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There have been a number of stories lately about recent college graduates (“the lost generation“) who are struggling to find employment. I graduated almost 10 years ago, and there were a quite a few things missing from my college curriculum that would have been beneficial for work life. With a pretty rough recession going on (yes, even in the DC area), here are a few tips for navigating the often confusing corporate world. In no particular order…
General Office Tips
Learn how to use a fax. People really still use them. (See one of my favorite movies, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead for a lesson in this!) Check out minute 6:16…
Learn how to send a FedEx (or UPS) package. Even if you’re middle-management, you will probably have to send these.
On that note, nothing is beneath you. When you’re starting your career, you might have to do some things that you deem unworthy. Suck it up. Do it with a smile. Employers want people who can be team players and roll with the punches – and sometimes you might have to do something you don’t like. I wouldn’t necessarily offer to get everyone coffee all the time, but if someone asks you to make a copy – do it. This is a fine line especially for women, who often try to please others and who unfortunately do often get asked to do more “administrative” work. The first few times, it’s fine – but don’t get taken advantage of. You don’t want to end up as “copy girl”. Nice girls don’t get the corner office!
Be polite and friendly to everyone, you never know who you may end up working for/with one day! Also, be polite to vendors, customer service representatives and hotel/restaurant concierges and managers – kill them with kindness and they’ll help you out when you’re in a jam and MUST GET a reservation for a business dinner for your boss. Seriously. I speak from experience.
Watch your email language. Don’t say anything in email that you wouldn’t want said to someone’s face. On that note, be careful what you say and who you trust. It’s great to have work confidants who you can vent with – but proceed with caution. You wouldn’t want your conversation with Joe about how terrible your boss Alice is to get around to the entire office (including Alice), now would you? Save your gripe sessions for those outside the office, or someone that you really know and trust.
Learn how to travel for business. Instead of “Whoop corporate card baller!”, think, my company is paying for this, and my company pays my salary. Err on the side of caution. Keep meals under $20 if you can (depending where you are), choose hotels and flights wisely, and make the most of your time (i.e. don’t lounge around the pool). Pack based on the meetings you are attending – will your colleagues or customers be wearing suits? You should too. Will they be wearing jeans? You should wear slacks. Always better to be overdressed than underdressed (except maybe in the case of a tradeshow/conference where you have a predefined wardrobe).
Speaking of dress, ladies please – no spaghetti tank tops, tube dresses, bra straps showing, no short skirts or shorts, no shower-like flip flops, and keep the hooker heels to a reasonable height minimum. Nothing makes me sadder than seeing a girl wearing a nice suit with 6-inch heels. I am guilty of being lax in the fashion department on some days – but try to find some classic pieces like button up dress shirts, blouses made of nice material (try for boatneck, not v-neck), wrap dresses, black slacks, and a good cardigan. H&M has good deals, as does the Merona brand at Target. Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic often have great sales. For good tips on dressing for the corporate world, check out my friend Capitol Hill Style.
Work the right hours. Every company is different. A good rule of thumb is 9 AM to 6 PM, but some places work on adjusted schedules. You don’t want to be the one who is never in the office, but also want to appear like you have a life (eventually it’s not cool if you’re in the office until 10 PM EVERY NIGHT). Don’t give the impression that you’re slacking off by taking long lunches and leaving at 5 PM on the dot every day. In this economy, every minute counts. Be available, and willing to do the hard work. You’ll be rewarded in the end.
On that note, be careful about being a slave to the blackberry (or other device). Checking email 24/7 is a great thing, especially for emergency situations. Depending what line of work you’re in – set rules for yourself so you don’t drive yourself nuts. Check email once when you get home, and once before bed. Check it when you wake up. Once or twice on weekends. There usually is nothing THAT important that it can’t wait until morning.
Work smarter. Don’t reinvent the wheel. While it’s a great opportunity to carve your own path and possibly start your own way of doing things, most jobs you take will have had someone before you. Try to make it better and work for you, but don’t make it harder. If it works the way they’ve always done it – then do it that way. Pick your battles wisely.
Social network etiquette. Personally, I don’t mind friending most of my coworkers on Facebook because I use it professionally and personally, and I feel I have nothing to hide. But, if you’re the kind of person who has photos tagged of you doing beer bongs at the frat house – I would keep it all private and have a “no co-workers” rule. Or, set your privacy settings and establish groups of work friends where content can be filtered. With Facebook’s new friend groups and privacy settings, there should be no excuse. As a rule of thumb for job hunting or other potential Facebook stalkers, make your entire profile private.
