What Not to Wear to Work

Bill Gates in business-casual attire.

Via Wikipedia - Gates in (Nerdy) Business Casual

I recently remarked to my husband that I wish I could wear PJ’s to work or something equally as comfortable. He said the only socially acceptable way to do this is if we move to Staten Island or New Jersey. But what about all the other people in the office who are wearing things I wouldn’t paint my house in?

I’m not saying my office per se, but in general lines have blurred when it comes to what’s appropriate to wear to an office. I think the suits-only companies left are few and far between – primarily high-end law & accounting firms. I’m sure there may be others, but generally most offices have taken the ‘business casual’ or plain old ‘causal’ workforce attire.

Casual

Anything goes, and if you wear a suit people will assume you’re going for an interview somewhere else after work – unless the head honcho is in town. That doesn’t even apply if you work for a start-up or trendy DUMBO place – the CEO’s there probably are wearing their hipster faded jeans too.

Business Casual   

The ultimate of gray areas. When people ask me what that means at interviews, I generally say, “No jeans, sweats, sneakers, t-shirts, large logo’s, or workout wear – and anything else goes.” What does it really mean in an office environment? It means 3 people in the same exact position & salary – one will be in a collared shirt, tie and slacks. The next guy will be in flip flops, shorts, and a t-shirt. The third person will be in a head-to-toe ed hardy or similar design/logo-covered sweat suit with expensive sneakers. Depending on where you work is how much will fly causally.

Business Attire

AKA suits. Or at least a shirt and tie with a jacket perpetually on the back of your chair. The ladies get to mix it up with either pencil skirts or pants. It is expected that your clothing is tailored to fit you. You should look and act like a professional.

Dress-down Fridays?

I’ve seen the flip flops with shorts in one department of a company on a Friday, where a different department a supervisor remarked, “I couldn’t help but notice you were wearing jeans on Friday…” When in Rome…even if there is a dress-down policy in some departments, it may not apply to all. Take a hint from what your supervisor wears. Also if you have an important meeting on a Friday, that’s a good reason to dress well anyway.

Dress for the Job You Want, Not the Job You Have

This is old advice that many have lived by, and I’ve seen it work successfully. It may come across as awkward if you have a large divide in what the next level of administration up from you wears, i.e. if you’re level dresses casually as call takers, but the supervisors wear suits, it might seem weird if you walk in suddenly one day and going forward in suits. I suggest taking it up one step, but never over-dress. If the boss doesn’t wear a tie or suit, you shouldn’t either. It doesn’t mean that you have to go casual. Wear sleek, classic styles that would make you stand out from the jeans crowd, but not peg you as someone trying too hard.

Dress = Atmosphere

Business clothing brings with it the ‘business’ atmosphere. You wouldn’t yell out, “Who wants to come for pizza with me for lunch?” in a business environment. But if everyone’s dressed casually, why not? I saw an article featuring a start-up that had clothing for the start-up CEO. Yes, I’m serious. It was basically very overpriced durable hipster suit jackets to be worn with jeans and collared shirts. The craziest part? All the comments left on the article were either commending the company – that it’s so hard to figure out what to wear when you don’t want to overdress – but also don’t want to be the brunt of ‘Zuckerberg’ jokes because he’s still wearing sweats with flip flops a few billion later.

Then women got in on it in the comments section – like how men don’t need $400 suit jackets to wear with jeans – women do! That the men are all wearing collared shirts & jeans – but what do the women wear to look put together but casual, and still get taken seriously?

The women were jealous and were hoping this company would do a women’s line. Wow. All I could think was that uniforms are great. That high-paid executives, even business owners, have trouble presenting themselves with clothing – and wouldn’t it be easier to take out all the guessing?

Even if the uniform is black suit, light colored shirt, at least you won’t have to spend hours guessing what’s appropriate for work that day!

So in conclusion  –  know that whatever you wear will be judged in your place of employment. It may never be expressed to you, but the overall impression your coworkers and superiors have of you will be largely based on your appearance. Yep we’re that superficial, now you know – don’t pretend you don’t.

Wearing beach clothes to work is fine if you’re in a dead-ended job and plan to burn your bridges with them on your way out – but if you even think you might want to use them as a reference for your next ‘real job’ – dress up a bit more.

You have nothing to lose except a little comfort. Go get into your t-shirt as soon as you get home, pop open a cold beer, and return to being the unprofessional sloth you really are deep down inside. At least this way no one at work will ever be on to it, and you’ll have a professional reputation!

Shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/pWfpN-fy

Advertisements

Hiring Ethics Question of the Day: Should Smart People Be Paid More?

