Friday, April 27, 2012

Executive Summary | Links for your weekend | 04.27.12

Organized my desk drawers this week. Gotta keep those foamy stress balls handy (and we have a three-hole punch, though I don't believe we own any three-ring binders).

If blog posts had subtitles, this one would be called "Brain Fart Friday." I have a screw loose today. Here's proof:
  • I dig out my extra watch links to get my watches let out (nevermind that I've been searching for those links for months, and this morning somehow I knew exactly where to find them). I take them into the Fossil store and hand the guy my watches and the links. He gives me an "are you serious?" look, and I stare back at him innocently. Apparently these are those easy links that  just snap on and off each other, and then on or off your watchband, no tools needed. Oops. At least we actually had a watch battery for him to do, otherwise I would have been embarrassed (oh wait, already was).
  • On my way to the Fossil store, I cut across the mall. There's an area of green carpet in the middle (where the kiosks generally are), and I'm typing out an email on my cell phone as I walk. I hear K call out "Stop! Be careful!" So I stop. I look down....and there are three steps right in front of me (camouflaged in green carpeting) leading down to an inset area (for kids to play in?). I was thisclose to a major head-first spill. Thank goodness for shopping buddies.
I did get a few things off my longish-term to-do list today, like finally getting my brother a Christmas and birthday present (he turned 27 in February, and luckily I only had to make up Christmas 2011). Check that off the list!

Now onto the reads:

I've recently gotten hooked on the IKEA Hackers blog. This take on the Marius stool is my favorite so far.

Looking for a career change but hesitant because you've already spent decades building your expertise? The Grindstone digs up the best jobs for a mid-life career change.

Over the past nine months, K and I have gone from knowing of one relative in Miami to the beginnings of what I can see to be lifelong friendships with some really great folks. It's scary to put yourself out there, but the reward is awesome. I love Words of Williams's tips for creating a community of friends.

Mashable! gives us 10 epic movie gadgets we wish were real. Hasn't anyone made a breakfast machine yet? I could really use one.

Scultures made of colored pencils? These Takafumi Yagi pieces featured on Shoplet are to die for!

Comb, bristles or pointy rubber—The Beauty Department compares mascara wands (I'll be sticking with my bristles).


In book reading, I'm currently engrossed in Water for Elephants.  What good reads have you found this week?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Humble pie doesn't taste as good as it looks

 [flickr: enggul]

If you're doing your job well, chances are someone is seeing it. They may have even commended you on it, or called you out for recognition.

Think about the last time this happened: how did you react?

Did you look down bashfully and mutter a quick thanks? Or did you try to push the attention over to a coworker ("But did you see Sally's presentation? Now THAT is awesome")? I've done both.

A lot of people downplay their accomplishments at work because they are afraid of looking prideful or arrogant, but that humble bashfulness could come back to bite you later on. You've deflected the momentary attention, yes, along with the credit and recognition.

Consider this: You turn in an awesome project that showcases your creativity, innovative thinking, and problem-solving skills. Folks rave because it's unlike anything they've seen before. You demur, downplaying your role and your work. If that's what you keep telling them, eventually they're going to believe you. And all of a sudden, your work isn't as impressive as it seemed a moment ago.

Next time a compliment is tossed your way and you're tempted to say "It's no biggie," try one of these non-braggy and not-too-humble responses:
  • "Aw, shucks."
  •  "It was my pleasure." (I like this one because it not only acknowledges your role but shows that you're up for more challenges)
  • "[Coworker who did as much work as you did] and I are really happy about how this turned out, too."
  • And my favorite: "Thank you."
Do you tend to downplay your own work or are you happy to take credit when it's due? What tips do you have for accepting a compliment graciously?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Patience pays off (Wish list update)

Shopping is a marathon, not a sprint. When I want something (really want, not just sort of want), I'll wait it out until I find the perfect item. During my first year on this blog (the shopping diet), I kept a weekly wish list of things I wanted once my year was up. I did a recap halfway through the diet (October 2010), but have gone pretty quiet since then.

I'm still pretty much working off of that wish list (I know, I'm slow) as well as the "In the Moment" posts I started doing after the shopping diet, so I figured I'd give a quick update, since I just fulfilled some of these within the past 6-8 months.

