Monday, November 26, 2012

How to wear lace in the office

While cold weather never really hits Miami, the winter season has me longing for texture after seasons of breezy floaty stuff. Cozy knits can be too warm (except for in an air-conditioned building), but lace is a great alternative to add another dimension.

I'm a little torn on lace in the office, though. While it is a classic fabric that has been around for centuries, it also often evokes sexy lingerie, which really shouldn't be visible in an office environment (whether you wear it for your own knowledge is up to you). I'm a bit of a prude —I still haven't worn anything more open than peep-toes in my workplace so maybe it's just me—but I'm determined to branch out, starting with this top I got a few weeks ago.

Super-conservative offices (like law firms or banks) may not be the right place for lace at all, but if your workplace is a little more lenient, here are some tips on keeping lace ladylike for the office:
  • Cover up underneath (more than just a cami). Avoid flesh-tones underneath, too, lest folks mistake it for actual flesh. As with regular clothes, bra straps and bras should not be visible. 
  • Watch your colors. The lace and underlying layers should be complementary. I personally love the subtle look of tone-on-tone lace (with the under-layer in the same color).
  • Keep the silhouette conservative. This goes for both cut and fit. A lace skirt looks much more ladylike at knee-length than mini, and with a little give instead of skin tight. Anything that could be mistaken as a bustier or lingerie should be avoided.
  • Take care of snags. If you're a klutz like me, minor snags are bound to happen on any fabric other than sturdy cotton. Keep your lace looking neat by using a straight pin or safety pin to push the snagged threads back through the fabric so they're not visible on the surface.  
  • A little goes a long way. If you're not quite comfortable with statement lace just yet, there are plenty of intermediate options for you. Try it out a little at a time.

What do you think about lace? How do you make it office appropriate? 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It's in the (work) bag

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I began searching for a laptop bag. In a "doh" type realization on the eve of starting my new job last month, I pulled out this trusty standby from a box in my closet. The perfect work bag was something I already owned.

This bag and I go way back. I bought it in college when I was interviewing for internships. I used it almost daily back then, and lugged it all over NYC with me in grad school, too. It has a large main compartment (big enough for any folders/documents/books), four outside pockets, two inside pockets and a zippered slot. Not too shabby for a $25 Marshall's find.

What to look for in a work bag:
  • Space. It should be big enough to hold everything you need, but not so big you look like you're going on an overnight trip. If you're throwing in a laptop, folders or notepads, look for a bag with dimensions around 9" x 13" x 3". Other things to consider: pockets, inside or outside (personally, I like outside pockets).
  • Color. Aside from Day-Glo brights and too-cute prints, I'd say color is fair game. Let your personality show. Remember, though, that you'll be carrying this bag a lot, so it should be something you wouldn't mind your CEO or clients seeing.
  • Fabric. Sturdiness is key, but you can also find some great bags in luxury finishes, too, if that's your thing. This one is a thick canvas with PVC trim.
  • Weight. Technology is getting smaller and lighter, so help ease the burden on your shoulders by keeping your bag light, too. 
  • Shoulder strap. It just makes life easier and frees up your hands.
What does this bag hold on a daily basis?
  • Document envelope. It's big enough to fit my supersleek work laptop and some papers, too. I ended up sewing a laptop sleeve for my personal laptop, so I can toss that in if I need it.
  • Umbrella. This is Miami, after all.
  • Wallet
  • Sunglasses
  • Make-up bag
  • Pens

What do you look for in a work bag?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On job longevity, job hopping and being the change

Back in July, when we were in California, we had a brief family reunion with cousins from all over the U.S. We've always been very spread out so reunions are few and far between.

A conversation with my younger cousin really got into my head. She just started a new job in a new field, and I asked her what her career plans were. She said she wanted to stick it out "for a while" and see, but she was enjoying it so far. I asked her what "for a while" meant—three years? Five? The answer: a year, maybe two.

Millennials are known for job hopping, expecting to stay in each job for less than three years. It's a generalization I cringe at and that should be taken with a grain of salt. As a Millennial, I know many others in my generation that have succeeded in and greatly enjoyed being part of a company for much longer than that. I was at my last job for nearly four years and contracted with them for a year after; I could easily have imagined myself staying for much longer if we hadn't moved. Yes, the days of staying with one company your whole career are gone, but must we jump to the other extreme?

Why do people move from job to job so much? Usually it's one of three reasons: the workplace is toxic/stagnant/unfulfilling, a better opportunity arises elsewhere or life takes them to a different place (philosophically or geographically).  The second and third are fine reasons to leave a job, but the first is the one I'm curious about.

In a bad job situation or workplace, you're probably not the only employee tempted to leave. But you have a choice: do you jump ship or do you lead toward change? Sure, it seems intimidating as young professionals to try and turn a moving ship, but it can also be an opportunity to make an impact and learn valuable professional skills.

When is it worth it to stick it out?
  • When you have influence. You may not be in a managerial or executive position, but is your opinion sought after and heard? This is an opportunity to make your mark.
  • When executives are headed in the right direction. Sometimes, what goes wrong is somewhere in the middle. Is there someone trying to lead that you could team up with? If you can stick out the transition with professionalism, there may be a better spot for you when things are on the up and up.
  • When you're actively searching for your next job. Having no income sucks, and in these economic times, it's hard to anticipate how long you may have to go without one if you quit your job without another one lined up. If you're applying and interviewing, a new job could be on the horizon. A little patience can stave off a lot of financial insecurity.
  • When you have a good mentor at work. If you're getting good guidance, you're in a better position than many. While I don't think this is the best reason to stay on its own, it could be a factor in your decision. Mentors can extend beyond job relationships, however, so a new job doesn't mean a severed mentorship.
How long do you stick it out? That's up to you. And there are definitely instances where running for the hills is the best option. (In fact, job hopping is supposedly seen as a plus in start-up culture.) A workplace full of folks trying to bring you down or management mired in legal troubles are big red flags that sticking around is a bad idea.

