Unsolicited and Unqualified Financial Advice

We are not Financial Advisers.

We are not financial advisers.

But we have a few things to tell you anyway just in case you aren’t going to hear it from anyone else before it’s too late.

We will keep it short.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting a REAL paycheck, especially when it’s 4-digits. 

But are you confident in managing your money besides paying your rent/mortgage, car payment, groceries, utilities…? Do you have a budget that includes saving or investing? Do you know what your actual monthly expenses are; Your monthly discretionary income after your bills are all paid? How much are you saving? Over the long term, can you afford the choices you make? What if your car breaks down or your dog gets sick – do you have emergency funds set aside?

Flying home from a conference last week, I sat next to an impressive young man named James (Hi, James!) who grew up not far from my home. After high school, James was fortunate enough to be offered a sales job making a pretty significant commission and was doing quite well for himself! 

But James didn’t really have someone to advise him in making good financial decisions. Quite the contrary, his employer even hooked him up (as well as his other handsome young employees) with a potentially shady accountant, putting James at serious risk for a rocky financial future.

Fortunately, James is smart and open-minded and listened to a few words from an opinionated mom-like stranger, as follows:

The average millionaire
becomes a millionaire
(and stays a millionaire)
because he/she lives
below his/her means.

What does that mean, to “live below your means”?

Most simply, don’t spend more than you have. In fact, don’t even spend everything you have. Save as much as you can (without being a complete cheap ass. Don’t argue over the restaurant bill unless your friend is in the habit of scamming out.)   This can be a hard thing to do. Just because you have the money and can AFFORD it, doesn’t mean to have to spend it. 

Buy a used car, not an expensive new or leased car. You don’t need a “nice” car. Why do you need a nice car? Why does ANYONE need an expensive car? Do you need to show clients that you are successful? Or are you really just showing them that you are materialistic and are making too much money off them? The only car you might need is a decent, reliable one. 

Don’t buy something on a credit card that you can’t afford to pay cash for. NEVER carry a balance on your credit card. Don’t use one if you can’t pay it off IN FULL every month.

(This is not only the smart thing to do, but you are also building your credit rating, something Americans are overly-obsessed with.)

Choose your friends wisely.
(This is no joke!) 
Don’t hang around with people that you feel pressured to keep up with, especially if they have expensive habits.
Find friends that are as careful with their money as you are,
or better yet, MORE careful.

“Your Rich Friends Could be Making You Poor”: Business Insider https://www.businessinsider.com/rich-friends-could-be-making-you-poor-2014-8

Did you know that 70% of lottery winners file for bankruptcy within 3-5 years of winning?  Because they go hog wild!  They spend like crazy and they have a hard time saying no to demanding relatives and friends that crawl out of the woodwork asking for a handout.  Because they are not careful.

Contribute to your employer’s offered 401K. 
And, if they match, accept free money:
If your employer will match your 401K, contribute AT LEAST as much as they will match (e.g. 1%). If you can’t afford any more than that right now, fine, but take the free money. If you CAN afford it, contribute the MAXIMUM allowed! You’ll be glad you did!

You might think, “I don’t make enough money to afford to contribute to my 401K or to put anything in savings”.  Ah! Not true! Here are things to consider:

  • You CAN live without a few extra dollars a month.  People do it all the time. If the money never lands in your bank account, but goes straight into your retirement account, you’ll never miss it. 
  • Really sure you can’t live without that money right now?  The second you make a tiny bit more, immediately move the amount of your raise (or at least most of it. At least HALF of it, come on!) into a 401K account. Everyone knows the story about the tiny amount that you invest at age 25 will grow by leaps and bounds more than the amount you start investing at age 35.
  • NEVER EVER BORROW MONEY FROM YOUR OWN 401K.  Just don’t do it.  You’ll pay a penalty and you’ll never get yourself back up to speed.  Either don’t spend that money or think of some other creative (legal) way to get it, e.g. selling stuff on eBay or taking a temporary evening/weekend job. Even a small loan will hurt you less than “borrowing” from your 401k.

CRITICAL:  If you make commissions or some type of wage where taxes are not withheld, set 35% aside in a savings account from each paycheck. 
You WILL need this money to pay your taxes so you are not caught off guard in April next year!

