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Career Advice

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

Movie Tuesday: His Girl Friday

his-girl-fridayLadies — did you get a chance to watch the movie His Girl Friday? This is part three in our series on “working girl” movies; you can check out our earlier discussion of the movies 9 to 5 and Working Girl. (You can stream it for free on Amazon Prime if you haven’t.)

I hadn’t seen this movie in a few years, and I was interested to see it again for this discussion — I’m a big fan of Cary Grant (my youngest son’s middle name is Grant because of him) and director Howard Hawks, and while I haven’t seen a ton of Rosalind Russell’s work this movie has made her beloved to me. There are obvious parts of the 1940 movie that don’t translate well to 2016, such as a few intolerant lines, but I still thought it was interesting to watch. Some notes, in no particular order:

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Executive Presence for Women Leaders

Executive Presence and How to Get It (Or Fake It) | CorporetteHow would you define “executive presence,” particularly for women? Have you worked to build your executive presence? What are your best executive presence tips? Here are some qualities of women with executive presence that Corporette readers have mentioned during conversations that have taken place in the comments:

  • having a “cool, calm, and commanding” presence
  • being a skilled public speaker
  • appearing put-together (clothes fit well, hair is neatly styled, etc.)
  • seeming “knowledgeable but not a know-it-all”
  • staying cool in a crisis
  • showing confidence
  • having an attitude of “the buck stops with me”

Earlier this year, we discussed new research that showed that looking “put-together” and exhibiting “good grooming” can boost women’s salaries (even more so than being considered attractive), and a couple of years ago we talked about a study that stated wearing more makeup makes women look more competent. Today we’ll go beyond that to take a closer look at executive presence and what it means for women leaders at work. (In the past, we’ve shared posts on imposter syndrome, the difference between confidence and arrogancebeing taken seriously when you look young, and books and resources to help you become a leader and a better manager. We’ve also discussed the book The Confidence Code.)  

According to research from Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founder and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, executive presence is composed of “how you act (otherwise known as gravitas, the most important quality), how you communicate, and how you look.” A 2013 Business Insider article describes it with 7 Cs: composure, connection, charisma, confidence, credibility, clarity, and conciseness. Hewlett (whose book we link to below) says that executive presence “accounts for as much as 28 percent of a woman’s success” (!).

These definitions sound straightforward enough, but cultivating executive presence requires women to walk a very fine line, thanks to the maddening contradictory messages we receive about how to act at work. You know: If you don’t ask for a raise, you’re blamed for the gender wage gap, but if you ask for a raise, you’re viewed as “greedy, demanding or just not very nice.” If you act with confidence and strength, you’re “too aggressive” or “a bitch”; if you don’t appear assertive enough, your behavior is interpreted as weakness. (As social psychologist Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson puts it, the typical dichotomy for women is “competent and cold — that’s the bitch — or warm and incompetent — the doormat who no one takes seriously.”) Of course, this predicament extends to physical appearances, too; research shows that women with “unkempt nails” lose executive-presence points but that those with “overly done” nails are also viewed negatively. Faced with this “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” minefield, some women are paying $2,000 to $5,000 to attend special workshops on executive presence.

Putting all of that aside for a moment, here are a few concrete tips on exhibiting executive presence at work:

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Working Girl: The Discussion

working-girl-movie-discussionWelcome to the second installment in our discussion of some iconic movies featuring “working girls” — today, we’re discussing the 1988 movie Working Girl. You can find our earlier discussion of the 1980 movie 9 to 5 here. So, ladies, what were your thoughts on Working Girl? If you haven’t seen it before, what were your thoughts with fresh eyes — if you HAD seen it before but rewatched it for this discussion, did you have any new insights on the movie?

Warning, spoilers ahead…

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The Best TED Talks for Working Women

best-ted-talks-for-working-womenLadies, what are some of your favorite TED talks for working women? Which ones do you think about the most; which have you heard a ton about but haven’t yet watched? Some of the ones that I think about the most are:

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1. Sheryl Sandberg, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders

This is the talk that came out before Lean In, and I’ve thought about the talk as well as the book a lot over the years.  Description from the page: “Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite.” (Here’s our original discussion on the talk, as well as our Lean In discussion.)

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7 Financial Steps to Take Before the End of the Year

Six Financial Steps to Take Before the End of the YearLadies, what end-of-year financial steps do you plan to take in the next few months? Besides making sure to buy a new planner (if you’re a paper-planner person, that is) and finish your holiday shopping, another thing to do before the end of the year is to take time to focus on your financial situation. Besides quick things like reviewing your W-4 deductions to decide if they’re still appropriate and checking that your employer has your current address on file so that you’ll definitely receive your W-2, taking these seven year-end career and financial steps will build a good foundation for the months to come:

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How to Break the Ice With Coworkers — Even While Traveling

travel-conversationHow do you break the ice with coworkers and make conversation, particularly while traveling together? Travel with coworkers can be awkward for exactly this reason — and hopefully our tips can help. We’ve talked about party-appropriate conversation topics, as well as how to steer a conversation away from sports or the like, but not in a while. Here’s the question from Reader B:

I read your post on travelling with co-workers, great notes. I am new to corporate travel and have a hard time keeping and making conversation. Some of my travels are one on one and others are with a small group. Do you have any tips, topics, etc., to discuss while on business trips with co-workers, especially when they are one on one?

Hmmmn — what should you talk about with coworkers? Readers were recently discussing this recently (I’m maybe remembering this conversation about adjusting to non-BigLaw, non-NYC life) and I agree — talk about anything! The best things (IMHO) are to find shared hobbies, ask about plans for the weekend, or even ask if they’re reading/watching anything good these days. I am not personally into sports (I even have a shirt that says “Hooray sports, do the thing, win the points!”) but if YOU feel like talking about sports, you can always float the conversation and see if your coworker wants to talk about sports as well. (Either way, check out Sports Ketchup, which bills itself as “The weekly newsletter of what you need to know to win a sports conversation in under 3 minutes per week.)

There are, of course, a few caveats:

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