Tips for Full-Time MBA Students

MBA tipsA new MBA student has plenty on her plate: classes and projects, networking events, recruiting opportunities — not to mention the typical grad school challenges of making new friends and (for some) adjusting to a new city. Reader R wonders…

Hi there, I was wondering if there could be a post centered around starting a full-time business program? I’m moving in for orientation next week and would love to see a post (with reader comments) about how to balance schoolwork with social activities and career recruiting/networking, suggested reading (BusinessWeek and WSJ?), how to approach recruiting events with the major companies on campus, etc… Thanks!

I think this is a great question, so I reached out to a few MBAs I know, and asked the Corporette Facebook group for tips. I’ve always thought of the experience of getting a law degree very different than an MBA, if only because socializing and networking is such a big component of the MBA, compared with the mentality of “your GPA is everything” in the first semester or two of law school. Some good tips from friends, when asked about balance and reading recs:

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Tales from the Wallet: Eldercare and Finances

eldercare-financesToday we’re bringing you our next installment of our Money Milestone series, where we’ve previously discussed paying for grad school, wedding finances, home buyingfinancially planning for a babyfinancial strategies for divorce, and saving for retirement.

Readers requested one on eldercare, finances, and aging parents — and I think that can certainly make an impact on one’s finances, so let’s have an open thread on it today. Have you had to help care for a parent, grandparent, or other loved one? What do you wish you’d known about it ahead of time in terms of finances (yours and theirs)? What were the best resources you found?  

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Petite Office Ergonomics (and: How Does Your Office Handle Ergonomics?)

ergonomics - employer's responsibilityIf you’re petite and your office desk is too tall for you — enough that it’s causing you pain while you work — how much is your employer required to do to make your desk/chair setup more ergonomic? What if you work at a nonprofit? Reader A asks…

I wonder if you could address what my work place is required to do regarding ergonomics? About a year ago I started a new position where I sit at a desk all day. (For the last 5 years I worked remotely meeting clients 90% of the time.) Since then I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting weird pains in my back, wrists, hips, and neck. I’m just about 5’2″ so my desk is too tall for me, my typing and monitor alignment are all wrong. If I raise the chair to the right height, my feet dangle, and resting them on the chair base caused weird hip pain (and a footrest just wasn’t convenient.) I work for a nonprofit, so buying new office supplies isn’t really at the top of our priority list, but can I request one for health purposes? If not, do you have another suggestion? (I live in Ohio if that matters.) Thanks for the help!

Interesting question, Reader A. We haven’t talked about ergonomics in a little while, and I’m curious to hear what readers think about this, both petite and otherwise. What ergonomic hacks have you used for your office? What help have you gotten from your employer in the matter, whether officially (ergonomics consultant, ergonomics budget) or after the fact (e.g., being able to get a $36 footrest reimbursed)?  

First, though, we asked an expert for his take on Reader A’s situation. Paul Krewson, OTR/L, CEAS III — an occupational therapist, ergonomist, and president of Peak Ergonomics — suggested the following:

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The Best Towels

best towelsWhich are the best towels? What factors should matter? Last month we talked about the best sheets for the home — and today we’re looking at the best towels. Reader K wonders…

Hi Kat, again, love your blog. I am curious as to whether you and the readers have found THE BEST towels. I am ready to do this purchase right and want to know if anyone has scoured/tested the best products so that I am not reinventing the wheel. Soft and luxurious while getting the job done. Thanks!

Great question, K — I’m curious to hear what everyone else has found. I just splurged and bought some Missoni towels from Horchow through one of their midday ClickTock sales, and I’m always on the hunt for vibrant towels with saturated colors, which I’ll admit has been my main determinant for which towels I’ve bought. (For some reason white towels have always seemed terribly impractical to me, unless they’re designed for bleach.) I haven’t had the best luck in general with towels — I splurged on some towels (even got ’em personalized) at a fancier department store a few years ago and was bummed to find that, while they were fluffy, they weren’t terribly absorbent. So let’s research this together (alas, the Missoni towels don’t make anyone’s list!)… [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.)

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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 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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