  • Don’t cheat on your taxes, you idiot.  Have integrity.  Don’t file for bankruptcy.  If you make a mistake and owe someone something, pay them back as much as you can afford every paycheck/month until you have paid them back in full. 
  • Keep a budget and stay within it.  Consider dividing up your paycheck into three buckets, like this:  Spend (Bills + Food + Reasonable Entertainment), Save, Give (even if it’s just a tiny little bit).  When you get a raise, don’t put it in the “Spend” bucket – SAVE IT.
A simple philosophy that will change your life. Get it used for $1, or just study the wiki page.

No matter how much money you have, it requires DISCIPLINE. 
Start your discipline right now. 

Don’t tell yourself that you’ll be more financially responsible later! 

When is later?  “When” is RIGHT NOW.  Set yourself up for financial success.

The Importance of Planning

If you don’t already have one, it is time to buy a week-at-a-glance planner, some nice pens and some highlighters. Life is crazy. If juggle 100+ things in a week, how are you ever going to be proactive and do more than just what you NEED to do? How will you fit it all in?

If you don’t know whats going on in tomorrow, let alone, next week, how are you ever going to function effectively and with a sense of peace and a smile on your face?

This may seem really old school compared to the online calendars, to-do lists and meeting notifications you get on your phone. Maybe this even could be a tad redundant in many people’s eyes. You maybe right. However, I really believe in the power of writing things down to unleash an action and the ability to look at a whole week (or month) at once.

I love lists, I love crossing things off and getting s**t done! If you try a paper planner, you’ll see the benefit of looking at the bigger picture, (vs. online calendars) and the joy and sense of satisfaction and making and accomplishing your lists.

A planner and January goals in one take

I’ve (Karen) been a teacher for 20 years, so Sunday nights have always been a planning and logistics night. By having a planner with the week laid out, I can juggle work, a husband that travels, two children, two dogs, a household, my personal well-being and a social life.

To be able to plan, you will need the following:

  • 20 minutes of time, once a week (sunday night or Monday morning is best)
  • A “Week-at-a-Glance” planner
  • Pens and highlighters
  • Sticky Notes
Amazon is a planner’s best friend. Here are some suggestions of things you might like.

Step One: Open up your planner to today’s week. (You don’t have to start at the beginning of the year, but if it’s December, you might as well wait until January.) Add all of the blocks of time you are at work, school, vacation, sports, meetings or events you have planned and anything else you do on a regular basis. Pick a color for each priority in your life. Don’t forget to add blocks of time for “family fun” and ” Me” time!

Step Two: Now think about three to five action items that you need to get done and write them each on a separate sticky note and add them to your week at the side. It can be anything from “Go to Costco”, “Renew Driver’s License” or “Find a Yoga Class” or even, “Schedule lunch with Kim”. As you complete them, check them off. This will feel so good and reaffirm what else needs doing. If they don’t get done that week, move the sticky note to next week’s plan. No pressure, its just a good way to remember things you wanted to do and get them done.

Step Three: I always like to challenge myself on a weekly basis to do something nice for others. A simple challenge to thank people or give back in a small way is important to maintain a community and it makes you feel good. Make it a mission to pay for the Starbucks in the car behind you at the drive through. Complement a friend (or stranger’s) outfit or hair cut. Donate some old towels or blankets to the Humane Society.

You can find Random Acts of Kindness calendars on Google.

Step Four: You may want to just start with a week at first. But as soon as you get the hang of it, you will look farther into your month and maybe start planning some career, family or future goals. It does become quite addictive. An example of a graphic organizer I created in January is above. It was a great way to track my weight, workouts, spending and family goals that month. The key is consistency. Make it a priority to plan your week!

Final Thoughts:

  • Remember this should only take 20 -30 minutes of time a week. Do not labor over this or you will not maintain it.
  • Try and keep track of the color highlight you use. Add a legend or key until you learn which highlighter color is for what.
  • IMPORTANT: Learn to say no! When you see the scope of your week and it’s full – or needs to save room for YOU time, try using one of the following to say no!
    ~ “While my heart wants to say yes yes yes, the reality of my time makes this a no.
  • ~ “I am honored by your request but I’m in a season of refocusing my priorities and have committed not to add anything new right now.” ~ ” Thank you for thinking of me . Your project sounds wonderful. However, as much as I would love to be involved, I can’t give your project my full attention it deserves.”
    ~ Also, remember that “No.” is a complete sentence. You don’t have to make it flowery. A simple, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t.” is a good answer as well.
  • Don’t forget to schedule in some “Me” time, time to see your “folks”, exercise, go for a relaxing walk; anything that can help you de-stress, connect and find joy!
  • One tip from Kim is to do the things that you DON’T really want to do – the things that you want to put off – FIRST. (e.g. Ugh. I don’t want o make that phone call or submit my expense reports! DO IT! Just get them out the way.+) Aren’t you sick of seeing them on your to-do list? Cross them off! Talk about a sense of satisfaction!

