What to Wear to a Business Cocktail Party

what to wear to a business cocktail party2017 Update: We still stand by our advice on what to wear to a business cocktail party, but you may also want to check out The Ultimate Guide to Business Casual for Women.

Reader C wrote in with an interesting question about what to wear to a business cocktail party, and it has definitely been ages since we talked about business cocktail party attire! Here’s her question:

I am due to start on a graduate programme for a large energy multinational. I have a 3 day induction in London, and I am informed that on two of the evenings there will be dinner and cocktails.

What should I wear? Scared of going over the top, but also don’t want to play it safe with jeans and a ‘nice top’.

Interesting! We sort of talked about this years ago when we answered a reader question about what to wear to an interview dinner, but that was a bit different because she was meeting them for dinner, not working all day and then going to dinner. Similarly, we’ve discussed the best networking dinner attire, as well as what to wear to a dinner reception and interview — but it’s been a while.

Here’s my thing: if you’re going straight from the induction activities to dinner, then you should wear basically the same thing you wore all day, unless you’re told specifically to wear something else. Take some time to freshen up your makeup to go from desk to dinner, and perhaps reconsider a portion of your outfit (remove the blazer, switch to different shoes for standing-around purposes, add a cocktail ring so it’s an easy conversation starter while holding your drink, etc). Ultimately I think people will remember your energy and attitude at these things far more than your outfit — so do what you have to do to look awake and alive and feel fresh enough to meet a zillion new people and express excitement for working on their projects. (For me this becomes a mix of “put on Touche Éclat and a highlighter like Haloscope or High Beam while listening to a crazy upbeat, silly song like Rock Me Amadeus” — but for you this may look different. Some of my favorite makeup products for faking a good night’s sleep may be helpful here.)

Readers, what’s your advice — what would you wear to a business cocktail party under these circumstances? In general, do you ever think the kinds of things stylists in movies come up with (such as bustiers under blazers or other outlandish ideas) have a place in the real world? what to wear to a business cocktail party during orientation

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How to Job Search When You’re Super Busy

how to job search when you're super busyJob-hunting is challenging enough when you have a typical full-time career — but how do you handle looking for a new position when you work long hours in a job that makes it hard to get away for networking and interviews? We’ve talked a lot about interviewing, job-hunting, and networking over the years (and certainly finding time to date when you’re super busy, as well as how to make time for friends when you work a lot), but we haven’t specifically discussed this topic. So how do you job search when you’re super busy?

Recently, a reader asked a question (in the comments on a post) about how to deal with this issue. Here’s her situation:

How do you find time to job search when you are working crazy hours and can’t get away easily, like in ibanking/consulting/law? Any tips from people who have gone through this? When did you let people know anything about your job search? If you used your network did you ask people not to talk about the fact that you are job searching?

She got some great responses that we thought we’d round up for the benefit of others with the same question. Those of you with more advice and experience here, though, please weigh in — what are your best tips on how to job search when you’re super busy and it’s hard to leave the office?

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Mentoring Advice: How to Be a Great Mentee (and How to be a Great Mentor)

Mentoring Advice for WomenI was thinking recently about the different mentors I’ve had over the years — as well as the different mentees — and I started wondering: what are best practices on both sides of the relationship? How can you get the most out of your mentor-mentee relationship?  What’s the best advice for how to be a great mentee — and on the flip side, what’s the best advice for how to be a great mentor? In general what’s the best mentoring advice out there? (Do you have different mentoring advice for women than you do for men?) I’d love to hear your thoughts on the mentor-mentee relationship in today’s open thread.

For my $.02, these are my tips on how to be a great mentee:

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The Best LinkedIn Settings for Job Hunting

The Best LinkedIn Settings for Job HuntingLadies, do you sometimes feel a little intimidated or confused by LinkedIn privacy settings and LinkedIn etiquette? If you say “open to new job opportunities” or significantly update your profile, is that a red flag to your boss? Is it creepy if people see that you’ve been looking at their profiles? We did a story in 2012 about how to secretly use LinkedIn to change careers, and I thought it would be helpful to everyone if we did an update on LinkedIn settings, whether you’re looking to change careers or just generally job hunting or networking. – Kat 

Whether or not you’re one of those people who complain that LinkedIn is turning into Facebook, it’s important to keep up with the site’s changes and new features and to always know what your privacy settings are. (By the way, if you don’t have two-step verification set up, which became an option in 2013, go do that right now.) Have you noticed the recent changes made to the LinkedIn Settings page? It’s simpler and more streamlined, but you might find it harder to locate certain options you’ve used in the past. Now is a great time to make sure you’ve got the optimal Linkedin settings for privacy — especially if you’re looking for a new job.

Pictured: linkedin, originally uploaded to Flickr by sue seecof.  

Here’s a brief guide to ensuring your job hunting (and networking with an eye to job hunting) activities stay private by picking the right LinkedIn settings:

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Sleeved Dresses with Pockets

dresses with sleeves and pockets roundupI was just writing something about the best default thing to wear to a networking event (like a conference) where you don’t know what to wear — and my answer was, if all else failed, wear “a sleeved dress with pockets.”  Sleeves because it looks like a complete look — no need for a cardigan or blazer to forget somewhere — and pockets so you have a place to stash business cards, key cards, and more.  Then, I thought to myself: good luck finding that workwear unicorn!  Despite lots of readers (year after year!) sleeved dresses with pockets!saying how much they love sleeved dresses — and dresses with pockets! — very few companies are granting that mystical request.  So I thought I’d do a mini hunt: FIVE sleeved dresses with pockets. (Psst: here’s an old WSJ article about why so many dresses are sleeveless.)

Let’s start our hunt with some of the top-rated dresses at Nordstrom

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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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