Have you ever stuck around in a job you weren't sure about? What factors did you consider when quitting a previous job?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Navigating a new dress code

I touched on some new job jitters, but I'm starting to get settled a few weeks into the gig. Though I'm in roughly the same industry as I was back in California, I have noticed some notable changes in the dress. The differences are due in part to company culture/environment and in part due to the different sartorial sensibilities of Miamians (vs. Sacramentans).

My observations so far:

Dresses – A popular choice around the office and a good go-to option. Hemlines are also a little more relaxed here.

Walking-friendly shoes – It's a big campus, and I learned quickly to wear comfortable shoes. Those blisters from week one are still fading.

Color – A Miami thing, perhaps? There was a lot more black and gray in Sacramento.

Suits – A rarity in our office, even for VPs. I wore one for the interview and again last week (for a photoshoot), and totally looked out of place.

Jeans – We have casual Fridays, but folks rarely wear jeans. I need to get some non-jean casual pants (do these black skinnies work?).

I've spent most of this first month erring on the conservative side, and it still remains to be seen if and how my old work style will change. Some of it is just personal preference. My wont for a crisp button-up isn't echoed much in my office, but reflects my personal style, so that's something I'll likely keep. 

How much do you change your work style from one office environment to another? What regional/industry differences have you noticed?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why I liked being a freelancer

While freelancing wasn't all rainbows and butterflies, but it wasn't all bad, either. There were actually quite a few good things that came out of freelancing.

Finding community and building a network
Prior to moving to Miami, I did not know a single soul here. I had heard about a cousin on K's side of the family, but that was it. So I got to work. I began volunteering at Dress for Success Miami. K and I got to know the long-lost cousins and got plugged into a local church. Now, a year later, I can say that I have some very dear friends here in Miami—people I can text for a quick dinner or shopping trip. Friends (yay). I also got to make connections that weren't only personally fulfilling, but also professionally beneficial. Not only was I finding people who could toss some opportunities my way, but I was also building up my ability to be a resource for others.

Trying new things
There were a lot of firsts during my year as a freelancer, though not all work related. Sure, there was my first BNI meeting (which was great, but I already knew I wasn't staying freelance and it is pricy). My first business proposal. My first homemade gnocchi. My first diaper change. My first speed-friending session and first speed-friending friend. My first nonprofit board experience. My first book proposal (still in progress). And my second in-person glance at a Kardashian.

Refocusing my career
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, freelancing gave me a much better picture of what I want to be doing in life. I learned (a bit late in the game) that I hate grantwriting. It makes me tear my hair out. And just because I'm good at it and it pays well doesn't mean it's what I should be doing. My freelancing experience also reminded me of how much I loved working for a nonprofit that aims to serve others and bring about greater good. While much of my freelance work was still with nonprofits, it also required a lot of time spent concentrating on myself and my business, which to me was a distraction.

Free time
Let's face it. The best part about freelancing was the free time I had when I (1) wasn't drumming up business, which I hated doing, and (2) wasn't working, which I didn't do much of because I wasn't doing (1). This was free time to make our place a little more homey, try out some new projects, hang out with new friends and really just hang out. I was a stay-at-home mom with no kids (and a husband who does his own laundry and ironing—score). After several whirlwind years of full-time work, freelancing on the side, blogging, serving in church, being a wife, flying to see family and friends frequently and other commitments, I was beat. So tired. The past year was pretty refreshing, but I'm ready to get back in the game.

Monday, August 20, 2012

On seasonal dressing (or not)

[My seasons are all mixed up. February | August]

Seasonal dressing  usually comes more out of necessity than of fashionability. But some things are purely aesthetic, and personal tastes and temperatures can vastly affect what is wearable at certain times of the year. Add to that useless fashion "rules" based on time or month, and really, who can keep it all straight.

Some common conventions or rules based on season or time, many of which are outdated now. These are some I've heard of/observed, not conventions that I follow or advocate.
  • No white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
  • No sequins in day time.
  • Espadrilles for summer only.
  • Boots are for fall and winter only.
  • Lace is for evening (or summer weekends).
  • Florals are for spring and summer.
  • Wooly fabrics and tweeds are for fall and winter only.
With temperature control nearly everywhere (and not in a bad way—watching baseball in an air-conditioned dome is awesome), seasonal dressing doesn't mean the same thing it used to. My arguments against seasonal dressing:

Changing times
Lace and sequins are everywhere nowadays, from pencil skirts to otherwise demure flats and pumps. Though it may be temporary, the rules governing those items just aren't the same right now. It's just the nature of the beast.

Cultural norms
In Miami, white is acceptable year-round (though it might be because our winters are still warmer than summers in San Francisco). As are open-toed shoes and slightly shorter skirts. Many style conventions evolve or become moot due to a specific culture or climate in an area.

Indoor climate
Sure, it may be extreme outside, but indoor temperatures rarely vary from season to season. For those of us that spend the majority of our time in temperature controlled buildings, there is much less outdoor time to account for.

Personal preference
Everyone takes to climate differently. Some are comfortable in t-shirts at 60 degrees, others not until the temp hits 85. Some people can't bear to have their toes constricted in the summer, while others wear sneakers or boots year-round.

Perhaps I'm a little sensitive about this because I am always cold. Even in the summer (especially when there's a/c). Even in Miami. I spend as many summer days in pants and sweaters as I do in shorts and a tee and am just as likely to wear boots as flip flops with my shorts. I change out of my work clothes in the evening into sweat pants and a sweat shirt (yes, in the summer). Does that make me stand out? Sure. But at least I'm comfortable, and that's more important to me.

