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...]

That’s Ms. Griffin To You: When To Use Last Names

when to use mr. in businessWhen do you call work associates by their last name (such as Ms. Griffin), or by another title (such as Attorney Griffin)? Do you have a preference how work associates refer to you — and how do you communicate that? Does calling someone else “Ms. Griffin” make you look young?  I’ve gotten a number of questions about this lately — one from reader D who notes,

I work in legal services on the East Coast, and I’m a little stumped about how to address people. On the one hand, working with the legal services population makes me eager to address people with titles, using Mr./Ms./Mrs. So-and-So as a mark of respect for folks in my office who otherwise may feel disenfranchised. On the other hand, as a native West Coaster, this level of formality is not inherent in my being and I frequently find myself slipping and referring to people by their first names.

Meanwhile, reader J was fuming because

opposing counsel start[ed] calling me ‘Ms. X’ as opposed to ‘Attorney X’. I have never seen male attorneys addressed as other than ‘Attorney Y’. The devolution to ‘Ms. X’ is clearly intended as an insult by opposing counsel. Any good suggestions for a professional but firm response?

We’ve talked about a lot of name issues — how to correct colleagues if they call you the wrong first name, how to get rid of an old nickname, and more — but When to Use the Last Name is kind of a big one.  I suspect this is going to vary widely by region, so readers, please be sure to say where in general you are.  A few notes:

  • Never, ever use “Mrs.” in a business setting.  Marital status is completely irrelevant.  For my $.02, the only person who can call me Mrs. Griffin is my husband, at least until our son has playmates who are speaking in sentences.
  • Presume, in writing, that you should use the person’s last name, at least on a first correspondence (e.g., “Dear Mr. Smith”).  [Read more...]

How to Lower Your Voice

how to lower your voiceHave you ever thought you should deepen your voice (and make it louder) to be taken more seriously? Reader G has a great suggestion for a topic …

I’m in my mid-thirties and had to work hard early in my career to be taken seriously. A big component of that is consciously “aging” my voice, so that I don’t sound 12. I frequently speak publicly for my job, and have found that the engagements where I was a bit hoarse are the ones where I feel that I was taken the most seriously. I have seen other ladies in the same position–they talk normally all the time and its like birds chirping, they get hoarse from too many late nights of prep work, and all of a sudden have gravitas.

YES. Yes, yes, yes. I always feel like I need to deepen my voice — significantly — in order to be taken seriously. On average, every time I’ve recorded an “out of the office” message I’ve done about fifteen takes (oh, how I hate having to do it for a two-day vacation!), and I definitely think about it before I leave voicemails with people. In fact, I’ve been editing some family movies lately (using Pinnacle on my iPad, and loving it, FWIW) and it’s kind of shocking to hear my natural voice with my husband and son because I sound like I’m twelve. They’re my family, I shouldn’t have to lower my voice for them, but it’s just odd compared to all of the other times I’ve heard my voice lately, such as for Corporette videos or whatnot.  [Read more...]

When Can You Buy an Expensive Handbag?

when-can-you-buy-an-expensive-handbagWe’ve talked about how a $9,000 handbag might be a bit much for an intern — but Reader E wonders when in your career women can buy expensive briefcases and work totes.  How soon is too soon?

I was wondering if you could do a post about expensive handbags for work. Kind of like the Hermes post, but a little bit of a different situation. I’m graduating law school this spring and will be working in a large law firm in the Fall. I want to purchase the Celine mini luggage bag with money I made as a summer associate, but I’m wondering if it’s inappropriate, since the bag costs around $2700. I’d get it in the plain black color. I don’t think it’s nearly as recognizable as the Birkin you discussed (I doubt most people know what it is), but it IS an expensive purchase for someone just starting their career. What do you think for a new associate? The only logo is a small imprint of Celine Paris on the front of the bag.

Great question.  To review: back in 2010, a reader wrote in to ask whether she could carry her Hermes Birkin bag around her law internship.  Considering she was still in school (and didn’t have the job yet), a Birkin bag — which generally costs about the price of a small car — seemed a bit much.  Specifically, back then I worried that the message the intern was sending was that she was rich, and not working for the money.  Since that email, I’ve come up with a rule of thumb:  if you haven’t made enough in paychecks to both pay your rent and buy the bag, you probably shouldn’t bring the bag to work.  So Reader E — who’s already made the money — would be well within my little rule of thumb.  (Pictured:  Celine – Luggage.  N.B.: Overstock has a few Celine Luggage bags on sale for as low as $1960.)

But I think there are other important differences between Reader E and the Birkin-toting intern: [Read more...]

‘Geek Chic’ Glasses and the Office

2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - ArrivalsCan you wear hipster/geek chic eyeglasses to the office — especially if you’re young?

I’m hoping for your input on a quandary I’m having. I’m starting my first real job this summer so trying to build an adult wardrobe now. I am nearsighted and strongly prefer glasses to contacts for everyday wear. I love my (only) current pair; they’re big and plastic and perfect for me. But can I pull off “geek chic” in a professional (though not very conservative) environment, especially as a 21 year-old intern?

As a fellow glasses wearer, I’m curious to hear what the readers say here.  I think that ‘geek chic’ glasses can be great — I’ve even recommended them to a reader who was wondering how to to make her look edgier.  However, there is a sliding scale with these things.  The wackier the glasses are, the more that people will remember (and form opinions about you) based on your glasses, at least at first.  In other words: if a particular boss thinks you look like a bit odd/hipster/weird/[insert negative word here], you are probably not going to get a lot of work with that person.  You may say, “fine, I wouldn’t want to work with someone that stodgy anyway!,” and an outward statement about your personality can be a great way to whittle down who you work with.  (Glasses are in a different ballpark than heavily tattooed arms, but you may want to check out that discussion as well.)    That said… you don’t want to be so limited that only a few people in the office want to work with you — so if your office is filled with more “stodgy” types than not, you need to exercise caution.  (And just in terms of style, I personally prefer not to have a certain pair of glasses be my trademark, but that’s just my $.02.)  (Pictured above: I was sort of surprised to see Jenna Lyons wear what I would classify as geek-chic eyeglasses to an Oscars party, but if they become your trademark look then I suppose it’s weirder not to wear them.)

So here would be my approach:  wear multiple pairs of glasses.  [Read more...]

Is Ombre Hair Professional?

ombre-hair-for-workIs ombre hair appropriate for the office? When does any hair color become “unprofessional”? Reader P wrote in with a great question, and perhaps might lead us to an interesting discussion of when hair dyes and colors cross the line:

I was wondering if you could do a post on whether ombre hair is professional. I graduated from law school last May and am currently interviewing for positions. I have this “fellowship” through my school for now (used for rankings), but am looking for a full time real job. I have long black hair and am thinking about getting the ombre look with either medium to dark brown on the ends or perhaps auburn. What do you think of this look? Is it acceptable in the professional setting or does it seem to casual? Here are some images of what I’m thinking of: here and here.

Every time I think we’ve covered hair as completely as it can be covered, another question comes up.  We’ve talked about platinum blond hair at the office, as well as gray hair at the office, but not other hair dyes and colors.  So let’s discuss. [Read more...]