Moving On Up
Make the case for a raise. A raise these days is generally not just given to you for breathing. Document work you’ve done, projects you’ve completed, times you’ve helped the company make money (new business?), etc. and bring that to your boss. Show your value, and they’ll value you.
Don’t share your salary. You never know how much your colleagues are getting paid. You can share your salary or a ballpark with friends, but be careful when sharing with coworkers. My rule of thumb is “don’t ask, don’t tell!” You should be able to get a good idea of market value with sites like salary.com and glassdoor.com.
You are replaceable. Everyone is replaceable. You may think that what you do is SO important that they would never fire you, but no matter how good you are, someone else out there can do your job. Be grateful.
Be loyal, but be true to yourself. If you are lucky enough to have a job and are searching for another – be careful how you handle yourself. Be professional on all fronts, but make you sure you remember where you came from and what got you there. Integrity can never be replaced.
What other advice would you give recent graduates and entry-level employees?
I have read a number of great books this summer, including The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, A Reliable Wife, Girl in Translation, Game Change, Those Who Save Us, The Help and a few others. But none have touched me in quite the same way as Sarah’s Key (although The Help was a close second). I was literally depressed after reading it.
I have always been interested in books about the Holocaust ever since reading Number the Stars in elementary school. I think it’s important to remember that horrific time and honor those who were lucky enough to survive. We cannot forget to acknowledge those who lived through it, and remember the memory of those who did not.
Sarah’s Key is set in Paris, which is quite different from many other books I have read. In fact, I’m sorry to say that I hadn’t heard about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup until reading this book (and I imagine many others had not either). It’s a piece of history that is both hard to read about and impossible to forget.
In the first half of the book, we see the juxtaposition of Sarah and the modern day protagonist Julia – as each uncovers the truth of the summer of 1942. The only thing that could have made the book better would have been to continue the narrative of Sarah, a key voice in telling the story. There could have been so much more to her story, and the book loses some of its momentum without her insight. I also found some parts in Julia’s story to be self-serving at points, but perhaps that just makes her more human. Her need to discover and drive others to divulge their secrets can be seen as both heroic and selfish.
Through the experiences of Sarah, we learn first hand the heartbreaking story of Vel’d'Hiv, and through Julia’s research we learn about how the French react – pushing it away as a stain on their history they would rather not think about. But, how could they not? It was through their hands, their government, their police force that thousands of children and families were sent to their death. Julia has her own demons to contend with, managing a somewhat failing marriage and ambiguity about her future. In a way, her research of Vel’d'Hiv’ ends up being her saving grace.
The story has many themes throughout, including the impact of secrets (from generation to generation, between husbands and wives, between parents and children), the power of denial, the consequences of guilt and regret and the strength of love.
Sarah’s Key is about one young girl’s journey, and one woman’s path to freedom. Not for the faint of heart, but a moving, must-read novel that will have you cheering and crying all at the same time.
I just finished reading Jonathan Tropper’s latest book, This is Where I Leave You. It was a great book that I really enjoyed. I found myself laughing out loud through most of the book, and really identifying with the main character, Judd. The fast paced book paints a pretty picture of a family and neighborhood that could be any number families in any suburb across the country. Very relatable.
Judd’s wife has just left him for his boss, and his father has just died of stomach cancer. As a dying wish, his father asks that the family come together to sit shiva, the full seven days. Judd’s older brother Paul and his wife Alice, his sister Wendy and her husband Barry (and their two kids), and his youngest brother Paul and his new fiancee Tracy, all descend on the Foxman house. Through a parade of neighbors, flashbacks, and plenty of family feuds, Judd and his siblings embark on a week that will change the family forever.
My favorite parts of the book included Judd’s recount of how he found out his wife was cheating on him, his reflections to his relationship with Jen, and the family squabbles that occurred. The book covered heartache and relationships in depth, with themes of trust and betrayal, forgiveness and redemption. My only problem was that I didn’t want the book to end, and thought that everything wrapped up a little too neatly. But, overall I highly recommend it.
The book is currently being written for the screen, and I’m looking forward to seeing it. I can imagine some of the book may be hard to translate since much of it takes place inside of Judd’s thoughts, but the characters are real enough to picture. So real in fact, that I included my own picks for the cast of characters.
Judd Foxman – Mark Feuerstein. He’s funny and likeable.
Jen Foxman – Kate Hudson or Portia De Rossi. Need a hot blonde.
