All posts by Elizabeth Dobrska

Dress the Part: Summer Business Attire

Summer is in full swing, and with the warm weather come questions of what is appropriate to wear to a job interview or even to work. In April we blogged about dressing the part What to Wear to a Job Interview. Most of the same rules apply for a summer job interview (you want to look professional, even if it’s 90 degrees outside), but how about the work dress code?

Dr. Gretchen Gunn, principal of corporate staffing company MGD Services, Inc., says summer brings out the “sins of the skin” as she calls them. Generally speaking if you would wear it to the beach, dance club or the gym, you should not wear it to work. Dr. Gunn goes on to say that for women the “‘no-go zones’ are bra straps, belly buttons, flip flops, and any revealing tops… For men, flip flops are also ‘no-go zones’, as are bare shoulders, shorts, ripped denim, and button down shirts with too many buttons down.”

A number of sources including, the Society for Human Resource Management, provide sample lists of what is acceptable work attire. Such lists can be a helpful resource if you’re new to a company and aren’t sure of what’s acceptable to wear in the summer. The SHRM outlines, what clothes are “safe.” Once you have an idea of what your co-workers wear when the weather’s warm, then you can adjust your attire. It’s always best to be safe, than sorry! Remember, flip-flops are rarely, if ever, acceptable in the workplace!

Ladies, if you’re feeling particularly sunny when you wake up in the morning, why not try pairing a knee-length summer dress with a bright blazer like this one pictured on the left? If you’re not sure about whether open toe shoes are permitted, try peep-toe heels.

Guys, want to get away from the traditional black, gray and navy color schemes? Try a bright button down shirt and a pair of tan oxfords, like the ones pictured on the bottom right.

So even on those really hot days when you just want to wear shorts and flip-flops, remember that if you’re working for a private company “you can be fired because the company doesn’t like your shoes… once you walk into a private employers workplace, your rights are limited,” explains Robert D. Lipman, manager of the New York employment firm Lipman & Plesur, LLP. As always, looking put-together is important and you want to make a good first impression every time you start your day, not just when you go in for the interview! Finding a balance between comfort, self expression and professional attire is key, after all, you don’t want to jeopardize your job for the sake of wearing a pair of sandals. If you’re unsure of what to wear on those hot days, you can also ask your boss or someone from your HR department for a copy of the company business attire policy.

What do you wear to work in the summer? Please share your pictures with us!

Movin’ On Up: 5 Strategies to help you get promoted

Climb the Business LadderDo you love the company you work for, but feel like you’re ready for more responsibility, more challenges and higher pay? Maybe it’s time to ask for a promotion? The idea of having to stand up to your boss and ask for a promotion can be nerve-racking, but here are some steps that can help prepare you. Hopefully, once you’ve applied all of the strategies you’ll feel confident enough to ask for that promotion, or maybe even better… your boss will offer it!

1. Do your best

It’s important to lay a healthy foundation for any project and in this case, you must give at least 100% to your current position in order to receive excellent performance reviews, which are imperative to even be considered for a promotion.

2. Put in the time

Fast Company contributor Brian Tracy and author of Earn What You’re Really Worth, recently published 7 Steps To Getting Paid More And Promoted Faster and stated that it’s necessary to “develop a workaholic mentality. There is nothing that will bring you to the attention of the important people in your work life faster than for you to get a reputation as a hard, hard worker.” So, go the extra mile and arrive at work 15 minutes early tomorrow and stay a little later than usual!

2. Be a self-marketer

Find out how you can help your employer achieve goals. Your work and effort will speak for itself. John Lees, author of Take Control Of Your Career says,”self-marketing focuses on the needs of the buyer rather than the qualities and features of the product, and is not about projecting an ego.”

3. Learn new skills and share them

A number of online resources like Codeacademy, RubyMonk and Coursera, (which offers free online courses from prestigious universities like Princeton, Stanford and Penn) are just a few ways to learn new skills that help you become a more valuable employee.Excel Once you’ve learned your new skills, quantify them by taking Smarterer’s skill tests and post your scores to Linkedin or your personal website. If your boss is in your professional network, he or she is bound to see your new expert or master status. And of course, don’t be ashamed to apply those new skills directly in the workplace!

4. Find a mentor

Margaret Buj, a Career and Promotion Expert, and Career Rocketeer contributor recently wrote that “a strong relationship with a manager or someone higher up in your department can open a lot of doors for you. For one thing, you’ll likely learn a lot about the organization and about the jobs you might want to get in the future.” If you don’t already have a mentor, plan to develop this relationship over the next few weeks and learn as much as you can.

5. Take action

Analyze the needs of your organization and find out what you can do to fulfill those needs. Dr. Randall S. Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers, suggests that “if you see an area that has been neglected — and you have key skills in that area – write a proposal for a new position…even if the company does not go for the new position, you have again shown your initiative, creativity, and value to the firm.”

If for some reason your request for a promotion is denied, there’s no need to dwell on it. Margaret Buj suggests that you ask when you can reapply for a promotion and ask what you’ll have to do to get it. Bottom line, don’t give up.

