sending what some of my single friends have joked about as “smug holiday cards.”)

As far as rules go, I can’t think of a time when I haven’t gone with a fairly neutral greeting like “Season’s Greetings!” or “Merry and bright!” just for efficiency’s sake. I always order a few extra in case someone sends me a card who for whatever reason didn’t get a card in the first round I sent them.

So I’m curious, ladies: Do you send cards to friends? To colleagues? What do you think about receiving them? Have you ever received one from a coworker that made you raise an eyebrow? 


N.B. 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 we highly value all comments by our readers, we’re going to ask you to please keep your comments on topic; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. Thank you for your understanding!

Dressing Professionally But Comfortably: What to Wear for a Long Flight

Vince Camuto Ponte Knit Ankle PantsWhat should you wear on a long flight with colleagues if you want to be comfortable but still look professional? Reader N wonders…

Could you do a post on comfortable, but professional attire for international or long flights? I have an upcoming business trip where my boss and two colleagues will be on a long flight with me. I want to look presentable but still be comfortable for the long flight. Thanks!

I’m curious to hear what people say here; this reminds me a bit about our discussion about what to wear when you’re out of town and working late all the time. (Here’s a fun question, readers — do the answers change if you’re sitting with your boss/colleagues on the long flight? Every time I’ve traveled with colleagues we were sitting apart, and I was so thankful to freely relax/sleep/read brain candy on the flight.) Some thoughts, in no particular order:

[Read more…]

The Bad Assistant: When To Switch, When to Fire

When to Fire a Bad Assistant | CorporetteWhat should you do when you’re stuck with a bad assistant, secretary or subordinate — and your assistant doesn’t assist? When is just time to switch assistants, or even fire the person? Reader K wonders:

We are a small (12 people) conservative professional investment firm serving high net worth clients. I recently moved from front office to portfolio assistant. The young woman who replaced me thinks she is doing a great job even though she was told by management that she needs to work on skills. She says she has a photographic memory and doesn’t take notes on anything I try to explain. I prepared “how to'” notes for her, but have had to print them for her repeatedly. She makes “to do” lists but rarely does items on the list. When I try to explain something, she has gotten up and walked off or continues to stare at computer screen. Her history shows that she is constantly on the Internet. I was told to monitor these things, but feel uncomfortable. I am working an extra 15 hours a week trying to do my new job and picking up slack on hers. Needless to say, I am stressed. Management is aware of issues, but not that I am really stressed out over this. How should I handle this?

Wow — I’m sorry, K, that sounds like it really stinks. You say she’s been warned; you say management is already aware of these issues. That all leads me to the following advice:

[Read more…]

Tales from the Wallet: Tips for Open Enrollment

Tips for Open Enrollment | CorporetteAs we’re coming up on the end of the year, I thought it might be interesting to talk about benefits — and specifically tips for the open enrollment period.  (One of our guest posters got into this a few years ago when she talked about using your benefits package at work to save $10K.) Interestingly, studies have found that people spend less than two minutes on benefit selection — but it really can make a difference (particularly if you’re thinking about getting pregnant or otherwise planning some health changes). (Pictured: the extremely well-reviewed Hobo’Sadie’ Wallet, $108-$118 at Nordstrom.)

To get some expert tips for navigating open enrollment, Kate talked to Shannon McLay, a financial planner and the founder and president of The Financial Gym, a company that offers classes on personal finance as well as one-on-one conversations with financial trainers. (Shannon previously gave us advice on finding a financial planner.) Here’s what she suggests: [Read more…]

Networking In Your Niche — But Outside Your Company

Networking in Your Niche - But Outside Your Company | CorporetteWhat’s the best way to network in your niche and with experts in your field — but outside your company?  How can you find these experienced professionals, and how should you reach out? Can you find a mentor outside your own company? Reader M wonders:

I just landed a job in a field I’m excited to be in, and am looking to make the most out of it. However, I am the only one in my office who is responsible for this specific subject matter. While my managers help me out whenever they can, the only other person who has similar exposure to this type of work is based at our overseas office. There are a number of professionals based in my city who are experts on this particular subject matter, and I would love to meet them and perhaps find a mentor in this field. However, since my office is based a bit outside of the city and I work long hours, I’m not exactly in the position to meet up with someone for a weekday lunch or coffee. How can I start to form relationships with experienced professionals in my field when my only free time is on nights and weekends? There are only a very limited number of conferences and events that I know of, so I thought it might be worthwhile to reach out to someone directly. Thoughts?

What a great idea, Reader M — networking with other people in your niche is going to allow you to accelerate your learning, have someone else to bounce ideas off of, and even give you some visibility in the field and hopefully the means to move to other companies if and when the time is right. Networking when you’re junior takes some finesse, and maybe I’m overcomplicating your particular situation — you can always just call the local experts you know of and ask to take them to breakfast, of course! — but my concern is that a cold call would seem either like you’re job searching, or possibly (depending on the field) like you’re trying to get intel on how Company X does its work so you can copy it for your own company. However it’s interpreted, it might raise eyebrows with the expert you’re calling as well as with your company.  (One option that might bypass this: ask your overseas colleague if they have any local-to-you contacts in your field who you should know, or what local groups they recommend joining and who is in charge of them — and then ask if you may reach out using your colleague’s name.)  So, instead, my approach would be to focus on getting involved in associations and clubs within your field — this will put you in the right position to meet the experts at an association event.  If there are no local events, your involvement in the association still gives you a good reason to reach out to the experts — interview them for the association’s newsletter, or set up a local event yourself.  (It also gives you a good reason to leave work early, within reason — having an industry meeting once a month or once a quarter is generally accepted and encouraged by employers. I’ve also mentioned my love of breakfast meetings for networking — it’s often more acceptable to come an hour late to work rather than leave two hours early, but obviously, you have to know your own office here.) SO: Some ideas on how to get involved:

[Read more…]