Suit of the Week: White House | Black Market

Striped BlazerFor busy working women, the suit is often the easiest outfit to throw on in the morning. In general, this feature is not about interview suits for women, which should be as classic and basic as you get — instead, this feature is about the slightly different suit that is fashionable, yet professional.

Reader N sent in this great suit, which she just added to her collection. I love the “ticking stripe,” as well as the details on the pockets and the darting in the front. The jacket (Womens White/Black Striped Blazer by White House Black Market) is $158, and the skirt (Womens White/Black Striped Pencil Skirt by White House Black Market) is $88. (Not pictured: Matching pants (Womens White/Black Striped Pant by White House Black Market) for $98.)

Striped Blazer



  1. This is an adorable suit. I don’t trust myself with white though. I have white jackets but am worried that I’d immediately spill something on the skirt. On the suit front, I’m looking for a camel or warm beige skirt suit. Everything I’m seeing in stores is very light beige or brownish. Any suggestions?

    • This exactly what I was going to post. Love the suit but wish it were cream or beige. I’d feel the need to bring an extra suit to work “just in case.”

    • I never understood this fear. Do you normally immediately spill on yourself? If not, why would you suddenly behave differently whilst wearing white? And besides, is it any easier to get stains out of a beige skirt than a white one?

      • Those were rhetorical questions, btw, not aimed specifically at Bonnie.

      • I don’t know what it is about white skirts, but I always spill something on them or rub against a grease spot somewhere. Maybe it’s a mental predisposition but I never spill unless I’m wearing white.

        • I think it’s not that white gets dirty faster. Dark clothes get just as smudg-ey, but it’s not as obvious.

      • I normally spill on myself, yes. I don’t think it’s easier to get a stain out of a beige skirt, but if you get a stain 95% out, it will likely be invisible on the beige skirt (or jacket, which is what I tend to spill on; I can handle white skirts better) but still show up as beige on the white garment.

        • Hmm, interesting. I don’t normally spill on myself, although I tend to drop food down my cleavage whenever I wear the slightest low-cut shirt. We all have our challenges, I suppose. At any rate, I love white pants.

      • I have frequent run ins with the law–Murphy’s Law. I wear white, I spill; I wear white, I lean up against a seemingly innocuous thing–>stain or smudge; I wear white, I drop a pen or highlighter on myself; I wear white…. you get the idea.

      • “whilst” is severely underused. Thanks for bringing it back!

      • Yes, I normally spill on myself the first time I wear a new item of clothing. I also stub the toe of any new pair of shoes. I am clumsy and have a drinking problem!!!

        • Also I have particularly grubby hands and I leave long brown hairs wherever I go. I stick to prints and darker colors.

          • LOL. I have the same problems you describe, but something about your phrasing makes me think of a Yeti wandering around in a white suit.

      • I read the newspaper (yes, an actual newsPAPER!) on the train so my fingertips sometimes get smudgey from the ink. I’m also the type of person who’ll brush against a railing or something and end up with a cobweb on my hip.

        Tangent: Years ago I went to a community meeting in a woman’s living room, wearing jeans and a black blazer with a ballpoint pen in the pocket. Over time we all realized this woman was a real head case with the weirdest quirks and vendettas, and a friend of a friend explained that her problem with me (I said what? she has a problem with ME?) was: that night at her house, I sat on her white couch and my pen leaked through my pocket and stained said couch.

    • North Shore :

      I was at a client meeting once when my colleague somehow launched a bottle of diet coke onto my white knit shirt, soaking me as it fizzed all over. Luckily my jacket was on the back of my chair and stayed dry. I bolted to the women’s room and sponged it off with paper towels and water, dried myself a bit under the hand dryers, then buttoned my jacket over it. He was absolutely mortified, but I explained to him that I was a parent and thus had super-human stain removal skills. The shirt looked just fine after I washed it, and I still wear it. Come to think of it, this happened to me another time — I was at a restaurant with a senior attorney and our expert witness, wearing white pants, when the waiter spilled red wine all over my pants leg. I also washed that off in the restroom, and the restaurant gave me a very generous gift certificate for my ruined pants, which looked just fine after I washed them. So maybe there is something about white . . .