What does seasonal dressing mean and look like to you?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Denim, art and other questions about starting a new job

A new job is a welcome escape from the uncertainties of the job market, but securing a job opens up another realm of uncertainties, big and small. A sampling from my mind this past week:
  • Which piece of art do you bring to decorate your space? 
  • Are jeans allowed on Casual Friday? Is there Casual Friday?
  • How long do you wait to update your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles?
  • Bring lunch or buy lunch? What's the overarching office culture?
  • Where is the closest Starbucks?
  • Will folks enjoy or bemoan my sense of humor?  
  • Headphones or ambient music? Earbuds or over-ear?
And most importantly...
  • When is it safe to bring out the brass knuckle mug?
[photo credit: former coworker B]

What questions burn when you start a new job? And really...what about the mug?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why I went back to the office

As you may have seen on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, I started a full-time job last week. I haven't really given an update on my freelance adventure since April, but soon after that update—well, to be honest, even before that post—it was evident that I wasn't happy being a freelancer. I was happy with the flexible schedule and with the ability to choose my own projects, but I didn't feel like I was furthering my career goals. I'd always been drawn to the office environment, imagining myself in a bustling workplace, getting stuff done. In sixth grade, I dressed up as a businesswoman for Halloween (mom's suit, dad's briefcase).

Even after I'd made my decision, I wanted to see the one-year of freelancing through. The plan was to begin looking for a job when the year was up in August, but I saw a very enticing job posting in May, and I knew I'd regret it forever if I didn't apply. So I went for it. I didn't get the job I applied for, but we started a really interesting conversation that led to a new position, which I started last week.

There were a lot of factors that influenced my decision to go back to 9-to-5 work, but here are a few of the big ones.

Coworkers with common goals
Sure, I've bemoaned all types of annoying coworkers before, but I missed my downers and oddballs. Especially in my communications work, my piece of the project was usually just that—a piece. It was passed to me with clear directions (though sometimes open-ended), and it was handed back when complete, never to be seen by me again. I was part of the work, but not part of the team. And for me, that made it a little less fun. I yearned for true collaboration, for differing opinions, for seeing things through from conception through the end.

After-work hours
One of my favorite things about graduating from school and hitting the working world was getting off of work and having the rest of the evening to myself. No homework. No required reading. Being a freelancer put a damper on my me-time, or at least having regular hours. Though I'm on the East Coast, my "work hours" were still more aligned to West Coast time just because that's where my clients were. This did give me some before-work time to myself, but also meant I was sometimes doing phone meetings after dinner.

Stability and once-a-year taxes
Though I've cried and moaned every April as I've tackled taxes, I never knew how easy I had it as a regular employee. If your tax prep involves waiting for your W-2s and other statements to come each January, consider yourself lucky. A regular paycheck doesn't hurt, either, especially as we save for a house and I continue driving my 11-year-old car into the ground (I'd like to be able to pay cash when it comes time to replace it, and that kind of savings takes pre-planning).

I have plenty more to share about my decision and all the other considerations that led up to it, but I'll spare you today and spread it out over the next few weeks. As with before, I won't be discussing the details of my day job here. On the plus side, you'll be getting more outfit updates on the Facebook page (if you're into that kind of thing).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Loves | Links


I bought this Divoga faux leather envelope for a job interview this summer and now use it daily at work. It holds more than a padfolio and looks like a chic clutch. It's not online, but I found it at OfficeMax for less than $20. (Check out Runway DIY's fun twist on the same piece here.)

Green Day is back with a trifecta: Uno, Dos and Trey. Their single "Oh Love" is a current favorite (stream it on their site and try not to love it), and I can't wait until September 25 for Uno. Fun fact: American Idiot came out on my 21st birthday and my party was "green day" themed...I wore green, we played football at the park, and topped off the night with appletinis (well, part of an appletini for me).


Office politics are a landmine, but Forbes offers some tips on how to navigate them successfully

Small talk can be painful. Here are five questions from Fast Company that will get you more than a one-word answer and help break the ice. (Note: The questions are in the sidebar below the main photo, not in the main article text. I almost missed them.)

Kyle Wiens makes a great case for good grammar being a job requirement over on Lifehacker. I'm not sure about his zero tolerance rule, but it is important.

Classy Career Girl's Anna shares her job search formula and how she ended up sending 25 applications and getting 5 interviews and 1 job offer.

I love Selena Soo's positive take on turning 30. I've always imagined 30 would be my favorite birthday (and I'm starting to plan more than a year in advance to make sure it is), and that it would be the start of a great period of life. [via Forbes]

The Grindstone offers some easy to apply tips for dressing for work if you're busty.

What are you loving and linking to these days?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

One year ago today...

One year ago today, this is what I set my foot into for the first time: our apartment in Miami. We had just come off a 17-day road trip across the country and were finally setting eyes on the place we leased sight unseen, after hunting down banks and FedEx offices in Reno, Nevada. It would be 29 days before any of our furniture arrived, and in that first month without most of our belongings we celebrated our four-year anniversary, K started his new job, and I settled into my one-year freelance experiment.

In our first year we finally bought some real furniture (couches and a dresser to replace hand-me-down futons and rolling plastic drawers), found a group of insta-friends (magnetic happy feelings and all), and scouted out all the best cheap places to park on Miami Beach. Though K has yet to adjust to Miami summers, I am happy as a clam in this climate; in fact, I'm convinced I was made to live in Miami, and am happy to be rid of winter.

