Monday, November 3, 2014

Dress for the Job You Want . . .

We have all heard the phrase “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It has been repeated to new hires, college students, people interviewing and individuals being coached for a promotion. Strangely enough this phrase is still ignored and can ruin a job interview or send a manager running to HR for help on delivering a difficult message.

Being in HR for years and working with entry-level hires for the majority of it, I’ve had many awkward conversations with people about their dress attire. My favorite one so far is telling a woman wearing a Bermuda-short suit that it wasn’t appropriate to wear to a job on Wall Street. “When was the last time you saw a man walking around the office in a suit with shorts? So why would we think that it would be okay for a woman to wear shorts in the office?”

But I was not always an angel when it came to following the dress code rules. When I was a summer analyst at Merrill Lynch, I remember wearing these modest (yet painfully ugly) mules to the office one day. The dress code at Merrill Lynch specifically said no open-toe shoes, but I always saw women walking around the office in strappy sandals or peep-toe shoes. I decided one day to wear those mules to the office when I blindly thought they would look fashionable with my skirt and button-down.  Within 10 minutes of being in the office, the second year analyst on the team shouted down the hall to me “Look at you, breaking the dress code policy rules as an intern!” My face lit up like a Christmas tree and remained that shameful, scarlet shade the rest of the day.

I could rattle off 100 tips for dressing the part, but I’ll keep it to 5 simple tips:

1. Stick with the right color – and keep it neutral. CareerBuilder does a study every year of the most powerful colors to wear. Always at the top of the list are black, navy blue, and gray. Always at the bottom of the list are yellow, orange and purple.

2. Know your industry. If you work in a creative industry, don’t show up to work everyday in a business suit to dress for the part you want. Incorporate some creativity into your wardrobe. If you work in a more conservative industry such as financial services, don’t show up to work or a job interview with blue nail polish.

3. Look at what your mentors and leaders in the office are wearing.  No matter what type of work environment you are in (business attire, business casual or casual) always look at what your mentors are wearing or the senior people in the organization. They are setting the example for you. If I had looked to my mentors when I was a summer analyst, I would have never worn those open-toed shoes. 

4. Wear clothes that fit you well. This works for both genders. Make sure you wear pants and a jacket that fit YOU – not your dad or the image of you 5 pounds ago. If your suit is too big, you may look like Tom Hank’s character at the end of the movie Big.

For the women, watch your hemline. And your neckline. And the tightness of your clothes. You want to be remembered for what say and how you operate in the office. Not for being the “girl with the short skirts” or the “low-cut tops”. We’ve seen this too many times. When was the last time you saw Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer or Sallie Krawcheck wearing a short skirt or dress? Never.

5. Keep it clean. For you, this means showering and having a professional appearance free of tattoos, body piercings, etc. For your clothes, this means wrinkle-free and stain-free. If you follow me on Twitter (@career_univ)I did a #tbt this past week from one of my favorite Super Bowl commercials. Like having food in your teeth, a stain on your shirt can be just as distracting. Coming from the person who always spills coffee or food on herself, I always have to be armed with a shout-wipe or tide-pen at all times.

Your clothes shouldn’t be a distraction from who you are professionally and the impression you want to others to have of you. So save the seersucker suit for a summer wedding and the platform heels for a night out on the town.

Lastly, if you have clothes that don’t fit anymore or that you no longer need, pay it forward and look to donate them to someone that could use them. Dress for Success and Career Gear are two examples of organizations that accept donations.

 Happy Dressing!

#dressforsuccess  #jobperformance #interviewing 

Monday, October 20, 2014

5 Ways to Exercise Your Networking Muscles

You have your daily routine set. Wake up. Maybe exercise. Maybe think about it. Get dressed and start your day. Answer calls, respond to emails and tackle that “to do” list. But don’t forget to exercise your networking muscles as part of your daily routine.  In my posting from last week I discussed starting a career development routine. I stressed the importance of networking on my list of suggestions.

Not sure where to start? Here are 5 suggestions for exercising those networking muscles this week.

      1. Tap into social media. This is the easy one that you can do from the comfort of your own desk or home. Example: Log into Linkedin, check out some recommended connections to “friend” and send 2 – 3 messages to people from your network that you haven’t spoken to in awhile.

      2. Utilize your company. Larger organizations normally have a host of development events, professional networking groups and other opportunities that fosters networking with fellow colleagues. Check out what your company currently has to offer and find time in your schedule to take advantage of it.

