Career Advice

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

The Worst Career Advice You’ve Ever Heard

worst-career-adviceHere’s a fun question for today: what is the WORST career advice you’ve ever heard? I just saw an article about this at Inc. — about how “follow your passion” is really dumb advice — and I thought it might make an interesting topic for us over here. The worst advice I ever got was a version of the “follow your passion” advice, when a career coach once advised me to “Find something you love — like baseball! — and then go be a lawyer for baseball.” I kid you not, those were the exact words. Putting aside the wonky sentence structure, so many things struck me as wrong about this. Maybe I like baseball because I like drinking beer in the stands while talking to friends! Maybe I like the excitement of the game, or the statistical analysis of players’ performances! Maybe I like collecting baseball cards, or following the players over the course of their career as they move from one team to the next? Whereas someone who ends up loving sports law would, presumably, have a passion for contracts, intellectual property, and all the other things that go into the game and the business of sports. [Read more…]

Handling Business Lunches as the Only Vegetarian

work - dietary restrictionsWhat if you’re at a lunch meeting or other work event and there’s nothing you can eat as a vegetarian? What should you do, and how can you take steps to ensure you don’t find yourself in the same awkward situation again? In general, how should anyone with dietary restrictions handle a business lunch? Reader M wonders…

I went to a meeting today with a catered lunch. The options were turkey or chicken sandwiches. I am a vegetarian. This put me in the awkward position of not eating when the other four people in the room (all males of varying ages) were eating lunch. My question is: How should one deal with dietary restrictions at work or at events with work colleagues? Should I have contacted the assistant in charge of the lunch? My dietary restriction is voluntary, but there are many people out there who will literally become ill if they don’t follow certain dietary guidelines. I can usually find something, but there are the occasional times when I cannot. I also hate being an inconvenience. When I was interviewing for jobs, I actually ate dishes with meat a couple times to avoid an awkward situation or risking coming across as a picky eater.

Yikes — I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been put in such a tough situation. We sort of discussed this when we talked about how to stick to your gluten-free diet at a business lunch or how to diet while working a corporate gig, but that was a while ago. What is the best way for anyone with a dietary restriction to handle a business lunch? I can’t wait to hear what the readers have to say.

I have a few ideas for how to deal with this:

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Five Things You Must Bring to a Conference

Five Things You Must Bring to a Conference | CorporetteWe haven’t had a talk about conferences in too long — so ladies, let’s discuss! What are your top 5 things to bring to conferences? What are you looking for most in a conference — networking, inspiration, or education? Any fun stories (successes or failures) of conferences to share?

My own list of the top 5 things to bring to a conference would include:

  1. A tiny wall tap to expand the power outlet situation (this one or this one both look great — nice and lightweight).  Everyone ALWAYS needs to charge their devices — and there are never enough outlets.  Not only will you be able to charge when you need to, but you’ll be the belle of the ball (both at the conference and the airport, if you’re traveling).
  2. Business cards. Don’t forget your business cards — and have them somewhere accessible, such as in a pocket. Even though a business card sometimes feels a bit antiquated in today’s day and age, I totally forgot to replenish my supply when I went to my last conference and was kicking myself the whole time.
  3. A wrap. It sometimes feels like you can never get the temperature exactly right — so dress in layers. A wrap is great because you can wear it around your shoulders over a blazer, around your neck as a scarf if the weather outside is cold (or you miscalculated the level of cleavage showing that day), put it on your lap if your legs are cold, or fold it up and put it in your bag. (Bonus: it can be a travel pillow in a cinch.)
  4. A snack you can carry in your bag.  My go-tos would be a Luna bar, a KIND bar, or a small bag of almonds.  After all, there are usually limited opportunities to refuel with food, and you never want food to be the driving focus of the event.  If you have to wait around because you want to talk to a speaker after an event, or even run an errand
  5. A lightweight bag, preferably a shoulder bag. For some conferences or networking events, people feel safe ditching their bags and coats at the table, or at coat check.  Other events, though, are either in public spaces, or with new, extremely large groups of people, and you won’t feel comfortable ditching your bag.  You may or may not know how you’ll feel until the moment — so make sure your bag isn’t going to hinder your networking.  Lighten your load. Don’t carry a bag that interferes with your ability to hold a drink, such as a satchel. (Am I the only one who’s most comfortable talking to other people if I’m holding a drink? Very odd.) Finally, rethink that super expensive bag, if you tend to be obsessive over it (is it scratched? is it touching the floor? did she just KICK my BAG when she passed behind me?!?) — keep your focus on the conference instead.