    • I was wearing brand new white jeans for approximately 1 hour before I spilled an entire cup of coffee on myself. Have I ever done that before? No.

  2. I don’t think I could pull this off. But that may have something to do with how sinister the model’s expression makes this whole suit look?

    On an aside, Nordstrom has a bunch of suits on super sale right now. I am considering ordering this blazer even though it’s not really my usual style. It comes with matching pants and skirt, I really want something new and can’t seem to resist the price (all three pieces for way under $200!). Thoughts on the blazer?

    Also can anyone please comment on the sizing of Halogen brand pants?

    Thanks so much in advance!

    • FYI this link just brought me to the Nordstrom page, and I had to do a search for the blazer myself. Not sure if there’s a way to post a direct link–I seem to have failed to get one!

      Anyway, I like. I feel like the blazer would go with almost everything for spring and summer layering (I’m especially thinking work dresses) because it seems neutral in the same way denim is.

      • Lots of people have this issue with Nordstrom links — my workaround is to select the URL and then copy/paste it into browser.

        I really like the blazer unbuttoned, and picture it with pretty shells and pants – buttons that close together don’t work on me personally when I try to button it (button only 1 and it looks strange, button all 3 and it’s too straightjackety.)

      • fyi copying and pasting the link into a new browser window or tab seems to work, even though clicking just sends you to the homepage.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      That blazer is CUTE! It would not work on my long torso self, I don’t think, but I vote yes on the blazer.

      Nordstrom Half Yearly starts on May 25!

    • I bought a similar (grey) blazer from Halogen a few months ago and was pleasantly surprised at the quality and how often I wear it. If it’s stretchy (which it may be, with elastane as a listed material) I’d suggest sizing down if you’re between two sizes. The blazer that I bought was slightly bigger than true to size – not enough to warrant a return, but it might make a difference to someone else.

    • Very cute. I just ordered the set myself. I’m tired of all my suits and couldn’t resist trying this one.

      • Bonnie, we’ll have to compare notes. Please post a review when you get it.

    • Thanks! You guys are the best! I am going to hit “submit order” :)

      And, sorry about the link. I don’t know how to get around this issue with Nordstrom, but I doubly appreciate you all taking the time to search for the blazer or copy and paste the link, which is a pain. I really value the input!

      • I love this suit but am going to wait to try it on in person during my upcoming trip to Las Vegas. Two weeks!

    • I own this blazer, and love it. I wanted to get the matching pants, but they just looked too “denimy” when on me, and the whole look was just “too much look.” Too matchy. YMMV. I wear the blazer with black or gray pants or a skirt, and it’s my favorite spring piece at the moment. I’ve been contemplating getting a pair of navy pants also to coordinate, since I don’t have a navy pair that fit me at the moment.

      I live in Halogen Taylor pants at the moment. I find the sizing to be pretty much spot on, and I love the wide waistband. I’m reasonably curvy in the hip (not a lot of junk in the trunk, though) with a touch of belly, and I find them very flattering.

      Hope that helps.

      • Thanks! Does the fabric look denimy, then? I can’t quite tell from the online pic. Would the matching skirt plus blazer be too much, too, then?

        • The fabric, from a distance, is about the color of denim, and something about the slim stripes plus the color plus the stiffness of the fabric in the pants read “denim” to me. The jacket doesn’t have the same issue, even though it’s the same fabric and the same color. It was an issue of that fabric being used as pants.

          I didn’t try the skirt, and can’t tell you if it would read the same way. And, again, this was just my take. I loved the cut of the pants; the totality of the outfit didn’t work for me. You might like it.

          • Thanks. I will see how it works. Thank goodness for the great Nordstrom return policy.

      • Anonymous Poser :

        Oh wow, ADS–It sounds like you are describing *my* body shape there! Very helpful. I’ll have to remember that about you when I am in the market for suit pants/skirt :-). AND have to remember to describe myself that way, so that I can help similarly shaped women when I find something that works for me.

