The office dress code is changing

Heels and Ties: What’s the Office Dress Code Now?

By Giana / June 6, 2016

The traditional office dress code is becoming a thing of the past, so where can employees turn for guidance to dress for success? A dress code works well for private schools, team sports, and workplaces with pressing safety concerns. No employer wants to see workers operating heavy machinery with loose clothing that can get caught in the mechanisms and cause injury. Schools wish to shift the focus on learning, not teenage fashion shows. But in the office, strictly enforced dress codes are becoming a thing of the past. There are a few simple explanations for this evolution. While clothing guidelines can help elevate a shared sense of order and professionalism, they can also be difficult to enforce. Though HR teams are trained experts, they have limited time on their hands. Therefore, they don’t love being drawn into tedious arguments about the difference between a permissible “sandal” and a strictly forbidden “flip-flop.” In addition to wasting time and causing needless disciplinary action, attempting to enforce a dress code can lead to legal trouble if this action infringes on gender equity or violates an employee’s right to certain forms of religious and personal expression. What’s an employer to do? And as traditional dress codes come to an end, how can an employee decide what to wear? How can office workers make sure that their personal style decisions don’t harm their careers? We can’t answer the first question, be we can provide some general guidance on the others. Here are a few quick tips for office workers with fashion concerns.

High heels are not “required”

High heels can be uncomfortable, unhealthy, and sometimes even dangerous. But they suggest a labor-intensive approach to getting dressed in the morning, which appeals to some corporate employers. Until recently, companies in the UK could legally require women to wear high heels as part of a standard dress code. That option is now being called into question. Across the pond in the US, women are peer pressured to wear heels instead. Employees who feel obligated to wear them have a few choices: wear them, reject them and accept the outcome, or change jobs. If you feel pressured to wear high heels every day, question the environment. What else will you be pressured to do? It may be time to find a new job. Work for a company that values you for your skills, not your shoes.

What about ties?

And as it happens, overdressing can be just as career damaging as underdressing — if not more so. Dress for success, don’t dress to impress. Wearing a suit and tie in an office full of T-shirts can suggest distain for your coworkers or a sense of superiority. You may not feel that way whatsoever, but you may accidentally send that message. But these moves won’t protect your career when promotion decisions are made. Look around. Let the existing culture of your workplace guide your morning routine. Observe what other people wear. Notice how people treat you when you wear different outfits. It’s not easy to dress professionally in most offices these days, so it may take some practice.

The rest of the dress code is subjective

When you get dressed for work (or when you shop for new clothes) don’t rely solely on your company’s dress code to guide your decisions. Instead, use your eyes, your situational awareness, and your common sense. “But I followed the dress code” won’t protect you from charges of “just not having the look we like” or “not fitting in with our culture.” If you’re confused, ask a few trusted coworkers for their input. Pick coworkers with different styles. Find your own work style in their various answers. For more on how to navigate every aspect of office life, including your clothing choices, turn to the guidelines and job search tools on Livecareer.
African American man working on a laptop computer.

How to Write an Excellent Project Manager Resume

By Giana / December 19, 2016

You need a project manager resume that sets you apart from the crowd. Here are a few tips that can help you land the job you’re looking for. As a project manager in search of a full-time or contract based job, you’ll need a resume that sells your skills, education, and experience, just like an applicant for almost any profession or industry. But your resume will also need some details that are specific to your project-management goals. For example, you’ll have to demonstrate your ability to clarify and rein in a sprawling mission, a.k.a. “project-creep”. You’ll need to showcase your leadership skills, even at the entry level. And you’ll need to explain how your specific skill sets can support your employer’s specific enterprise. Here are a few moves that can help you accomplish these goals.

First, focus on your summary.

You may be searching for work in a wide range of fields that require expert project managers. So in the summary section of your resume, clarify exactly how your experience lines up with the needs of your target audience. To assess those needs, do some research or make your best guess based on the information available to you. By the time they’ve read your summary, your reviewers should know-- for sure—that this open position falls into your area of interest and expertise.

