How to Blend Conservative Style with Business Casual

business-casualHow should you follow a business casual dress code (and avoid looking overdressed) when your personal style tends toward classic, understated, and conservative — without buying an entirely new wardrobe? Oh, and also: you’re in a technical field, you’re the youngest employee in your office, and the only woman there besides the secretary. Reader K wonders:

I have recently started at my dream job which is a technical one and I work with men only (besides the receptionist). I am on a very tight budget but have invested in basic pieces such as good quality black suits, classic dresses, blouses, black pencil skirt. The dress code is business casual. Yet the other day I wore a classic grey dress, black blazer, heels, and pearls and the CEO made a comment before a meeting insinuating I was overdressed. He wears cords and a polo everyday. What can I wear to work? I prefer to wear more conservative clothes and feel more professional in blacks, and greys and dark color palettes with a small pop of color (like a maroon or emerald blouse). I am in my early 20s and look especially young and am the youngest in my office and prefer the clean cut conservative professional look so am at a loss of what to wear. Any help would be much appreciated.

We’ve talked about how best to dress in business casual in a male-dominated, technical workplace as a younger woman, dealing with other women’s backhanded compliments about dressing well, and being told by a male boss that you dress too well and need to dress “frumpier,” but not exactly this.  Personal style is often important, but sometimes showing that you can “read” company culture requires dressing in a different way than you might otherwise.  Furthermore, when you look young, it can come off even worse — like you’re playing dress up.  So here are a few ideas…

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Tales from the Wallet: Refinancing Student Loans (Guest Post)

refinancing student loansHave you refinanced your student loans, or are you looking into it? We’ve talked about tackling huge school debt, paying down debt vs. saving, getting financially prepared for grad school, creating a money roadmap, and switching from a lawyer’s salary to a student lifestyle, but we haven’t discussed refinancing student loans. Today, Blonde Lawyer (the name she uses to comment on Corporette posts) shares her experience of refinancing with SoFi, one of a growing number of peer-to-peer lending companies (CommonBond is another) that offer student loan refinancing. The author is including a referral link of her own, but Kat / Corporette is not being compensated in any way for this post — it sounded like an interesting topic for readers to discuss, and hopefully this one reader’s experience will be a launchpad for discussion.  Thank you for writing this, Blonde Lawyer!  Here’s a recent WSJ article and a Reuters article for further reading on the topic. 

I have noticed that a lot of Corporette readers are interested in potentially refinancing their student loans. I suggested to Kat that this would make a good “Tales from the Wallet” post and offered to write about my experience refinancing with SoFi. Hopefully there are other posters who refinanced with one of the other major players that can write about their experiences too.

So a little bit about me: I graduated law school in 2009. I went to an in-state school with in-state tuition. I paid my tuition 100% with Stafford loans ($59,500) and also took out living expense loans ($34,072) through a private loan company for a grand total of $93,572 in loans. After graduation, I was most worried about my $34,072 in private loans. My husband co-signed them and they were not dischargeable if I died or became disabled. The interest rate was a variable 8.61% with a 19% cap!!! I had one other issue with this company. I had selected a standard 10-year repayment for all my loans, but once the private loans entered repayment, the math wasn’t adding up to me.

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Lunch with Partners: Who Picks up the Tab?

picking up the tab at lunchIf you’re out to lunch with partners, should you EVER pick up the tab? Oh, and also: you’re the youngest person present and the only woman. We’ve talked about summer associates paying for lunch, but Reader B has a slightly different situation.  Here’s her question:

I work in a small firm (12 attorneys) with a pretty casual atmosphere. There are 5 or so partners (“the guys”) and I am asked off and on to go to lunch with them; I am usually the only associate/only female asked to go. The guys are all about my dad’s age and can be somewhat old fashioned about manners with women. Most often we all just split the check, but from time to time one of the guys picks it up for the group. The lunches are casual and inexpensive. I am capable and fine with picking up the check for the group once in a while, but I’m not sure if that would come across awkwardly. What would you/the Corporette readers do? I think these lunches are good face time with the partners and are generally fun, I don’t want to be perceived as dead weight because I never reciprocate picking up the group check, but I also don’t want to create an awkward situation.

