I Can’t Wear a Suit — But Want to Show Authority

I Can't Wear a Suit But Want to Show Authority -- How? | CorporetteWhat do you wear when you want to show authority without wearing a suit?  We’ve talked about what to wear when a suit doesn’t feel right, but Reader R is looking for authoritative clothes that aren’t intimidating and travel well…

I recently started a new job as in-house counsel. As part of my responsibilities, I will be traveling internationally to conduct audits and give training sessions. The job is great, but I’m not sure what to wear! My de facto would be to wear a suit, but my boss suggested that I should avoid wearing suits, since the appearance of a “suit” tends to make people nervous. Some relevant factors: (1) I’m often the only woman in the room; and (2) I’m also often the youngest person in the room.

Basically, I need pieces that say, “Position of authority, but non-scary” and travel well. Help!

Congrats on the new job, R!  One of my older friends was a lawyer for a TV network in the 80s, and I remember her telling me that she would leave her suit jacket in her office when she had to go talk to the comedy writers or producers — it was less intimidating, less “this is coming from The Man.” So you’re not alone in wanting to thinking about what your clothes say to people.  For my $.02: Put some thought into exactly what response you want from people.  For example: Do you want them to respect that your word is the final word, and they should do what you tell them? (Play up the authority.)  Do you want them to come to you with problems that might not be communicated to the home office otherwise?  (Play up the approachability, but keep some authority.) Do you seek to really understand their problems and make friends in the office? (Turn the authority way down.)  (As for the “looking younger” part of your question, you may want to look at our older post on the difference between acting young and looking young at the office.)

For my $.02, I would go with what you feel most comfortable in, and modify that (taking into account, obviously, the office culture for where you’re going). If you’re comfortable in: [Read more...]

Gray Suits for Interviews?

When Is a Gray Suit WRONG For an Interview? | CorporetteWhen is it NOT acceptable interview in a gray suit? Reader L, a med student, wonders…

I am in medical school, and will be applying for residency next year. Seeing applicants this year, I notice that it is a sea of black suits (women in pantsuits). I have a gray skirt suit from Banana Republic in 2004 that still fits perfectly and is unembellished. Should I be on the look out for black pantsuit like everyone else, or a grey skirt suit still in the realm of acceptable interview wear?

Wow. I often feel like I take the fuddy duddy line when it comes to interview advicewear a skirt suit (at least for traditionally conservative job interviews, which may not include medicine), wear pantyhose, wear walkable shoes — but here I’m going to be a little loosey goosey: wear whatever muted color of suit you like best.  Gray, black, navy — knock yourself out. If you’re feeling crazy, wear a beige suit, or a pinstriped suit.  Honestly, I think that as long as you’re dressed in muted colors, interviewers aren’t going to notice your suit, at least in a negative way.  (Pictured: Halogen® ‘Ela’ Suit Jacket (Regular & Petite), available in four colors at Nordstrom for $98.)

Readers, do you think a gray suit would ever NOT be acceptable for an interview?  Have you ever thought less of a job candidate for wearing a conservative suit choice?

Professional-Looking Padfolios

Professional Padfolios | CorporetteWhere can you get a great padfolio for the office?  Reader N wonders about a decent padfolio..

I have been searching for a decent padfolio for what feels like ages. It seems like everything out there is clunky and overly masculine. Where can I find a professional, but feminine or at least sophisticated padfolio? Help!

I remember hunting for something similar a few years ago.  I wanted: something zippable and expandable, something that could hold my Blackberry (ah, the late 2000s) if I didn’t have pockets or a belt and suddenly needed to carry a box (or 3) back to my office.  I also wanted something that I could keep “packed” with a notepad, pen/pencil/highlighter, lip gloss, hand cream, business cards, tape flags, and post-it notes and just grab and go.  Also key: I wanted something that looked nicer than a redweld or a Trapper Keeper.  I finally found it at Office Max or Staples, but I remember having to hunt for a while.  If I were looking today, these were the ones that I would choose (below).  Readers, do you use a padfolio at the office?  Whether you’re running to a quick meeting or working away from your office (e.g., in a conference room) all day, what do you grab with you to go? [Read more...]

Colorful Pants and Professional Women

Can You Wear Colored Pants to Work? | CorporetteAre colorful pants appropriate in an office setting?  Are they for young’uns only?  Reader J sent in this question a while ago:

Question – today’s trends are to wear colored pants.  What are your thoughts on wearing colored pants to an office setting on casual fridays?  And, more relevant to me, what are your thoughts on wearing trends such as this if you’re over the age of 35?

I am obviously all for colorful pants, and I don’t think there’s an age limit on them.  I’ll even make a few arguments in favor of colored pants before turning it over to the readers, because I’m dying to hear what other ladies think.  In my mind, the pros to colored pants: [Read more...]

How to Respond to a Good Bonus

How to Respond to a Big Bonus | CorporetteHow do you respond to a generous year-end bonus? Here’s Reader C’s question:

I am a young lawyer, and have worked at my current firm for 1.5 years. This year, I got a generous bonus. I’d like to know what the etiquette is for responding to the bonus. Is a thank you note for the 5 partners appropriate? an in person thank you? or nothing? The envelope the check is in says “Merry Christmas -The Partners”. It is a small firm (10 lawyers, 5 partners) and I have a good relationship with the partners but would feel a bit awkward going into their offices and closing the door, just to say thank you. What about a small gift from the senior partner and his wife, (think chocolate)?

I looked in the archives for an answer to my question, but wasn’t able to find anything on point and would really like to hear any tips on this!

You and me both! I still remember the big BigLaw bonuses before the recession, and I will always remember getting my biggest bonus (back in January 2008).  We all knew the number before our individual reviews — bonuses were lockstep with class year, and a memo had been circulated to say my firm was matching the going market rates.  Still, when my reviewer said, in a very cursory manner, “Your bonus is $80,000 this year,” and I tried to graciously say “thank you,” it was followed by an awkward, cringe-worthy pause from both of us.  It just felt SO little-girl/feminine and not at all what a Captain of Industry would say. I imagined men saying something like, “Well yes, I earned it!” or “Wonderful, I can make the next payment on the yacht!” or perhaps, “Bully, let’s all go play golf!” But not “thank you.” [Read more...]

Asking Your Boss For Help With Networking

How to Get Networking Help From Your Boss | CorporetteIf you’re new in the field, should you expect your boss to introduce you to her contacts and take you to networking events? How can you ask her to start helping you network? Reader S wonders…

I’m new in my career in a small office and my boss is well established in our field. She has wonderful contacts and is a member of many associations and groups. I had hoped my boss would take me under her wing a little and be a great mentor as I learn the ropes. Unfortunately, I have not be invited to join her at any of these events. Is it appropriate to ask to be introduced to her network and to accompany her to events? I don’t want her to feel threatened that I’m looking for better opportunities, but I think it’s important to get to know the industry players as well.

Great question, S!  We’ve talked about how to network when you’re junior, how to get networking help from an adjunct professor, how to network at a conference, and how to know which networking organizations to join, but we haven’t talked about this before. [Read more...]