I wish you all the best in your planning endeavors. Please comment below with any tips or tricks you use to manage this crazy life!

Lots of Love,

Karen xxxx

The Importance of Planning.

The Mystery of “Networking” Revealed

For some of you (not including the extreme extroverts who just LOVE meeting new people), the word “networking” makes you cringe.   The purpose of this blog is to not only remove the cringy-ness of networking but also to explain what it REALLY is and to convince you of how important it is and, most importantly, how easy and natural networking actually is to do.

Here are three questions we will address:

What is “networking”, really?

Why do I need a network?

How do I start networking and build my network?

Here we go.

What is “networking”? 

(And, of course we will talk about what it is NOT, for clarity.)

Networking is something that you do… and a network is something you build… over your whole adult life.  It is a living, breathing, expanding process of building a community of people that support each other.

Networking can be as simple as talking to your friends, teachers, colleagues, classmates, neighbors, group members (doctor, vet, pharmacist, etc.)… Your “network” is everyone you know:   ALSO, your friends’ friends and your family’s friends, your peers’ and colleagues’ network of people. 

And if you find people interesting and you are a curious person (note that I did not say extroverted), you’ll find that networking can be easy and enjoyable. At the very least, it should not be difficult or painful, but you DO have to put yourself in a position to build your network.

  • Networking is NOT asking people for a job
  • It is NOT passing around your resume. 
  • It is NOT one-sided or selfish.
  • Networking doesn’t have to be formal or organized. 
  • It is NOT a one-time “event” that you suffer through. 

Ideally the people in this network are people that you’ve actually interacted with at some point, and you like and respect each other.  A network of people works towards the symbiotic (great word, look it up) support of the people around them. That whole community thing.  “Networking” creates MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL (there, I gave away the definition of ‘symbiotic’) RELATIONSHIPS.

Networking is about building mutually-beneficial relationships.

There are also many, more “formal” networking groups, industry professional or student clubs and organizations that exist for the purpose of educating and connecting people in an industry or business (or social) community. These can be fun and helpful. These groups are typically organized, run by a leadership committee, meet regularly and forge long-term relationships among people who are truly interested in their industry, staying up with trends, and inspire, connect and motivate each other towards success, both personally and professionally.

WHY do I need a network?

You are FAR more likely to find a job – throughout your career—by networking than by applying for posted jobs online. 

You should not underestimate this statement. 

Statistically, “70 percent of people ended up in their current position thanks to networking. Others say it’s more like 80 percent or even 85 percent.”

(source:  https://www.payscale.com/career-news/2017/04/many-jobs-found-networking.

The nature of the job market, according to Right Management, is that about 70% of positions are not posted online, but rather are pending, hidden/unpublished, created/opened for the right person.  Only 30% of jobs are actually posted online.

Personally, I’ve held about eight jobs in my career (and interviewed for another 25) and most I heard about through “the grapevine” (my network) or someone specifically referred me (or a recruiter called me).  I rarely, if ever, interviewed for any job that I applied for online.

More importantly, since leaving my job and starting my freelancing business earlier this year, I’ve received ALL of my work through friends’ and former colleagues’ referrals of me to others. My wonderful network is coming through for me in ways I never imagined.

So, the point is, you are WAY better off investing your time in PEOPLE: meeting, listening and talking to them (and building your LinkedIn network) than you are scrolling through online job sites.

“But, Kim and Karen!’ you say. “I’m in high school.  Why do I need a network?” Well, who will recommend you for a summer job or college internship?  Who will say to a potential employer, “Oh, hey, my neighbor/son’s friend/babysitter/kid’s baseball coach is looking for a job like that!” Or, “Hey, if you’re looking for work, I know someone…” Who will write a letter of recommendation for trade school, college or graduate school? 

It’s never too early to start building your network. Okay, so…

How do you build a network?

Newsflash:  The good news is that you probably already have one even if you don’t know it.  It consists of everyone you know.  Your phone contacts, your email contacts, your classmates, your teachers/professors, your employers… What you NEED to do is try to capture that network somewhere (again, I suggest LinkedIn). Connect with all these people.

