Category Archives: advice

Hey, Paper Doll, Let’s talk SFW and Business Casual

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No doubt about it, dress codes can be difficult to navigate.  But here are some things that “safe-for-work” (and here I am talking about most “corporate” desk jobs) should honestly never, ever, ever include:

  • Thongs/flippy-flops
  • Ugg boots
  • Any kind of pajama
  • Sweat pants
  • Yoga pants
  • Cut-offs
  • Anything that shows your bra or bra-straps on purpose
  • Skirts so short that could be mistaken for a belt
  • Tube tops
  • Ripped/super-distressed denim
  • Anything that reveals any part of your midriff (sorry Taylor Swifty, but we all know that *you* don’t have a desk job)

And here’s a list that I’d consider you to think hard about twice before wearing. A lot of these could fly in many contemporary offices, but if you’re headed to an interview (!), or a new office, when in doubt (scream and shout) avoid these items, too:

  • Any kind of shorts (even the “fancy” ones)
  • Open toed-shoes/sandals (even peeps)
  • Tops/dresses that reveal cleavage
  • Tank tops
  • Halter tops
  • Any cutaway style (even if it uses lace or sheer to obscure skin)
  • Unlined lace or sheer tops that reveal undergarments
  • Thigh-high boots
  • Leather/pleather pants
  • Tights as pants

Remember, Taylor Swift is a rock-star by profession and Amal Clooney is playing the part of celebrity wife, not barrister, when you’re catching her in photos in People. When it’s time for you to shine for the paparazzi, be sure you go no-holds-barred but until then, remember who you are and what you’re dressing to do.

Building on your base

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Often we focus exclusively on our base salary when looking at a job offer, but our base is only part of the package. The benefits and non-tangibles that a company can offer, even if they aren’t able to budge on your salary, can be truly substantial and can often be more readily granted by employers whose hands might be otherwise tied.

Things to consider negotiating for next time you get the opportunity:

  • Signing bonus
  • Performance bonus
  • Equity
  • Extra vacation
  • Work from home privileges (you’re saving on commute dollars as well as time spent)
  • Employee savings match (this can end up being tens of thousands of dollars each year if you’re a diligent saver)
  • Salary reviews at a shorter interval (at your six month anniversary instead of the year)
  • Paid attendance at industry events
  • Paid mobile bills (assuming your phone usage or accessibility is relevant to your job)
  • Career related training (it could help you get a better paying job in the future)
  • Paid network access at home
  • Sabbatical
  • Title promotion (even if it doesn’t come with a pay increase, it could translate into one on your next review or your next job)
  • Health club access/fitness benefits
  • Parking

On a somewhat related note, I recently stumbled upon an article on Forbes by Liz Ryan which I think uses a great (and highly comfortable) dialog for a sample salary negotiation. It’s a quick read and a real confidence builder.

Thanks a lot

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Fewer than half of the people I have interviewed have ever bothered to send me a thank you note. Those that did truly stood out from the rest of the pack and, if they had already made a favorable impression, this reinforced my positive opinion of them.

There was a time in the tech industry when the notion of a thank you note, even one sent via email, came across as tragically uncool. The notes were viewed as something from a past generation of workers. Hiring processes could complete in the span of a few days. And employees were so eager to prove themselves “rock star” talent with no need to appear grateful. Those times are behind us.

I have colleagues who have made the statement “I would never hire someone who did not send a thank you note.” I remember hearing that and sort of freezing in place, thinking that, had I not sent one, I would not be where I was–over such a seemingly small thing. The note would have no apparent bearing on my ability to do the job or my qualifications. But the note (or lack of a note) did convey how I might conduct myself on the job–it signaled my ability to be gracious, my consideration of others’ time, and my understanding of and willingness to fit in with business formalities.

And, if you’re wondering whether to use email or send a paper note, consider the hiring timeline. If they have said that they will get back to you in a day or two, by all means follow up via email. You run the risk of being lost in an inbox, but better that you get the message in front of them before a decision is made. But if some time can be afforded, a handwritten note on a classic card really makes an impression.