Black bag (blogged: May 24, 2010; obtained: October 2011)
You heard that right...I finally have a black purse! My in-laws (bless their hearts) give me a generous gift card every year for my birthday, and this time I used it to grab a great leather bag with some stitching detail, shoulder strap, outside pocket and chain hardware. After all was said and done, I only shelled out $5 for shipping.

Wedge heels (blogged: October 11, 2010; obtained: March 2012)
It took a year and a half, but my latest purchase was a pair of coral patent Calvin Klein wedge heels from Marshall's. They were regular Marshall's price; lower than retail, but more than I would normally spend on shoes. Total cost: $40.

Vest (blogged: October 25, 2010; obtained: summer 2011)
I picked one up at a Swap Asana, was handed down another by my friend Stephanie, and got another from my mom, all of this last summer. And just like that, I have three vests. Total cost: $0.

Black skinny pants (blogged: January 24, 2011; obtained: December 2011)
I hit gold with Gap's 1969 line (specifically the high-waisted skinny pants), but the $69.99 price tag completely turned me off. I salemarked it, and just before Christmas, the price dropped down to $35. That same day, my brother was bugging me about what I wanted for Christmas, so I just forwarded the link. The pants arrived two days later. Merry Christmas! Total cost: $0

The Happiness Project (blogged: April 25, 2011; obtained: December 2011)
I picked this up at the Miami International Book Fair for $8. Great book. See my thoughts on it here.

Green nail polish (blogged: July 11, 2011; obtained: April 2012)
Ulta's clearance rack has been a boon for me. My two new favorite nail polishes were found there: Revlon's Craving Coral ($3) and Orly's Wandering Vine ($4). It's not my typical Wet N' Wild, but I really love these colors.

Items I'm still on the lookout for: gray pencil skirtshort-sleeve crew-neck sweater, white pants, three-quarter sleeve blazer (preferably in a springy color), skinny trousers (oh so elusive), leather jacket. At the rate I'm going, this list will last me a few more years.

By the way, if you haven't tried salemarked yet, I'd highly recommend it. It's a bookmarklet that let's you track an item and get an email notification when it hits a certain price (whatever you'd like it to be). Right now it only works with some retailers (but they're good ones, like Gap, BR, Macy's, etc.), but it definitely beats having to check a bunch of sites regularly or wasting money by buying things full price. They're not paying me to say this (they don't even know I exist), but I just thought I'd pass on the knowledge.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Executive Summary | Links for your weekend | 04.20.12

Another gratuitous Chicago photo. More on my flickr.

This week, I sent out a pitch, followed up on last week's query, organized and ran a charity raffle, updated the blog design, made a few great connections at a networking event (meetings on the calendar for next week) and read The Help (saw the movie first).

Did you know about Equal Pay Day on April 17? The date marks how much longer women will have had to work to earn what their male counterparts did in the previous year; it takes 472 days for women to earn the same amount as men do in 365 days. It is used to spread awareness, but in my opinion, awareness is useless without action. So what can we do?
  • Know what we're worth and don't be afraid to ask for it (recommended reading: Women Don't Ask).
  • Speak up when we see inequality in our communities and workplaces, whether it's due to gender, race, sexuality or other reasons.
  • Treat other women as we would like to be treated and encourage each other. Frenemies are so 2010.

Here are some of my favorite articles on the topic this week (by no means exhaustive):

Some more links from this week

One of the largest sources of frustration in the workplace (and in life) is when expectations and results don't match up. While this conflict can't always be avoided, The Grindstone offers some tips on helping manage expectations from the get-to, which helps.

I love these shiny office accessories from Minimalux (via Shoplet). It's like jewelry for your desk.

Can being too good at your job hurt you? Couldn't be possible, right? Five Cent Nickel shares a few experiences that might change your mind.

Are you getting thrown illegal questions in interviews? Would you even recognize them if you heard them? The Daily Muse shares five of the most commonly asked illegal interview questions and offers tips on how to protect yourself without burning the entire interview.

File this under "Duh": The sex lives of working women have nothing to do with their career success [The Grindstone]

I love peeking into other peoples' workspaces, and the #officesnapshots group on Instagram is the perfect looking glass.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How to say no at happy hour

The office environment can be a lot like high school, except everyone's old enough to drink and vote. There are cliques, just like high school. There are popular people and the not so popular, like high school. There is gossip and drama and hurt and friendship.

