Career Advice

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

How to Delegate to Subordinates

What are your best tips for a new mid-level manager for how to delegate to subordinates, readers? We’ve had a lot of conversations about how to be a boss, whether you should aim to be liked or respected as a boss, how to delegate work to your assistant, and we’ve also rounded up general reading for leadership resources for women — but it’s been a while. So let’s discuss how to delegate to subordinates. Here’s Reader C’s question:

I have a request that I don’t think has been directly addressed in a post. I’m a mid-level Big Law associate, and I was wondering if you (and the hive) had some general advice for adjusting to the newer role of delegating to junior associates. I’m more friendly and generally willing to walk newbies through concepts, but I think I end up getting taken advantage of and not as respected as the more standoffish associates. How do I strike a balance?

Great question. A few easy tips for how to delegate to subordinates:

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How to Keep Track of Work To-Dos

how to keep track of work to-dosHow do you keep track of different task items at work, readers? What are your best tips for how to keep track of work to-dos? Reader E wonders…

I would love a post on how people keep track of work to-dos. Do people write down their assignments on their calendars, keep a paper to do list? Some other system?

Great question, E! We’ve talked about different tools for time management, how to organize your office, as well as how to choose a great planner, and how to find a system like Getting Things Done, but I don’t think we’ve talked about how to keep track of different work to-dos. My own system is kind of simple (she said, preparing multiple bullet points) — OK, it’s not terribly simple, but it KIND of works for me. I could definitely improve, though, so I’m curious to hear what works for you guys!

Here’s the best ways I’ve found to keep track of work to-dos (and to-dos in general):

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What to Wear to a Business Cocktail Party

what to wear to a business cocktail party2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on what to wear to a business cocktail party, but you may also want to check out all of our posts on holiday business etiquette.

Reader C wrote in with an interesting question about what to wear to a business cocktail party, and it has definitely been ages since we talked about business cocktail party attire! Here’s her question:

I am due to start on a graduate programme for a large energy multinational. I have a 3 day induction in London, and I am informed that on two of the evenings there will be dinner and cocktails.

What should I wear? Scared of going over the top, but also don’t want to play it safe with jeans and a ‘nice top’.

Interesting! We sort of talked about this years ago when we answered a reader question about what to wear to an interview dinner, but that was a bit different because she was meeting them for dinner, not working all day and then going to dinner. Similarly, we’ve discussed the best networking dinner attire, as well as what to wear to a dinner reception and interview — but it’s been a while.

Here’s my thing: if you’re going straight from the induction activities to dinner, then you should wear basically the same thing you wore all day, unless you’re told specifically to wear something else. Take some time to freshen up your makeup to go from desk to dinner, and perhaps reconsider a portion of your outfit (remove the blazer, switch to different shoes for standing-around purposes, add a cocktail ring so it’s an easy conversation starter while holding your drink, etc). Ultimately I think people will remember your energy and attitude at these things far more than your outfit — so do what you have to do to look awake and alive and feel fresh enough to meet a zillion new people and express excitement for working on their projects. (For me this becomes a mix of “put on Touche Éclat and a highlighter like Haloscope or High Beam while listening to a crazy upbeat, silly song like Rock Me Amadeus” — but for you this may look different. Some of my favorite makeup products for faking a good night’s sleep may be helpful here.)

Readers, what’s your advice — what would you wear to a business cocktail party under these circumstances? In general, do you ever think the kinds of things stylists in movies come up with (such as bustiers under blazers or other outlandish ideas) have a place in the real world? what to wear to a business cocktail party during orientation

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How to Find Sponsors at Work (Open Thread)

how to find sponsors at workI recently took part in an alumni discussion on how to ask for raises and other negotiation tips. I was intrigued when a lot of women in the group raised their hands for advice, telling stories of how they failed to get the raise, job, or promotion they deserved, despite following all the best negotiation and advocating-for-themselves advice.  And over and over again, I found myself thinking, “she needed a sponsor.”  So today, lets talk about how to find sponsors at work. For those of you who do have sponsors, please share your stories — how did you find them and cultivate those relationships? For those of you who don’t — have you looked for a sponsor? Have you ever considered your direct boss your sponsor, or does it have to be someone slightly separate?