      • This is funny – I have 2 Halogen suits that look like they have combined to produce this jacket. One is cut like the blazer here (with the piping or whatever on the lapel) and one is almost the exact same color. I love both of them and have them both in heavy rotation. They’re both true-to-size. The pants were a little long, but Nordstrom has free tailoring, so now they are perfect.

        I really love the shorter sleeves on this jacket, too.

    • Confessions :

      I have the Calvin Klien version of this suit and when I received it, I thought right away, “wow, too much denim,” although it’s not even denim. However, when I put it on, I felt totally different, and love it. I too have the skirt version. Update us and let us know how it works.

  3. LOVE. LOVE. a toddler won’t destroy this before I can leave the house, right?

    Anyone know WHBM sizing? I’ve never actually bought from there before, but I think this might do it. And how are their returns if I just buy 2 sizes knowing I’d return one?

    • I wear the same size at WHBM that I wear everywhere else. Their returns are fine – you can return online purchases in store to save on shipping.

      • I second Eponine’s response. True to size and very easy returns. Plus they have a price adjustment policy where if the item you purchased goes on sale within 2 weeks, they will give you credit for the difference (upon request). I can’t remember what they call the policy, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

    • I’ve only bought their dresses, but I’ve also found them to run true to size, for both me and my sister. I’m average height and athletic build, my sister is more petite and athletic build, and we both found the sizing to work off-the-rack. The length was just a touch long on my shorter sister, coming just below the knee on a dress that would look better mid-knee or skimming the top of the knee.

  4. super cute suit! it has a little bit of a retro/sailor vibe though, which could look great on the right woman but costumey on the wrong one :(

    sorry for the early threadjack, but i was hoping for some advice. do any of you have experience working 100% remotely? i am in the process of interviewing for a job that could be a really fun and exciting opportunity, but they won’t have a satellite office in my city for a few years. obviously there are up sides to telecommuting (flexibility), but i’m worried that working from my home office will be dull/isolating, or that it will be hard to feel motivated or connect with my colleagues long-distance. any advice?

    • My personal feeling is that I dislike working from home, for the reasons you mentioned. However, I was freelancing, so take it with a grain of salt. Freelancing meant I didn’t really have “co-workers” to “talk” to during the day, and the work was sporadic, so if I got bored or lonely, I couldn’t just work on another project for my job. I’m a super social extrovert in marketing, where my whole job depends on working with other people FWIW.
      On the flip side, my husband works remotely and LOVES it. He’s a software development engineer, and loves the efficiency of working from home. No one pops in to bug him or ask him a random question, he can “come in” whenever he wants, and he can do split shifts with ease. He regularly wakes up and makes a big breakfast, goes for a workout, then works for a while, maybe until 7 or 8 in the evening. If he gets stir crazy, he’ll go to the library or a coffee shop to work for a while…. and occasionally works by the pool :)
      I would recommend taking a quarterly trip to headquarters, as that will help keep you connected and engaged with your colleagues. While freelancing, I was able to have some client meetings occasionally. My husband is going back to headquarters for a week in a few days.

      • i like the idea of quarterly visits! if i get far enough along in the interview process to have an explicit discussion of benefits/compensation i will make sure to ask if they include or prioritize on-site visits.

    • I loooooove working from home (although it cuts down on the number of work outfits that I can justify purchasing!). Flexibility is a big one, plus you can do laundry in fits and starts in between working! The con is that your coworkers may think you’re not ‘present’ enough – this is particularly difficult in a law firm with the time-travel commuting partners. :)

      • Anonymous :

        I’ve done it before. It’s easy to go to the coffee shop to work if you want social contact.

        Down side is you tend to work more hours for less pay, and the fax machine rings in the middle of the night waking the whole house up.

        • these are both super good points. i was thinking that if it turned out i absolutely could not focus/be present while working at home, i could try working in coffee shops or renting some kind of shared office space (not sure where one starts looking for that).

          luckily i work in tech – so at least i won’t have to worry about receiving midnight faxes!

