Career Advice

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

How to Be Productive When You Work in an Open Office

open-office-adjustmentReaders, do you have any tips for how to work productively in an open office? What advice do you have for someone struggling to adjust to one? Reader K wonders…

I’d love to hear your and readers thoughts about open office plans in the legal environment, such as in the recent article Google Got It Wrong: The Open Office Trend is Destroying Workplaces. In my job at a large non-profit that also has a legal help line, the lawyers, except for legal director, are in cubicles. 2 lawyers spend 1/2 their time doing phone intake. The rest do typical legal research and writing. I have asked about ways of reducing noise/less open space, but am told to just deal with it. My question is whether in the legal industry in general there is an expectation that lawyers should be able to have quiet spaces to work. Looking back on K-12, college, and law school, I always found quiet places to work, and was efficient. My teachers noticed that I was a great writer and really distractable, so they made sure I had a quiet place to work. Now, as a lawyer, I wish there was a quiet space I could escape to do my best work, like I did for 19 years of school. I’d take a pay cut!

Interesting question, reader K. I’ve worked in cubicles (back in my magazine days), a closed-door office environment (back in my BigLaw days), and an open-door office environment (back in my nonprofit days)… so I’ve never worked in a truly open office. While I’m really curious to hear what the readers say, I have a few ideas that may be of help:

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Beauty Wednesday: Interview Makeup

interview-makeupWe haven’t talked about interview makeup in far too long, so let’s discuss: what makeup do you consider a must for interviewing? How does your interview makeup differ from your everyday makeup?

I’ve noted before that I think the main purpose of interview makeup is to make you look awake and alive. Otherwise, makeup should be such that it removes itself from the hiring equation — your interviewer should not notice your makeup, and you shouldn’t be distracted from your makeup. Along those lines, this is what my interview makeup looks like:

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How High to Button Your Shirt for Interviews

blouse-buttons-suitsWhen interviewing, must you button your shirt all the way to the top? How many buttons are acceptable to leave unbuttoned? Reader S wonders…

I am going for an interview at quite a conservative organisation. I have a navy skirt suit and was going to wear a white button up shirt. Do I need to button up all the buttons up to the top?

I have an immediate, initial gut reaction here — but I’m curious if the readers agree. Before we start, note that the WSJ just discussed this very topic for men’s attire; in the past we’ve talked about whether shirt collars should be tucked into a blazer or splayed on top, as well as where to get the best button-front blouses. Here’s my gut reaction $.02:

NO! Don’t button it all the way to the top! That would look weird, and fussy, and… and… I’m thinking of a hitman in a movie but can’t quite put my finger on which movie. (Also: Rainman.) I dug up a few pictures for inspiration, though, and my opinions shifted as I studied it. So I’m really curious to hear what readers say.  Here are some notes:

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When Fear and Low Self-Esteem Hold You Back

low self esteem and self confidenceWhat should you do when mental health issues are holding you back and making it difficult for you to build the career you want? Reader O wonders…

I have struggled with mental health problems for years and as a result have always worked really terrible jobs (combination of poorly paid, admin/dogsbody type roles with bullying managers). I know it’s a combination of fear and rock bottom self esteem that’s the problem. I am in my early twenties and have luckily never been unemployed but I’ve never liked any of the jobs I’ve had. I am planning on going back to university for a masters degree soon with the hope of working in either journal publishing or widening participation but how can I make sure, once I’ve graduated (again), that I don’t keep going for bad jobs? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I’m so sorry to hear that, O. We’ve talked a bit about imposter syndrome, as well as discussing the book The Confidence Code, and I would encourage you to read both of those posts. I have a few thoughts for you, but I can’t wait to see what the readers say.

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Are Crossbody Bags Professional?

Are Crossbody Bags Professional? Are crossbody bags professional?  Could you wear one to a business lunch, or a networking event?  Reader C wonders…

Is a crossbody bag considered professional? I’m tired of carrying a ton of bags to work (briefcase, pump, lunch bag, and purse) and am trying to downsize my handbag. I’m considering purchasing the Lo & Sons Pearl bag. But would it be odd wearing a crossbody to a business lunch or networking event? Thanks!

The crossbody bag is SO HUGE right now. I think they’re cute, even if I wouldn’t wear one myself (busty girls, are you with me?). I would say this is a case of “you do you” and go ahead and wear it if you want to. I particularly think the crossbody is the new wristlet — perfect for grabbing something quickly to run to pick up lunch. (Pictured: another popular option, the Marc Jacobs Natasha, available at Nordstrom for $108-$398.  The pictured leather bag is $365.)

BUT — there’s always a but, isn’t there? — I might caution you in two possible regards that might invoke negative judgement about your professionalism.

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What to Wear to an Alumni Lunch Event

Should You Wear a Suit to an Alumni Lunch? | CorporetteIf you’re planning to attend an alumni lunch for your law school — and you’ll be taking the opportunity to network there — how should you dress? Is wearing a suit a must in this situation? (Pictured, Boss Juicy 6 Jacket, $575 at Nordstrom — check out our full guide to women’s suits for more ideas.) Reader K wonders…

I am starting to network to look for a new job and have decided to attend my law school’s annual alumni lunch (I am a lawyer). It’s on a Friday in a hotel ballroom. Should I wear a suit or is a professional business dress (with sleeves) sufficient?

Interesting question, Reader K!  For my $.02, I would say SURE, wear a suit.  Why not? You have one, and you want to look professional.  If anyone at work asks why you’re in a suit, there’s nothing suspect about attending an alumni event — and at the event if anyone asks why you’re in a suit, you can just say you have another big meeting.  (I doubt they will — my guess is that 95% of people there will be in suits.  But I’m sure this depends on your geographic location, as well as your law school.) Particularly given the fact that this is a lunch — and the law school alumni lunch at that — I would say that a suit is the easiest, no-brainer answer here — throw it on and be done with it.  (Read some of our best business lunch tips here, as well as some of our thoughts on alumni networking here.)

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