Networking Lunches: What to Wear (If You Don’t Wear a Suit)

networking-lunch-attireWhat should you wear to lunch while you’re networking? Reader C wonders…

I work in Recruitment Marketing at a Big 4 firm. I like my job and what I’m doing but it’s time to start looking for a new job. As a part of the search, I’m going to be setting up networking meetings over coffee or lunch. I’ve found lots of dos and don’ts for how to set up the meetings, what to say or not to say, etc, but I’m having trouble finding advice about what to wear. I want to look professional, but a suit seems too formal. What should I wear?

Interesting question — we haven’t talked about what to wear to a networking lunch in a long while (although we did just talk about a fairly similar topic, what to wear to an alumni luncheon). I’m going to advise you to wear something I’m going to call Interview-Suit-Minus-One. I know, catchy.

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Alumni Networking – When You Know No One

handshake II, originally uploaded to Flickr by oooh.oooh.If there’s a networking events for alumni, can you go even if you’ll know no one there? Reader S wonders…

I just received an invitation to what looks like a really interesting and fun networking event for a BigLaw firm I used to work at. The invite went out to all its “women alumni.” Normally I’d hop on this in a second… Problem is, I only worked there for one summer–as a 1L–and only in a foreign office (and this firm isn’t one that’s very close-knit across offices). Would it be weird for me to go? Especially because I’ve “defected” to a different BigLaw firm?

I feel like the obvious Empowered Woman response should be a resounding yes. But something feels off. I’d go knowing nobody, and without the excuse of wanting to keep up connections or friendships from the summer I did spend with the firm, since I was in a different city. Also, is it somehow disloyal to my current firm?

I just feel like this sort of event seems more targeted to alumnae who’ve left for “neutral” reasons–going in-house, clerking, career shifts, etc.–not for those who left for essentially the same job with a competitor.

Great question. We’ve talked about how to network at a conference when you know no one, but not whether it’s wrong to go to an alumni event where you know no one.  Here’s my perspective, as someone who’s been at numerous alumni events (for companies, schools, and extracurriculars): [Read more…]

Networking with Older Women

how to network with older womenReader R has a question that goes pretty well with our discussion of networking with older men — how to network with older women. Here’s the question:

I’m a 24 year old summer clerk with a public defender’s office. I got the gig by networking through my friends; specifically, by getting to know their mothers and fathers who work in the legal field. Now, however, I’ve gotten to become friends with my friends’ parents and their colleagues, who are in their 40’s and 50’s. Do you have tips on navigating the waters of friendship with women who are quite literally old enough to be my mother? I’m frequently invited to lunches and happy hours with them and I always accept the offers and enjoy my time, but I’m curious as to what tone I should be striking. They always address me and treat me as a colleague, and I’m frequently told I act like I’m 30 (in a good way), but I want to keep fostering these friendships in an appropriate way.

It sounds to me like you’re doing a great job and don’t really need any advice! For my $.02, here are some thoughts: [Read more…]

Networking with Older Men

male mentorsCan a younger woman network with older men without getting into questionable situations? My friend J told me of her interesting dilemma over the weekend…

She’s traveling a lot for business these days, and on one of her latest trips she sat next to an older businessman. She’s generally against talking to her seatmates, but wanted to have a bit of chitchat before she made him move to let her go to the bathroom — and she discovered that he’s the Chairman of the Board of a huge non-profit foundation (like, huge). They exchanged business cards when they got off the plane. Great contact to have, right?

Later that night, the text messages started. [Read more…]

Staying in the Game: Tips for Stay at Home Moms

career tips for SAHMsReader R writes with a question about how women who choose to stay home with their kids for a while can keep career paths open to them…

I’m hoping you and the lovely Corporette commenters will be able to offer some guidance. (as surely I’m not the only one who has faced or will face this dilemma).

I’m an ’08 law grad and spent two years in biglaw before accepting a government position last fall. Now I am pregnant and due this fall. I’d originally moved to government thinking it would be more amenable to family life, but have since decided I’d like to stay home full time, at least for a little while. If we end up having more than one child, I suppose it could end up being as long as 3 – 4 years.

So, my question is, knowing I’d like to return to the legal field one day, what can I do during my career hiatus to ensure that I am still marketable/relevant when I return to work and to help make that transition back easier? I’ve already made up my mind to stay home, so I am not really interested in a suggestion that I continue working. However, advice on how long is “too long” to be out of work would also be appreciated.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! I think you’re really smart to be thinking about this now — and not, say, in four years when you’re looking to get back in the workforce. I have no experience with this personally, so I’m really curious to hear what the readers say.  (Pictured: Open Doors, originally uploaded to Flickr by *Fede*.)

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How To Use LinkedIn

how-to-use-linked-inWhat is the proper way to use LinkedIn if you’re a junior employee? Has it changed through the past few years?

This came up recently when I linked to a 2008 Corporette post about how to leave an internship — there, I advised interns:

It’s fine to use Facebook or MySpace to connect with the other students you summered with. If you want to, it’s not inappropriate to use LinkedIn to connect, either. However, do not request to become “LinkedIn” with superiors at the company, unless you’d also ask them to recommend you to a future employer — it’s more serious than a casual link, and no one has really had time to assess the other person’s work. Requesting to become linked to an mid-level or senior person you had lunch once or twice with, or wrote a memo for, is really not acceptable.

Do I still agree with this advice? Yes and no. I will say that how I use LinkedIn has changed over the years. In 2008, I remember approving a request from a casual friend I’d known in college. We were never close, I’d never worked with her on a school project, and I hadn’t seen her or talked to her in nearly 10 years. What, I worried, did our connection mean? If she had turned into a poor worker, would that reflect on me? And so from that point on I chose not to approve anyone unless I could vouch for their work.  (Pictured:  Connections, originally uploaded to Flickr by carlaarena.)

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