If you’re still in high school, your network is your friends, your friends’ parents, your teachers, coaches, church community, sports community, people you might have worked with or served on clubs and committees with. Of course, your bosses, which might be your neighbors, or people you babysat for or did yard work for.

Think of it as creating a small, simple relationship with everyone you meet. 

It goes like this:

“Hi, how are you? Nice to meet you. So, tell me about yourself?  How interesting. Could you tell me more about that?  How did you get into that?  Did you study that in school? Tell me about your career path.  I’m interested in _____.   Do you know anyone who does that? Really? Where does she work? Would you mind introducing me? I would really like to talk to them about how they got into that.”

Okay, so I’m over-simplifying.  But here are your objectives for networking: 

  • LEARNING about jobs, industries, companies. ANY of them.
  • Learning about people and experiences and opinions.  BEING INTERESTED.
  • Asking questions. Asking for advice.  Asking for introductions.  Asking for informational interviews. 
  • Helping others do the same. 

Here are some critical networking statements: 

  • “How did you get your job in ____?  Could you tell me a little about your career path?”
  • “What do you like most about your job? What is most challenging?”
  •  “Do you have any advice for me about building a career in ____?” 
  • “Would you have some time to talk to me further about your career/job? Would it be appropriate for me to job shadow you or someone at your company? Would it be possible for me to come in for an informational interview?”
  • “Do you mind if I connect with you on LinkedIn?”
  • MOST IMPORTANT:  “THANK YOU so much for your time.  I really appreciate you talking to me about this!”
  • SECOND MOST IMPORTANT:  “Is there anyone else that you would suggest I talk to?” “May I use your name? Would you mind introducing me to that person?”

Remember that networking is a two-way street.  You can always offer to help someone else if the situation arises. (examples:  Write businesses positive reviews on Yelp! and Google. Endorse people and write them recommendations on LinkedIn.  Refer employees.  Send an interesting article. Offer THEIR kid an informational interview or to job shadow YOU once you have a job.)

There you have it.  Networking is a life-long process and it is very valuable to invest in.

Think of networking like professional (and sometimes personal) karma.
If it’s sincere, you get back what you put out into the universe.

Karma or not, rather than intimidating and painful, networking should be informative and enjoyable. And trust us when we say it will pay off for you over the long run… and the very long run.

The Mystery of Networking.

Write. It. Down.

Some of you might already do this as second nature, but if you don’t, a critical habit for your success is to write things down.  And we mean actually writing with good old-fashioned pen, not typing on a phone or computer. “WHAT?!” you might be thinking. No, seriously.

Trust us on this one. Just try it. Get yourself a pen (or pencil or cute little rainbow set of fine-tipped markers, or whatever brings you joy) and a simple notebook. For a few weeks, try taking simple notes (a rough outline, key points) in your lectures or meetings.

Look! PEN! And PAPER! SO Old School.

Try making a lists of things you want to accomplish each day. When you finish them, check them off. (Very satisfying) If you dont accomplish them, move them to the next day’s list.

Why?

Taking notes helps you LEARN and REMEMBER MORE. Making lists, setting goals and having plans helps you PRIORITIZE, FOCUS and ACCOMPLISH MORE.  We are not making this up. It’s scientifically proven:

“It seems that writing anything down makes us remember it better. On the other hand, not writing things down is just asking to forget.
It’s a kind of mental Catch-22: the only way not to have to write things down is to write them down so you remember them well enough not to have written them down.

– Dustin Wax, Lifehack

source: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/writing-and-remembering-why-we-remember-what-we-write.html

Don’t be Shy.

Just because no one around you in class or a meeting isn’t taking notes doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. You’ll just be that much farther ahead of them. I amazed by the number of young people who come into my office for a conversation, to a meeting or presentation without a notebook. (In fact, just today I sat in on a high school field trip presentation where the teacher had to actually TELL the students to get out pens and paper to write down detailed information, like the cost per square foot of retail space.)

I’ve also noticed that a lot of people would rather take a laptop to class or a meeting and type their notes up.  Some really lazy people just take a photo of the teacher’s assignment or notes on the dry erase board after class.  This may be efficient and make for neater notes, but for real, it doesn’t have the same effect:

‘Overall, it seems those who type their notes may potentially be at risk for “mindless processing.” The old fashioned note taking method of pen and paper boosts memory and the ability to understand concepts and facts.’

