When Personal Problems Affect Your Job Performance

When Personal Problems Affect Your Job Performance | CorporetteWhen your work suffers because of personal problems you’ve been struggling with — and your supervisor has noticed — how can you turn things around? Reader J wonders…

I am a mid-level associate in Big Law. I switched firms in December of 2014. Today, I had my first review and it went very poorly — in Big Law words, “needs improvement across the board.” How do I get out from under my first review having been so terrible? Back story: When I joined this firm, my mom was approaching the one year mark after being diagnosed with stage IV cancer and was doing well. Within about 8 weeks, she got very sick, and over the course of the following 12 weeks, died a slow, painful death. My dad has become too depressed to take care of himself. My boyfriend of over a year left me. I have no real family support. My personal life has been atrocious, and while I tried my best in the office, I knew that I was falling short due to non-work demands/crises. Recently, I’ve felt back on my feet. I know that I can meet expectations and that my work product is, under normal conditions, solid and consistent and I love my job. How do I overcome this bad first impression?

Ouch, Reader J — I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had such a rough year, and that it’s affected your work in such a negative way. I think you have a few options for recovering from a career setback like the one you’ve experienced:

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Your Job, Your Career, or You: When to Quit

hate job or hate careerWhen should you quit your entire career? How do you know when you’ve chosen the wrong one? How long should you give yourself before you quit — and how many jobs should you try in that career? Reader F has SUCH a great question about this:

Question for you: how do you know if you hate your particular JOB or hate your whole CAREER? I’m a first year associate in (the biggest of) big law, and I know it was supposed to be hard — I knew I was going to bill 200 hours a month coming into this! — but I think my position might be particularly hard because of people I work for. How do I know the difference between a challenging environment (and maybe should switch jobs) or a terrible career choice (and maybe should switch careers)? At what point do you throw in the towel and say, “It’s not them, it’s me”?

I can’t wait to hear what readers say here because I think this is something a LOT of people — particularly entry-level BigLaw lawyers — struggle with. We’ve talked about changing careers before (the pros and cons of different careers, as well as my own experience in career changes. While I had yet to find my fit in the law before I decided to focus on this blog, many of our readers are happy lawyers, and hopefully they’ll have some great advice for Reader F. For what it’s worth, though, here’s my take:

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How to Choose the Best Office

How to Choose the Best Office | CorporetteIf you could pick any office, which would you choose? What factors would help you choose the best office? Reader C wonders…

I’m thrilled to have accepted a new job! I’m an attorney in my late 20s making a lateral move to a mid-size boutique firm after five years with my current shop. Of all the things on my to do list, one is really stumping me.

In discussion with the office manager of my new firm-to-be, we arranged a day for me to come by in a week to deal with paperwork, etc. before I start. She told me I could pick my office that day, so it could be set up for me. I said, “Great!” Then I hung up the phone and thought, “What?”

Other than the obviously draw of bigger + more light — what should I think about or ask when I get to choose my own office? As a luxury I didn’t have at my first job out of law school, it feels like an opportunity that might (but not necessarily will) be seen as a strategic choice. There will be associates both senior and junior to me, and I’d hate to unwittingly end up in territory typically reserved for interns (especially because I look so young). Am I overthinking this?

Aaah, the pressure — I feel for you, Reader C. We’ve talked about whether location or size matters for offices, as well as how to decorate your first office, and what to keep in your desk, but we haven’t explicitly talked about this. Some considerations:

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What to Wear for Informal and Informational Interviews

informational interviewsWhat’s the best way to dress for informational/informal interviews that may or may not lead to “real” job interviews? Should you play it safe and wear a suit, or is it appropriate to dress a bit on the casual side? Reader L wonders…

I was invited to have “a conversation” with a very powerful woman at a foundation where I would love to work. For the initial conversation, I was advised to wear business casual. I felt my choices were right on — sleek understated black pants, closed-toed shoes with some skin showing, a high-end plum jacket in wool crepe, and some very interesting but not flashy jewelry. My conversational partner wore exactly the same components, but my choices were a couple steps dressier than hers.

The conversation went well, and we will continue our discussions. My question is what to wear to the next meeting. I have a summer suit I would be inclined to wear; even though it’s casual (navy/white linen tweed pants with a matching open jacket), it is more serious than anything I’ve observed at the foundation. But, I’m not sure if this meeting is the time to wear it. What if this meeting is then followed by a formal interview? I will already have worn my best choice for an interview suit.

Congratulations on starting the conversation, Reader L! These casual interviews are always nerve-wracking, whether they’re informational interviews, internal interviews, or even everyone’s favorite, the “not-an-interview interview over coffee.” Previously, we’ve talked about how to dress for a kind of “pre-interview” that might lead to a real one, what to wear for an “informal” interview, and what to wear for a networking lunch, and I think your outfit instincts sound spot on thus far. A few notes though:

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Negotiating a Salary (and Other Benefits)

negotiating salaryLadies, have you ever negotiated your salary or other benefits? Share your tales from the negotiating table with us — we want to hear your wins! This probably won’t be terribly relevant for all of the summer associates out there about to accept job offers, as those are usually lockstep/nonnegotiable offers — but perhaps one of you has a story about someone who actually did negotiate that offer.

Some thoughts out of the gate:

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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.)

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