To review some vocabulary: a mentor is kind of like a life coach lite — they may or may not work at your company or even in your line of work, but they’re helpful for you to ask big questions (job, career, lifestyle, city, family), for you to learn from their paths, and generally helpful when it’s Decision Time. A sponsor is someone at your office who is involved (either directly or indirectly) in helping you get the work you want — or, ideally, will be writing your review or be in the room at the meeting and can be your advocate for the new job or promotion. (Or, going with our cheesy “seat at the table” imagery: a mentor helps you decide which seat to take at the table — but the sponsor helps you get in the room.)

(For my $.02, I’m not sure I ever had a legitimate sponsor in my legal career. There were certainly people in my corner, and people who said nice things about me — and I think I may have been “on the short list” at various points as a person who was good at X or had special knowledge in Y. But I’m not sure anyone in my legal career would have said, “oh, you haven’t met Kat? She’s fabulous, and you NEED her for this project.”

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How to End Your Emails (And: Do You Think It Matters?)

How to End Your Emails (Fun with Business Etiquette!)Here’s a fun business etiquette question: Reader S wonders about the best way to end your emails in a professional setting. Do you vary your email sign-off by situation, or do you just use one across the board?

I am a long time reader — your website was incredibly helpful while I was in law school and now as an attorney. I have a question about “closing a letter.” I personally use “Regards,” and a more friendly/warm “Best regards,” when I’m closing a letter or email. I’ve always thought it was odd to see “Sincerely yours,” in a professional email as that closing seems overly familiar — but I just saw a letter from a judge, and he closed it “Sincerely yours.”

Wow, interesting question — but one that I admit I’ve pondered also, especially since I seem to recall seeing that my own preferred closing (“best,”) was deemed “cold and antiquated.” (Sadly, I don’t remember where I saw that — maybe in this Slate article?) I remember years ago getting an email from a fellow lawyer at work who signed her email “xoxo.” This struck me as super odd at the time because she had always seemed like such a cool chick and this seemed to be the email equivalent of dotting her letter i with a heart — but I just brushed it off and assumed she was either being ironic or she was just cool enough to get away with such things.

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How to Decide Whether to Go to Law School

How to Decide Whether to Go to Law SchoolLadies, how did you decide whether to go to law school? How did you finance law school — and how old were you when you started law school? For those of you who decided NOT to go to law school, are you happy with your decision? Did anyone get to law school and drop out, or finish law school and decide not to practice law? For those of you who went to law school when you were older, was it a big decision to go back to school? Reader S, in her late 20s, is trying to decide whether to go to law school:

I’m in my late 20s and seriously considering law school. It’s something I’ve had on my radar since for about 10 years now, but finances always got in the way/thinking I was in some way not smart enough for law school because of a lower uni GPA. A master’s in hand and experience working as a paralegal/risk assessment for international programs in universities, and I finally feel ready. Any advice from Corporette readers who went to law school later in life, especially related to finances?

Wow, great question, Reader S — I can’t wait to hear what the readers say. I expect there will be a barrage of DON’T GO TO LAW SCHOOL responses, and might I add my own voice to those to say : Make sure you are going to law school because you like to argue, negotiate, and represent clients — NOT because you like to write or research. Note that a lot of legal work is drudgery, and that there are huge tranches of people with law degrees who a) cannot get work as lawyers and/or b) can barely make enough as a lawyer to pay their bills, including hefty student loans. (For those of you struggling with big debt from school loans, you may want to check out our post about how to pay off big student loans.) Be very sure you want to go to law school for the right reasons.

With that said, here’s my advice on how to decide whether to go to law school:

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