Summer Associate Series: Business Etiquette for Interns (and other Newbies)

Business Etiquette Tips for Summer Associates, Interns, and Other Newbies | CorporetteThis week, in our Summer Associate Series*: what are some of the business etiquette tips that summer associates and interns should know? Etiquette can often be one of the hardest things for schools and mentors to impart — but of course it matters, and business etiquette is something we’ve talked about a LOT through the years.  Readers already working: what are the biggest business etiquette tips you wish interns and SAs knew? Which are the biggest blunders you see (from both the guys and the gals)?  Summer associates and interns: what are your biggest areas of confusion? 

(*Name aside, we hope this series will be helpful to ANY intern, whether you’re a law student or another woman interning in a conservative office for the summer.)  Check out our previous posts on general summer associate style and what to wear for the creative summer associate events.  (Stay tuned next week when we specifically talk about dining etiquette.)  

Readers, what are some of the etiquette issues you’re seeing at your offices this summer?  (Fun question: do you chalk it up to “newbies!” or “generational divide”?)

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Summer Associate Events: What to Wear to the Fun-But-Wacky Office Functions

Summer Associate Events: What To Wear to the Fun-But-Unusual Office Functions | CorporetteThis week, in our Summer Associate Series: what should you wear to the company golf outing… the company picnic… the company pool party?  There are always some creative team-building office functions (designed for interns and employees alike) that — while fun — are a minefield when it comes to dressing professionally. (If anyone doubts that these events are still going on despite the bad economy: Above the Law holds a contest for the best event of the summer!)  Readers, what is the most creative summer associate event your company is holding? What was the hardest-to-dress office event you ever attended?

(Name aside, we hope this series will be helpful to ANY intern, whether you’re a law student or another woman interning in a conservative office for the summer.)  Check out our previous post on general summer associate style.

Some of the best iterations of the “what to wear to the summer associate event” question that we’ve covered through the years:

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The Confidence Code: Let’s Discuss

The Confidence CodeLadies, let’s discuss The Confidence Code. There’s the book, of course, and a lengthy excerpt appeared in The Atlantic a few weeks ago now. (Full disclosure: I have not yet had a chance to read the book yet, and suspect I won’t for a while.  But the article is chock full of things to discuss — particularly among overachieving chicks like us.) Some questions at the start: Would you generally call yourself confident, or not? Do you consider yourself competent, particularly compared to your male coworkers or classmates? Have you found that your personal assessment has changed through the years (perhaps as you got farther away from school)?  And here’s the important one: what changes have you made in yourself to address these challenges? What changes have you seen friends or coworkers make?  (A flip side to the question: can you describe your most confident female friend or coworker?  How can you be more like her?)  (Stay tuned tomorrow when we have a more specific discussion about imposter syndrome — let’s try to keep the discussion today focused on confidence.)  We’ve had some other great discussions before about Lean In, as well as our own Corporette take on where you think you’ll be in five years or ten years (inspired by a NYT article following up with women lawyers from 10 years ago) — I also think this book ties in a bit with Harvard Business School’s recent drastic efforts for gender equity.

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Summer Work Clothes: How to Look Professional When It’s Hot

Summer Work Clothes | CorporetteWhat should you wear — and not wear — to look professional (and stay cool) when it’s hot outside?  Which summer work clothes are the best?  We’ve recently gotten two reader questions on the issue.  First up, Reader M wonders:

Hi. I’m 30 years old. I am a rock and roller. Meaning that I work in the music industry. In the past my job was to chaperone the concert site. I was very good at my job. Got a new job in Orlando, FL, that has me now working at a desk. I am now a supervisor. I came into this job in the fall so I had some leftover black wool slacks, nice dark wash denim, and black sweaters to get me through. It’s now almost spring (feels like summer) and I don’t know how to do professional for summer. I work in a business casual environment, which helps. I like to keep all of my color in accents like purses, shoes, scarves, etc. I wear monochromatic. It’s my signature and super versatile when starting a new wardrobe. Can you advise cuts, fabrics, etc. of office appropriate summer wear for a newly professional, young lady like myself that’s trying to beat the heat without looking like a concertgoer?

Reader T also wonders:

I am heading to D.C. from California this summer for a legal externship, and am in need of advice on the dress code in the legal world when it’s 95 degrees. I worked on the Hill for several years and (sadly) recall a lot of flip flops and sundresses during the hotter months. I imagine that this won’t be the case in a legal setting/government agency, but I would love some basic outfit formulas, fabric suggestions (is tweed taboo?), and other ideas for a 30 yr. old to look like a lawyer while fighting the humidity and sticking to a budget.