Move experience above education.

Your education section will be very important, but for most project management positions, reviewers like to assess your experience first. Again, they want to know that the projects you’ve worked on in the past reflect similar challenges to the ones you’ll face on this job. Focus on the client problems you’ve solved, the budgeting restraints you’ve dealt with, and the ways in which you—and your past projects—have exceeded expectations. After briefly listing and describing your past positions and your proudest home runs, you can share your education, training, and certifications.

Highlight skills that grab attention.

After your education and experience sections, you’ll create a resume subheading focused on your special skills. Keep in mind that a long list of marginal and forgettable skills (like proficiency with the Microsoft office suite) will easily slip out of your reader’s memory after they close your file. But a shorter list of rare, highly valuable, and very specific skills will stay at the forefront of your reader’s thoughts. Cull and curate your “skills” list carefully. Don’t include every single one of your software skills—only the most relevant. And don’t list bland, broad categories like “communication” and “leadership”. Instead, be specific. Cross out “communication” and replace it with “public speaking”, “grant writing”, or “PR management”.

Show results.

Your experience section will highlight what you’ve done. Your education section will highlight what you’ve learned and what you know. Your skills section will demonstrate what you can do. But for all three sections, emphasize the end results. Did you earn cum laude status? Did you successfully advance your employer’s interests by expanding market share or raising revenue? Describe the specific problems you’ve solved, honors you’ve earned, or changes that have come about due to your own personal actions. Use numbers to make your point. For more on how to tighten each essential section of your project management resume, turn to the resume creation tools available on LiveCareer.
Business people working together in office

Communication Counts: 83% of Recruiters Consider it Key to Sizing Up Cultural Fit

By Giana / December 14, 2016

To impress your interviewer and land your dream job, you’ll need to communicate clearly and well…but what exactly does this mean? It’s no surprise that most employers and hiring managers cite “good communication skills” as a positive trait when evaluating candidates for open positions. But “good” or “strong” communication can mean different things to different people. In fact, a recent Jobvite survey that polled 1600 recruiters and HR professionals found that 83% consider communication style the most important element when evaluating candidates for cultural fit. This means that if your method of speech and message-shaping matches that of your employer, you’re in. If not, you’re more likely to slip through the cracks. So as you search for work, make sure that you’re communicating well, in the universal sense. While you’re at it, make an effort to understand the unique culture and style of your interviewer and your target employer. Here are a few moves that can help.

Be clear.

Clarity means delivering your message using impeccable grammar, proper spelling, complete sentences, and a logical link between each written or spoken thought and the next. This may sound like a no brainer, but far too many candidates assume that text speak, abbreviations, and broken phrases are acceptable when speaking to a recruiter by text, email, or voicemail. They aren’t. Edit your messages, even the simplest and shortest.

Be mindful of nuance.

Grammar matters, and so does tone. There’s a difference between: “Thanks for your message! We’ll talk soon!” and: “Thank you for your message. We will talk on Monday.” Both are grammatically correct, but they convey a different voice and tone. Word choice and punctuation contribute to your conversation and help readers gain a complete picture of who you are as a person. Stay in control of that picture.

Listen first.

If you’d like to present yourself as an adaptable person with a flexible personality who can get along with almost everyone, that’s great. It’s an excellent way to open a dialogue with an unknown person or company. But once the dialogue is open, stay tuned in to the culture of the company and the personality of the person on the other end of the line. Don’t keep cracking jokes if your audience isn’t responsive to your sense of humor. And if your audience seems relaxed and forthcoming, smile and take it easy. Demonstrate your ability to receive social cues and respond appropriately.

Remember details.

Write down the details and facts your interviewer or recruiter shares with you. No matter what information comes your way, the more you retain, the better. Make note of names, numbers, the company’s history, the needs of the open position, and the details of your own background that you have and have not already shared.

Keep records.