Miami feels comfortable. California is comfortable, too, but Miami is no longer a wild card. For the first time in my adult life, a move has not come with an expiration date (graduation). For all I know, this is where we'll grow old and raise children, and though that realization is totally foreign to me, it's not an unpleasant thought.

So here's to Miami, and any place you've adopted as your home. I'm ready to shed my newbie status and embrace being a local.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer Work Staples: The A-line Skirt

Long time no blog, eh? Back today to continue the Summer Staples series with the A-line skirt.

Credited to the one-and-only Christian Dior back in 1955, the A-line skirt is great for summer because of its figure flattering and airy cut. These skirts are fitted at the waist and then flare out in a straight line away from the body. A-line skirts also tend to be a little on the longer side, making them great for the office. My A-line skirt is definitely an old favorite.

Some things to keep in mind when styling an A-line skirt for workwear:
  • Length. As with any skirt, keep your knees in mind. For conservative offices, stay at or below knee length. If you have some freedom, an inch or two above might be okay.
  • Fabric. A-line styles are popular for casual wear, too, but not all A-lines are created equal. Avoid clingy jersey and floaty chiffon, and look instead for thicker knits and fabrics with a bit more structure. What they add in heaviness, they make up for in the additional circulation you get underneath (you know what I mean).
  • Print. A sweet floral can be perfect for a weekend picnic, but might not make the transition well to weekday wear. Solids are most versatile, but there are a lot of print options that are office appropriate, too. My personal rule is to choose either print or color—the louder the print, the more neutral the color, and vice versa.
  • Slip/lining. As with any skirt or dress, if yours isn't lined, wear a slip. It not only helps with modesty, but it also helps most fabrics skim your body better.
  • Width. There is a lot of variation among A-lines based on how dramatic they flare out. Some will stand out just wider than a pencil skirt, while others have enough fabric to drape and fold. Both can be office appropriate, so try them out and see what you like best.
  • Styling. A-line skirts can be styled just like any other skirt. They tend to look better with heels, especially if your skirt falls at or below the knee.

How do you style an A-line skirt for the office?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What I've been up to...


be back later

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Staples: The one-piece swimsuit

This isn't really a work staple, per se, but it's hard to go a summer without putting on a swimsuit at least once. We've touched on swimwear and business before, but what about purely social events where coworkers are present? Pool parties, lake sports, beach bonfires—what's a lady to do?

One-piece swimsuits tend to harken Speedo, but they are making a huge comeback with new and retro styles. As a child, I remember my mom always looking glamorous by the pool in a fuchsia ruched halter suit (almost exactly like the Eliza from Rey Swimwear). I took the plunge and grabbed a one-piece last year, which I've used for situations that need a little more coverage and that are a little more sporty (like kayaking).

Things to look for in a one-piece:
  • Movement. Run in place in the dressing room, sit down, get up. Does your suit stay in place? Having to constantly adjust is more than just annoying—it can also draw unwanted attention to the uncomfortable areas.
  • Coverage. When it comes to swimwear, you have to think beyond just covering the mid-section or too much cleavage. Make sure the color isn't light enough to see through, and that there is enough coverage on top if you're prone to fripplage.
  • Rewearability. Have fun with your one-piece, and you may find yourself wearing it more often. Plus, confidence always looks good.
  • Tankini. If you prefer, a tankini can mimic a one-piece in coverage. If your top and bottom are different sizes, or if you have a long torso, this is a great alternative to common one-piece problems.
Some fun one-pieces (and a tankini) from around the web:
1. Tommy Hilfiger, $48 — 2. Merona, $35 — 3. Gap, $30 — 4. Land's End Canvas tankini, $90

Do you keep a one-piece handy? What do you look for in a swimsuit?

Friday, June 15, 2012

The make-up bag

A peek inside my makeup bag.

Bag: Lancome free gift with purchase, early 90s (from my mom)
Hair ties, clips and pins
Floss (x2)
Mary Kay satin hands lotion
Tide stain pen
Bobbi Brown pot rouge in Velvet Plum(for lips and cheeks)
Brilliance New York lipstick in Blaze
Revlon lipgloss in Firecracker
Flirt! Chickstick in Miss Temptress (nude-ish on me)
NYX Color lip balm in Sukriya (the best tinted chapstick I've found yet)
Tarte natural lip stain pencil in Moody
Tarte natural lip stain pencil in Joy
Covergirl Natureluxe gloss balm in Coral 230

As you can tell, I'm a lips and cheeks kind of gal.

What's in your make-up bag?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

8 things you can do mid-week to unplug

Weekends are for rest, and because of that, we slave away Monday through Friday. Though it feels like a work takes up a whole day, most people have anywhere from 4-7 hours between getting off work and hitting the sack. That's 4-7 hours that you can call your own and that you should grab with both hands. I'm as much of a fan of weeknight television as anyone, but crime dramas don't often help fight stress, and sometimes it's nice to change things up.

Here are 8 weeknight breaks to help you unplug—warning: you may never want to fall back into the TV rabbit hole again. Several of these overlap (it's hard to be glued to a computer if you've got a honey mask on your face), but I hope you will run with these ideas and find some go-to midweek breaks on your own. All of these can be done with minimal planning, too.

1. No-tech night. Turn off the TV, turn off the computer, put on some music and pick up a book, magazine or project. Do anything EXCEPT for stare at a screen.

2. Girls night. Get the girls and some supplies and get to relaxing. Some fun home-spa things you can try: manicures/pedicures, sugar/salt scrubs, facial masks and hair masks. Bonus points if someone has a hot tub.

3. Movie night. The average movie is anywhere from 90-120 minutes long, which fits into your evening with plenty of time to spare. Why wait until Friday to catch the latest blockbuster? Lines are probably shorter on weekdays, too. 