    • North Shore :

      I work remotely, but my work involves travel, and I see my colleagues on our trips. I should get back to the home office more often, but I hate to add extra travel because my kids hate when I’m gone as it is. But to address your point, I sometimes wish I had more adults around to see on a regular basis, but I’m more productive without them, as my office was always a bit of a social homeroom when I was on location. I’m motivated by deadlines, so no problem staying focused most of the time. For me, the job is ideal because my kids are in elementary school and this way I can be here when they come home.

    • I think it really depends on your personality type and the job. I work remotely, and worked remotely at another job in the past. My first home office experience was pretty terrible, for a couple of reasons. Everyone else was in an office (in Arizona), and I was alone in Virginia. I rarely interacted with co-workers and did not travel. It was awful. My current job is so much better. I am always on at least a few calls a day, my entire team is remote, and I travel around 25% of the time. It’s really great. No interruptions, no time spent getting ready or commuting. There is flexibility and I can do small chores around the house when I need a break. It helps to be the type of person who enjoys solitary work. I have found that it is helpful for me to build something into my day around 6 or 7 pm that forces me to leave my desk and see the world (even if I come back later for more work). I really like my situation and would have a hard time giving it up for a ‘real’ office job.

    • One my good friends took a remote job because the job/pay was too good to pass out. He does find it isolating but has helped himself by driving his wife to work in the mornings (thus giving himself a reason to get up on time, etc.) and by scheduling weekday lunch with friends who work not too far from his condo. It actually works out pretty well because he generally has the flexibility to work around them in terms of what time to lunch, etc.

      • *pass ON, not pass out. Yeesh, sorry!

      • It can definitely be isolating, especially if you’re a social person. And one of the things I’ve found most difficult is if you start working with new people and haven’t met them in person–it’s harder to get a sense of people just through email, to get to know them really as people–and feel comfortable joking around, or knowing when you need something ASAP, or asking for a reference, or just feeling OK calling them up if you have a stupid question! Also harder if you’re starting at a new company, because you can’t pop into someone’s office or turn and ask the next cube “Hey, when I am trying to do my timesheet” or “is the login for that system the same as our usual one?” Things that should take three seconds become a bigger thing where email or phone are involved, and where you don’t know if someone’s busy or how you come off asking things!

    • I worked remotely (law) for a few years due to my husband’s job relocation, and it was very, very challenging. It was out of sight, out of mind in terms of getting work. I would make sure, to the extent you can, that you will have a steady stream of work, or you could be very bored. Also, I found I missed co-workers to shoot the breeze with much more than I thought I would. This might depend on personality, but it was frankly a sad period for me. I would joke with my husband that I invited the UPS guy in for coffee that day. I am not sure I would do things the same way (not sure I would telecommute) if I had the chance again.

      On the other hand, it is nice to get coffee from your own kitchen.

    • My colleague (fairly senior but non-lawyer) is a home worker. She’s great at being in touch with people, travels 2x a mth to the main office for 2-3 days at a time (for her these are short international trips as she’s Europe based). May not work for us all. Few things:

      – make sure your home office accessibility (phone/email, whatever) is the same as it would be if you were in an office
      – any breaks you take (drink, lunch etc) should be the same/correspond with others
      – when people call/message you, you should answer immediately (same as you would in an office)

      With my colleague, I wouldn’t know that she was a home worker, if I didn’t work so closely with her!!

    • thank you so much everyone for sharing your experiences! your responses have all been very helpful, and given me a lot to think about in terms of how i could make such a situation work for me.

    • My two cents:

    • Original Lola :

      My two tips:

      –Don’t limit your “home office” to your home only. Space means something to me, and I know I can’t be productive at my home. But a local coffeeshop, library (municipal or local college), or even pub in the afternoon, can be a very productive place for me.
      –Check to see if your office uses instant messaging software, and if so, get on it. It’s a way to feel connected to your co-workers.
      –If you are setting up a home office, make sure to physically separate it from your living areas in your home. Otherwise work will overflow into your personal life, and vice versa.
      –And separate by time, too. When you’ve finished your work day, do not answer the phone or check your emails (unless it’s mandatory in your job). You have to treat it like a job with an office in your home, rather than a home in which you work.