And, just like high school, there is peer pressure. Sometimes it's good, like when you spur each other on to reach your highest potential. Sometimes it's bad, like when you're sexually harassed. Sometimes, it's just there, like at happy hour. It's those gray areas that aren't right or wrong that can often cause the most headache.

How can happy hour be at all stressful? It has been for me, since I don't drink alcohol. I have nothing against it, but alcohol and Angeline just don't mix. If I'm not breaking out in itchy red hives all over, I'm having hot flashes and chills, and that's only half a drink in. I've heard of some people conditioning themselves to handle it, but I've tried and it's just not worth it anymore. Plus, I've never been cool, so I have no real rep to keep up. Your reasons may be different from mine, but we don't have to let our teetotaling get in the way of networking.

Happy hour can be an extremely valuable part of the professional experience, whether you're at a networking event or celebrating Friday with your coworkers. You don't have to go to every one, but make sure to participate somewhat regularly to stay in the loop.

Don't make it a big deal 
Just don't order an alcoholic drink. If someone asks you why, you can tell them the reason or make an excuse. Say it once—you don't need a long explanation. (My go-to: "Oh, I don't drink." ::smile::)

Indulge a little
My happy hour drink of choice is Coke or Diet Coke, and because I don't drink soda often, I'm still sharing in the slightly indulgent feel. Or I'll dig into the cheap happy hour eats (truffle fries, anyone?).

Don't be empty handed
Whether it's a sparkling water, a soda, or a virgin cocktail, if you have something in your hand, people will soon forget it's not alcohol. Ask for a garnish on your drink if you want it to feel extra special.

Laugh it off
If your coworkers are the teasing type, this may just be the thing they need to poke fun at you every once in a while. Play along, in moderation. If they bring the teasing into the workplace, you can throw it right back with a positive spin. I may not participate in the Friday drinking games, but I can rock a last-minute deadline or all-nighter as good as (OK, better than) the rest of them, so if they call me a goody-two-shoes, I'll correct them: I'm a goody-two-shoes-who-is-awesome-at-my-job.

What kind of peer pressure do you get in your office or at work events? How do you address it?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Me and the bean

The Bean (what kind of bean did you think I was talking about?)

How is it already Friday? (Yes, I still ask that every Friday.) Finally letting my confession out this Monday really spurred me on. Knocked out a few projects, sent out a pitch, purchased and downloaded My So-Called Freelance Life (thanks to Catherine) and committed to trying out a business networking group next week.

The other fire under my buns was my annual Chicago vacation (which in freelance terms means a bring-your-work-with-you and stay-glued-to-your-email kind of trip...I'm not baller enough to be able to put my two projects on hold yet). There's something about this city that drew me in when I first visited as an 18 year old, and I'm so lucky that I get to come out once a year during K's work conference. Spouses on work trips can be awkward, but I gladly leave him and his colleagues alone all day to find my own adventures. The icing on the cake is the weekend, when the conference begins petering out and K and I get to visit with my cousins and their families nearby.

I've been to the Cloud Gate sculpture (lovingly known as The Bean) before, but I hadn't spent much time there until now. I woke up bright and early on my first morning in town, sauntered over to Intelligentsia for some joe, and then grabbed a seat in Millenium Park, which was still empty aside from security and one other morning person. I sat there for 30 minutes while I nursed my coffee, taking in the bean, the buildings and the birds. By the time my cup was empty, the place was abuzz with the day's visitors, so I grabbed my fancy camera and joined in on the fun.

The best part? Helping a couple take their photo with the bean and inadvertently photobombing it with my reflection in the metal. You're welcome, folks!

I was so happy, I even attempted an outfit shot for y'all (attempted being the operative word).

H&M jacket, Merona top from Target, Gap skinny pants, Target flats

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How to accessorize with belts

Back in the business-casual shopping-diet days, I stumbled across the most obvious accessory ever: the belt. Before then, I only had one belt, and it was only ever paired with jeans. One of my first non-clothing purchases on my shopping diet (because what else do you do when you start a shopping diet but...go shop), was a red-orange skinny belt, and it has become quite the closet workhorse. I've since added to my collection, which now includes a range of colors and widths, and today I'm sharing some tips and examples for accessorizing with belts.