4. Craft night. If you're a weekend crafter like I am, you know how frustrating and slow progress can be when you only give it a project a few glances a week. Pick a small project or a simple step within a large project that takes less than two hours, and get it out of the way.

5. Game night. Board games, video games or bowling, a mid-week game night with family or friends is a great stress buster (and I have the bowling injuries to prove it). Check out your local bowling alley's weekly specials—you'll probably find some great deals for a few hours of old school fun.

6. Book club. Create your own or join one, even if you gab and gossip more than you actually discuss the book. My last book club also included themed food (fair fare for Devil in the White City and pierogies for The Master and Margarita). Bonus: you could *gasp* learn something!

7. Supper club. Whether it's cooking with your live-in or some friends, picking out a recipe and making it can be a fun experience (and you get some yummy grub out of it). If you're doing a group meal, let each person pick a course and bring ingredients (and any special tools to make it) and cook together. Note: this is much much easier if the person with the biggest kitchen hosts. Just sayin'.

8. Date night. The last year I lived in California, K taught a late afternoon class on Mondays just a few blocks from my office. He got into the habit of taking the train there (a reimbursable expense for him), and I would pick him up after work and check out a different restaurant each week. Mondays were so much fun (and the restaurants were way less crowded).

How do you unplug and relax mid-week?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Work Staples: The Peep-toe

Continuing the summer style series, today we explore the peep-toe. Whether you like it in pump, wedge or flat form, we all enjoy a little extra air down there in the summer. I'm a fan—I have basic peep-toe pumps in brown croc, black leather and nude patent to keep me covered.

Uber-conservative offices are generally closed-toe year-round, but if you have a more relaxed dress code and can toss in a little toe here or there, here are some things to consider when shopping for and styling peep-toe pumps for the office.
  • Peep a little, peep a lot. Even among peep-toes, there is a lot of variation, from a tiny cut-out vee to an entire exposed toe-area. Try a few styles on to see what you're most comfortable with. The more conservative your office is, the smaller your peeping area should be.
  • Coverage. Keep the rest of the shoe more conservative in coverage. I recommend saving the peep-toe d'orsays or slingbacks for events rather than office wear. Peep-toes in open lace (unlined), crochet, or other open fabrics are also not for the office.
  • Color. I'm a big fan of working color into your work wardrobe, and shoes are no exception. Keep the look balanced by pulling a single color from the rest of your outfit into your shoes, or by accenting an otherwise neutral outfit with a pop. Leave the ultra bright neons at home unless you're in a very creative environment.
  • Embellishments. Add a little pizzazz to an office shoe through texture or try something with a little embellishment (buckles, bows or cut-outs are pretty easy to find). A mary jane, t-strap or ankle strap are also fun spins on a classic peep-toe pump.
  • Perfect the pedi. A messy or unkept pedicure can make even the chicest peep-toe look bad. There's not need to go out and spend money on regular pedicures (unless you're into that kind of thing), just make sure your nails are clean and clipped. If you do go with a color, make sure it is office appropriate—you have a little more leeway on your toes than your fingers, especially in summer, but don't go totally crazy.
  • Wear with...anything. Peep-toes are pretty versatile in the office. They look chic with a knee-length dress (any shorter and it can look like too much skin) or with a pair of floor-skimming pants (or some skinnies on Casual Friday). 
Some fun office-appropriate peep-toe styles:

Are peep-toes part of your summer shoe collection? How do you keep them office appropriate?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Loves | Links


Splurged on this adorable Kensie romper for lounging and sleeping. It's covered in pineapples.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I purchased this book on Kindle with a birthday gift card (or was it Christmas? I forget), and finally got around to reading it last week. It is a hilarious (though not funny ha-ha) and fun take on historical events that isn't at all true (and you must accept that or you might not enjoy it). And there's a movie coming out!

My new-ish pour-over coffee maker. This little $6 contraption (comes with a ceramic mug, but fits most of my mugs at home, too) has changed my morning routine for the better. Love that coffee.


These ninja tacks are so cool. [via The Office Stylist]

I don't watch or follow Mad Men, but The Daily Muse does and these workplace lessons are spot on.

Happy employees = productive employees. How can you identify a happy employee? [via The Grindstone]

This weekend, I'm going on a leather hunt so I can try this DIY Leather Crossbody Bag tutorial [via Making it Lovely]

Only Grace from Shoplet would think to make an office supply alphabet.

Edgar Allen Poe's handwriting is beautiful. Cursive is a lost art. [via The Well-Appointed Desk]

I wish I had an office so I could bring this healthy and easy lunch every day. [via The Daily Muse]

We've all rolled our eyes at a coworker's ringtone mid-meeting, but that's not the only tech blunder prevalent in offices these days. Mashable! pulls together a comprehensive cheat sheet of bad tech etiquette to avoid at work.

Can your Facebook privacy settings (not the lack thereof) hurt you? Lifehacker thinks so.

Because I love Barbie, I had to share another Daily Muse article: 17 Barbies We're Glad Mattel Made.

What good reads did you find this week? What are you loving right now?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On writing better

Whether you're writing executive briefs or emails, you probably write more in a day than you realize. Even if you're comfortable writing the daily stuff, most people can get overwhelmed and intimidated by larger writing assignments or the thought of writing something for fun.

Learning to write well doesn't happen overnight, but the steps to get there aren't that difficult. Here are a few easy ways to get on the path to better writing.

Read good writing
The thing I enjoy most about reading is immersing myself in good writing, whether in books, magazines or online publications. When you're familiar with what good writing sounds and looks like, you'll be able to recognize it and practice it yourself. In the same vein, reading crap all day long can neutralize your ability to recognize bad writing and fix it. Junk in, junk out.