      • Original Lola :

        (Oops, I guess that was more than “two tips.” I meant “two cents.”)

  5. I do not know what rock I have been sleeping under, but I recently went into White House Black Market for the first time. I promptly purchased 3 dresses and 4 jackets. The jackets are very figure flattering for me; they cut in at the right point on the waist and are very slimming. The dresses are the right length and have flattering cuts as well. The quality also seems good, and a 60-day return policy is good in my book.

    I also love this suit, but I would look like casper in it unfortunately.

  6. Maddie Ross :

    I was waiting for the Coffee Break to ask this, but in case anyone sees it now: Any good suggestions for Mother’s Day gifts? I’m at a total loss this year. The big push advertising-wise seems to be a Kindle, but my mom’s not a big reader really. Anyone have any brillant suggestions to share?

    • If you’re crafty or tech-savvy at all, give her a scrapbook! My sister and I made a scrapbook of pictures of just us girls for her one year, and she still takes it out to show it around if we have company. The front page was title “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, with subsequent pages of us on ice cream dates together, laughing together, all dressed up to go to a wedding, etc. I know there’s also tons of places online that will make it easy to upload, organize, and print the book. Maybe SnapFish…? Clearly, I’m a paper kinda girl, so I’m less knowledgeable about the tech options.

      • This is what I do every Mother’s Day! I make a photo album in iPhoto of things I did the past year. I have the site ship it directly to her. First year I did it, she called me up crying, saying it was the best gift she’s ever gotten. Now I make one every year and we all look forward to it.

    • New handbag? That’s what I got mine – Filene’s was having 20% off. 6pm has some good sales today too.

    • Concert tickets for you and her? I am going to try to take mine to see Josh Groban.

  7. Threadjack – So last night I was at a women’s clothing store for which I have a store card. When making my purchase, the clerk asked me if I wanted to “upgrade” my card and get 25% off my purchase. I said sure, thinking it would mean maybe a higher limit, quicker accrual of points toward coupons, free shipping from the website, stuff like that. Well, I think I may have inadvertantly gotten a new “regular” card – like a Visa or Mastercard, but it earns points for the store. I was in a rush so didn’t pay too much attention (yeah, not my smartest move). I don’t really need a new Visa-type card, but am wondering from a credit score perspective if it’s better to cancel it or keep it. I am also thinking that maybe I should keep it and cancel my existing MC that doesn’t earn me points toward anything, assuming the new card does not have an annual fee (I was told it does not but you can bet I will confirm this!). I do buy things from this store fairly often, so earning points toward it would be nice. I’m not too concerned about interest rates because I think my existing card doesn’t have a good rate plus I have a main card that does – I never carry a balance on any of my credit cards and am in a place in life where, if I had to, I’d be worrying about bigger things than credit card interest rates. I have no debt, no loans of any type, and a pretty tidy amount of cash and investments, so I think my credit score is probably fine.

    Yes, I know I should actually learn about these things, but the rules for what does and does not affect your credit and how just seem so arcane and volatile that when I try to read up on them, I glaze over.

    Thanks in advance – I don’t always get back to the site each day, so just want to say that I appreciate any input.

    • Damage to your credit was done upon the credit check they ran when opening it. If you don’t want it, go ahead and cancel it. However, if there’s no fee and you’re not the type to run up balances just because you have available credit (eep!), which it sounds like you’re not, I might keep it. Though like you said – research the terms.

      In terms of whether you should cancel your existing MC, that could have a slightly negative impact on your credit score if it’s a card that’s been open a long time (the longer the average age of your credit lines, the better from a score perspective). Also, if the credit limit is relatively high and the new card is lower, you could reduce your overall pool of credit availability. Sometimes this can be good from a score perspective (less credit availability, less risk) but to the extent you do ever carry a balance, it will look higher as a % of your credit lines so your “utilization” would go up – which would be a negative from a credit score perspective.