(Source: https://www.medicaldaily.com/why-using-pen-and-paper-not-laptops-boosts-memory-writing-notes-helps-recall-concepts-ability-268770 )

Writing Notes is a Sign of Interest and Respect.

An additional bonus to writing things down is that the person talking (teacher, colleague) sees that you are conscientious, organized and responsible, and that you think what they are saying is important.

They are also not wondering if you are actually checking your email or playing computer games. Do not underestimate the importance of this in your education and career. I have spent many hours preparing for a meeting only to have both colleagues and clients typing away on their computers while I’m presenting.

CNN Business “Should Laptops and Phones Be Banned from Meetings?”https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/03/success/meeting-laptops-phones-ban/index.html

Being on a screen during a class, meeting or presentation is nothing short of RUDE. I believe strongly in a NO SCREENS RULE: If you are so busy and so important that you can’t leave your screen for one hour, then don’t come to my meeting. If you NEED to be on your phone during a meeting, the polite thing to do is to tell the presenter before the meeting that you are not trying to be rude, you are expecting a very important call/email. Then sit in the back and try to pay as much attention as you possibly can.

Last point: Practice Making Lists

In addition to note taking, if you get in the habit of writing down what you want to accomplish every day (in addition to any appointments on your calendar), you are more likely to prioritize the important things you need to do and not get distracted by less important things.

Keeping lists is a wonderful way to stay organized and productive. We will talk more about this in our blog about keeping a PLANNER and setting GOALS.

Now go grab a pen and notebook.

Write it down!

Personal vs Professional Life – Online

I know, I know, you’ve heard this before: Being on social media means that your personal life is no longer private. But it’s true.

And, while you should make the effort to assure that only your friends can see what you post, that’s easier said than done. Believe me when I say that employers definitely DO check out candidates on the internet.

You should google yourself – or have someone who is not in your social network google you, or get on the social media you use, to see what an employer can see.  

That’s the first step.  The ongoing challenge is to begin to practice censoring yourself a bit.  There are endless stories on the web about how one quick, careless decision (e.g. post, tweet) can lose an opportunity or even your current job. (Search that: “lost their jobs from social media”. Ouch.)

Especially when you are starting out your career and building your reputation, it’s just better to be overly cautious.  This goes double for people in certain careers, which may be more strict or sensitive, like teaching or law enforcement.  Remember that when you are employed (or a student), you are representing that company (or school), even in your personal life.  Kind of like how your actions reflect on your family/parents.    

Also, the smaller or close-knit the town you live in, or the industry you work in, the faster your reputation will spread and the harder it will be to shake. (Future blog post: “Never Burn a Bridge”.)

General rules to abide by:

  • NO EMPLOYER TALK: Never say anything negative about your employer on social media.  There’s a story about a woman who was fired for posting on Facebook saying her job is ‘boring’. Really. To be on the safe side, if you want to post about your job, make sure it’s positive (and nothing confidential, like the actress on Glee who posted info about the season finale and got blacklisted in Hollywood).
  • DON’T POST DURING WORK: If your company has strict rules about social media use, be careful WHEN you post:  A woman was fired for tweeting during a city council meeting when, as a clerk, she was supposed to be typing the minutes of the meeting.
  • NO POLITICS: I know it’s tempting, but avoid expressing your political comments on social media.  First, no one really cares about your political opinions, and second, you only stand to alienate a potential employer.
  • THINK TWICE before you joke about something that could be misconstrued as sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise insensitive.  This could be as simple as posting a picture of yourself in an inappropriate Halloween costume. 
  • G or PG RATED: Be careful about photos of yourself doing something risqué – anything suggestive, naked, illegal, or using controlled substances, even using alcohol or nicotine, could work against you.
  • ENLIST A GUARDIAN ANGEL: Consider assigning a good friend to keep an eye on your social media and call you out when you post something that might be risky, for whatever reason. My friend Anne does this for me pretty regularly and messages me promptly. “Sure you should post that thing about your son’s business?” I know she’s saved my ass a few times. (Thanks, BFF.)
  • DOUBLE CHECK BEFORE POST/SEND: One last thing: If you are going to post/text/email anything that might be truly offensive (or illegal) to someone privately, you better double or triple check that you are REALLY doing that (and make sure you trust that person not to share). I think we’ve ALL at some point accidentally sent something to the wrong person and it didn’t go well. [Story: In fact, just last night I texted something to my boss “Jane” that I meant to text to friend “Jane”. That could’ve been very bad. I immediately changed the former’s contact info in my phone to “Boss Jane”.]