Write often
Practice makes perfect. The more you write, though, the more comfortable you will be with writing. Plus, getting words down on paper (or on the screen) gives you a great starting point for editing. It sounds so easy, but can be difficult to practice. Play around with different formats. I'm usually busy with technical proposals, marketing copy, reported stories or blog posts, but I've also dabbled in essays and fiction (very light dabbling) and want to try other types of writing as well.

Share it with others
Get a second or third opinion to see how effective your writing is. Do you have a weird habit or resort to a single type of sentence structure? Getting some outside feedback can be great for developing your voice. Even a simple business email can benefit from a quick review—how is your tone coming across? Find a friend or two you trust, and give them some context for why you're writing to help them get into the right frame of mind.

Play editor
Here's a fun experiment: take a piece from a magazine or website and look at it through an editor's lens. How would you restructure or reword the piece? Is there a better way to get the point across? Think about the things you like and things you don't like about the piece, and then experiment with applying that to your own writing. By editing other people's work for a living, I pick up on common pitfalls and personal preferences, which often come to mind when I'm writing my own stuff.

Stay humble
Writing is not one of those skills you "master" and then leave alone like building the perfect ship-in-a-bottle. That mindset will ruin your writing—in my experience those who are cocky about their writing ability are also in dire need of a good editor (not to be confused with a confident or self-assured writer). Every new piece is a blank slate, and it doesn't care how many awards or A+s your last piece accumulated, if you don't work at the one, it will still be crap.

What do you write? How do you stay sharp?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Five ways to dress up a T-shirt and jeans

My go-to outfit has always been a solid-color t-shirt or tank and jeans (currently this tee and this tank...I have each in 4-5 colors. I'm a creature of habit).

As I'm exploring dressing up more on a daily basis, I've learned a few easy tips on making a basic t-shirt and jeans look a little less basic from the bottom up and found some affordable pieces to help you on your way, too.

1. Forbid the flip flops and most sneakers. Just about any non-flip flop and sneaker option can make a t-shirt and jeans look instantly more polished.

2. Just wear jewels.  A statement necklace adds an embellished collar and a chunky watch anchors the look.

3. Throw on a layer. A fun blazer or cardigan turns your t-shirt and jeans into something else.

4. Scarf it up. We all know scarves are a great accessory when it's less than pleasant out, but a gauzy or silky one can make the seasonal transition (or switch it out for a sarong on the beach).

5. Use your head. Not just hair accessories and hats, but fun hairstyles, too. I always feel more put together when I have a good hair day. Check out some reader hairstyles and various hairdos I've worn over this blog's life. For other hair ideas, I really like the tutorials on the Beauty Department and YouTube.

Some of my t-shirt and jean-based outfits:

How do you dress up a t-shirt and jeans? Or do you have a different go-to casual combination?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Sneak Peek | Minted Magazine's Summer Issue

I've been writing away this spring, and one of my more exciting projects has been contributing to Minted magazine.  

Minted is a quarterly online women's lifestyle and business magazine aimed at the modern career girl. The summer issue comes out on Monday, and it contains my article with tips on how to find your way—and your new social circle—in a new city after a big move.

Minted is revealing some sneak peeks of the new issue today—if you like what you see, you’ll love what’s in store for you on Monday.

Long summer days just sometimes aren’t enough for you to make wardrobe changes to take you from the sandy beach to a candlelit dinner with your better half. Minted has you covered in its Style File “Day to Night” section. With a swap of some accessories and pieces, you’ll be good to go for the day!
Did you know that women control more than 60% of all personal wealth in U.S.? Even with stats like that, it’s surprising that women only make up 3% of the advertising industry’s creative directors—the very people in charge of selling you products. So why are men in charge of attracting brands that women are supposed to buy into? Find out why in the Summer Issue of Minted!

Check out past issues of Minted over at or find them on Twitter and Facebook. I fell in love with the publication immediately, and I hope you will, too!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Do what you love or love what you do?

As I've been mulling over direction in my career and my random list of life goals, one question that pops into my mind is whether it's better to do what you love or love what you do.

Do what you love advocates following your passion to finding a career.

Love what you do is finding peace and enjoyment in whatever your career may be.

They are not mutually exclusive, but for many people they are different.

Do what you love
Pros: Following your passion to a career obviously has it's benefits—you're doing something you love everyday! It's also motivating to see something close to you come together and succeed, and it's much easier to do that if you're dedicated to it as a career instead of as a side hobby.

Cons: Depending on what it is you like about your love-based career, passion can run out. Committing to something full time can take the mystery and appeal out of a career choice, and it's easy to get overwhelmed by the actual daily tasks involved.

Love what you do
Pros: You get enjoyment out of your career—maybe not every second of every day, but overall, you love what you get to do. You're making a living to support the hobbies you love, whether it be travel, sports or shopping. If your work is a separate entity from your hobbies or loves, there is often a clearer delineation between work life and time and personal life and time.

Cons: This kind of career choice can sometimes lead to feeling like you're working toward someone else's goals instead of your own. You also won't get as much time to devote to your passion if you're working 40 hours a week (plus lunch breaks and commute time).

Can you have both?
Sure. For some careers and passions it will be easier to find the intersection (for example, writing can be a viable career and hobby) and for others it will be difficult (if you're an accountant by day and a musician by night). Also, if you love what you do, it can often begin feeling like you're doing what you love—love can be fostered (in work and in relationships, but that's a different topic).

Personally, I've always thought "love what you do" was more reasonable, but in hindsight, I've actually done quite a bit of doing what I love. Love of magazines—from planning to proofing and everything in between—is what spurred me on to apply to journalism school in the first place (after getting my BA in an unrelated field), and though I veered from the conventional publishing rat race, all of my jobs have had a writing, editing and publishing bent. I guess I'm lucky that what I love is also a conventional career option, and it's been interesting this year to see it from a different angle as a freelancer.