    • I have a Gap Visa – I applied for a regular Gap store card and it turns out they consider you for either the Visa or the store card and give you whatever they decide to give you. At any rate, I keep it paid off, and I like that it collects points I can use at the Gap family of stores. If you’re not running up extra debt on it, there’s no harm to keeping it. If it has a higher credit limit than your old card, it’ll improve your debt-to-credit ratio (assuming you keep it paid off) and that could help your credit score. The credit inquiry to open the card may have harmed your credit score, but probably not significantly and at any rate the damage as done. So you may as well keep the card open and gain the credit score benefit of having a better debt-to-credit ratio.

      • Eponine – I had your same experience. I applied for a Gap card, and they gave me a Gap visa, when I really just wanted the Gap credit card (I didn’t want to use it for anything but Gap/BR/ON/whatever.)

        So I called them and told them that I wanted the store card, not the Visa card. They cancelled the Visa card and sent me the store card instead. No problem.

        I don’t think it affected my credit in any appreciable way. (I already have a mortgage and student loans at good rates, and I don’t finance vehicles or furniture, so a point or two downward departure wouldn’t affect me too much anyway. I don’t anticipate applying for any credit any time soon.)

        In your situation, if you pay off your credit card balance every month, then you may as well have a card that’s earning you something on your purchases. Whether you want an airline points card, a hotel points card, or one that earns you points for clothes shopping – you get to make that decision. Personally, I have an airline points one, and the $75 annual fee is worth it every year.

    • You’re probably better off not canceling it at this point. I think the damage from the credit check is less than what damage you’ll do canceling that card if the card it replaced has already been closed. That’s especially the case if you had the original store card for a long time.

      • Thanks so much! You all make it sound so clear. I think I’ll confirm that the new card does not have an annual fee and just keep it. Have to think about what to do with the old card – I’ve had it for probably more than 10 years, sadly I am not sure what the limit is, I never hit my limits because I never charge more than I can pay off at the time the bill is due.

        I knew that the amount of available credit you have/how much you use affected scores, but didn’t know that the length of time you have the account did. That’s interesting.

        Yes, I am uber-responsible about credit cards. To me, they are a convenience that lets me get away with not carrying cash, rather than a means for purchasing things I can’t afford. I’ve been very fortunate never to have to use them for living expenses or emergencies and hope I continue to be!

        • Caveat: I’m no financial genius. No business background, etc.

          However, I think that how long a revolving credit account has been open is one aspect of the mysterious FICO score. I’d keep the old account open even if I didn’t use it. I have a couple of very old credit card accounts I keep open just for the FICO. Every time they send my new card on one of those accounts, I cut it up and file the paperwork that came with it.

      • Sounded to me like original store card was just a loyalty card, not a credit card. Not clear though.

        • No, it was a credit card, but just for the store. The new one can be used at any store, points accumulate for the issuing store.

          The credit card world is nuts.

  8. another anon :

    Threadjack – anyone have a free shipping code for Levenger? I want to order a bag, but the shipping is $30.

  9. Love the jacket! The buttons on the skirt look a bit too cutesy, though.

  10. and so anon :

    nice. i like the pockets. one day, when i’m grown up, i’ll have a white suit.

    i’m past 50.

  11. I love this. I am going to put this on my “list of things to stalk in hopes that the item goes on sale.”

  12. I love the styling, but the cut and color is no good for me. I am somewhat pale so white does nothing for me. I also have a slightly large rear end and hips, so the tight fit does not suit me at all. In fact I look terrible in all types of pencil dresses.

    I would like to see a suit for slightly larger gals like me. After all, not everyone can look like Katy Perry (tho we can always hope!)

  13. Getting the Axe :

    I am a regular poster but staying anon for this.

    I have received good info from a friend in HR that I, along with a couple of other people from my department, are getting fired tomorrow. It’s not a complete surprise; some “business re-engineering” has happened that has made our project redundant, and we have already seen some resource reallocation away from our project towards others that are seen as more important now. There have been some personality issues between me and a new VP- the one brought in technically to oversee “all projects” who is reallocating resources to the ones he thinks are important – because I’ve tried to advocate for my people and their projects. So it can’t necessarily be called a completely amicable split, but I feel safe in saying the firing isn’t “for cause.”