We are not trying to make you paranoid, deter you from social media (hahahaha!) or over-edit yourself. We are just trying to illustrate that you CAN damage your opportunities and your career if you are careless, don’t THINK carefully about what you put out there on the internet, of even if you just hit “send/post” too quickly. This is a critical time in your life when you are building your own personal brand and you want to be thoughtful about how you want to be portrayed and how you might be portraying yourself unwittingly. That’s all. Think about it. Be aware.

Here’s another point on this topic: Past experience and how it influences your future career (This is also applicable to Blog Post #2: “Resume Basics – Content“.) 

When you list your experience on your resume, think about the way you list it that is most helpful and also consider that maybe it is NOT helpful. It doesn’t all have to be relevant, of course.  Sometimes your experience just shows that you took initiative, responsible and learned a few things. 

As an example, I have seen “modeling” on several resumes and LinkedIn profiles.  If you have a lot of this experience, recently, I would list it under experience but be careful how you do it. Modeling teaches a lot of life skills, like how to work in a highly competitive, stressful environment; time management and public relations skills.  

On the other hand, it might be completely irrelevant to the job you are applying for and could work against you or attract the wrong kind of employer. [Story: I worked for a scumbag boss who would bring anyone in for an “informational interview” who had “modeling” listed on her resume.] So, unless this is a career you want to pursue, I would consider carefully.  Remember that you are marketing your brain and skills, not your body.  (Unless you ARE marketing your body or don’t care if someone only wants to talk to you because of it.)

Also, consider the reputation of the company you might have worked for, e.g. “Waitress at Hooters.”  Think about how those things on your resume might influence people looking at your resume in both a positive and negative way and think about how those things might help or hurt you. (In this case, maybe just list that you were a server or hostess at a national American sports bar chain?)

One last thought: If you have two very different work/career options going, consider having two distinct resumes.   If you want a side job in modeling, for example, create a modeling resume (which is an entirely different format).  If you want an internship in accounting because you are studying finance, do a finance resume and leave the modeling off. 

Keep in mind whenever you put something out into the world, that you are building your personal brand, whether you are trying to or not.  (More on Building Your Personal Brand in a future post.)

Personal vs Professional Life – Online – 1 of 2
Personal vs Professional Life – Online – 1 of 2

To Wear or NOT to Wear

That is the question. Trust me when I say that the phrase “dress for success” is a real thing. No, really! You want to look like someone who takes their job and their career seriously.

There are two parts to this post: What to wear to an interview and what NOT to wear to work once you have a job.  Here are some considerations for interview wardrobe selection:

  • Company Culture:  Our first recommendation is to think a little bit about the company and the job that you are interviewing for.  So, are you applying for a creative-type job where you can be a little more expressive of your personality? Or are you going to a more conservative corporate business role like accounting, legal, consultancy, administrative where the important thing is to NOT stand out? Are you applying for something that is more hands on, manufacturing, labor intensive where you’d want to look nice, neat but also practical?  Keep these things in mind as you choose your work wardrobe.
  • Err on the side of caution:  As a rule, for an interview, it’s always better to be too dressed up vs. not dressed up enough.  It’s ALWAYS respectful to dress up. First impressions matter.  You won’t “lose points” for over-dressing but you will for under-dressing.  
  • “Sexy” vs. “Put Together”:  There are two types of “dressed up” for women. There’s fancy, party, night-on-the-town dressed up, which usually leans a little more towards “sexy” and “alluring” (read: tight and lots of skin), e.g. not work-appropriate. Then there is “dressed up” to look stylish, neat, classy, professional and my favorite term:  “Put together.” Always go for this in a work environment.
  • Men have it easier. For men, “dressed up” is usually just “dressed up”.  Nice slacks and shoes, a button-down shirt (side-bar: Nicely ironed or, if you don’t iron, “wrinkle free”, though that is sometimes false advertising and you really should have an iron/learn to use it) and a nice/interesting/colorful tie: This is about as dressy as most companies get these days.  I can’t say a suit coat is required unless you are really going for a big interview at a large, conservative corporation, but again, better to over than under-dress.  (Disclaimer:  This advice is based on living in the more conservative Midwest.)
No, please.
  • So, Men: Sorry, we don’t have a lot of clothing advice for you. Get a few nice pairs of slacks and button-downs that coordinate. Once you see what your colleagues are wearing, add to your wardrobe from there. Sweaters. Golf shirts. Invest in two pair of nice leather shoes… Perhaps we should find a guest writer/interview to speak about men’s wardrobe? (If so, please comment. For starts, I posted a Pinterest page below.)
  • One “No” for men: No cologne/aftershave/Axe/strong smells, just deodorant or antiperspirant.
  • Also, make sure your facial hair, if you have it, is neatly trimmed. If not, of course, be cleanly shaven; trendy stubble could be misinterpreted..