Ladies, what are your top 5 things to bring to a conference?  What’s been the best conference you ever attended — and what made it great? 

Psst: our top 6 tips for networking at conferences where you know no one, and what to pack on a one-day business trip.

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A Feminine Approach to Business Casual

Dressing Femininely at Work | CorporetteBusiness casual can be tricky — particularly when you’re transitioning from a conservative office.  But what if the culture at your company isn’t just business casual, but ultra-feminine business casual — and you’re still most comfortable in a gray suit?  When you’re in a new job and feeling pressure to dress a certain way to fit in — even getting critical comments from coworkers — what should you do? Reader E wonders…

I recently relocated and am in the middle of a career change, and I’m really stumped about how to dress for work. I work in a business casual environment in a small, Southern city. Women tend to dress hyper femininely here: today my boss is wearing a pink ruffled tunic over flowy trousers with embellished flats. The job is entry level, but it’s an important step career-wise. I’m all for dressing to fit with office culture. But, really, yikes.

Right now my pencil skirts, sheath dresses, flats, and cardigans are getting a lot of “why are you so dressed up?” and (from the office mean girl) “do you always wear such depressing colors?” I guess these are my questions: how far do I really need to go to fit in with office wardrobe culture? and how can I femme-up my wardrobe without looking like 5’10” wedding cake?

Hmmn.  Well.  It seems like a few things are going on here, some of which we’ve talked about before, such as transitioning a corporate wardrobe to a casual office, looking stylish and professional in a business casual office, as well as surrendering a bit to office culture (but as the song goes, don’t give yourself away). I may also detect a smidgen of . . .  judgment? superiority? in your email, which we’ve also talked about before when you take a job that’s beneath you.  I know all about finding your groove with one set of work clothes, having a rough time transitioning to a new office with a very different culture, and then feeling a bit like you’ve lost yourself in the process.  So I definitely have some thoughts, but I can’t wait to hear what the readers say.

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What to Wear to a Networking Dinner As a Student

What to Wear to a Networking Dinner | CorporetteNetworking dinner attire can be tricky.  But if you’re a business student on a budget — and soon to be job hunting — the question is that much harder.  Reader K wonders…

I’m a student in my last semester of business school and I have some networking dinners to attend in November. Could you recommend something to wear- preferably on the cheaper side (i.e., under 100)?

It is always so frustrating trying to figure out what to wear to these things! I’m curious to hear what readers say. We’ve talked about the tricky subject of wearing business casual for networking events, as well as what to wear to an interview dinner, but not in a while. So let’s discuss.

Some thoughts on what to wear:

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What to Do When Your Office Temperature is Never Right

Office temperature controlIs there a single solution to making an office’s temperature more comfortable if big windows make it too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer? Reader A wonders…

I just started as an associate attorney and it’s my first time with my very own office! It’s so great to have my own four walls. My issue is that one of those walls is actually windows leading to outside, which is great except it makes temperature control a nightmare. Right now, it lets in tons of sun, which makes my office far too hot. I’ve been told by the person who previously occupied my office that in the winter, she froze because of the massive windows. I’m considering looking into an air conditioner for now, but when winter hits, I’ll need a heater. Any idea of a combo unit that I can just switch over when the weather changes? I’d really like to just have one unit, preferably not one that’s massive or noisy.

First, congrats on your own office, Reader A! I’m curious to hear what the readers say. We’ve talked about cold offices and hot offices and how to dress professionally in hot weather and cold weather, but not for dealing with wide temperature discrepancies within a private office like this. Here are my thoughts:

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