Career Advice

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

How to Use a Personal Assistant

Have you ever wished you could offload some of your life to someone else, whether it’s household chores, online research, or other drudgery, but have been unsure how to start? We recently got a reader question wondering how to use a personal assistant (and how to find a good personal assistant!), so let’s discuss. Here’s the question from Reader S:

Life and work are busy and I find it difficult to “get it all done.” I hear it’s possible to hire a personal assistant whom you can ask to research/compare homeowners insurance options, be there when the cable guy comes to install, so on. I found a blog that makes a compelling argument that this is not only a time AND money saver, but it doesn’t tell me HOW to find an experienced PA. Plus, how do you learn to delegate in a way that doesn’t take more time than just doing it yourself? Thanks!

GREAT question, S — so let’s discuss. (Pictured: Daddy Warbucks’ assistant extraordinaire, Grace Farrell, getting it all done in one of my favorite childhood movies, Annie.) We’ve talked about what to delegate to an assistant before, as well as talked about the kinds of things you can outsource to a virtual assistant through Fiverr or a U.S.-based virtual assistant service like Fancy Hands or Task Bullet — over at CorporetteMoms we also talked a bit about working with a personal assistant (in a “how to throw money at the work/life balance problem” kind of discussion). If you’re leaning towards trying a virtual assistant, you may also want to read this classic Esquire piece (reprinted in The Four Hour Workweek and now on Tim Ferriss’ site); this post on how to hire a virtual assistant also looks great.

But sometimes, virtual help just isn’t enough — so let’s discuss how to use an in-person personal assistant. A friend of mine, C, actually used to be a personal assistant to a wealthy businessman, so I reached out to her to ask her thoughts on both HOW to find a personal assistant, and how to USE a personal assistant.

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The Best Places to Meet Up with Prospective Clients (Other than Your Office or Theirs)

The Best Places for Informal Business Meetings for WomenYears ago I had a meeting with a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, and he made an interesting comment I still find myself thinking about: his preferred place for informal business meetings was hotel lobbies. (Looking back he probably got the idea from this NYT article!) There are obvious advantages to this — they’re nice, public spaces; they usually have food and drink available, as well as bathrooms, free WiFi (or WiFi you may be able to get if, say, you stay one night) — and they also generally don’t mind if you linger or talk. But at the time, I wondered: was that really the best place for informal business meetings for women? Could I steal that trick for myself?

Cut to a week ago, when I had a phone conversation with a consultant I’m mentoring, and we were discussing whether she needed conference space of her own — and my mind came back to the conversation about hotel lobbies. My hesitation here has always been the one a lot of you are probably thinking right now: you don’t want any client to misunderstand you and think you’re propositioning them.

We’ve talked before about where to find new clients and general business development tips — how to network in a general way so you can meet new people who eventually become clients — but not where to physically meet up with prospective clients if you want an informal meeting place — so let’s discuss.

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Help! My Assistant Talks Too Much

Help! My Assistant Talks Too Much!We’ve talked about the chatty boss before, but Reader N has a slightly different question: how to deal when your assistant talks too much? Reader N wonders what she can say to discourage her chatty assistant:

What are some ways to end a conversation with people at work that work for you? I have a new assistant, who is fantastic at the job! But she is VERY long winded for the smallest things (e..g, dropping off a file) & ends up on very long tangents completely unrelated to work. I understand that part of her need to chat with me / be friendly with me has to do with me being the boss,but need to be able to get work done during the day. I want to keep things friendly as she is helpful.

We haven’t talked about this problem in far too long — I still remember a fellow lawyer who used to “pop in” my office for what became two hour gabfests in the middle of the day. (Funnily enough I haven’t heard from her since we stopped working together.) Here, the added dynamic of the chatty coworker being your subordinate makes things a bit more complicated from an etiquette standpoint, but not unworkable.  Obviously, you can just tell her sternly to “please let me do my work” or actually sit her down for some bigger conversation about her talkativeness being disruptive — and because you’re the boss, the direct approach is absolutely fine. Readers in our discussion of chatty coworkers suggested saying things such as “hey, now isn’t a good time to chat, but I’ll stop by later” — but if you don’t actually ever want to hear her 45 minute theory about Westworld, that may not work either. (Or, Westworld aside, maybe you just prefer to keep a healthy distance and not be friends with your subordinates.)  But: of course you still want to be friendly and have a good working relationship.  This may take us back to our discussion of whether women bosses should aim for being liked or respected, but here are my top tips for solving the problem of when an assistant talks too much in a non-direct, friendly way:

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Learn How to Become a Better Communicator with These Books

How to Become a Better CommunicatorCommunicating at work often requires women to walk a very fine line to avoid being seen as “aggressive,” “bitchy,” “pushy,” and so on (for exhibiting the same behavior as a typical male employee, of course). The double standard was perfectly captured by Sarah Cooper in last year’s “9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women” (which you can now buy as a poster!). Reader L recently sent us a question about how she can become a better communicator while counteracting years of being socialized as a woman to be easygoing and “go with the flow.”

She asks:

I am a new associate at a mid-size firm and am realizing that communicating strategically is a huge weakness for me. I think a lot of this is societal (it’s ingrained in me as a woman to be agreeable and not make a fuss), and based on my personality (I believe everyone is telling me the truth and I am conflict averse). I hope that I can build this skill with experience, but I’d rather learn from a book or mentor than by trial and error. What are the best books or other resources for this?

We recently reached out to three women who’ve thought about these issues a lot and asked them to recommend helpful resources to help you become a better communicator:

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6 Resume Rules for 2017 That You May Not Know About

Resume Rules for 2017We’re only in the second week of the new year, so this is a great time to talk about resume rules for 2017. This time last year, readers talked about whether or not they apply to jobs when they don’t meet all the requirements (also see our imposter syndrome post), and a few years ago Kat answered a reader email about unusual ways to get your resume noticed.

Here are six resume rules for 2017 that you may not have heard:

1. Know that the “one page” limit no longer applies. Depending on your career and circumstances, it’s OK if your resume runs longer than one page. To figure out whether to make your resume one, two, or even three pages, check out these guidelines from Monster. No matter what, though, keep it concise — and make 100% sure there are no typos!

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6 Awesome Online Classes for Working Women

Online Classes for Working WomenIf you’re looking to do some online learning with a level of commitment somewhere between earning a graduate degree online and watching a TED-Ed video explaining why cats are weird, then one-off courses may be for you. In the past we’ve talked about learning a language, using online resources and books to become a better manager, and finding out more about yourself through personality tests, as well as the best TED Talks for working women, but we’ve never devoted a post to online learning in general. Today we’re sharing a general roundup of online classes for working women — please add your own recommendations in the comments!

What’s your favorite way to learn new things and develop your skills online? Are there any online-learning sites you would or wouldn’t recommend? What are your favorite online classes for working women?  (For those of you lawyers who are saddled with CLE requirements, do you have any public sources that you LOVE for interesting videos?)

If you’re interested in boosting your career with some new knowledge and strategies, here are eight intriguing online classes for working women that are offered by popular online learning sites:

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