In terms of outfit formulations, my go-to looks are boring, but they’re classic for a reason: think sheath dresses plus a blazer (to be added once you’re inside), and nice, lightweight trousers (look for cotton or cotton blends) with a nice tee and a classic pair of pumps (and ideally a matching blazer). (Pictured: Cole Haan Air Carma Open Toe Pump, on sale at Zappos for $169.99 (was $275).) As we’ve noted before, natural fabrics like cotton, silk, and linen are going to breathe a lot more than non-natural fabrics, so do pay attention to that when buying new pieces.  (Also: pay attention to the laundry instructions. That $20 pair of pants starts to look less appealing — and less of a deal — when they start to smell to high heaven after two wears and the only way to launder them is to get them drycleaned.)

We’ve talked about how to stay cool during a heatwave, but here are a few fast tips for cooling down quickly (or to stay cool enough to avoid completely wrecking your clothes):

  • a simple fan, carried in your purse or bag — yes, you’re expending more energy as you fan yourself, but the bit of a breeze can be amazing if you’re stuck on a hot subway platform
  • an ice-cold can of soda, held against the inside of your wrist, the back of your neck, or even the back of your knees
  • convenient ice packs — there are even necklaces designed to be iced and worn!

Otherwise: We’ve talked about what not to wear as a summer associate, what not to wear to work in general, and how to stay cool during a heatwave — but not in many moons.  So let’s revisit!

An opening caveat: As we’ve noted in previous discussions, this is very much a “know your office” situation.  If you’re working at a NEW office, though, or are still learning your office, you should wait until you see someone significantly more senior than you break these rules before you consider it “office culture.”  (For example: if you’re a summer associate at a law firm and see a first-year associate wearing sandals, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ok for everyone to wear sandals.)  It’s a bit of a spectrum, but here’s my list: [Read more...]

Offensive Clients: How to Deal

Offensive Clients:  How to Deal When Your Client Suggests Your Bag Is Too Expensive | CorporetteHow do you deal with men at work making derisive comments about the expense of your bags, shoes, and clothes?  I’ve been thinking about this one ever since she sent it in. Reader O wonders…

After a recent exchange, I’ve been thinking about my preferred strategy for handling inappropriate/sexist comments from male colleagues/clients: making a joke that disarms the offender while sending a message about boundaries and respect. What are your thoughts on this strategy? Here’s my recent example:
Greeting the team pre-meeting, client looks at my shoulder and says “remind me when we’re done – I have a great Louis Vuitton story for you!! Don’t let me forget!!” Post-meeting (where per the usual I am the only woman in the room), client remembers & proceeds to tell this great “story” to me. And the team. “I’d never been in the store before and went to find a purse for my wife. I’m looking at this bag and can’t find the price anywhere, I finally find it – $2500! For a purse! I guess we know where those legal fees are going.” Another male team member seems particularly amused.
Me, looking at their wrists: “So, I see that you’re both wearing Rolexes. This is my Rolex.”

Like I said, I’ve been thinking about this since Reader O sent it in, and I can’t quite pin down my thoughts.  We’ve talked about sexist clients and sexist coworkers, but I’m not sure the advice there totally applies here.  Here’s what I know: I’m pissed on Reader O’s behalf.  But I’m also not sure she handled it well, considering this was a client.  More specifically:

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Mirrors and the Office

mirrors at officeAre mirrors too girly to have in your office? Which mirrors are best for the office? Reader A wonders…

I am six-months into my first post-school job and am (as per your advice) slowly decorating my office. I’d really like to have a mirror in my office to check my makeup before meetings, etc. But, I don’t want to look vain.

I work for the state and have what can only be describer as a cube-pretending-to-be-an-office (a large cube with a door). Any tips on mirrors that are decorative but not over the top, and won’t break the bank?

Fabulous question, Reader A! We’ve talked about the mirror trick for interviews, how to liven up your office walls, and how to bring furniture into the office, but we haven’t specifically talked about mirrors in the office.  I’m curious to hear what the readers say here, because I have one very specific experience that has completely set my thinking on this issue. Here’s the story: when I was a very new first-year associate, I went to the office of a male associate a few years older than me to get an assignment. We closed the door at some point and, as I went to leave his office, I realized with some shock that he had a full-length mirror propped up behind his door, just leaning against the wall. (I suppose it was “with some shock” because this particular associate was such a guy’s guy, and I would have been so worried that a mirror would make me appear too girly that I never even considered one for my burgeoning office.) THIS IS BRILLIANT, I thought — he could check for wardrobe malfunctions (or, ahem, barn door issues), check for spinach in his teeth, etc. I bought a $10 mirror at Bed Bath & Beyond the next weekend, and never looked back. (And that male associate went on to great things, so his career was in no way limited by his mirror.  Instead, perhaps his career was aided by the lack of spinach in his teeth.) [Read more...]