Naked Nails, Nail Care… and Polish

naked-nails-professionalCan naked nails be a polished look?  Are unpolished, unmanicured nails unprofessional?  Reader A has an important question:

I have a reader question that I’d like advice on. I’m about to start my first job out of law school and would love to have a very low-maintenance nail routine (no color polish) that I can do at home. Mostly, I have terrible cuticles and I’d like to have a more polished appearance, but my job is not flexible about leaving during working hours and I’d rather spend my weekends with my kid. Manicures seem like a waste if I’m avoiding color polish. Can you or readers advise? Should I be trying to fit in weekly/monthly manicures as a requirement of working?

This one speaks to me as I also hate spending time on manicures — so I’m curious to hear what readers say here. As I’ve discussed before, there was about a month of my life (maaaaybe 6 weeks) right after I got engaged that I went for manicures weekly. Then: it got old. I don’t particularly enjoy them, I get bored if I can’t be reading during it (like one can with pedicures), and with the recent NYT exposé on nail salons I’ve just skipped the entire routine this summer. I have, in the past, advised readers to get a simple manicure (with clear or light pink or beige polish) for job interviews and possibly the first week of the job, on the assumption that you’re shaking a lot of people’s hands and you want to look as polished as possible.

[Read more…]

Are Skirts and Dresses Unprofessional?

Are Skirts and Dresses Unprofessional? | CorporetteAre skirts and dresses unprofessional? What if you have a boss who has a firm opinion, one way or the other? What if you have a boss who forbids YOU from wearing dresses and skirts, when other women in the office can and do? Reader A wonders…

I recently started a new job in a creative industry, and our offices are officially business casual but usually just regular casual. My boss hates that I wear dresses and skirts. She told me that looking feminine in the workplace is bad for careers and she only wants me to wear jeans or khakis if she’s in the office and I can only wear skirts when she travels. I’ve abided by it for a couple months since she was really persistent about it, even though other women in the office wear skirts. I’m confident that my skirts are not inappropriate length wise, they’re standard work skirts from Macy’s and Lane Bryant. Nothing ruffly or lacy either.

Anyway, my manager is leaving the company, but now I feel insecure about my clothing. Is it a bad move to wear skirts and dresses several times per week?

Wow. Honestly, your former manager sounds super annoying — particularly given that other women in the office wear skirts! I can only assume it’s a personal problem with you (something about your style irks her) or she is being sizeist, whether consciously or unconsciously. (The other possibility I thought of after Googling Reader A’s email address: The manager felt threatened professionally by Reader A, who already has an established, successful career — and wanted Reader A to look less managerial.)

Whatever the issue: I’m sorry you had to deal with it, and I’m glad the manager is on her way out. We’ve talked before about when feminine clothes are unprofessional, as well as how to look professional in a business casual environment where the guys are in jeans and hoodies, but not all at once. So let’s discuss.

  • Know your office. You say other women in the office wear skirts — how are yours different, if at all? Are you wearing them with much higher heels that you wear with pants? Are the women who wear them in different roles than you are (for example, much more senior or much more junior/administrative)? Reading office culture — and fitting in — is an important part of your job. You don’t have to give up your entire personal style, but you do have to learn when to play it safe — years ago we had a successful goth lawyer guest post on this very topic; we also recently discussed how clothes are only “empowering” if they actually help you get power. Without seeing your office it’s hard for me to make suggestions, but when I hear “creative business casual” I think of a shirtdress with flat boots, for example, or a sheath dress with a jean jacket and a scarf instead of a cardigan. We’ve talked about how to transition a conservative wardrobe to a casual office before.
  • A feminine style is one thing; being in costume is another. This doesn’t sound like it’s an issue with Reader A, but I’ll mention it briefly. If you tend toward a more girly style — A-line skirts, high heels, full makeup — you may be crossing the line from “dressed up” to “in costume.”  Particularly be wary of more vintage styles for the office.
  • Start slowly. Since you’ve been abiding by your manager’s weird “rules,” the office may perceive this as a style change — so start slowly. Wear one dress a week, not all dresses. See how people react, what comments you get. On the days that you aren’t wearing skirts or dresses, dress up your pants outfits as well — wear a blazer with jeans, or a feminine cardigan with khakis. (Some of our advice on dressing for a promotion may help bridge the gap between your jeans wardrobe and your dress/skirt wardrobe.) If you have a favorite pair of shoes you wear with your skirts or dresses, wear them with your pants and see how it goes.
  • Get an honest second opinion. If after a few times of wearing a dress you still feel uncomfortable, talk to your HR department or a more senior colleague you trust to give you an honest opinion. They know your former manager, your office, and you, so they may be able to give you better insight here.

