Business Etiquette Advice

Business etiquette advice for the professional woman.

Affordable, Easy Office Decor Ideas

easy office decor ideasLadies, what are your favorite easy office decor ideas? What’s the first thing you do in any new office, and what ideas would you recommend to summer associates, interns, and others? Decorating your office with cute desk accessories and more can be an essential way to making your workspace happier — and giving yourself more energy. But, if you’re a summer associate, intern, on-site consultant, on a secondment, or any other kind of temporary worker, you don’t want to put in a ton of effort into decorating your desk or office. So what are the top affordable, easy office decor ideas that help you avoid staring at boring blank walls or that ubiquitous cubicle-wall shade of beige-gray-tan?

Obviously, you should make sure not to damage the office in any way, such as leaving behind adhesive residue or accidentally removing paint/drywall when you remove things from the walls. You also won’t want to bring too much stuff, or else by the end of your time there you won’t even want to bring it all home. (Plus, it’s a little weird when a temporary worker looks like they’ve moved in, yes?) So what are the best ideas beyond “colorful tissue box”? (Always an option!) We thought we’d round up some great ideas for cute desk accessories and other simple, fast ways summer associates can decorate their offices.

(Update: as you see in the comments, a lot of readers bristled at the very idea of this post, noting that summer associates or interns should NEVER decorate their office. We’ve updated the post a bit for clarity, but it’s a good reminder to know your office. )

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How to Network When You’re Junior

how to network when you're juniorHere’s a fun question, ladies: what are your best networking tips for younger women just starting out in their careers? What’s your best advice on how to network when you’re junior? We’ve rounded up some tips from readers in our last discussion, and I have some thoughts as well, but I’m curious to hear what you guys have to say about this.

For my part, I remember when I was just out of school I felt like it was so much harder to approach older people whose careers I admired — like it would have been so much easier if I’d had connections, influence, or experience to  bring to the the table.  One of the best things that helped me overcome this fear of networking was doing a summer internship for magazine students where they heavily mentored us (every week we had a different major editor offering career advice to the group) and week after week people encouraged us to just reach out to people we admired and ask for coffee, lunch, breakfast.  The first trick was knowing what not to ask for — never a job, just advice — and even then it was often easier to ask them about their own path than for direct advice about your path. The second trick was to know that their time was valuable, so either ask small (could I get 15 minutes of your time in your office to talk about career stuff / hear more about Magazine X / hear more about your path to Editor in Chief?) or make it “worth their time” by setting up a group lunch with several other interns or junior people.  The final trick they passed on was that once you were on someone’s radar, to stay on their radar — say hi at every event, send an occasional email with news that they would find interesting, or more — even just send a congratulatory email when they get a new job or new accolade. (We’ve also talked in the past about the different tactics you may want to use when networking with older men vs. networking with older women.)

Now that I’m older I would also advise my younger self to not discount networking among fellow junior colleagues — make friends, get to know people, stay in touch. Hopefully this is totally perfunctory advice and you’re making friends with colleagues regardless of whether they can help you down the line — but it’s one I haven’t heard said a lot in networking advice, at least directly.

The last time we discussed this, the readers (as always!) had a ton of great advice on how to network when you’re junior:

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Dining Etiquette: 10 Things to Know About Business Lunches

dining etiquetteHot on the heels of our discussion about how not to gain weight over the summer recruiting season, we thought we’d round up some of the readers’ top tips on dining etiquette, collected from our last discussion on the topic. Ladies, what is your top tip for dining etiquette? What etiquette mistakes do you see interns and summer associates making that you wish you could correct, and what mistakes did you make? 

