Monday, November 21, 2011

Interview Attire: These Boots are Not Made for Interviewing . . .

Q: Can I wear knee high boots to my legal interview this winter?  

A: Probably not, but it depends.  In the United States, the more conservative the industry in which you are interviewing, the more conservative your attire should be.  The legal community is one of the most conservative out there, so you should not use your interview as an opportunity to make a fashion statement.  In other countries, or in other industries, it might be more acceptable to wear knee high boots to an interview, but in the U.S., err on the side of closed toe shoes with a reasonable (read: not 5 inch) heel.  I once wore boots like this to my internship with a judge (the internship was for school credit).  The look that my judge gave me when I walked into her chambers was enough to tell me to shelve them during working hours, at least until I was actually employed by someone . . . 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thank You Note Etiquette

Sending a thank you note after a job interview is a chance to show your appreciation for the interviewer's time and for you to reiterate your interest in the position.   There are several types of interviews, all of which require some kind of acknowledgment of thanks -- even if it is a phone interview.  You do not have to write a long treatise about your experience during the interview, but you must write something, and you must not drag your feet.

The three main thank you note guidelines are:  (1) your note must be grammatically and typographically perfect; (2) you must address each interviewer by his or her proper title; and (3) your note must be timely. 

You will lessen the chance that you will make a typographical or grammatical mistake by keeping your note succinct.  You do not want to let the employer know that you are incompetent before they even offer you a job. Open your note thanking the interviewer for his or her time, talk about what you learned in your interview that you found particularly interesting and/or helpful, reiterate your interest and then close the note hoping for good news. 

Addressing the interviewer by his or her proper name shows that you respect his or her title and that you know how to follow basic protocol.  Not everyone will be a stickler for this, but you do not want to take the chance that the main hiring partner cares about this a lot.  If you interviewed with John Smith, you should not address a thank you note, "Dear John."  Instead, you should write, "Dear Mr. Smith."  On that same token, if you are interviewing with Professor Sally Brown, you should not address her as "Ms. Brown."  You should respect her title as a professor and write, "Dear Professor Brown."  There are exceptions to this rule, such as if Mr. Brown has been adamant that you never to call him "Mr." or if Professor Brown insists that everyone call her "Sally" and has been very explicit to you about that request.  You will, however, be correct 95 percent of the time if use the interviewer's more formal title.

The timing of thank you notes is crucial.   Try to follow up within 24 hours with an email thank you note, and then follow up with a written or typed note on paper.  Email thank you notes are acceptable now, but a note on paper is the icing on the cake.  Interviewers who write a thank you note soon after their interviews show an employer that they (a) know the rules of the interview game, (b) are capable of following up in a timely matter, and (c) are taking the job opportunity seriously.  You will have to decide if you feel it is appropriate to write a handwritten thank you note on your personal-but-professional-looking stationary.  Though this is turning into a lost art, many employers will still appreciate the personal touch.  A typed thank you note with a real signature may, in some cases, be more appropriate given the type of employer or the personality of those with whom you interviewed.  You must weigh each situation to gauge which is better under the circumstances.

If you decide to use your personal stationary, make sure it is professional enough before doing so.  Do not use greeting cards in place of stationary.  Examples of personal yet professional  stationary can be found at the Crane website, a well known paper company  More affordable options can be found at the American Stationary website,  Even Brooks Brothers, sells business stationary!  Traditionally, women use fold-over stationary, while men usually use a flat card.

You might decide to type your thank you note because you have decided that it is a more appropriate method for this or that particular employer, or if you know you have horrible handwriting.  Peggy and Peter Post, granddaughter-in-law and grandson, respectively, of etiquette guru Emily Post, say, in The Etiquette Advantage in Business, (344) if you write a typed thank you note, use standard 8.5" x 11" paper. Whichever method you decide to use, if you follow these guidelines, your career will thank you for it.

Post, Peggy, and Peter Post.  The Etiquette Advantage in Business, 2ed.  New York, New York: HarperCollins, 2005. Print.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mom was Right: Hay Is for Horses . . .