Stumped on stationery choices? Your goal is an undesigned designed card on high quality card stock with a heavy envelope in a cream or light blue. My top recommendation Crane’s note cards.

I negotiated and lost the offer

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“I negotiated my job offer and it got pulled” was the title of a blog post I read this morning. It cited the stories of two candidates who had received offers they thought were low but when the candidates asked for more money, the offer was rescinded. Although the recounting of the stories are second-hand, several things stood out about the scenarios.

In the first account, the candidate asked for more than the they were willing to offer and then went on to describe at least two more phone calls in which they tried to negotiate the salary up. Shortly thereafter, the HR person said the candidate “offended her and wasn’t a team player” and that they were moving on to another candidate. This seems like a case of “enough is enough” to me and the candidate should have picked up on the subtext and tone of the conversations far before it came to this. While it was good to ask once, and possibly counter, again, the offer process for a job isn’t a stand-in for the negotiation you would do at Crazy Eddie’s used-car lot. If the offer is fair and in the ball-park of the going rate, let it go. I’ve seen this “persistence” first-hand as a hiring manager. You’ve revealed an important piece of information about your work style and all you are really doing is exhausting me and proving that you will be a problem to manage once you’re working for me. The candidate closed their accounting of the situation with the comment “I read a lot about offers and they all say ‘negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.'” That was a wrong interpretation. It meant “negotiate”–once. Don’t just accept the first offer, but the repetition of the word? That part was just for written emphasis.

In the second account, the candidate asked for a 10% increase of the salary that was offered and justified that since they would need to move cross country. If the offer was already at or above market rate, asking for a perpetual salary increase to cover a one time cash outlay was a bad move. However, I find it difficult to believe that an employer wouldn’t hear a request for more money, and if that wasn’t in the cards, explain that the offer was “the offer” and the candidate could take or leave it. I think there is a lot more to what happened here than was disclosed.

You should always “negotiate”. The author of the blog that kicked off this post says you shouldn’t. I disagree. I see the point she is making, but I disagree. And, I say that as someone who has not always done negotiated (for specifically the reasons she cites!). Early in my career I had offers I felt were fair and generous and I graciously just accepted. But, as a good friend pointed out, what would have happened if I had asked for more? What if I had said, 9 bananas sound great, but I’d really prefer 10 (pro-tip #1 here, it’s always better to have a tighter reason than just “I’d prefer…”). They might have said “no”. They have 9 bananas. And pro-tip #2, that’s where you stop. But they might have said “yes”. And I would have had 10 bananas. And my next raise would have been on top of 10 bananas. All for the very low price of asking for it.

The folks claiming they lost the offer over the ask? Depending on how you look at it, it could be said that “negotiating” was the cause. But really, I think it was the “how” it was done, rather than that it was done at all.

Interview style recon

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It can often be difficult to figure out what exactly to wear to your first interview. And while I stand by my claim that you can’t go wrong with this number, the right outfit can vary by occupation and industry.

If you’re going to interview at a larger company and have the benefit of some spare cycles prior to your interview, a small lobby stake-out can tell you a lot about the workplace attire. However, it may not reveal what’s expected of you as an actual candidate. As an example, I worked for a number of years in the engineering arm of a high profile software/hardware startup. While I wore jeans, company logoed unisex tees, and Keds to work, my expectations were that everyone I interviewed would come prepped and dressed to show me their interview dance. Even in that most laid-back environment, a suit was a given for at least the first round and the absence of one didn’t go without remark.

Cue Glassdoor.com. Although I have visited Glassdoor before, it wasn’t until today that I had noticed that some users were including comments on attire. The volume of posts that include style comments is low, but it could lend some insight into what you can expect. You need to join if you want to view more than ten reviews but accounts are free so there’s not much to lose. And, Glassdoor reviews cover a wealth of meatier topics that can help you know what to expect and get you prepped for questions.