    For those questioning if I’m sure the intel is good – I tried to log in to my work email from home tonight, and I’m already locked out. So, yeah, I’m pretty sure.

    I am actually somewhat relieved and not going to be inclined to make a scene or whatnot, not only because I don’t do that, but because I genuinely have no anger about the situation – these things happen – I am mostly just sad for my project team members who are also supposedly on the block.

    So besides the “don’t make a scene” advice, does anyone have any tips for me about how to handle the conversation tomorrow? I have never been fired and don’t know if there are things I should ask for, shouldn’t say, should say, etc. I am pretty sure I will hold it together emotionally but don’t want to sit and just nod my head in a daze while the boom is lowered, if there are legitimate points I should make in the conversation. Thanks.

    • I’m sorry. This position just sucks. The only thing I would say is (1) confirm that you can use the company as a reference/in good standing if that’s what you want and (2) try to negotiate for better severance for you and anyone else who reports to you.

    • Sorry, not fun for you or your team but you have a good attitude.

      I don’t know what industry you’re in but severance packages vary with one caveat: Most people don’t ask for more, because many times they are shocked and surprised by the termination. You have an advantage here because you won’t be shocked.

      Ten years ago, one month severance per year of service was a common package in some industries. Today, you’re lucky if you get one week per year of service. Really stingy employers just give two weeks. They may or may not pay unused vacation and/or sick leave: Ask for this to be added to their offer.

      I know someone who was let go this past month with two years’ service and got five months’ severance. Sometimes severance is used to “quiet” terminated employees so that they won’t cause trouble.

      You can calculate how long it would generally take someone in your industry at your level to get a new position and ask for that: Do this even if you can’t find supporting data or anecdotal evidence. The old rule of thumb was that it took one month of job hunting for every $10,000 of salary so at $120,000 that would be a year.

      In any event, if you don’t ask, you only get what they give you, so asking has little or no downside.

      Your HR contact can tell you how your company handles references: Some are quite strict and will only give name, rank and serial number (Joke: meaning that they will only verify dates of employment and title).

      One approach is to ask if you can write a reference letter for your boss to sign, but that won’t work at some companies. You may have other contacts in the company (e.g. previous supervisors, peers) who might be able to be better references for you. You could say that your new boss was too new for you to have developed a relationship, hence you are using an alternate reference.

      Best of luck to you. It’s never easy but have faith that you’ll land in a better job!

    • Ask to pack up your desk yourself.

      Ask about COBRA coverage if you are going to need it.

      Make sure you fully understand the terms of your severance and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

      Make sure you know how much vacation you’re entitled to have paid out and make sure they pay it out on top of your severance.

      Can’t think of anything else at the moment. So sorry about this, but at least you’re handling it well. Best of luck.

      • Corollary to packing up your desk yourself: At least make sure you do not have a cup of coffee on your desk.

        Hope it’s not too soon for a little black humor. I admire how poised you seem in your post, GTAxe. Best wishes for this just being a tiny blip in your career path.

    • Do not sign any releases until you have time to think about it and consult with someone if necessary.

    • [HUG!] So sorry!

      Co-sign the comments above (ask for more severance for you and direct reports, get details on COBRA, find out about references, find out whether sick/PTO/vacation is paid out (mandatory in states like CA), find out who will be your point of contact regarding post-termination questions, and, ask if you can see a copy of your employee file if you want–in some states, like CA, this is also non-negotiable–they have to let you see it).

      A few other points: (1) Insist that you get a copy of your Outlook contacts before leaving the building. They can edit them to remove potential clients you might poach or whatever, but not having access to your “network” or personal friends to network with is really, really frustrating. (2) Get your old assistant’s phone number and personal (not work) email. Assistants often stay and can be so helpful if you were already on great terms before you go. (3) Say goodbye, and thank you (if applicable) genuinely to your colleagues that you are going to miss. This really helped with emotional closure for me, and also helped me with networking after. (4) if you get any mail at work (such as professional organization mags or whatnot) make sure it’s forwarded by the Co to you, and you confirm that’ll be done.