If you're dead-set on doing what you love and haven't taken that step yet, I really like Leo Babauta's Do-What-You-Love-Guide (and his entire Zen Habits blog).

What do you think—would you rather do what you love or love what you do? Or have you found the happy intersection?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Choosing your communication method

Call, email, text, Skype? Far too often I look down at my phone to contact someone, only to get stuck with the question, "Should I call? Text? Email?" With so many options right at our fingertips, what format of communication is best used when? Your distinctions may differ slightly with industry norms, but here is a general overview of when to use which communication method and what kind of urgency is most appropriate.

When to use it: When you need something immediately (a task or an answer) or need to schedule something for the future. Also good for meetings or discussions when getting together in person is not feasible. I've noticed the phone has fallen by the wayside for many people who don't have assistants, but if the person you're trying to reach has an assistant you can call, that's often the most direct route to reaching a real person.

Urgency: Medium to high.

When to use it: When sending attachments, longer explanations, requests for information or to follow-up on a previous conversation or phone call. Email is also a nice format for long form personal communication, like keeping in touch with old friends. Check out additional email tips in this post (one of my first on the blog).

Urgency: Any, but make it clear in the message if you have a deadline or timeline to meet. If you need it within the hour, a phone call would be better—there are no guarantees that emails will be read right away.

Instant Message
When to use it: Some good uses for IMs include asking a clarifying question, prepping for a meeting or making plans (for a meeting, lunch, etc.). If you're asking a question that requires a lot of explanation, just walk over—IMs are best for one or two sentence answers.

Urgency: Low to medium. Since people may not be at their desk or available to chat at all times, you should expect that they'll answer on their own timetable.

Text Message
When to use it: To find someone in a crowd or at an event, or when meeting up outside of the office. Best used sparingly and when you only have mobile access.

Urgency: Medium (though it varies). In my head, I often think of text as the most immediate, second only to phone. Because of this, I have my phone set to vibrate on text, but never for email.

Social Media (Facebook or Twitter)
When to use it: Facebook and Twitter are most useful in a business setting to build personal rapport or to make new connections. When making new connections, use social media to bring the conversation off-line or to more traditional business communication by getting email or phone info.

Urgency: Low.

What is the communications urgency hierarchy in your industry? How do you decide what format to use?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Four questions to ask when you're lacking direction

 [flickr: pursuethepassion]

Like I mentioned last month in my freelance update, I've been thinking a lot about direction. Specifically, I've been focusing on a few questions (and some list-making) to help me along, and boy, has it helped! Here's what I've been mulling over.

What are you passionate about?
What gets your goat? This isn't quite the same as "what do you love?" (for example, one can be passionate about addressing poverty, but it'd be weird to call it "love"), but also any issues or industries that really get you fired up, angry or excited. It can be as exciting as rocket science or as seemingly mundane as accounting. I also wouldn't choose just one thing...write down a few.

What are you good at?
Let's be realistic: I'm not good at everything and neither are you. Heck, I'm not even good at the things I love sometimes (my dust-covered guitar can tell you that much). Write your strengths down. Now look at your passion list: how do your strengths fit into your passion industries? If you don't know enough about your passions, find out more. A lot of times it's just finding the right company or organization to rekindle your passion and set you in the right direction. Make a list of career options that combine your passion and skill.

Where do you want to be?
This could be a specific location, a specific job position, or a specific industry. It may help to break it down into bite-size time goals, for example, I want to be in x position within 5 years and at x point in my career 15 years from now. This could also include lifestyle choices, such as if you want the flexibility to stay at home part time with children or the freedom and budget to travel to your heart's desire. Compare this to your list of career options...which careers on this list will help you get there?

How do you get there?
Though you may realize where you currently are is not helping you get where you want to be, don't jump just yet. Where do you need to be to get there, and how do you get to that starting point? It could mean picking up a few new skills on your personal time, or just starting to look for that perfect job. Make a plan and a timeline for getting on track.

The issue I often deal with is narrowing down my passions. I'm easily excitable and enthusiastic. The question that helps me most is "Where do you want to be?" My list may be slightly long, but over the past few weeks I've prioritized it so that I can work toward the goal and still have some fallback options.

How did you find your career direction? Any other questions that should be considered?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Summer Work Staples: The Shirtdress

I don't know about where you are, but it is not spring anymore in Miami (it's not full-on summer yet, either, so I'll enjoy the 88 degree/70% humidity weather while I can). Summer in the office can be a touchy balance, but it's no excuse to let your style wilt. I'll be focusing on some summer style staples over the next few weeks (months? We'll see how many I find) and offering some tips to make them appropriate for the office.

First up: the shirtdress.

I've harped on shirtdresses before, but I'd like to add some special summer notes:
  • Length. It is tempting to go a little higher in the hem for summer, but your skirts and dresses should be office-appropriate length year-round. For the most part, this means no more than an inch or two (max) above the knee. 
  • Fabric. Structured fabrics are always chic, but I do think you can get away with a nice silk for summer. Avoid anything too clingy or synthetic (breathable is best). Fabric makes a huge difference and can make a modest dress bearable in hot weather.
  • Sleeves. Depending on your office, going sleeveless may be a year-round thing or a never thing. When in doubt, I'd choose sleeves. To avoid having to take a jacket or cardi on and off all the time, try a cap sleeve or short sleeve. Three-quarter sleeve dresses in a light breathable fabric can be super-chic, too.
  • Double-sided tape. I'm a huge fan of wearing a slip under my dress at all times (or at least a half-slip) but I don't overheat easily. If you absolutely cannot bear to wear a full slip in the summer, make sure to double-stick tape between the buttons. If you choose to go slip-less completely (again, not recommended), I'd double-sided tape the whole way down.
  • Pattern and color. It's summer, I get it, you want to lighten up. Have some fun and bring in some lighter colors and basic patterns, but keep your loud prints and colors for the weekend.
  • Accessories. When wearing a more casual dress, accessories can take the look from one end of the spectrum to another. A structured bag and closed-toe shoes will ensure you don't look like you're on your way to a summer picnic.
Some ideas to get your creativity cranking...