  1. Don’t be the odd one out. To prevent awkward situations, e.g., ending up as the only person eating an appetizer while everyone waits for you to finish so they can have their entrees, feel free to ask your colleagues if they’re planning on ordering an app or starting with a main course. If they don’t order drinks, don’t order a drink. And, although it probably goes without saying, don’t make a habit of choosing the most expensive thing on the menu.
  2. Choose wisely. This classic advice is worth sharing: Don’t order something that’s hard to eat and/or likely to be messy.
  3. Avoid appearing “high-maintenance.” When you order, don’t ask too many questions of the server (remember that waitress scene in “When Harry Met Sally“?), and don’t make a zillion modifications to your meal.
  4. Don’t make a big deal about special dietary requirements. Meaning: a few questions or exclusions are fine — a 15 minute interrogation on different menu options isn’t. Check out our posts on eating gluten-free or being the only vegetarian at a business lunch where there’s nothing you can eat for more guidance. If you need to make a game plan, consider calling the restaurant ahead of time with your questions (so that you don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining your requirements and ordering your food).

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How to Wear Pantyhose In the Summer

How to Wear Pantyhose in the SummerWith only a few weeks to go until summer officially begins, it’s a great time to discuss how to wear pantyhose in the summer — because even if your office is freezing, your commute won’t be. We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: This is very much a “know your office” situation. If you’re new, assume that pantyhose are required and wear them at least the first day and all significant events to follow after that (big meetings, court appearances, etc.) — change that assumption if you see mid-levels going barelegged at big events.

Big work events aside, though, there are some women who love pantyhose — including many Corporette readers. (In fact, last time we talked about pantyhose in the summertime, readers seemed split on the topic, with only about half of them being on Team Bare Legs!) We also had a debate on underwear with pantyhose — to wear or skip? (One reader said she thought of them “panties with legs” — an interesting take.) If you do wear underwear with them, 100% cotton is best (although increasingly hard to find!), and even those who wear pantyhose sans underwear suggested making sure your stockings have a cotton gusset. By the way, make sure to check out our Guide to Pantyhose for Work, as well as some of our favorite brands of hose!

For those of you whose office dress codes mandate pantyhose year-round, and for those who just like wearing them to work, we’ve gathered a few tips from readers on staying comfortable if you have to wear pantyhose in the summer:

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Should Your Work Friends Include Your Assistant?

Should Your Work Friends Include Your Assistant? Do you socialize with your assistant or secretary? Do you consider him or her to be among your work friends? Or do you keep your relationship with staffers friendly but avoid turning it into an actual friendship? If the relationship has swung too far towards “friendship,” how do you bring it back to “collegial”? Reader N wonders…

How do you reformalize a working relationship with your secretary? I work in law and I have been cognizant about not talking down to my secretary, who is also a young female. I have noticed recently she has interpreted this to mean we are “friends,” which is fine. Recently, she has seemed to step up her attitude, and does not make requests of me politely. I don’t want my niceness mistaken for passiveness or that she does not need to respect me the way she does others who were not as nice.

Hmmmn… tough question, Reader N! With Administrative Professionals Day observed this Wednesday it’s a good time to revisit the issue. In general, I think it’s fine to be friendly with staffers and other subordinates, but the closer the relationship gets, the more complicated it gets. One reader wrote to us a while ago where she was the only female lawyer, and the group of female secretaries was being very welcoming — in that case, where she already had an uphill battle to be/feel accepted with the other lawyers, I think she was right to keep her distance.  Outside of that circumstance, friendship with subordinates can also be complicated because if the assistant screws up, needs redirection or criticism, or just generally needs firmer deadlines and oversight, all of that is easier to do with an arm’s length, professional relationship, without adding more intense emotions of doubt and betrayal (“but I thought we were friends” / “why is my friend betraying me”). (We had a great discussion on whether a boss should be respected vs. liked just last year.)

As to reader N’s question, how can you bring an office friendship with an assistant back to a collegial relationship? I’m curious to hear what the readers say here, but I think the answer is “very carefully.” My $.02 tips:

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Crying at Work: How to Deal

How to Handle Crying at Work | CorporetteOK, ladies and gents, let’s discuss: How do you keep from crying at work, whether due to personal reasons or as a reaction to something work-related? What are your best tips to prevent it, explain it if it happens, and clean up your face once you’re done?

First, in case it needs to be said: No one’s judging anyone when you’re crying about some horrible recent news — the death of a loved one, for example. But there can be a huge sliding scale of appropriateness and acceptability at different offices, depending on your boss, your team members, and so forth.

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