Networking In Your Niche — But Outside Your Company

Networking in Your Niche - But Outside Your Company | CorporetteWhat’s the best way to network in your niche and with experts in your field — but outside your company?  How can you find these experienced professionals, and how should you reach out? Can you find a mentor outside your own company? Reader M wonders:

I just landed a job in a field I’m excited to be in, and am looking to make the most out of it. However, I am the only one in my office who is responsible for this specific subject matter. While my managers help me out whenever they can, the only other person who has similar exposure to this type of work is based at our overseas office. There are a number of professionals based in my city who are experts on this particular subject matter, and I would love to meet them and perhaps find a mentor in this field. However, since my office is based a bit outside of the city and I work long hours, I’m not exactly in the position to meet up with someone for a weekday lunch or coffee. How can I start to form relationships with experienced professionals in my field when my only free time is on nights and weekends? There are only a very limited number of conferences and events that I know of, so I thought it might be worthwhile to reach out to someone directly. Thoughts?

What a great idea, Reader M — networking with other people in your niche is going to allow you to accelerate your learning, have someone else to bounce ideas off of, and even give you some visibility in the field and hopefully the means to move to other companies if and when the time is right. Networking when you’re junior takes some finesse, and maybe I’m overcomplicating your particular situation — you can always just call the local experts you know of and ask to take them to breakfast, of course! — but my concern is that a cold call would seem either like you’re job searching, or possibly (depending on the field) like you’re trying to get intel on how Company X does its work so you can copy it for your own company. However it’s interpreted, it might raise eyebrows with the expert you’re calling as well as with your company.  (One option that might bypass this: ask your overseas colleague if they have any local-to-you contacts in your field who you should know, or what local groups they recommend joining and who is in charge of them — and then ask if you may reach out using your colleague’s name.)  So, instead, my approach would be to focus on getting involved in associations and clubs within your field — this will put you in the right position to meet the experts at an association event.  If there are no local events, your involvement in the association still gives you a good reason to reach out to the experts — interview them for the association’s newsletter, or set up a local event yourself.  (It also gives you a good reason to leave work early, within reason — having an industry meeting once a month or once a quarter is generally accepted and encouraged by employers. I’ve also mentioned my love of breakfast meetings for networking — it’s often more acceptable to come an hour late to work rather than leave two hours early, but obviously, you have to know your own office here.) SO: Some ideas on how to get involved:

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Five Ways to Improve Your Focus

improve-focusDo you struggle with focus at work (or, hey, at home)? What tips and tricks have you found to improve your focus?  I am always looking for the best ways to improve my focus, but keep coming back to a few ideas…

  1. Eat that frog. I have yet to read the book of the same name by Brian Tracy, but I really like the idea: whatever you’re procrastinating on most — your “frog” — get it done first thing in the morning.  As in: eat the frog. (Half of the trick here is knowing what your frog is!)  Once the frog is out of the way, I find that my mental focus is a lot better — or, at least, I’m free to procrastinate on other things. [Read more…]

Open Thread: How to Turn Off Work Mode

turning off work mode - toastI have a question for you ladies: how do you turn off work mode? Marie Forleo had a video on this a week ago, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it ever since I saw it, so I thought it would be an interesting conversation. We’ve talked before about how to relax, as well as about juggling work and life (um: a post I finished from the postpartum ward of the hospital…), but not in a long while. I was particularly struck by this part of Forleo’s video:

When it’s time for me to shift out of work mode, I think of myself as butter and [my fiance as] the toast.  … This comfort food is best when the toast is like firm and stiff and the butter is soft and velvety and creamy and spreads all over the place.  So I know that’s a little dumb, but it actually works — it’s a really easy metaphor to remember, and it affects my physicality, it affects my voice, and I can slip into it really fast.

I’ve been thinking about this far too much — I am so not warm butter! (I’m more like cold butter if anything — barely melting, maintaining its own little form and function.) So here’s the question, guys: How do you disconnect from work? Do you have an easy metaphor to think of (or some other strategy you use) when you’re with your loved ones?

(Updating, just to be clear: this struck me as an odd analogy also, which is why I wanted to talk about it here with you guys!  As commenter cbackson noted below, the desire to not to have to be such a hard-ass when you get home from work is not a gendered one — and as other commenters note, turning off work mode can be easier for men.  Maybe this gets into shades of the weekend you — do you have a very different persona at home? How do you slip into or out of it? Or is it enough for you to create rituals (changing clothes, putting away devices) to slip out of work mode?)

(Pictured: apricot and raisin toast, originally uploaded to Flickr by penguincakes.)