As you search for work, you may create long email or text chains with various employers and contacts. Keep these records straight and accessible. They can and will come in handy as your conversation develops.

Learn to brag appropriately.

Almost every job search comes with a universal conundrum: The need to brag about your abilities and while being self-aware and socially well-adjusted. Finding balance between the two is an art. But you can pull off this tricky maneuver if you place yourself in your listener’s shoes and think carefully about your messages before you send them. It may also help to review some successful cover letters and/or watch videos of successful interviews (you can find both on LiveCareer!) For more information on how to ace your interviews and establish meaningful connections with recruiters and employers, explore LiveCareer’s job search and resume creation tools.
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The Office Holiday Party: A Survival Guide

By Giana / December 12, 2016

Every year in mid-December, employers like to show their appreciation, largesse, and respect for holiday traditions with a soiree as grand as the company budget allows. There’s no better way to celebrate corporate bounty and bring employees together than a fun, relaxed gathering with plenty of free-flowing booze. Sounds like a great time, right? There’s just one catch: As experienced employees know, the holiday party is not all about fun, it’s not the time guzzle drinks, and it’s certainly not time to let your hair down the way you might at a friend’s party. If you’re concerned about the growth of your career, don’t cut loose. You should treat this party as an opportunity, and consider it just another day (or night) at the office, even though you might be off-site. Here’s how to have a great time at this year’s holiday party while ensuring your boss and coworkers still respect you in the morning.

Commit

Don’t waffle. Just go. Clear your schedule and show up. Don’t wait until the last minute to RSVP, don’t respond with a “maybe,” and don’t plan to make it a quick stop and then head for the door. Make a night of it. This event is management’s gift to their employees and should be handled with respect. If you can’t make the party, respond promptly with your apologies.

Bring your best self

Eat food with substance (like almonds or a cheese sandwich) before the party so that you’re armed with energy and steady blood sugar. You don’t want to have to depend on champagne and canapés for sustenance. Approach clients and colleagues you don’t already know and mingle like it’s your job…because it is. Instead of thinking about the fun you’re going to have (or the misery you’re going to endure), focus on making sure others have a good time. To do this, you’ll need to put on your game face and bring a genuine positive attitude.

Stop at two drinks

Fill your glass at the beginning of the event, drain it slowly, then move onto a few rounds of water or soda. In an hour or two, you’ll be ready for your second drink. A few hours later, and you’ll be ready to leave. Pacing is everything. If you’re losing track of the drinks you’ve had, you’ve had too many and it’s time to cut yourself off. Remember: This isn’t really a party. It’s work, and drinking at work is usually not a good idea.

Be yourself

During the regular workday, you may not feel comfortable talking about your family life, your friends, your hobbies or your personal past. It’s wise to follow that instinct, for the most part. But the holiday party gives you an opportunity to share some of your real personality while staying within the bounds of professionalism. While you’re at it, ask others about themselves and employ your listening skills when they answer. This is a great time to connect with those you rarely get to interact with during the workday.

Don’t make it all business

If you really want a deadline extension, a raise, a promotion, a more flexible project budget, or a certain plumb assignment, lay the groundwork by schmoozing with those who can help you, but don’t ask directly at the holiday party. There’s a time and a place, and if you engage in non-work-related banter now, you can follow up and get what you need later, during regular business hours.

Avoid oversharing

The holiday party may seem like a great time to tell people what you really think — about a client, about a political event, or about an annoying colleague — but it isn’t. Always think before you speak, party or no party, especially if you have been drinking.

Take in the spectacle

When will you have another chance to sit with your boss and nerd out over your favorite movie franchise? When will you get to see Doris from accounting drunk and tearing it up on the dance floor? Or to flirt with your office crush without raising an eyebrow? Never again! At least not until next year. So enjoy the side of your coworkers that you rarely get to see. Just make sure you’re part of the audience, not the show. For more on how to keep your career on an even keel as you navigate the drama of the holiday season, turn to the experts at LiveCareer.