Wordle: http://sharon.cc

Or, in other words, does it boil down to:

The Talent Profile vs. The Talent Myth?

The ‘Talent’ buzzword is beyond overused in the HR world nowadays (although not quite as stupidly as ‘HR should have a seat at the table blah blah…’). There’s an idea that some people are capable of ‘more’ than others, and that said talented people will be your ideal employees.

It reminds me of ‘talent’ programs for high IQ kids in elementary schools. But is that what it’s really about? Smart people are the best employees and therefore should be paid the most? If you got the highest GPA you win the job with a bonus?

I guess that leads to another question: Are there certain people who are really capable of more – or is it about willingness to do more? And what does this have to do with the talent profile?

I think the key thing to take into account is whether or not brains make the best employees. I’m not going to say brain power, aka, ‘talent’, isn’t important – especially for more senior level decision makers – it’s essential. It’s what I look for when I recruit for senior positions – but it’s more than just brains or a high GPA. Plenty of people have those with little ability for application of logic in the workplace.

Now for entry through average-level jobs – I personally think the best workers will be those who are doers, who play nicely with others, with good hearts who help others out. People with disabilities will generally be a better coworker/performer than the smart, lazy ‘talented’ jerk.

So what do you all think? Is ‘talent’ about brains, flexibility, a willingness to go beyond status quo – or something else entirely? Should ‘talent’ be directly linked to compensation?

Shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/pWfpN-dp

The 7 Not-So-Highly Effective Habits of Career Fair-Goers

ARRA Job Fair - July 30-Aug 1, 2009

Image by Argonne National Laboratory via Flickr

As that I attended a career fair as an employer today (or yesterday rather when this gets published), I feel it’s as good of a time as any to bring up etiquette for career fairs. I won’t go into serious detail about researching companies and applying to the jobs before the career fair (and before everyone else does) – I’m hoping that’s a given. This is more of what to expect from both the people at the employer table, and what should come from you on the other side to make a (decent) memorable impression.

(Disclaimer: You can disclaim anything you’d like by saying disclaimer, but as always, these are my thoughts and opinions, and no one else can dream of taking credit for them, especially my employer. Please note this is for a said employer whose positions and job advertisements I shall no longer be posting due to internal conflict).

So I’ll start with the ’employer’ side at career fairs. There are prepared recruiters at fairs, and there’s the staff that’s dragged there and asked to do recruiting a favor. Not always the case, but depending on company size and number of recruiters left after downsizing, and you never know if the person you’re speaking to is the company lawyer (i.e. I have a tendency to recruit my OEO department to assist with OEO recruiting at these).

Some tables will have no one at it, just materials to take about the company or their jobs. Other tables will be giving away tons of things & having promotions to get attention. This generally boils down to company budget. Which leads into my personality type #1…

1. The Brazen Hand-Out Thief.

Oh yes, the not-so slick person who is obviously not looking for a job, who is immune to dirty looks – they want nothing more than your squeeze toy, pen, ruler, or IRS spray on hand sanitizer (ok the hand sanitizer one is justifiable at a hand-shaking event, especially for those loose, sweaty-hand shakes, but still…).

At one career fair someone came right up to me and said, “What do you have for me? I said, of, are you interested in heard about our jobs? And he corrected me, and said, “No, what are you giving away?” I apologized that I had nothing – so the guy stole my water bottle just to walk away with something. Some people are like that at career fairs – they’re there for the handout pens. Make sure that’s not you – even if the company you walk up to doesn’t have a job for you. You don’t need a squishy light bulb anyway.

I’m not saying don’t take the pen – I’m just saying be polite. Understand these people may not actually have any say in the hiring process, and may in fact be from completely different departments than you’d be interested in working for.

So what’s a job seeker to do?

Have a conversation. Start with the usual introductions & handshakes (which again, why this is still done in flu season bewilders me) and then ask the person a question, like, “What type of positions do you have available now?” It’s simple, easy, and although it makes the person talk, it’s a natural conversation. Walking up and delivering your elevator speech about your sales expertise – only to find out a company has accounting openings only – will make you feel silly & will leave an awkward position. Take this to the extreme, and you have rude personality #2…

2. The Talker.

While you definitely want to talk to the companies presenting at the fair and make a good impression, as with all experience in life you need to make a brief, strong, memorable impression – and then leave. Overstaying your welcome applies to the career table too. Notice ques of when the conversation is winding down, offer a card or resume, and then walk away. Dragging out the conversation will not improve your chances of candidacy if it’s not natural or there’s nothing relevant to say. The talker also is inconsiderate to others waiting in line, and just keeps trying to monopolize the table’s time…but believe it or not, you can actually make it worse by…

3. The Salesman.

Oh, you don’t have any position available at your accounting firm for a doctor? Oh, well, here’s my card in case you ever get sick, you might be glad that you have my info. I can do x, y, and z for you as well…

Now is not the time. Career fairs are not your personal sales floor, and I really doubt this will drum up business for you. More on shameless promoting here.

