Friday, May 31, 2013

What to Wear: 1st Day of Work

Many of you might be starting your first internship or full-time position this summer.  If your anything like me, you might be wondering, "What should I wear for my first day at work?".  This can be a big decision and you should spend some time thinking through your options, just like you would for an interview.

Remember, you are still working on that first impression so it is a good idea to put your best foot forward.  You want to make a professional, stylish and smart impression.  I would suggest that you wear a more conservative business casual look until you get into the office and get a feel for the culture.  Because you probably wore a suit to the interview you could arrive the first day in a skirt and blazer with some splashes of color but still modeling the look of a suit.

  1. Polish your look with natural make-up and color on your cheeks.  Treat yourself to a mani.
  2. Go classy business casual.  You can't go wrong with a pencil skirt and a blazer.  This short sleeved shirt adds a pop of color and because it has sleeves you can go with or without the blazer.  The blazer is great as a layering piece because you don't know what the temperature in your office will be.  (Mine is freezing all the time, I always have to wear layers).  Your skirt should land just above your knee and wear comfortable closed toe shoes on the first day.  Check out what others in the office are wearing and see if open toed shoes, wedges and sandals are appropriate.
  3. Bring a fun and colorful tote bag.  You will look more put together and organized if you have all your paperwork, notes, iPad, phone, wallet, etc in a tote.  
  4. Wear a watch.  You may be working in your office or you may be going to various orientation sessions on the first day.  Wear a watch to keep up with the time.  DO NOT rely on your cell phone to tell you the time.  You don't want to be caught constantly checking your phone.  Even if you are checking for the time, it may appear you are checking it for tweets, texts, instagrams and status updates.
  5. Wear something that is "you".  Your favorite piece of jewelry or a fun scarf, whatever it might be, but wear something that makes you feel comfortable and expresses who you are.
Whatever you decide on, make sure your feel comfortable and confident.  If you feel like a million bucks on  your first day of work you are sure to have a wonderful day.  And you will leave your new co-workers with a great first impression.

What would you wear on your first day of work?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ideas for Business Casual Foundation Pieces

Today I have collected a few pictures of items that could be the foundation pieces of your business casual wardrobe.  I started with a few skirts, a dress, a cardigan, a blazer and some white pants and a few shirts.  All of these can be paired with other items and can serve as the building blocks for your new professional wardrobe.

Here's what I came up with (click on the picture to take you to the website where it can be found):


Remember:  Business casual skirts should fall just above your knee when standing up (so they cover your thighs when you sit down).  Many of the tops I have included would be great layering pieces.

I hope this gives you some great ideas to get started building your professional wardrobe.  What would you include?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Business Casual Starter Kit: Building a Mixable Professional Wardrobe (Spring/Summer Edition)

Today I am going to show you how to build a mixable professional wardrobe from just 25 pieces.  I came up with at least 50 different outfits, but I know there are still many more to mix together.  The idea of a mixable wardrobe is to buy pieces that can go together, they don't all have to match but many of them have to be able to "go together".  This is also often referred to as a "capsule wardrobe".

I have heard from many people who are trying to start building their professional style but don't really have the money to buy an entire new wardrobe.  I picked things that many people probably already have in their closets (black pumps, white shirt, black shirt, colorful cardigans, black skirt, etc) so you might not have to buy as much as you think.  I actually had to build a new wardrobe about four years ago.  I finally put my nose to the grindstone and lost the weight that I had been hanging on to since my son was born.  I lost 20 pounds and two clothes sizes.  I was finally back to my pre-pregnancy weight but I had NOTHING to wear.  That's when I first started working with the "capsule" idea.  I spent more money on the business professional staples and then starting adding pieces.  I worked with one general color scheme and got items that would all mix and match.  I found that a colorful scarf adds endless possibilities to your wardrobe options, as does jewelry.  (I'm not addressing jewelry today, but I will in a future post.)

Here are 25 pieces you could start with (substitute your own favorite colors; if you don't like animal print then choose some other neutral print):

You will see that I picked mostly neutral bottoms but added one bright colored skirt and one animal print skirt.  Of course I had to include white pants which are my favorite summer staple.  I picked mostly solid colored tops and two neutral prints.  I would have liked to have found one printed our colorful top but I couldn't find one I was crazy about on Polyvore.  That would be the one thing I would change.  But I did add one colorful scarf and one neutral (animal print) scarf.  I think when you are just starting off it's not a bad idea to have many solid color options but looking at in now I think prints would be a needed addition.  I wanted to show you that you really only need two pairs of shoes and one neutral bag to work with all these options.  I'm a little afraid lightening might strike me right now because I have a closet full of shoes and bags and still can't get enough of them but this just proves that you could get by with two pairs of shoes while you are building the wardrobe.  I would suggest you invest money in shoes because the better made shoes really are more comfortable and you have to wear them everyday.

