Closing Career Doors

specialized jobsDo you close career doors when you take a specialized job?  How do you decide if it’s worth the risk of closing doors behind you?  Reader A wonders:

How to decide when you are at a career crossroads, if a great opportunity comes up, but it might close doors. (My best friend just got a great offer to run a $50MM business, but it’s an area that peripheral to her primary area of expertise, solar/wind, so she’s worried about LT ramifications, even though she’d expand her skillset.) What factors are important when you are opening one door and closing another?

Great question, Reader A.  We’ve talked about pros and cons to changing careers, how to change careers, and how to use LinkedIn to secretly investigate a new career — but we haven’t talked about closing career doors by taking a specialized job.  I’m really excited to hear what the readers have to say about this one, since obviously I’ve taken a career path (media law to fashion blogging) that has diverted me, a bit, from my original career path.

Here’s my $.02:  I don’t actually think doors are closed, even if you leave the career entirely. [Read more…]

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:

[Read more…]

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…]

Corporate Headshots: Best Practices (And What To Avoid)

Corporate Headshots: Best Practices (and What to Avoid) | CorporetteWhat are the best tips for looking good in a corporate headshot?  Should “looking good” be the goal? Reader J wonders:

I have a professional photography session coming up. Any general recommendations?

Good luck, J!  We haven’t talked about corporate headshots, or whether to wear eyeglasses in your corporate photo in a while, so let’s revisit. As I’ve said before, above all else, I think the main goal in a corporate photograph is to look FRIENDLY. Don’t try to look “smart” or interesting or (God forbid) beautiful or stylish. It’s ok if you END UP looking like smart, interesting, beautiful, or stylish, because, you know, you are, but don’t try — leave the duckface and burning, non-friendly smizes for when you’re taking pictures with friends.  As for “looking smart” — most times, your corporate headshot will be displayed next to an abbreviated form of your resume and experience.  Let people evaluate your intelligence based on those years of work, not one single photograph.  (I’d say that the model pictured here is trying to look smart.  Don’t be that model.) The purpose of the headshot is really for that two second, subconscious, gut decision: do I want to work with her?  Does she look like someone who would get me what I want, on time, with no errors?  I could say “look responsible” here instead of “friendly,” I suppose, but I think attempting to “look responsible” or “look competent” is a fool’s mission beyond combing your hair and making sure that your face and clothes are free of smudges and so forth.

For my $.02, these are some other tips: [Read more…]

What to Wear for a Polygraph Test

polygraph testWhat do you wear for a polygraph test, particularly if it’s in the same building as HR?  Reader L wonders:

Help! I applied for a position that requires a polygraph. Mine is scheduled for next week and I am concerned about what to wear. It is in the same building as HR and I do not know if I will have an interview then. I would normally wear a business suit but my suits are all paired with camisoles (due to style, 3/4 sleeves, etc.) I am concerned about this because isn’t there a chest strap you are hooked up to? This is a professional position and I am thinking of wearing a blazer and dress slacks and dark cashmere shell that hopefully I will not sweat into from nerves. This is my go-to outfit I wear to work when I do not have court because it is most comfortable and still looks nice. Have you had to think about a physical comfort issue when interviewing and choosing your outfit? For what it is worth I was informed the polygraph will be 90minutes long.

Interesting question!  We’ve talked about how to stay professional at the metal detectors, and how to wear an ID badge with style, but we’ve never addressed polygraph tests for job interviews.  My gut instinct here tells me, “call and ask” (always an option, ladies!) but in case anyone in the readership has experience with this, I’ll open it up to the readers. Poking around online I did find a number of similar questions, primarily from men about to take police exams — the serious answer seemed to be “business casual,” with the less serious answers ranging from “chicken suit” to “For your polygraph wear a tuxedo. Then go naked to your psyc eval.” Ha! Ha. Ok. [Read more…]