      Good luck tomorrow. This is a tough situation, to be sure. I am certain you will handle it with grace.

    • Getting the Axe :

      Thanks for the great advice everyone. I’ll update today after the hammer comes down :)

    • Here is one thing I did that worked well for me and my similar situation. Instead of getting X number of weeks’ severance, I asked if I could “work” for another X weeks as if I were employed, and get no severance. That allowed me to a) have some place to go everyday b) use my work e-mail and phone number, and c) unfortunately, I think it’s much easier to get a job when you have a job. Of course, I told everyone that my position was going to be terminated in X month, but I think it’s better and easier to explain this all after you meet someone in person. Also, I was able to get a job and start pretty quickly after my last day, so I did not need to pay for COBRA, which was good. Yes, please give us an update and good luck to you.

  14. Getting the Axe :

    I am a regular poster but staying anon for this.

    I have received good info from a friend in HR that I, along with a couple of other people from my department, are getting fired tomorrow. It’s not a complete surprise; some “business re-engineering” has happened that has made our project redundant, and we have already seen some resource reallocation away from our project towards others that are seen as more important now. There have been some personality issues between me and a new VP- the one brought in technically to oversee “all projects” who is reallocating resources to the ones he thinks are important – because I’ve tried to advocate for my people and their projects. So it can’t necessarily be called a completely amicable split, but I feel safe in saying the firing isn’t “for cause.”

    For those questioning if I’m sure the intel is good – I tried to log in to my work email from home tonight, and I’m already locked out. So, yeah, I’m pretty sure.

    I am actually somewhat relieved and not going to be inclined to make a scene or whatnot, not only because I don’t do that, but because I genuinely have no anger about the situation – these things happen – I am mostly just sad for my project team members who are also supposedly on the block.

    So besides the “don’t make a scene” advice, does anyone have any tips for me about how to handle the conversation tomorrow? I have never been fired and don’t know if there are things I should ask for, shouldn’t say, should say, etc. I am pretty sure I will hold it together emotionally but don’t want to sit and just nod my head in a daze while the boom is lowered, if there are legitimate points I should make in the conversation. Thanks.

    • Getting the Axe :

      ACK!! Sorry for the double post, the site went nuts on me after I hit submit.

      • Gosh, I also feel terrible for you. Two of my best friends have also been let go recently and they were blindsited by it, so maybe knowing a head of time is somewhat better. They got strength from their families, who they looked to for support. One friend goes to regular meetings with men and women and she is so much stronger for going. The other one has taken to working out for the first time in years. She has gone from a size 18 down to a size 6 in less than 8 months, and has regained her faith and spirituality she grew up with. So there is some good that can come of what is otherwise a jarring situation. Personally, I would love to find meaning and romance in life that I do not have right now. Maybe if I had the time to focus on those things I would be better off. But everyone is different. I wish you the best and please come back and tell us how you are doing. I am sure this will all work out for the best for you.

    • God. I feel terrible for you. I’ve unfortunately been laid off several times. I’m in IT. It happens.

      But I can’t really give you any advice. It always takes me by surprise and I end up just nodding my head, fully shell-shocked.

      I actually kind of envy you for getting a heads-up beforehand.

      Focus in on the HR part. You need to know about severance, healthcare/cobra, 401k, etc. And, afterwards, stay on top of things with HR. If they’re anything like they were at my last company (I got laid off last September, but I got a new job in October), they’ll screw you over in a heartbeat. HR is totally a misnomer. They’re on management’s side.

      • Agree with everything and love your amazing attitude to getting laid off.

        (Also in tech, also get laid off too often.)

        • Do not sign any releases until you have time to review (with a lawyer if necessary).

  15. Would a suit like this be appropriate in court?
    I am going to be a summer at a prosecutor’s office in the Deep South (think humid and unbearably hot). Since I was told that I could hang out and observe court proceedings when I wasn’t busy with anything else, I have a feeling that I’ll be in front of my bosses and also judges quite a bit…
    I don’t want to be stuck wearing grey and black all summer, and I don’t think navy looks good on me.

work fashion blog press mentions