How to Relax After Work | Corporette

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How to Organize Your Office

How to Organize Your Office | CorporetteLet’s talk about a subject near and dear to our hearts, ladies: how do you organize your office and your work (or otherwise get things done)? We’ve talked about cute office supplies, the best notebooks, planners, and office padfolios — as well as how to keep notes to CYA — but we haven’t talked about this directly.  Reader A wonders:

I would love to see more articles on the best ways to organize your work in the office, i.e., a folder with separate notes for each project or client v. one notebook for all meetings/projects, how to organize your day or to-do list, how to turn meeting notes into a to-do list, etc. I’d also love some suggestions on day planners, notebooks, and other office supplies.

Fun topic!  Personally, when I was a lawyer, I played around with having a single notebook per case, as well as having one notebook or notepad that I grabbed whenever I was heading out to take notes.  If memory serves I finally settled on a folder system — I would keep one “general” folder with all of my initial notes from prior pleadings and general strategy notes, and then I’d start a new folder for each major assignment I was tasked with (memo, research, portion of a brief, whatever).  I would keep the recent and active folders near my desk in a folder tower (where each case had its own little slot — something similar to what I had is pictured above), and then move them to a filing drawer or redweld once the case was Really Truly Over, or once the assignment got stale enough and I needed more room closest to my desk. (Oh, and I love my label maker.) [Read more…]

Guest Post: Crazy Work Schedule? Go Easy on Yourself

Too Busy to Exercise? | Corporette Has life ever gotten so crazy that there was NO WAY you could work out? Sure, exercise is important, and everyone should do it regularly. We all know that. But Jewish Girl, the blogger behind Stuff Jewish Girls Like, reminds us that you shouldn’t feel guilty if it seems impossible right now to fit in regular workouts. Life (i.e., a crazy work schedule) sometimes gets in the way. I forget how I first discovered her blog, but I’ve been a reader for a few years — her life as a busy associate in a BigLaw firm (and adventures with shopping and fun stuff like the 30 Day Shred) sound, well, very familiar to me. Welcome to the blog, JG! – Kat.

Hello, Corporette readers! I’m JG, and up until last month (when I left private practice for a government job) I was a third-year associate at a big civil litigation firm. Before leaving, I found myself assigned to a particularly challenging trial team. The hours were extremely long, the room service was extremely plentiful, and within no time my pants followed suit: they became extremely tight. The experience taught me something new about exercising in the midst of utter professional chaos. I’m not talking about the chaos of working a few late nights or early mornings. I’m talking about the chaos of suddenly moving to a new city, living out of a hotel room, and working a seemingly never-ending string of 17- to 20-hour days.

Two weeks into the trial, somewhere in between my 3:30pm mango papaya smoothie and my 3:30am order of buffalo wings (with both ranch and bleu cheese dressing, because this girl loves her options), a fellow lawyer told me about a handy-dandy seven-minute workout anyone can do from the floor of their hotel room. It’s apparently perfect for those occasions when you are short on time and can’t devote yourself to a full hour in the gym. Great idea, right? After all, EVERYONE has seven minutes! Right? Sure! What’s more important that physical fitness, after all? Certainly NOT an extra bleu cheese dressing (just in case the ratio of cheese chunks to dressing was off in the first batch). Certainly not that.

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Lifting for Women

Lifting for Women | CorporetteDo you lift weights? I’ve noticed a TON of readers mentioning how weight lifting and strength training “changed their lives,” and so I thought it might be a good idea to round up some of the oft-cited resources to learn more about it, and have a discussion in one place. As I’ve mentioned before I’ve been a fan of heavy toning videos like Jari Love, but doing deadlifts or squats with serious weights is an idea I’m only getting used to now. (I’m even pondering joining a gym again!)  I thought I’d round up some of the resources most readers have recommended:

Some questions for those of you who have been doing it:  what weight ranges did you start out with — and what are you up to now? (Go ahead, brag a bit!)  Did anyone do it without a gym or trainer?  If you want to buy weights yourself, can anyone recommend a particularly good set or place to buy weights?  (Also: has anyone done video programs like Body Beast to get started?  I know in previous threads readers have recommended T25 or Ripped in 30 for body weight exercises; before I got pregnant I was working out with the bodyweight version of the Rebel Strength Guide.)

Psst: we’ve already talked about how to find time to exercise, as well as how to find a trainer you like.

Update: If you’re worried about getting too bulky, check out this blogger’s before and afters, after doing four stages of NROLFW — she’s lifting serious weights and not showing any bulk at all.

Pictured: dumbells_adjusted, originally uploaded to Flickr by jerryonlife.