Wade – Julian McMahon. His character on Nip/Tuck makes him appropriately heinous.
Paul – Michael Rapaport. He can play angry or funny. I could also see him being a former baseball star. The red hair might be an issue with the other brown haired brothers though.
Alice – Renee Zellweger. She can be pleasant, normal and tragically sad at the same time.
Wendy – Joan Cusack or Jennifer Westfeldt. Joan always plays the perfect mom and “older sister knows best” character. If her age is an issue, then I pick Jennifer, who is fantastic and sweet.
Barry – Jon Favreau. All I could think of was his character in I Love You, Man. A distant jerk in the book, Jon could pull off the powerful, overworked father.
Phillip – Adam Brody. Appropriately young and likeable enough, he could really get into some trouble.
Tracy – Melora Hardin. A nice cougar who could definitely be a life coach.
Linda – Audrey Wasilewski – the neighbor that was more.
Horry – David Cross. Only because I saw him on an episode of Just Shoot Me where he pretended to be a bit slow. I thought he could capture Horry’s brain problems and also be seen as a little bit of a ladies man.
Penny – Natasha Lyonne. Kind of pretty, but mostly forgettable. A fun-loving who never quite got out of town. She must have great legs though.
Hillary Foxman (mom) – Jessica Walter or Amy Sedaris and Keri Russell. Thanks to Gayle for the suggestion of Jessica. Amy Sedaris could be another option (though she would need larger boobs). For a younger version, I pick Kerri Russell.
Morty Foxman (dad) – Dennis Farina and Eli Roth. Seen mostly in flashbacks, I needed someone tough with a seldom seen soft side. For a younger version, I pick Eli Roth.
Charlie Grodner (Boner) – Josh Radnor. I love him in How I Met Your Mother, and he seems like he would make a great former sidekick-turned-rabbi to the Foxman boys.
Thanks to Kim Hart for including me!
Around town, I often hear people referring to a tech start-up as just “two guys in a garage.” But that phrase excludes a gender that, some say, is too often overlooked in the technology industry. In Washington, a number of women are leaving their mark as entrepreneurs, social media enthusiasts and policy experts. And they’re trying to make room for more girl geeks. Here are five women who have established themselves as influential figures in the region’s tech circles and are worth keeping an eye on.
Larissa Fair, 26, has been president of the Washington chapter of the Social Media Club for two years, since shortly after it formed. Under her charge, the group now has more than 900 members (by Facebook‘s count, anyway) and meets every month to network and discuss trends ranging from cloud computing to mobile media campaigns. She’s done public relations work for local firms such as Platinum Solutions and Livingston Communications, and now manages Web communications for a nonprofit.
Fair’s main passion is expanding the reach of social networks among associations, educational institutions and government groups.
“The idea of it has gone much more mainstream,” she said. “People are going to be online anyway, so you need to find the way to reach them.”
I recently took a trip to Southern California with my boyfriend, and had a great time. There was the wonderful San Diego weather which mixed nicely with a packed schedule (more to come on activities) and great dining. I definitely did my research before, turning to San Diego Magazine and friends who were familiar with the area for advice. Here are a few reviews of the places we ate.
Fatburger – This deserves the title as the best fast food burger. With a crispy slightly charred crust and bun that wasn’t overwhelming, Fatburger delivers in juicy grilled goodness. The fresh onion rings and rich homemade chocolate milkshake (made with Blue Bell ice cream) really took the cake. I thought it was light years better than the other West coast burger staple, In-n-Out Burger.
Overall Rating: A-
Rockin’ Baja Coastal Cantina – Probably the worst meal we had the whole trip, we wandered all through the Gaslamp District (and passed a ton of great looking places) and stopped here in favor of cheapness. The mix of seafood and Mexican was a good choice for us (since I love Mexican and he loves seafood), so we tried it out. The guacamole was good, not amazing, but the salsa bar was pretty good. I ordered the dirty tacos with steak instead of carnitas, which came with a wicked spicy chipotle sauce and grilled onions. The boy got suckered into a Baja Bucket with weirdly flash-fried shellfish, which was pretty gross.
Overall Rating: C
Peohe’s – Part of the Chart House restaurant group, we went to Peohe’s for the view and Hawaiian fusion. It’s a bit of a cheesy, touristy destination, but the food was better than expected. The coconut crusted onion rings are amazing. The rest of the menu is quite similar to the Chart House. My only complaint was that the main dessert had macadamia nuts, and I’m allergic. We ate on a covered patio on the water and were really amused by the birds that literally divebombed into the water to get fish.