Love a pop of color in the shoe and the light fun print of this dress.

A rosy pink is feminine without being too sweet, and flats are the ultimate practical shoe.

Does your work wardrobe change in the summer? What staples do you rely on in hot weather?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Loves | Links


Brilliance New York lipstick in Blaze. I splurged on this baby back in February, and I am so in love. It is bright and fun when first applied, and then fades to a pretty stain. Perfect for summer.

MWF Seeking BFF.  New city, 52 friend-dates. If I'd seen her blog while she was doing this project and if she lived in my city, I would totally have sent Rachel a fan email. As it stands, I did so anyway after reading the book (hey, she's coming to Miami next week...I have a shot, right?).

Cap-toed shoes. I'm considering DIYing one of my older pairs if I can't find a pair I like in my budget. Any ideas on how to paint leather or faux leather?


Wardrobe Oxygen's "What Not To Wear Your First Week of Work" is useful well beyond the first week, in my opinion.

Glass Heel's Molly Cain shares the 8 things you're doing wrong on LinkedIn over on Forbes.

Is the power suit for women dead? The Grindstone chronicles its decline. I love designer Rachel Roy's take on it best: "Power shouldn't come from the clothes, but from the person."

Summer heat can make business casual unbearable. The Daily Muse shares some great dos and don'ts for summer dressing in the office.

I'm loving this multifunctional armchair on Apartment Therapy for casual computer work, but I'm a desk girl myself. On a similar note, Flavorwire rounds up some amazing unconventional workspaces (my fave is the cardboard pop-up for looks, not utility).

Written communication in business is crucial (seriously...count the number of emails you write compared to phone calls you make these days). Forbes offers 10 great tips for better business writing.

A note from Hillary to Jason.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A review of the performance review

[Flickr: jennifertomaloff]

It's probably one of my least favorite times of the year because of the stress, but the annual review process at work can be a great opportunity to reassess your job and your work goals. Everyone's process differs, but most include a self-evaluation and some sort of review meeting with your manager.

Whether your reviews are done at the same time each year (all employees in July, for example) or on your particular start-date anniversary, it can be daunting to go through a whole year of work. Keep track of projects and results throughout the year to make it easier during this already-stressful time. Some folks like a notebook, but I keep running Word docs listing program (our nonprofit had many), project, specific tasks I performed, and results. I also list any trainings or conference I've been to, awards I've won, and trainings or other service type things I've done for the organization (that aren't in my job description). I print out a few copies of each year's list for my own records, my boss's records and HR's annual review files.

If you're not already in the practice of honestly evaluating yourself, this can be hard. This is not the time to be humble, but it's also not the time to blow yourself up without supporting evidence. Most evaluations include some kind of sliding scale (usually ranging 1-5 or weak to strong) and space for comments. I recommend adding comments in every category to support your rating. If you run out of space, make notes on another sheet of paper. It helps to grab your job description and use that as a measuring tool. If you find that you're doing a lot outside of your description, write that down, too; you can address that at your meeting.

For your face-to-face meeting, prepare your list of accomplishments (from the Prep stage above) and any revisions or changes you've seen to your job description. I also make a list of project ideas for the coming year and any issues I want to discuss with my supervisor (suggestions for better communication, better work processes, and any areas I could use more support in from her or the team). If there's anything that's been weighing on your chest, this is the time to get it out, although I would refrain from straight out venting—I subscribe to the school of every-complaint-should-come-with-a-helpful-suggestion.

The meeting will often include you and your supervisor going over the evaluation together. Pay attention, and if you have any questions as to why you received a rating you did, ask then and there. Your supervisor should be able to list reasons, and you may have a chance to present information to support your self-evaluation, or you may gain understanding and self-awareness of your work that you weren't able to see before.

The Money Talk
Annual reviews are also common times to evaluate your position and salary. Some companies have salary talks every year (formal or informal); others are on a more sporadic or inconsistent schedule. If it is something you want or something that is an option, do some research on what changes you would like seen made to your job description and what type of compensation you would like to negotiate (websites like are a good place to start for a target salary, but you can also consider asking for schedule flexibility, more vacation, etc.). Be clear and present tangible reasons from the employer's perspective for why you deserve the raise ("Because I've been here two years" and "Because I'd like to afford a nicer apartment" are not good reasons; "Because I've added value to this organization beyond my paygrade and would like to continue doing so" or "Because I'd like to take on more responsibility in an area that the organization needs help with" are good reasons). If your supervisor hints that the timing just isn't right or that you're just short of being ready, suggest a mid-term review in three or six months to reassess and reconsider.

You should come away from your review with goals for the next year (agreed on by you and your supervisor) and an understanding of where you can improve (yes, every one of us has something). If you go back to your set ways without adjusting, you'll just be back in the same place next year (slightly worse, since you should know better). Take any constructive criticism or suggestions and apply them; if there are areas of specific concern, don't be afraid to ask for extra training or referral to resources that might help.

Some additional resources in prepping for your review: Forbe's article "How to Ace Your Performance Review" and the Grindstone's From Review to Raise series.

How are performance reviews structured at your workplace? How do you prepare for them?