What are your thoughts, readers? How would you handle this (now, as well as with that manager) if you were in Reader A’s shoes? Do you think dresses and skirts can be unprofessional?  

(Pictured: Hollywood 819, originally uploaded to Flickr by Jessica Hartman Jaeger.)

—————

N.B. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course we highly value all comments by our readers, we’re going to ask you to please keep your comments on topic; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. Thank you for your understanding!

How to Handle Necessary Personal Calls at Work

How to Deal with Necessary Phone Calls at Work | CorporetteSometimes you simply have to make personal calls at the office — perhaps to ask your doctor a question, call a plumber about a broken hot water heater, or something else along those lines. While you’re at work, how should you deal with personal telephone calls, especially when you’re playing phone tag? Reader J wonders…

Five years ago, you answered a question about personal calls in the office for wedding planning and other activities that could optionally be handled outside of regular work hours. What about calls that just can’t be handled before or after work or on the weekends?

I find it extremely frustrating and somewhat embarrassing to have to manage calls with my doctor’s offices and my bank during business hours, but these are the only times that the businesses in question are open and will take calls. The doctor’s office is a particular frustration. When you call in, the receptionist takes a message for the doctor or nurse, who then calls you back when convenient for them. With no scheduled time to expect the call, it inevitably interrupts work or is missed, leading to phone tag. If I can pick the call up, I cannot always get to a private place, making the call highly uncomfortable and sometimes ineffective. I imagine people have that problem with lawyers too. How to cope?

Interesting question, Reader J, and I’m curious if people think this has changed through the years. In 2010, I remember disagreeing with the letter-writer’s habit of taking long personal calls at the office with her mother for wedding planning (as well as talking to wedding vendors). In years since, we’ve talked about “homing from work” as well as how to handle frequent doctors’ appointments, so I’m curious what readers will say.

[Read more…]

Feeling Jealous of a Younger Colleague

Feeling Jealous of a Younger ColleagueWhat should you do if you’re feeling envious of a colleague who’s younger than you, seemingly unappreciative of the opportunity you’re giving her, and also — in your opinion — inappropriately flirty at networking events? Reader J wonders:

I’m a 40 yr old business development manager at an engineering firm. I’ve formed a group of female colleagues that helps with networking and business that’s getting notice in my city (like a Stiletto Mafia). A few months ago one of the key ladies in my group invited my junior engineer in my firm to join.

This engineer is funny and smart but also a gorgeous 24 yr old. Now I am torn between wanting to be a mentor and jealousy. I am jealous that she has access to this group of high powered ladies that are my friends and doesn’t seem to grateful that I’m including her. This engineer also occasionally helps with networking. It’s frustrating to attend a business event while these men are flirting with her. She isn’t overt, but she is aware of her looks and plays them up.

I’d like to drop her from the group and ask her to focus on current clients vs networking. Am I being a hypocrite?

I think you’re being honest, Reader J — a lot more than most people would be in person. I don’t think this is unusual, though; I think a lot of younger women alienate good mentors by being too entitled (like the reader who expected her boss to help her network) or arrogant at work, or, here, too focused on other parts of life like flirting. (We have offered some tips in the past on how to network with older women that may help younger readers here!)

[Read more…]

Decorating Your Office Walls

Decorating Your Office Walls | CorporetteBeyond your diploma, what are the best ways to decorate the walls of your office while keeping a professional-looking workspace? Reader V wonders…

Hi! Any thoughts on the best wall decor to send a professional image? I currently have a lot of blank space — I want to jazz it up, and I also want to make sure it contributes to my office having a professional decor. Thanks!

Great question, V! We’ve talked a lot about office decor in the past, including decorating office walls and inappropriate office decor — but not in a while.  Some thoughts:

[Read more…]

Career Hiccups

career-hiccupsI’ve gotten a few requests lately to address “career hiccups” — how to deal with failing the bar, being awkward with coworkers, making a huge mistake — and I think this is a great question. So: let’s discuss.

For my $.02, I think that YOU are the biggest hurdle to get over after a career hiccup. You can say the right thing in the moment and after the fact, and coworkers either accept you or they don’t — but until you forgive yourself you’ll never be at the top of your game again. I remember a time in my career when I started a list of all the screw-ups I’d made, slight or otherwise. As in, an Excel spreadsheet (because that’s how I roll). And you can sit there and say, objectively, “Kat, that is crazy,” but in the moment it made perfect sense to me. Let’s remember everything I ever did wrong, in a sort-able chart! (Let’s just say this idea didn’t work out for the best.)

[Read more…]