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How to Network When You’re Junior

how to network when you're juniorHere’s a fun question, ladies: what are your best networking tips for younger women just starting out in their careers? What’s your best advice on how to network when you’re junior? We’ve rounded up some tips from readers in our last discussion, and I have some thoughts as well, but I’m curious to hear what you guys have to say about this.

For my part, I remember when I was just out of school I felt like it was so much harder to approach older people whose careers I admired — like it would have been so much easier if I’d had connections, influence, or experience to  bring to the the table.  One of the best things that helped me overcome this fear of networking was doing a summer internship for magazine students where they heavily mentored us (every week we had a different major editor offering career advice to the group) and week after week people encouraged us to just reach out to people we admired and ask for coffee, lunch, breakfast.  The first trick was knowing what not to ask for — never a job, just advice — and even then it was often easier to ask them about their own path than for direct advice about your path. The second trick was to know that their time was valuable, so either ask small (could I get 15 minutes of your time in your office to talk about career stuff / hear more about Magazine X / hear more about your path to Editor in Chief?) or make it “worth their time” by setting up a group lunch with several other interns or junior people.  The final trick they passed on was that once you were on someone’s radar, to stay on their radar — say hi at every event, send an occasional email with news that they would find interesting, or more — even just send a congratulatory email when they get a new job or new accolade. (We’ve also talked in the past about the different tactics you may want to use when networking with older men vs. networking with older women.)

Now that I’m older I would also advise my younger self to not discount networking among fellow junior colleagues — make friends, get to know people, stay in touch. Hopefully this is totally perfunctory advice and you’re making friends with colleagues regardless of whether they can help you down the line — but it’s one I haven’t heard said a lot in networking advice, at least directly.

The last time we discussed this, the readers (as always!) had a ton of great advice on how to network when you’re junior:

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Office Holiday Party Etiquette

Office Holiday Party Etiquette | CorporetteI’m working on a monster post about what to wear to your office holiday party, and in the meantime found all these great articles about office holiday party etiquette, which we haven’t discussed in forever — so I thought we should discuss today, as a bit of a precursor to the “what to wear to your office holiday party” post. (Although of course feel free to share what you plan to wear to your party this year!)

For my $.02, it comes down to some simple rules:

  • If it’s your first holiday party, don’t assume — talk to others so you know what to expect, because there can be a huge variation in office holiday parties. Some offices have a midday Santa hat+suit kind of luncheon; others have a Friday night affair at a hotel ballroom.  (One of my old offices did the hotel ballroom for the low key affair, and another black tie ball in January just for attorneys.) If you can’t ask anyone, look for clues — if it’s a Friday night after work, odds are good that people are going to be still wearing their office clothes (with one small tweak like a party blazer or statement necklace).  If it starts at 5, it may be over by 7.  Another way to gauge the formality: where the event is held.  If it’s chosen for locality (the closest hotel ballroom, the closest restaurant, etc), odds are it’s going to be more low key than an event a bit further from the office.
  • Do not get tipsy, let alone drunk.  Save it for the office after party or when you’re at an event that isn’t affiliated with work. (Many moons ago, we also talked about what your drink says about you at the office cocktail party.)
  • Make it about the people, not the food or drink.  That’s a good hallmark of any party attendee, but it goes doubly here.
  • Talk to everyone.  Fight the urge to huddle in the corner with your friends, or only try to network with the VIPs.  It’s a great time to smile and laugh with your subordinates, as well as support staff.  A corrollary:
  • Don’t just talk about work.  If your boss comes over and needs to discuss a project, that’s one thing — but assume that people want to talk about anything but that.  Politics and religion are still dicey topics, of course, but there are a ton of other party-appropriate conversation topics.
  • If the next day is a work day, it’s business as usual. 

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Going-Out Clothes and Young Professionals

Going Out Clothes for Adults | CorporetteOnce you get to grad school, can you stick with your “going out” style from college, or is it time to make some changes? Reader C wonders how to dress for a night out on the town when she’s out with new friends from grad school…

I have a strange request/question. I’ve begun learning all about clothing for work, interviews, etc., and now know the difference between business casual and chic casual. My problem is that during my undergrad, “going out” almost certainly meant tight shirts, tight pants or leggings, and high heels, as well as blow-out hair and smokey eye makeup. Jackets were a never, and cleavage was a must.

I was recently invited to go out with from friends from my new school, and pretty much realized that I don’t know how to dress like a grown woman when I’m doing something super casual with friends, like going out for a few beers or even out dancing. I still want to look the part in some ways (these are, after all, my future colleagues — I don’t want to be remembered as “cleavage girl”), but still dress to have fun.

Please teach me to be a respectable adult, even while I’m supposed to be out having fun.

Great question, and I’m torn between a few thoughts. First: you’re in school; if you’re going out with friends it shouldn’t matter too much. On the flip side, I think it can make an impact on how people remember you, and the bigger the dichotomy between your work or student persona and your “weekend persona,” the more people will remember it.

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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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Feeling Jealous of a Younger Colleague

Feeling Jealous of a Younger ColleagueWhat should you do if you’re feeling envious of a colleague who’s younger than you, seemingly unappreciative of the opportunity you’re giving her, and also — in your opinion — inappropriately flirty at networking events? Reader J wonders:

I’m a 40 yr old business development manager at an engineering firm. I’ve formed a group of female colleagues that helps with networking and business that’s getting notice in my city (like a Stiletto Mafia). A few months ago one of the key ladies in my group invited my junior engineer in my firm to join.

This engineer is funny and smart but also a gorgeous 24 yr old. Now I am torn between wanting to be a mentor and jealousy. I am jealous that she has access to this group of high powered ladies that are my friends and doesn’t seem to grateful that I’m including her. This engineer also occasionally helps with networking. It’s frustrating to attend a business event while these men are flirting with her. She isn’t overt, but she is aware of her looks and plays them up.

I’d like to drop her from the group and ask her to focus on current clients vs networking. Am I being a hypocrite?

I think you’re being honest, Reader J — a lot more than most people would be in person. I don’t think this is unusual, though; I think a lot of younger women alienate good mentors by being too entitled (like the reader who expected her boss to help her network) or arrogant at work, or, here, too focused on other parts of life like flirting. (We have offered some tips in the past on how to network with older women that may help younger readers here!)

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The Guide to Pantyhose for Work

Guide to Wearing Pantyhose For Work | CorporetteIf you were to write someone a guide to pantyhose for work, what would you say? Reader H wonders, and since this is one of the biggest topics we’ve talked about through the years, I thought I’d give it a go.  Here’s H’s question:

Hi! I know you write a lot about pantyhose/tights/stockings–sorry to bring it up again–but I am so confused about them. I grew up in Southern California where no one wears pantyhose, ever, and tights only as a fashion statement or on very rare cold days. I know you’re supposed to wear nude pantyhose to an interview and in very formal situations like court, but on a regular day in the office, is it okay to wear sheer or opaque black tights in the office? How about with a suit in the office? Or with a pencil skirt? Are there color rules e.g. no black tights with a black suit? I suppose what I really need is a Dummy’s Guide to Wearing Stockings. Thanks so much for any sort of information that could help sort me out

We have talked about this a lot, but I still see a lot of confusion about it.  So let’s get into it — I’m curious to hear what readers say. (Pictured: readers have always sung the praises of Donna Karan’s The Nudes pantyhose in the past; they’re $20-$25 at Nordstrom.) 

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