Create shape
Proportion is a delicate balance (and there are certainly many right balances). I'm a big believer in making your clothes fit you instead of the other way around, and belts are an easy way to do that when the balance is just slightly off from what you're going for. I like to add a belt to an otherwise loosey-goosey outfit or cinch a top to offset a straight skirt or flowy trousers.

Add color
My wardrobe is not all that interesting color wise (though that's something I'm working on), and especially with my love of neutral sheath and shift dresses, belts are an easy way to add color.

Fill belt loops
This never used to bother me before, but nowadays, when I have exposed belt loops, I have to fill them. They just look so lonely when they're empty. If you're not a tucker, this probably isn't an issue for you, but I like to tuck, and a belt is often the difference to keep the look clean.

Icing on the cake
Much like Portlandians like to put a bird on it, it's become common to just put a belt on it. No belt loops? No waistband? No problem. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

To belt or not to belt?
Sometimes a belt isn't a make-it-or-break-it item. It's purely optional, such as with decoration, or can create different shapes depending on your mood. Here are some examples of like outfits or pieces styled with and without belts.

When belts go bad
I'm embarrassed to admit it, but every one of these outfits had at least an entire workday of wear. What can I say...sometimes you gotta live with a decision for 8 hours before you realize you look absolutely ridiculous. We all have these moments, right? (Right?!?)

Tips for accessorizing with belts
  • Too many layers or too loose of layers under the belt can cause bunching. Not pretty (see outtakes above).
  • Consider where you wear your belts and plan their length accordingly. Belts that will fit on your waist (for shape or decoration) probably won't fit in your belt loops.  
  • I equate belts with purses...check out the fabric/textile, the width/capacity and the accessories (studs, patterns, buckle type, etc). 
  • As a baby step, try adding a belt on top of an existing waist seam or in place of a corresponding/built-in belt.
  • If you don't have belt loops in your skirt or pants but want your fabric belt to stay put, use a safety pin in the center of the back of the belt (I like to put it vertically so it's slightly less noticeable).
  • Loose ends? Knot them around the buckle or use some fashion tape to keep the ends from flapping (just make sure to keep extra tape handy in case the adhesive wears out, for example if you make frequent restroom stops or are on a shopping trip that requires disrobing).  
  • Belts are one of the cheapest accessories, so go crazy! Thrift stores usually have a treasure trove of belts for $1 or less. The majority of my belts have come from thrift or vintage stores or swaps. The rest I bought on sale for $10 or less.
How do you rock a belt? What are your best tips for belting?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Freelance Files | The halfway point (an honest look)

Depending on when you start counting, I've been at this freelancing thing for about eight months. Goodness, that seems like a long time.

How's it working out for me?

In some ways, it's been good. In others, not so much.

By the time this post goes up, it will have been over a week since I first typed out most of it. Since then I've been editing, sleeping on it, editing some more, sleeping on the new versions and debating both internally and externally about how much to put out there. When your professional life is on the Internet, it's important to filter what you say. I still believe that, but I also believe in being human and allowing myself a measured level of vulnerability.

A lot of bloggers have gone freelance lately in a variety of fields. Looking in from the outside, things look so hunky dory, and, to be honest, though I keep a smile on my face and look on the bright side, freelancing has been a less than rosy road. Lest anyone think freelancing is super-easy or that bloggers are super-humans, I'm throwing (some, not all) caution to the wind and letting you in on my true freelance experience so far.

So here goes. Let's start on a positive note.

The good:
  • My flexible schedule has allowed me to take on some volunteer and pure pet projects, such as Dress for Success Miami (where I'm also on the board), more online writing and helping friends with their nonprofits. Though I don't get paid, this has exposed my work to new networks here in Miami, though I have yet to really foster those into business opportunities.
  • Added one new client to my paid work (which also includes two ongoing contracts and a freelance editing client).
  • My apartment is cleaner than ever.