There are certain life lessons that continue to ring true in my ear, especially in the workplace.  Sitting up straight, saying "please" and "thank you," arriving on time, you get the picture.  Another one of these gems that I try to remember is to avoid using the word "hey" in my introductions to people.  Though I unfortunately seem to break this rule when I am speaking almost every day, it is especially important to avoid using the word "hey" in an introduction to a work-related email.  It creates an informal tone to the rest of your email and tells the person to whom you have addressed the email that you think of him or her on a less-than professional level.  It is not always easy to do this when talking to someone in person, but when you are writing an email, you have the added benefit of being able to re-read your work before sending.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

5 Ways to Succeed at Your Summer Job

1.  Be on time.  Read: show up ten  minutes early.  Try to avoid a perfect record of showing up at 8:50 a.m. for the first two weeks, and then at 9:10 a.m. thereafter.  Also, if you are out late at a work event, you are still expected to be at work on time the next morning.

2.  Dress the part.  Take a look at what your supervisors wear and model your attire after them.  If you work in a Business Casual environment, and your boss wears a suit and tie everyday because s/he meets with clients frequently, then you might want to look to the associates in the office for reference.  If you are a woman and your manager is a woman, you should feel free to model the amount of makeup you wear by the example she sets.

3.  Do not be afraid to ask questions.  If you are not completely sure about an assignment, or get stuck on a part of it, feel free to ask for help.  Do not let the problem get too far away from you; this will make the problem worse.  If you try to figure the problem out yourself, but you are still confused, ask someone for assistance.  This is not a failure to "get it," but rather, a more efficient use of time.

4.  Remember that you are building your network.  You already know that you will need to make a good impression.  More specifically, the people you meet this summer will form or continue to form the basis for your professional network.  You will hopefully have this network for your entire professional career.  You may work on an assignment that you will use as a writing sample for future job applications.  Keep these thoughts in mind every time you hand in an assignment, update your Facebook status, go out for drinks with your colleagues, send an email, reply to an email, etc. Make sure everything you hand in is your very best work.  Make sure to proofread everything -- this includes email.  Double check dates, the spelling of names, and grammar.  

5.  We all love Facebook, but resist the temptation to read it all day.  I had a former boss who used to say to me, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" when I asked her for more work when my billable hour goal for the month was in jeopardy.  If you are finished with an assignment and have nothing else to do, do not sit on your hands or search Facebook all day.  Go out and ask for more work.  This way, you are taking initiative, accumulating quality assignments and even better work habits.  Hopefully, you will keep these habits with you when the summer comes to an end.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flip Flops are for Lifeguards: Proper Summer Work Attire

Ah, the summertime.  We have traded in our warm boots for flip flops for that commute to work -- a good practice to keep our nice shoes in top shape.  However, once you get to the office, be sure to stash those flops out of sight.  Resist the temptation to let your flops linger on your feet for "just a few minutes" while you get settled; those few minutes might turn into the whole morning.  Do not get too comfortable because of the nice weather or because of an upcoming holiday.  Also, do not decide that it is okay because your boss is not in the office -- your colleagues are, and your professional attire still matters.  Whether you are a summer associate, an intern, an attorney, or otherwise generally work in an office, you should not be wearing flip flops.  After all, why else have you gone to all the trouble to keep your work shoes looking so nice!?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

LinkedIn or LockedOut?

Q: Someone wants to connect with me on LinkedIn, but I don't really want to answer them.  What can I do?

A: Choosing to ignore someone on LinkedIn is similar to ignoring someone's email when he or she reaches out to network with you.  This happens all of the time, but it doesn't mean it's right.  The sender of the LinkedIn message or request to connect will be left wondering if you are purposefully ignoring him/her, or if you simply did not receive the message. Either way, the sender is left with an uncomfortable feeling.  The best course of action here is to answer the person sending you the request or message.  If you do not have time to fully engage in lengthy dialog with the sender, then you can choose not to, but at the very least you should answer their correspondence in as timely a manner as you would like to be answered.

Expecting Colleagues - Don't Let a Baby Bump Trip You Up

Q: A colleague of mine recently told me she is expecting a baby soon.  How do I congratulate her without sounding awkward?

A:  Simply say, "[C]ongratulations on your news" or, "[T]hat is wonderful news.  Congratulations."  This way, you can genuinely let your colleague know that you are happy for her without having to get into any of the details that might not be appropriate