Career Advice

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

Job Hopping: Yea or Nay?

Job HoppingLadies, let’s talk about job hopping: Do you view it as the only way to get ahead? Do you worry about being viewed negatively if you’ve had too many jobs in too short a time? What do you think is the minimum time to stay in one job?  

In the recent past, job hopping was universally seen as negative. It was said to make employers question your commitment and reliability, and job hunters were often advised not to include short-term positions on their resumes and to stay a certain length of time at jobs they hated to avoid tarnishing their employment history.

The GenXers and Baby Boomers among us — especially those with parents who stayed at one company for their entire careers (can you imagine that today?) — may still have a negative impression of frequent job changers. In the last few years, though, the news has been full of headlines reflecting an evolution in how short-term jobs are viewed. Articles that wonder if job hopping is “losing its negative stigma” or “losing its bad rap” and those that give tips on how to change jobs “strategically”  are just a few examples. While job hopping isn’t exactly welcomed by employers, surveys and studies have shown a change in attitudes, especially among Millennials, about switching jobs more frequently. Check out these representative stats:

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Professional Hairstyles: Do Ponytails Count?

Professional Hairstyles - Ponytails at Work | CorporetteDo ponytails count as professional hairstyles? Which are the best ponytails for the office?  Do you think 50s/cheerleader ponytails are no-gos for the office, or is any neat, easy hairstyle inherently professional? 

Have you guys been watching AMC’s Better Call Saul? It’s the prequel story to Breaking Bad, chronicling the path that small-time con-man/lawyer Jimmy McGill took to become everyone’s favorite drug lawyer (later known as Saul Goodman). One of the story lines involves Jimmy working at his brother’s BigLaw-esque law firm, and one of his main friends is Kim Wexler, played by Rhea Seehorn. Kim’s story is similar to Jimmy’s — she started in the mailroom, went through law school later in life, and is now working as an associate — but unlike Jimmy she’s squeaky clean. Without giving away too many spoilers, it’s so inspiring to see her efforts to make partner, including a long montage where she calls every single person she knows to try to bring on her own client. In another scene, she does so well on her first court appearance that the opposing counsel tries to hire her. In general, she’s a rockstar lawyer. She dresses professionally, too — but something I’ve been pondering is her hair: her most frequent look is a ponytail. Not just the low, harried ponytail many of us throw our hair into when we’re working in our office and want to keep our hair out of our faces — hers is curled, and part of her all-day look.  And while it isn’t super-high, it isn’t super-low, either. (In general, I think a lower ponytail is vastly better for being taken seriously.) Part of her character is that she’s earnest and kind of new to this world of BigLaw — so is her hair supposed to convey that as well? (Ah, here’s a picture of her ponytail from the back, below. And apparently the same actress wore the same hairstyle on another show where she also played a lawyer, but I’m not familiar with that show.) Maybe I’m biased against ponytails that feel too pageant/cheerleader as professional hairstyles? 

professional hairstyles ponytails

In the past, we’ve collected easy office updos (which included some ponytail looks), as well as discussed how to style long hair for interviews, but let’s discuss ponytails, ladies — what makes them appropriate (or inappropriate?) for the office or other big meetings? Are there different rules for women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s? 

Some thoughts from poking around the Internet: The Muse gives ponytails an enthusiastic thumbs up for professional hairstyles, and Buzzfeed has this niceish twisted ponytail for work, which I like so much I’m adding it to our Work-Appropriate Hair board on Pinterest. [Read more…]

What Not to Wear to Work

what not to wear to workHere’s a fun question as we slide into summer with lots of summer interns and summer associates: what NOT to wear to work?  Obviously: every office is different, so know your office.  My usual guidelines for readers are these:

  1. If it’s on this list (below) of questionable items, do NOT wear it until you’ve seen your boss several midlevels wear it. Note that these people do not count as “your boss:” another summer intern, a staffer/subordinate, or someone else very junior at the company (e.g., a first-year associate). (See the interesting discussion in the comments — a lot of bosses have earned their right / have enough credibility to get away with dressing however the heck they want — just because they feel ok about wearing something doesn’t mean they’d want to see a summer intern or first-year wear it.)
  2. When in doubt, stick with classics. If it wasn’t commonly worn as workwear five years ago, question whether it’s appropriate at your conservative office — classic styles and prints tend to go over best. Track pants, culottes, ballerina-style lace up shoes… these are in a different ballpark than pencil skirts, button-front blouses, sheath dresses, and blazers.
  3. If it makes noise at all, it isn’t appropriate for the office. Cheap fabric — arm parties — loud necklaces — any sort of a shoe that makes a loud sound: be wary.

(Pictured at top, in case you like them for the weekend or evenings, clockwise: romper / eyelet cami / maxi skirt with slit / pencil skirt with slit.)

My list of “please do not wear this to your conservative office” would include:

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Making Time for Therapy

Reader C has a great question about work/life balance — and keeping a standing therapy appointment without being perceived as lazy.  I can’t wait to hear the readers’ tips!  Here’s her question:

Hi! I’m a newer BigLaw associate. The stress of the job has caused my mental health to take a hit and so, I’ve started seeing a therapist with whom I have weekly evening (8 PM) appointments. In most other professions, asking to see a therapist “after hours” would easily be okay, but given the “constant availability” expectations of my firm, I think this may be difficult. Is there a way to firmly, but respectfully carve this hour out for myself once a week without being perceived as lazy?

Great question — I think this is a pretty common thing BigLaw associates go through, and kudos to you for taking care of your mental health. We’ve talked about taking time for frequent doctors’ appointments before, but I don’t think we’ve talked explicitly about making time for therapy and other standing appointments.  Here are some tips:

  • I really believe that most employers really do want you to have a work/life balance — but also to get stuff done. I’d be shocked if people give you too much push back on having the appointment. If and when it comes up with your supervisors, I  don’t even think you need to get into too many details here — just have an apologetic note in your voice when you say, “I have a standing appointment tonight at 8:00, but…”
  • Make yourself available after the appointment as needed, and let people know that.  “I’ll be back in the office at 9:30,” or “I’ll be back on email at 9:30.” Then, do it.  I know therapy sessions can sometimes be emotional, but whatever you say you’re going to do, make sure you do it.  (You may want to check out our discussion a few weeks ago about answering work email at home.)
  • Know your colleagues. If there’s one of your superiors who only starts work at 6PM, you may have to handle him or her in a different way, and be more direct, but also more persistent by reminding them regularly that you’ll be out of pocket, checking in with them as soon as you’re you’re out of the appointment, and possibly even setting up a backup (paralegal? secretary?) who can definitely be available for the whopping 90 minutes you need to yourself.
  • Finally, know the peculiarities of your work schedule. If your work requires you to frequently have a late-night deadline (i.e., if your company has a regular pouch going from NYC to DC on a nightly basis), or if you work with colleagues or clients in a different time zone who are still in full work mode when you’re leaving at 8 PM — then I would strongly consider shifting your therapy appointment to another time, like first thing in the morning. Another option that I know some readers have mentioned is having a therapist who they only see via Facetime/Skype/or on the phone — if you find such a therapist, he or she may offer even later/earlier appointments than 8 PM (or be in a different time zone entirely so the hours are later/earlier than a local therapist could offer.)

Ladies, for those of you who go to therapy or other standing appointments, how do you make time for the appointment and let your colleagues know? What kind of pushback have you come up against, and how have you dealt with it? 

Pictured.

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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