3. Network in person. Schedule a lunch break, coffee chat or catch-up with a colleague or friend close to your office. Dedicating 20 minutes once a week for these face-to-face interactions can provide you insight and potentially open doors to different opportunities.

4. Connect with alumni networks. Colleges and even high schools have networking opportunities just waiting for you to take advantage of. If you already graduated from school, see if your school’s career service center has an employee dedicated to alumni networking and development. If you are a current student, visit the office and tell them about the industry or companies you are interested in. They will be able to provide you with names of people to contact. If you aren’t already a member of your school’s alumni network on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook, join it now! Those groups have discussions, articles and loads of contacts ready for networking.

5. Join a virtual networking event. Aside from #1, this is the second easiest way to network. You again join an event from the comfort of your own computer or desk. No dresscode attire to worry about. Does your hair look good? Who cares! You can join virtual career fairs, conferences, women’s events, diversity events, industry specific conferences, etc. The options are endless.

Try one or try them all. The importance is to try. Happy networking!  

#careeradvice  #careeruniv #networking

Monday, October 13, 2014

Establish A Routine

Do you have a case of the Mondays this morning? Break out of the Monday morning blues by making some time in your schedule for your own career development. Creating your own career development routine is a great way to focus on yourself (which many of us have a tough time doing) and to prepare yourself for the future. Your future may mean a new role at your current company, a promotion, a new job at another company or a completely different career path. Whatever your future may be, start preparing for it now.

So here is my recommendation to you. Take 10 minutes a week, which we can all do, for this little routine.

      1.  Set your goals – expanded role, promotion, new job or permanent role. Once you focus on what you want, think through a plan on how to get there and start a list of all the important things you need to do to prepare for it. If it’s a promotion, start scheduling some time with mentors and your manager. If it’s a new job, start your list of updates needed: LinkedIn, Resume, Cover Letter, etc.

      2. Get out there – and by “there” I mean get on social media. There is a wealth of information to prepare you and a vast network to help you. The peanut butter and jelly for professional development? LinkedIn is your peanut butter and Twitter is your jelly. Use LinkedIn more than you already do. Actually do what everyone says you should do – add a profile pic and update your information. But don’t stop there. Scan the newsfeed on it. Its not just articles about editing resumes or how to interview well. You can find out articles on public speaking, building presentations, market data, weight loss, nutrition, work-life balance, everything under the sun. LinkedIn has INfluencers – well-accomplished and respected individuals that write articles for their followers. All these resources in just this one site provide such a wealth of professional development opportunities. Let’s not forget Twitter. Get on Twitter. Twitter is valuable in so many ways, but that’s for another post.

      3. Start a career tracker. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy - even just a simple excel spreadsheet to record your milestones, achievements and accomplishments.  Did you help your company save some money and come under budget? Record it – especially the dollar amount. Did you help generate revenue for your company in a new product or initiative? Record it – especially the dollar amount and percentage.  Did you work through a project and had a really challenging time with the team? Record it  - especially how you helped the team through the challenge. Spending a few minutes each week reflecting on your time at work and documenting your milestones will help you prepare for the future. If your company requires you to write a self-evaluation on your performance for the year, you already have a documented list of your accomplishments. If you want to start looking for a new role and need to update your resume, you already have the foundation for making those updates to your resume and preparing for interviews. And remember – the resume you want to prepare is one that highlights your achievement and accomplishments in addition to your job responsibilities.

4. Reach out to your network. Your network could be former colleagues or managers, high school or college friends, family, etc. Embrace the power of your personal network to help you professionally. I know I’m not the first career genius to write an article about the importance of scheduling “coffee chats” or lunches. But if you already don’t have a solid routine of networking and keeping in touch with people – stop reading articles about the importance of networking (with the exception of this one. . .just finish it at least) and start sending out some emails and scheduling some catch-ups. I spoke to someone from college the other day. We hadn’t talked in 12 years, but we were on the phone for almost an hour.  It was one of my favorite conversations of the week. We picked up right where we left off and discovered that we have an ability to work together in the future. It’s amazing what can happen from a ten-minute conversation.

So today is a new day and a new week. Think through your new career development routine and set some reminders in your calendar on a weekly basis for that small block of time. It only takes 10 minutes. 

#careeruniv  #getthejob  #careerplanning

Saturday, October 11, 2014


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