The not-so-good:
  • Fear. I am an introvert. I have major anxiety when it comes to new situations and putting myself out there. It used to be a paralyzing hide-in-a-hole-for-days/weeks/months and avoid-all-human-interaction kind of fear, but now it's a slightly watered down version of that. The computer is a great facade to hide behind. What has been most helpful in the past is having a few folks I trust as sounding boards, and I'm still building that group here in Miami.  
  • Lack of direction. What brings in most of my small freelance income (grants) is not what I was educated in or wanted as a career goal (magazine journalism) or what my resume shows as my strength (nonprofit communications). I truly enjoy all three of these fields, but I wonder whether I need to narrow my focus. And then there are the things I would love to do someday, like write a book or make things with my hands for a living. How should my profession and my passion relate to one another now and how will they in the future?  
Side note: One or two people asked about freelance and finances in the reader survey, and my answer doesn't add up to a full post, so I thought I'd address it here. One of the reasons I went freelance was because my husband got a full-time job; previously he was a graduate student/TA while I worked full time. Because we basically just switched roles, our household finances have not changed—we make about the same overall, spend about the same and save about the same. No real adjustments there.

When I originally decided to freelance, I gave myself a timeline: one year and then it was decision time. Either commit to this freelance thing or get off my butt and go back to full-time work. My random indicator of "success" was going to be whether I could make 50% of my previous full-time income through freelance work (so far I'm at 21%) . I have no idea whether this is realistic or not (any freelancers remember how year one went?), so I may choose another indicator when the time comes. Since I started in August, I'm giving myself until this August (mid or late). Five months to go.

I may not be where I wanted to be at this point in freelancing. But I do know my biggest challenge: me. No one and nothing else is responsible for my lack of progress. I'm the only one that I can make any changes here. It's slightly depressing, but at the same time, completely empowering.

The first step to overcoming a problem is admitting you have one, so this is my confession. And since I have yet to solidify a professional sounding board here in Miami, I hope you don't mind acting as one in the meantime.

Time to get to work.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Executive Summary | Links for your weekend | 04.06.12

Newly addicted to Instagram for Android (username: angelineevans)

Love this rundown of Barbie's offices over the years from the Shoplet blog.

The Grindstone's 10 Signs You are a Pushover at Work is a must-read for all managers, but especially new ones.

Best April Fool's Day post goes to The Daily Muse. The Job Search Mad Libs guarantees year-round fun!

Ever wonder what those background checks are all about? Proforma Screening Solutions shares some interesting and illustrated facts about background checks over on the Infographics Showcase (with an obvious commercial bent toward encouraging background checks by employers).

These custom-designed resumes from Loft Resumes are super eye-catching, but are they practical? A strong aesthetic may evoke stronger feelings in the reviewer, both positively or negatively, that may not have been triggered by a traditional resume. What are you thoughts on overly-designed resumes?

Wish you were one of the lucky ones? Then become one. I always smile when I read Sage's blog, and I think you will, too.

Ron Burgundy is back! Stay classy, San Diego.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How to talk about politics (or not) at the office

Growing up, I had it drilled into my head that there are two things you don't talk about at work: religion and politics. Personally, I'd add sex as a third topic to avoid, but still agree on the first two.

Politics is a hugely sensitive topic for some, though not all. People tend to take their politics personally, and issues and candidates can create an almost religious fervor, with folks evangelizing for the left or the right. Especially during campaign years, it may not be possible to completely avoid the topic, so here are some tips on how to avoid a potential sticky situation.

Be neutral. This is as much about the unspoken as it is the verbal. It's tempting to nod along with a speaker when they're talking in a group, but try to keep your body language as neutral as possible. You could also take the opposite tact and play devil's advocate to everybody and regularly contradict yourself, leaving others guessing about where you actually stand (which I personally think is sort of fun if you keep it light and low key).

Be a social butterfly. Even when you don't say anything, associating too closely with a group that is vocal about their politics may lead others (like your superiors) to indirectly associate you with that group's views as well. That doesn't mean you have to jump ship from a group completely, but it might be time to expand your circle to include others with differing opinions.

Be direct. We all have that one coworker who will ask the awkward question and put you on the spot. If you don't want to talk about politics in the workplace, then just say so. By making it about your own personal policies, it is less likely that people will take your choice as a slight on them. Just make sure to be consistent...word gets around.

