The Care and Maintenance of Professional Contacts

How to Maintain Professional Contacts | CorporetteHow do you maintain professional contacts on a regular basis?  You don’t want to be the junior person who only reaches out when you need something, and you don’t want to be the person who constantly pesters your mentors and contacts with questions — but where is the middle ground?  Reader K wonders:

Curious what your advice is on maintaining professional contacts. I realized recently I only reach out to people when I need something, and this feels a little … awkward? Like, “Hi, we haven’t spoken for ages, I’m now two jobs removed from when we worked together, but can you help me out with this thing?”

Great question! We’ve talked about how to network when you’re junior and how to network in general, but not in a while. For my $.02:

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Feeling Too Fat to Interview

Feeling Too Fat to Interview? | CorporetteHow can you feel confident during an interview when you don’t feel the best in your clothes? A petite and plus-sized reader wonders how she can look her best, short of losing 40 pounds in a week:

Interview suits for the short and round. Please help!

I admit it. At 5’2″ and a size 14/16 I am both short and fat (sigh! it kind of got away from me). For everyday work wear this isn’t really an issue, but what on earth do I wear for a job interview?

Suits typically come to mind for interviews, but with my lack of height and overall ROUNDness, typical business suits (pant or skirt) really aren’t all that flattering on me. They tend to make me look even shorter and well, dumpy.

Short of losing 40 pounds in a week, what job interview looks would you suggest?

Note: I’m not in an ultra-conservative industry, but this would be for management level positions.

Thanks for any guidance!

We’ve recently rounded up the best stores for plus-sized workwear (including for petites and sizes 16-18), we’ve talked in the past about how to buy (or tailor) a great plus-sized blazer, and of course we have our Guide to Interview Suits, but nothing quite addresses this. And I can suggest a few suits for Reader M (such as the pictured Talbots suit or this Pendleton suit available up to 18P), but that doesn’t totally address the situation here (at least the one that I’m seeing when I read between the lines):  your confidence is taking a hit because of how you look. [Read more...]

Asking Your Boss For Help With Networking

How to Get Networking Help From Your Boss | CorporetteIf you’re new in the field, should you expect your boss to introduce you to her contacts and take you to networking events? How can you ask her to start helping you network? Reader S wonders…

I’m new in my career in a small office and my boss is well established in our field. She has wonderful contacts and is a member of many associations and groups. I had hoped my boss would take me under her wing a little and be a great mentor as I learn the ropes. Unfortunately, I have not be invited to join her at any of these events. Is it appropriate to ask to be introduced to her network and to accompany her to events? I don’t want her to feel threatened that I’m looking for better opportunities, but I think it’s important to get to know the industry players as well.

Great question, S!  We’ve talked about how to network when you’re junior, how to get networking help from an adjunct professor, how to network at a conference, and how to know which networking organizations to join, but we haven’t talked about this before. [Read more...]

How to Throw a Dinner Party… for Work Purposes

How to Throw a Dinner Party... And Invite Your Boss | CorporetteWhat are the rules regarding dinner parties — and do they change if you’re inviting a boss or an existing or potential client? Reader M wonders…

Idea for a post/thread during the holiday season: what is the modern-day dinner party, and how can it positively/negatively affect your career? I’ve had a couple situations where I’ve thrown dinner parties for older colleagues or bosses, and I’m afraid that I don’t really know the all the “rules.” Is there still a stand-around cocktail and appetizer time when your party is work-related? Do I need to have all the food done by the time guests arrive, or can I still continue to cook a bit? What do I need to wear – jeans and a sweater, or do I need to upgrade to business casual? I’m specifically talking about smallish (6-12 people) dinner parties where a boss, partner, or existing/potential client is on the invite list.

I’d love to discuss the best way to do this for working women who don’t necessarily have a ton of time to cook or clean, and how I can portray myself, my home, and my family in a positive and professional way (that still stays true to who I am).

Wow. We’ve talked about what to wear to your boss’s holiday party, as well as what to talk about at parties, but we’ve never talked about throwing your own dinner party for your boss and clients.  I can honestly say that I have NO idea on the rules here, and am fascinated to hear what the readers say. Having lived in small NYC apartments for the majority of my adult life — and being, personally, about as far from Martha Stewart as you can get in the kitchen — I can say that on the rare occasions I’ve thrown a dinner party, it’s been with friends close enough that we could all laugh about it when the kitchen catches fire and we order pizza (should it happen, which, knock on wood, it hasn’t… so far).  Having to cook for a boss or a client sounds like my own private version of hell.  (Weirdly enough, though, we have thought about having my husband’s boss over for dinner with her husband, but just the four of us.  I can’t find the right words to explain why this is so different in my mind than the prospect of inviting my own boss over, for a dinner party, but it really is — something about not wanting my boss to see me as just a good little wifey, perhaps?)  [Read more...]

Are Scarves Professional Enough?

Are Scarves Professional Enough? | CorporetteAre scarves professional enough for conferences? Are there some ways of wearing a scarf that are more professional than other ways?  How, in general, do you dress for a male-dominated conference?  Reader A, writing from Europe (and a very male-dominated profession), wonders:

Maybe this is a cultural issue, but I’d never, ever, wear a scarf to a conference. Ever. At the office, sure, if there’s no meetings. At a conference, however, there is no more surefire way to be treated like a hostess/secretary/admin than wearing a scarf. The women who actually have those jobs are all colour-coordinated, but that doesn’t help. All people see is scarf or no scarf.  I think it’s a real shame, as I like scarves and the femininity they bring to an outfit. Instead, I’ve settled for statement jackets, or a skirt or shoes that “pop”.

Is this because I’m in a (very) male dominated business, or is it a Europe/US thing?

We’ve talked about how to wear scarves, as well as how to pack and what to wear to conferences before, of course, but this is a new one — and a very interesting one, given that scarves would never strike me as something a) unprofessional in general, b) hostess/secretary/admin.  When I worked at a very male-dominated law firm, one of the female partners I worked closely with — who certainly commanded respect from everyone — was known for her collection of Hermes scarves that she would wear long and loose beneath her blazers, a bit like the “drape scarf with bomber jacket” look above from Wendy’s Lookbook. (If you haven’t seen it, her scarf-tying tutorial is pretty awesome; the screenshot above is from the “companion” video. Another great resource generally: Une Femme d’un Certain Âge.) [Read more...]

Worlds Colliding: When Networking Groups Want You to Join a Facebook Group

Facebook networking groupCan you keep your Facebook account private from colleagues and professional friends? What is the polite way to respond when asked, as Reader E was, to join a Facebook Group for a committee she’s on?

I recently joined a committee for the local bar that organizes a fun run every year to support a local charity, which I’m excited about doing because I’m a runner myself and I really like what this charity does. Today we got an email about the first meeting, and the woman in charge asked us all to join the facebook group for this committee. I am really uncomfortable with this request. My facebook profile is almost completely locked down from my professional life. I’m not searchable, I’m not friends with any of my coworkers, and I don’t want people I work with reading it. Is her request that we join this facebook group unreasonable? Can I decline? I have a work email set up so people can communicate with me about work related things. I don’t want to use my facebook profile for it!

We haven’t talked about Facebook in a while — we talked about what to do when your boss wants to “friend” you, as well as looked at FB’s privacy settings (a long while ago — here’s a Lifehacker post on privacy settings that promises to be “always up to date”) — so I’m curious to see how much readers think the situation has changed. [Read more...]