Best Cities for Recent College Graduates

If you’re a recent college graduate relocating to a big city is most likely in your future. In this economy it’s important to be where the jobs are and for many college grads relocation has become inevitable. Job searching from a distance is just not going to cut it. For the sake of networking and your future, you want to be where the action is. Thankfully Careerbuilder.com and Apartments.com have teamed up and released a list with the 10 best cities for recent grads. Their infographic breaks down the average monthly rent on a 1 bedroom apartment and the most popular industries in that city. To no surprise Washington D.C., New York City and Boston take the top three spots. (Since it’s probable that you’ll be relocating before you land the big job, I highly suggest temping. It allows you to support yourself while you search and shows potential employers that you’re ambitious and eager to work.)

Infographic by Apartments.com and Careerbuilder.comDon’t see a city on the list that interests you? Penelope Trunk suggests that you “choose a city since you can’t choose a job.” Being happy with where you live is vital to your overall happiness. Things like quality of life, walkability, public transportation should all be taken into consideration. Penelope says that a “resource for figuring out where you belong is Richard Florida’s book, “Who’s Your City?”, which he has conveniently broken up into web-friendly widgets for your relocating pleasure.” This place finder widget helps to put current and potential options into perspective.

If you’re on a tight budget and have a pioneering side to you, why not try out an up and coming city? A number of cities have organized programs to attract young professionals. Jessica Stillman points out in an article that as part of an urban revitalization plan, Detroit has launched a new initiative called Challenge Detroit and is “offering selected applicants a $500 a month housing stipend and a $30,000 salary to move to the city and work at a top Detroit company.” This year’s 30 participants have already been selected, but Jessica says that “if participating in the turn around of one of America’s iconic cities appeals to you, keep an eye out for next year.”

If you already have a favorite city, try doing a little research about its opportunities for young professionals, perhaps you’ll find a similar program? For example, Boston.com recently published an article that shares valuable information about a city wide program aimed at retaining young professionals in the city and explains how thanks to this program young people can afford to buy in Boston!

Know of any such programs in other cities? Please share them with us!

5 Tips for Negotiating Your Salary

Negotiating your salary is no easy task, particularly if you are a recent graduate and you’re just landing your first full time job! Employers will try to take advantage of you with a lowball offer, so it’s best to take into consideration the following salary negotiation strategies and tips when preparing for your job search.

1. Don’t jump the gun
Jack Chapman, author of Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute has a number of suggestions for salary negotiation and the first of his Ten Commandments of Salary Negotiation is “Thou Shalt Not Speak Too Soon.” In an article on negotiation published on The Ladders, Jack firmly states that, “there is one, and only one, time to discuss salary in any detail: when they say they’re ready to make you an offer.” Jack goes further to say that, “the usual outcome of talking too soon about salary is that you get screened out, or you get screened in but lowballed. Delay disclosing your salary expectations until you know you’re on the shortlist.” So don’t jump the gun, be sure to wait to discuss all salary related matters until you’ve been presented with an offer.

2. Do your research
This really goes without saying. Of course it’s important to be prepared for an interview, but how do you prep for the salary negotiation? You can start by checking out salary.com and glassdoor.com. These sites can give you a range and a general idea of the salaries for a given position or job type in your city. If you want to get more specific, BlogHer’s Paula Gregorowicz  recently wrote an insightful article on salary negotiation on salary negotiation and shared some useful tips to determine your salary range, which she found on Fabulously Broke.

BASIC STEPS TO FIGURE OUT YOUR SALARY:

Collect the data of all the salaries for job descriptions that match what you do

Get the average of these salaries

Find the range using standard variance

Paula claims that “it’s not as hard as it sounds, especially if you have Excel.”


3. Vacation
A friend of mine shared with me that when she was applying for her first job, one of the recruiters told her to always negotiate at least 1 week of paid vacation time. For many of you that are starting out, you might be surprised to find that some companies do not offer any paid vacation time in the first year. DO NOT BE TRICKED! When you ask for paid vacation time, some employers may offer you borrowed vacation time, meaning if you are offered 2 weeks paid vacation after your first year you can borrow one of those weeks and use it during your first year. This is not beneficial to you. When negotiating vacation time, you want to make sure that there are no strings attached. Also, don’t forget that paid sick days and paid personal days are separate from your vacation and should remain separate.

4. Be Transparent
Forbes.com recently published a useful piece about salary negotiation. Susan Adams interviewed Rusty Rueff, author of Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business and former head of human resources at PepsiCo and Electronic Arts, who supports that job seekers should be candid with their salary requirements and willing to explain them. Rueff says “It’s just like applying for a mortgage or a student loan. The hiring manager wants to know there’s a rational explanation behind what you’re asking for.” If you’re going to tell a hiring manager that you need $55,000/ year then explain what it’s for, college loans, helping pay for your sister’s tuition, car payment etc… and do emphasize all of your work experience. The hiring manager is more likely to meet you in the middle if s/he knows why you require that number.

5. Never be afraid to negotiate.
After all, you want to make sure that you’re happy with your new job and that includes being satisfied with your salary!  Katherine McGinn, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and co-author of When Does Gender Matter in Negotiation? says that “[r]egardless of the state of the job market, you should always negotiate. You don’t ever want to just say thank you.”

So repeat after me: “Never be afraid to negotiate!”

Have you negotiated your salary? Please share your comments and advice below.