Be funny. This is harder said than done (humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder), but if you can pull it off, try a joke. Perhaps you could start a mock campaign for your boss as a write-in candidate to lighten the mood—just make sure they know it's a joke and that you're not just trying to get rid of them.

Take it off site. If you have friends at work that share your political interests, or if you're campaigning for office yourself, save it for your own time and another place. Work should be a neutral zone, politically, but it is a valuable network, so if you do find others who share your interests, don't be afraid to strike up a friendship outside of work, too. Do not—really, please don't— display campaign materials (for candidates or issues) in your workspace.

If you work in a political office or for a politician, this is pretty moot, but for the rest of us, these tips can help avoid landmines. While most people can separate a others' political leanings from their professional work, keeping your politics to yourself can still save you from unnecessary disagreements or tension (you never know who's keeping score against you). And who doesn't want their workday to go a little smoother?

Do you mix political opinions into your professional dealings? What tips do you have for addressing (or not addressing) sensitive political topics at work?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Must-watch: Miss Representation

After months and months of searching spurred on by my friend's post on this in October, I finally got myself to a local screening of Miss Representation yesterday. The film explores the role of women in society, power and media and also discusses the history of female portrayals in the media.

The film had a personal start—Jennifer Siebel Newsom was pregnant with her first child, a girl, and was concerned over the society her child would be raised in. Yes, a lot has changed over the years, but at the same time, it's amazing how little it has changed.
  • There is less diversity (in types of roles and occupations, etc.) in female leads in today's films than female film protagonists in the 50s. Even "strong" female action heros conform to the male definition of sexiness (you can't fight crime without a corset).
  • The U.S. is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures. Rwanda, Iraq and China all have more women in their legislatures than the U.S.
  • The number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on youth 18 or younger more than tripled from 1997 and 2007.
  • Women in the public eye are more likely to be judged for their appearance and beauty than men. Media often jumps straight to how a female looks rather than their qualifications.
  • Women are also often pitted against each other even when competition isn't there, creating the perception that we are working against each other, when in reality women are often each others' biggest supporters.
The film also talked to teen girls about their experiences and their perceptions of being a woman today. It was both heartbreaking and encouraging. These girls want to be taken seriously and recognize that women are unfairly treated. And yet, they are hard on themselves and on their own bodies even though they are beautiful and smart. One girl, who couldn't have been older than 15 or 16 years old, shared about her younger sister, who was depressed and cutting herself because she was not happy with her own body.

So what can we do? I came away from the screening with a few ideas to apply to my own life.
  • Stop judging other women based on their looks. I am extremely guilty of falling into the trap of criticizing other womens looks in private, especially when they are on my television or in my magazine. Even though the things I say to myself or to my friends and spouse will likely never reach the ears of the individual, the attitude of judgement is toxic and is probably the thing I like least about myself (the quick rush to judgement). I also want to stop jumping to judgement of women who do opt for cosmetic procedures or do things to make themselves look or feel better (in their opinions).
  • Support and encourage other women in their endeavors. I love watching other women succeed, and in fact these women are my role models, but I could be better about encouraging those in my own life and helping publicize those I see online. The disparity between the 51% of Americans who are women and the 17% of Congress that is female is huge, and though I don't have political aspirations myself, I hope that those of you who do are not afraid to throw your hat into the ring. I don't believe in voting for women because of their gender (I'm more of an issues person), but more women on the ballot means more choices and more chances for fair representation.
  • Be an example by showing my satisfaction with the body and beauty I've been given. It is extremely heartwrenching for me to hear girls and women (including my friends) talk about their dissatisfaction with their physical traits, especially when I know they are beautiful. This dissatisfaction is so pervasive and accepted that I think a lot of women who are happy with their looks are ashamed to let others know they are happy with the way they look. It makes me even more aware of what I put on this blog, too, and while I have never espoused a certain body or beauty type, I'm reassessing any subliminal messages I might be sending and how to intentionally send a solidly positive message.
As you can tell, this film touched me tremendously. I highly recommend that you watch it, too.

Check out the trailer:

 Find a screening in your area here, or find out how to host one.

Have you seen Miss Representation? How do you feel about the role of women in the United States today? What else can we do to make the world better for girls and the future?