Career Advice

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

Work Outfits with Black Heels

classic work outfit ideas with black pumpsWe just rounded up a ton of great black heels for interviews and beyond — and they’re such a basic, versatile piece in your work wardrobe you hopefully don’t need TOO many ideas for how to wear them to work.  Still, I thought it would be fun to come up with a few work outfit ideas, including a very conservative/classic interview outfit.

The Very Conservative Interview Outfit

The ultimate goal of any interview outfit is to not have your clothes distract from your resume, your accomplishments, and your words.  Note that your heels should be walkable — enough so that you can trek to a restaurant two blocks away (and back) in comfort. If you’re buying your first suit, do check out our recent roundup of suits for every budget, as well as The Corporette Guide to Interview Suits!

A note on pants suits vs. skirt suits:  Skirt suits used to be considered the most formal option, but pants suits are accepted almost everywhere these days.  (Stay tuned — we’ll do a poll very soon to get a broader voice on the topic.) Still, there are benefits to the skirt suit that make it worth discussing. First, if you’re buying a budget suit, it’s FAR easier to find a skirt that looks good by itself than suiting pants that look good by themselves.  Second, if you’re buying suiting separates, I always think you should seriously consider buying all of the pieces that are offered — and hey, you’ve got to wear the skirt suit sometime, right? (Pro tip: don’t forget to dryclean your suiting separates together, too, so the wear is consistent.) Finally: if it’s raining, snowing, or other nasty weather, I’ve always preferred a skirt or dress — nothing’s worse than wet pant hems! (Proper rainboots are great for your regular commute, but if you’re going to have limited options for changing shoes once you arrive, you may want to read our old advice on how to interview in a snowstorm.)

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How to Prepare for Law School

how to prepare for law schoolLawyers: how did you prepare for law school? Law students, what do you wish you’d done to prepare? Ladies with an MBA or other graduate degree, what did you do to prepare for grad school?  Were you more concerned with substance (such as trying to get ahead on class reading, or better educated on the topics you’d be studying), networking (such as researching the professors and adjuncts you’d be studying with), or another side of things, such as financially preparing for grad school, or emotionally preparing yourself? What are your top tips for readers heading back in a few months? 

Kate and I are working on a massive update of our last post on the best work clothing brands for different body shapes, and it’s taking too long (stay tuned!) so I thought we’d have a fun open thread instead today. For my own experience with law school, I was glad that I spent the summer beforehand doing some light reading of one or two of Glannon’s Examples and Explanations series (as recommended by another book I read that hasn’t been revised in many years), which taught me various lessons such as that a tort is NOT a dessert. Super dorky!  One of the other things that I was happy I did was to take to lunch a number of different lawyers I knew who were working in the field I thought I wanted to be in — they gave me great advice for law school itself as well as identified general opportunities to help my career path (such as clerking, law firms to work for, nonprofits to check out, etc).

In terms of what I wish I had done — I wish I had spent more time learning about different Georgetown professors and opportunities, as well. Once you get in the mix of law school it can be a little all-consuming, so doing prep work beforehand would have been a good thing.

Ladies, let’s hear from you!  How did you prepare for law school, business school, or another graduate degree program? (If you went straight through, please note that; if you had a year or more between undergrad and grad, please note how long.)

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Affordable, Easy Office Decor Ideas

easy office decor ideasLadies, what are your favorite easy office decor ideas? What’s the first thing you do in any new office, and what ideas would you recommend to summer associates, interns, and others? Decorating your office with cute desk accessories and more can be an essential way to making your workspace happier — and giving yourself more energy. But, if you’re a summer associate, intern, on-site consultant, on a secondment, or any other kind of temporary worker, you don’t want to put in a ton of effort into decorating your desk or office. So what are the top affordable, easy office decor ideas that help you avoid staring at boring blank walls or that ubiquitous cubicle-wall shade of beige-gray-tan?

Obviously, you should make sure not to damage the office in any way, such as leaving behind adhesive residue or accidentally removing paint/drywall when you remove things from the walls. You also won’t want to bring too much stuff, or else by the end of your time there you won’t even want to bring it all home. (Plus, it’s a little weird when a temporary worker looks like they’ve moved in, yes?) So what are the best ideas beyond “colorful tissue box”? (Always an option!) We thought we’d round up some great ideas for cute desk accessories and other simple, fast ways summer associates can decorate their offices.

(Update: as you see in the comments, a lot of readers bristled at the very idea of this post, noting that summer associates or interns should NEVER decorate their office. We’ve updated the post a bit for clarity, but it’s a good reminder to know your office. )

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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!) 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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Personality Tests: An Open Thread

the best personality tests for working womenHave you taken any personality tests, either out of curiosity or because your job required it? Did you get anything worthwhile out of it, or learn anything new about yourself? Which do you think are the best personality tests for working women? At my last nonprofit employer, we all took the DiSC assessment and then sat through an extensive training session about applying the principles at work. The training session was interesting and the tips seemed useful, and my seemingly accurate assessment results gave me some insight into my personality. Still, five years later I can barely remember what we learned — or my personality type. So, in the long run, I don’t think it was that helpful for me. (I do remember the facilitator said my results suggested good customer service skills, but then I already knew that.)

Pictured: this lovely little keychain is $1.95 at Etsy, available from seller Bohemian Findings

Today we thought we’d ask the readers about personality tests — your experiences with them and your opinions about how useful they are. (I’m thinking that some of you must have more intriguing stories than mine.) First off, though, let’s review some of the most common personality tests:

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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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