Overall Rating: B
Ortega’s Mexican Bistro – This was a great Mexican place in the Hillcrest neighborhood. We started with some tasty guacamole, made table-side with grilled lime. BF had some chicken mole enchiladas and the huitlacoche and portabello taco trio. It’s pretty funny how huitlacoche (“corn smut”) is marketed, when it’s really just corn fungus (like a tumorous mushroom). I had the Kobe beef burrito for my entree, which was really simple and delicious. Stuffed with Kobe beef strips, charro beans, jack cheese and avocado (I declined the huitlacoche-porcini mushroom sauce), I thoroughly enjoyed this upscale burrito.
Overall Rating: B+
Brockton Villa – The home of the infamous “coast toast” and a fantastic view, this was one of the best breakfasts ever. We shared a coast toast, and I ordered blueberry pancakes while BF had the “bagel tower”. The pancakes were huge, lightly dusted with powdered sugar and had hints of orange and vanilla. The fresh blueberries put it over the top. The bagel tower was amazing and full of house-smoked lox. A bagel sliced in three with alternating layers of cream cheese, tomato and onion. Kind of like a breakfast club sandwich. A seriously delicious start to the day.
Overall Rating: A
Powell’s Sweet Shop – A very cool little candy shop in La Jolla (with multiple locations), Powell’s features candy from all over the world. They also have rarely seen U.S. candies (cherry bombs for example) and an impressive wall of Jelly Bellies and M&M colors. In addition, they have homemade gelato, specialty sodas, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on infinite loop in a mini kids “theatre” in the back (complete with Wonka Bars). It’s everything fun and whimsical should be. As a candy lover, this is going in my book as a favorite spot to stop for something sweet, along with Fiona’s Sweet Shoppe in San Francisco.
Overall Rating: B+
George’s California Modern – I searched and searched for the best restaurant in the area, and George’s At the Cove consistently came up. Add in that friend of mine told me how amazing their casual menu was, and I had to check it out. I’m so glad I did. The recently renovated restaurant had a hip but calming ambiance, and service was superb. We started with appetizers and drinks. I ordered a bee sting which was colorful and refreshing with kumquats floating in the drink and a slight sting of honey. I had the romaine, celery heart and fennel salad which was amazingly fresh and included a delicious white-bean olive bruschetta and freshly shaved thick curls of parmesan. I practically licked the plate it was so good. BF had a special which was spotted prawns lightly grilled, which he declared the best shellfish he had ever eaten.
We ordered the Niman Ranch 28 day dry aged Cote de Boeuf for two, which took a bit of time to come out. After a 20 minute wait, our waiter brought out a quick almost amuse bouche for us, compliments of the chef. We were treated to a wild mushroom house made ravoli with spring peas. Absolutely amazing. By the time the actual entree arrived we were both stuffed. The beef was delicious, perfectly seasoned with salt and boasting a delightful crispy crust.
And we couldn’t resist dessert. The stuffed donut holes with dip came out with a trio of sauces and were filled with caramel, strawberry or rubharb. The meyer lemon sauce was tart and light, the dulce de leche decadent, and the choloclate was rich and smooth.
I’ve eaten at a number of fine restaurants in the DC area and have to say that this was one of the best meals I have ever had. But, I’ll let you know my thoughts after Citronelle and The Inn at Little Washington (one day).
Overall Rating: A+
Roberto’s – Hands down the tastiest casual Mexican place I have ever been. I would eat there every day if I could. I got the rolled tacos (basically a crispy little taquito) with beef and sour cream. Amazing and with a side of guacamole a perfect fit. Weird as it is, the refried beans were my favorite of all. BF got a combo fish taco and beef burrito. For a unique side, he tried the jalapeno marinated carrot slaw.
Overall Rating: A
Geoffrey’s – we stumbled upon Geoffrey’s thanks to a Zagat Guide iPhone search for a place with a view. We were definitely not disappointed. I had the roasted corn chowder which was sweet with corn and lumps of crab meat and a spicy kick from roasted pasilla chiles. Followed up by a really great casear salad with parmesan croutons. BF had the lobster cobb salad with the best avocado he’d ever had. The food was good but not anything special, but the view made it all worthwhile. Along with the gorgeous ocean view we enjoyed checking out the super expensive vehicles in the valet and on the drive down the 101.
Overall Rating: B-