4. The Liar.

Well, I’m sure they would just consider themselves the ‘boaster’ or ‘exaggerator’, but still, if you don’t fit the bill for the company’s open roles – man up and move along son, move along. No point trying to twist what you’ve done…why yes, I’m an accountant, but I think the fact that I’ve done the taxes for my doctor for the last six years qualifies me for you physician role…

Now this does not negate trying to translate your wanting to change fields and explaining how your experience is relevant to the new role/field – but keep it real.

5. The Non-Talker.

Wait, didn’t I just say don’t over-talk? Well it’s not good to walk up to a table and not say enough. Especially if you’re shy and small talk isn’t your specialty – consider it good interview practice, by making strong eye contact (without leering – #6 to come) and making professional small-talk with employers. It’s not a comfortable situation for the employers to have to try to figure out what jobs they should be telling you about. They also shouldn’t have to introduce themselves to you – they have a huge sign. You know who they are – after all their name is on the pen you just pocketed.

If you find it really hard to get talking, try to open the floor to them, say their materials show they have accounting positions only. You can ask if they anticipate any openings in your area in the near future. You can ask them for a card & connect with them on linkedin if they accept, and ask them to keep you in mind if roles in your area open up. Don’t force conversation, especially if it makes you anxious. You’re better off taking it online.

You can also ask if they can pass your resume on to the sales department. Could be there are positions being recruited for that the person at the career fair doesn’t even know about. Then walk away.

You also might benefit from preparing a script of potential things you’d like to ask or say to an employer, try rehearsing it in the bathroom mirror…whatever works for you to get you talking comfortably. A slick talker with no experience can make a better impression than an expereinced phD who is…

6. The Leering Candidate.

Ahh yes, you want to talk to your dream company. You came to the career fair because your dream company was attending. You’ve been waiting for this moment for years (Hey, why have I never gone to a career fair where google was presenting? Hmmm maybe I’m on to something).

So now you’re faced with your dream company, and you’re terrified. So you wait on line, staring at the table for 10 minutes. Then you lose your bravado, and circle the table again. Then you circle the room…all the while watching the recruiters.

And they know you’re watching. You’ve officially become a creepy leering candidate. They are now probable more scared of you than you are of them. Recruiters tend to be observant people-people. Just walk up, stand your ground, and get it over with. Just try not to grovel at their feet when you get to them. And finally…

7. The Legal Nightmare…aka the career fair version of an ambulance-chaser.

If you walk up to a table and say something that will put up red-alerts that you’re looking for places to sue more than jobs, your conversations might start with one-liners like…

“Does your company have any positions open for people ‘like me’?” Or, “I’m pregnant. Will this hurt my chance at candidacy?”

It’s the career fair equivalent of putting too much personal info on a resume. Once you offer information that’s not legal for a recruiter to ask you, you might be making them uncomfortable. Or, worse, if they’re closed-minded, you might have just given them ammunition to discriminate against you.

Now I’m not saying to hide things – but there’s a time and a place for everything, although in the professional world sometimes the right time is never.

This also extends to trying the ‘cultural or racial connection’ with the employer. Don’t think that because the recruiter at the table is the same demographic as you, that they’ll want to give you any special consideration or opportunity because of it, and to imply so is on the tasteless side.

Let me end with a personal example to drive this point home.

Say I’m at a career fair, and I see google. If I walk up to them and say, “Hi, I’m Sharon, and I need to leave work early on Fridays for personal religious reasons. Is that OK?” At this point, especially if the recruiter isn’t familiar with Jews, they’d be rolling their eyes behind my back. Or rather rolling their eyes over MY head – to see the next candidate in line, as that I just removed myself from the potential employee database.

Instead, if I walk up and say, “Hi, I’m Sharon, and I am so excited to meet you. I’m a big google fan, and think the google labs are so much fun! Do you happen to have any talent recruiting or organizational development roles available now besides the ones posted on your website? I applied to that one yesterday.”  By this I’ve just opened the floor, shown some knowledge of the company, my eagerness to work for them by putting in effort before coming to meet them – and most importantly – I won’t get the brush off from them saying, “The first step all potential candidates need to do is apply online, so you can go home and go to our website, h-t-t-p-:-/-/-g-o-o-g-l-e-.-c-o-m…, ok, thanks, bye”.

Shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/pWfpN-cD

Care to Share With the Class? Want to write for Sharon.cc?

I’ve developed Sharon.cc as a Social Good platform. It’s not a business, it’s a collaborative site which helps people, companies, and places optimally market themselves.

Would you like an outlet for your career advice, job search struggles, free resume critique (anonymously published of course) or anything else you’d like to share?

Guest posters & interviews are encouraged – just send me what you’d like to share with my readers & I’ll post it if I feel they’ll benefit from it.

Also feel free to subscribe or follow me on twitter @sharondotcc to automatically be notified of new articles!

Catchy Websites Without the Dot Com

Although not career advise per se, I did an interview with Mike Sullivan http://sullysblog.com that you might want to check out –

http://sullysblog.com/Sharon-Siegel

It’s a bit more insight into why I didn’t choose a .com for my site, and why you shouldn’t be afraid to step a bit outside the norm when it comes to branding & marketing yourself.

Going to Work for Google: The Career Equivalent of Going to DisneyWorld

This is one of the huge welcoming signs for Go...

Image via Wikipedia

There are very few places that offer better benefits than the government. Now imagine this place valued its employees, developed them, promoted talent, and only hired the best people to work with. Add in an incredible mission, forward thinking, world changing technology, and lots of perks. Then imagine this place is real and hiring.

Oh wait, it is real.

Working for google or similar (if there are) top-rated places to work does happen for some people. The question is, how to become one of them? How does one find employment in an amazing place?

I once spoke with a google recruiter I’m networked with from California a few years back. He politely explained to me that as that I did not attend an ivy league school and had not worked or consulted for one of the major firms, I had very little chance of being considered. Sigh. Was very discouraged, especially when I saw on the application you have to check off how long you worked at either: apple, bain, amazon, mckinsey, bcg, ibm, pixare, adobe, oracle, ebay, etc. It made me want to go get a job with one of those places to increase my chances of google wanting me.

Fast forward a few years later…I actually met people who work for google, people who went to good but not ivy universities (hey like me!). They never worked for those big reputation places, and they were hired fairly through their application system. When I mentioned what the google recruiter told me back in the day they were surprised, said it’s just not like that, and that people like me get hired all the time. Dare to dream.

And so I do dream, that one day I’ll find a great position in a place that doesn’t do things ‘the way they’ve always been done’, that might appreciate me and my talents, and hey, while we’re dreaming it’ll let me have a healthy work-life balance so I can see the kids once in awhile.

So I’d love to hear from you, faithful readers. Do you work for a great place or know of an amazing employer? Why do you love it? Are they hiring? Let us know!

For public notice post a comment here, for private requests please email: amazingemployers@sharon.cc

Shortlink to this article: http://wp.me/pWfpN-7R

Shameless vs. Fabulous: Resume, Social Media & Life Etiquette

154 Blue Chrome Rain Social Media Icons

Image by webtreats via Flickr

“Self-promotion is an art, not a science, because it takes a bit of instinct and talent to tiptoe across the tightrope between tooting your own horn and sprinting down the street at 6 a.m. with an air horn blaring whilst your soon-to-be-former friends roll their eyes and plug their ears and discuss behind your back how desperately they wish you’d just shut the eff up.”  – Brenna Ehrlich, author of blog Stuff Hipsters Hate – see #5 for full article

  1. Don’t be a school snob. You might have gone to Harvard, but if you don’t have an impressive resume or cover letter & think your school will open all doors for you, it won’t…well, it might open some, there are Ivy Snob hiring managers – but mine aren’t generally. And if you do, you’ll end up working for ‘the man’ you profess to hate.
  2. Don’t be a workplace snob. You worked for google? Well obviously you left or were let go, or are on your way out for a reason. Don’t think that will get you your next job.
  3. Make your online profiles & resumes easy to navigate. Viewers should be able to easily, immediately tell what and why you have done what you’ve done, when and where you’ve done it.
  4. FAIL: Shameless Promoting. We’ve all probably done it at some point, but you have to offer value in return for asking for something. Goes back to the ME, ME, ME complex (see http://wp.me/pWfpN-2M for more about me, myself, and I).
  5. Want tips on how to use social media for self-promotion that doesn’t make people gag? Try http://mashable.com/2010/09/22/promote-online/

Shortlink directly to this post: http://wp.me/pWfpN-6