So, getting on with a work wardrobe for the women.  A work wardrobe can be wildly varied and should suit your personality and work culture, role and environment, so it’s easier to give you general rules for what NOT to wear.  (And remember, just because you see a few people at the office wearing things on our “NO” list, doesn’t mean that it’s okay. It just means these people are in need of some unfiltered advice.)

  •  NO Leggings.  I know that athleisure is really in right now.  But it was not ever meant to be worn in a professional environment. Because NO ONE should have to see your ass, and I don’t care how tiny and cute it is. As a rule, unless you are exercising, if there are no pockets on the seat of your pants, you should cover it up. On a similar note, your pants shouldn’t be too tight in the back OR the front:  My boss once had to have a “cameltoe” conversation with an employee. Can you imagine how THAT went? I don’t know who was more mortified.
  • NO Cleavage. Same general story with your top front side.  I should not be able to see serious cleavage, even when you lean forward. (And make sure are wearing a t-shirt bra and/or a tank top under that thin/white blouse. No one wants to see your nipples either. AWKWARD.)   
No one should be distracted by this. We are WORKING. Not flirting. That’s for after work.
Congrats. You have flat abs.
No one wants to see them.
Dress like an adult.
  • Midriff: I know cropped shirts are also in.  NO BELLIES, no matter how flat.  That is how belly-dancers dress, not professionals.
  • NO COCKTAIL DRESSES.  No sheath, “bodycon” or otherwise body-hugging dresses of any length, especially short. [Story: One evening after work, I ran into a young colleague friend on her way out of the building. She was in a little skin tight, short, fancy dress and heels and I (assuming she had just changed in the bathroom) said, “You look nice, Sam! Are you going out tonight?” and she said, “No, I had a client meeting today.”  (A conservative client, no less.) Facepalm.] In sum: If you would wear it on a date or out dancing, don’t wear it to work.
  • Dress Codes and the Fingertip Rule:  Most companies have dress codes. Because they have to; if they don’t, it’s a free for all! Usually there is a “fingertip rule” for skirts and dresses. (Shorts and rompers are also not work-appropriate, though lately dressy LONGER bermuda shorts are in fashion, which can be classy/preppy.) Work clothes should come a couple inches above the knee, NOT a couple inches below your crotch.  [Story: This summer, I walked up the open lobby stairs behind a woman in a short summer dress and was shocked to accidentally see her underwear.  Aaaaiiiieeee! This is beside the point but, really, how does she sit down at her desk? Is she flashing everyone? And more practically, isn’t she cold?] 
  • Let’s Review: No ass/front bottom, no belly, no boobs/nipples, no underwear flashing, no upper thigh. It’s surprisingly easy to avoid these things if you make the effort to stock your wardrobe like the professional adult that you aspire to be.
  • A last hint:  Before you walk out the door in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror. Check all your private parts, and after assuring all those are covered, ask yourself: “Would I wear this to the beach?” “Would I wear this to a nightclub, bar, dancing or on a hot date” or even, “…Out shopping or to the movies with my friends?”  If yes to any, then, NO – better reconsider. 
  • On the other hand, does your work outfit make you feel smart, professional, organized, mature, confident, competent and/or ready to be the best version of your professional self?  If yes, then YES!

At this point, if you’re asking, “Well, then, Kim and Karen, what DO I wear?” Excellent question. We are not fashion experts, we are career consultants, so please allow us to direct you to Kim’s Pinterest board for some starter ideas, or search for yourself! Keep in mind the personal brand you are trying to build for yourself and, forgive me, but “Dress for Success.”

https://www.pinterest.com/kimmers2101/business-casual-dress/


To Wear or NOT to Wear