Here’s my $.02: there is no way these guys are going to let her pick up the tab because she’s the “kid” of the group — I don’t think it has anything to do with her being female. That isn’t to say Reader B shouldn’t try it, once — if she suggested the restaurant, or if she’s just had a nice bonus check, or if she’s celebrating something big (her first hearing or something) — go ahead, offer to pay in that magnaminous-I’m having such a great time and I want to treat you guys!-way — not an it’s-my-turn-dear-god-someone-help-me-figure-out-tip-math serious way. [Read more…]

Open Thread: How to Turn Off Work Mode

turning off work mode - toastI have a question for you ladies: how do you turn off work mode? Marie Forleo had a video on this a week ago, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it ever since I saw it, so I thought it would be an interesting conversation. We’ve talked before about how to relax, as well as about juggling work and life (um: a post I finished from the postpartum ward of the hospital…), but not in a long while. I was particularly struck by this part of Forleo’s video:

When it’s time for me to shift out of work mode, I think of myself as butter and [my fiance as] the toast.  … This comfort food is best when the toast is like firm and stiff and the butter is soft and velvety and creamy and spreads all over the place.  So I know that’s a little dumb, but it actually works — it’s a really easy metaphor to remember, and it affects my physicality, it affects my voice, and I can slip into it really fast.

I’ve been thinking about this far too much — I am so not warm butter! (I’m more like cold butter if anything — barely melting, maintaining its own little form and function.) So here’s the question, guys: How do you disconnect from work? Do you have an easy metaphor to think of (or some other strategy you use) when you’re with your loved ones?

(Updating, just to be clear: this struck me as an odd analogy also, which is why I wanted to talk about it here with you guys!  As commenter cbackson noted below, the desire to not to have to be such a hard-ass when you get home from work is not a gendered one — and as other commenters note, turning off work mode can be easier for men.  Maybe this gets into shades of the weekend you – do you have a very different persona at home? How do you slip into or out of it? Or is it enough for you to create rituals (changing clothes, putting away devices) to slip out of work mode?)

(Pictured: apricot and raisin toast, originally uploaded to Flickr by penguincakes.)

How to Relax After Work | Corporette

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Over-the-Knee Boots at the Office?

otk boots for workWhile doing our round-up of knee-high boots, I was struck by how things have changed in such a short time — when I first started this blog, knee-high boots were still pretty scandalous, and over-the-knee boots (or OTK boots) were completely, totally risqué.  Cut to today, and they’re EVERYWHERE — flat versions, high-heeled versions, on most best seller lists, with rave reviews from everyone from 20-somethings to 60-somethings.  I know Jean at ExtraPetite has talked about wearing her 5050s for the commute, but I thought it might be interesting to have a poll: are over the knee boots so omnipresent that you can wear them to work? (Pictured: Screenshot of the Stuart Weitzman 5050 from Zappos, where they’re $635; they’re also at Nordstrom for the same. Here are a few under-$200 alternatives.)

As always, you have to know the specifics of YOUR office.  But because a poll can be fun, I thought we’d have this in two flavors: one poll for folks working in conservative offices, and one folks for the women in business casual offices.  Just for ease of discussion, let’s define a “conservative office” as one where, on any given day, 30% or more of your coworkers are in suits.

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Don’t Be Shy When Changing Careers (and 5 Other Career Changing Tips)

magazine to lawyerDisclosure:  In today’s sponsored post, State Farm Insurance asked me to talk about my first career change — magazine editor to lawyer — and some of the people who helped me along the way.

I was at a recent alumni networking event, and everyone older than 30 heartily encouraged the students and new graduates to reach out to alums. An email that mentions a shared connection opens a lot of doors. Generally, people are happy to give advice. Cast a wide net — particularly don’t be shy about reaching out when you’re looking to enter a new career or change careers entirely. All of this advice rings true with my own experience in networking when you’re junior, and changing careers — not once, but twice now. I’ve written about my career change from media lawyer to fashion blogger, but I’ve never talked about the first big career change I made: from magazine writer to lawyer.

It’s fun to think back on what drove the change…

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