So, here are the outfits I came up with:

That's how you can start to build a professional wardrobe.  My next post will be about shopping for business professional basics and seasonal accessories.

Would building a mixable wardrobe work for you?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Developing a Style Mission Statement

Today let’s talk about developing your Style Mission Statement.  You might be asking, “why in the world would someone want to develop a style mission statement?”.  Well, I think it’s a good exercise to help you determine the purpose of your wardrobe, refine your style and help you determine what you should be looking for when you go shopping.  Your style mission statement should support the image you are trying to project and inspire you.

I’m a big fan of mission statements.  I encourage students in my class each semester to develop their own personal and professional mission statement.  (Well, I do more than encourage – it’s an assignment that they are graded on.)  It gives them direction, a purpose and a goal to follow as they begin their careers and professional lives.  So, what exactly is a mission statement?  It’s a statement of purpose for an organization or person; the reason it exists.  It guides the actions, spells out the goals, provides a path and guides the decision-making of person or an organization.  It’s what a person or organization does every day.  I have helped many students develop their own mission statements, I have developed a mission statement for the peer education program I coordinate and I have helped develop mission statements for several organizations.  It can be a time consuming and head spinning process at times and you would be surprised how a group of educators and administrators can wordsmith a sentence to death!! 

I wanted to save you some of that trouble and come up with a plan to help you develop your Style Mission Statement (just like I do for my students).  A mission statement should be short and concise (1-2 sentences, maybe only 8-10 words).  It should be something you can remember and relate to that addresses your nature, your values and your work.  Your mission statement should answer the “what” and the “how”. 

Start by answering these five questions and you are well on your way to developing your own style mission statement.

1.  How do you define your style?
  • What looks are you drawn to, what do you feel comfortable wearing, what stores do you like to shop in, what celebrity (or other people’s) look do you admire?
  • See my previous blog post, Define Your Style in 6 Easy Steps

2.  What do you value?
  • What’s important to you about your style and wardrobe?  What do your values say about you as a person and how do you express those through your style?

3.  What message do you want to send? 
  • How do you want others to perceive or remember you?

4.  What is the purpose of your image, style, wardrobe?

5.  What’s your signature look/piece?

Now, do some reflecting over your responses.  Are there common themes?  Did you find words that are used over and over again?  Do you have a “what” and “how”?   Start pulling all together by writing down the inspiration words and phrases and common themes.  Keep re-writing your statement until you feel is accurately describes the purpose of your style and what you do every day.

Here’s what I came up with for my Style Mission Statement:

To project a polished and positive image that is both classy and current which uniquely expresses my fun, creative, and approachable style.

How’s that???  It may still need some fine-tuning, but I like it for now. 

I’d love to hear your Style Mission Statement.  Leave it in the comment section and we can all be inspired!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Class and style don't cost money!

Recently, some readers have emailed and asked me about building a professional wardrobe from scratch.  Some have been college students and recent grads, while others have been former stay-at-home mom's heading back into the professional world.  This week I'm going to focus on how to build a professional wardrobe without breaking the bank!  Let's face it, most of can't afford to buy an entire professional wardrobe in one shopping spree.  It's something that we have to build upon.

I have to admit that, in the grand scheme of things, I probably spend too much money on clothes.  It's all relative, I know, but I'm sure I would be found guilty if charged.  No, I don't buy $300 bags or $200 shorts but I spend my fair share.  I'm just a regular, middle class girl trying to look polished and professional at work.  I bargain shop, look for sales, and hit TJ Maxx regularly.  I have always loved clothes, shoes and jewelry and getting dressed-up.  That's just me, but I don't think someone needs to spend a fortune on clothes to have class or looked polished.  In fact, I enjoy the challenge of trying to put something really great together on a tight budget.  I think it takes more creativity and vision.

So, I'm not any kind of fashion expert or style icon but I do believe that how you dress and present yourself at work and in other social and professional situations has a big impact on your success and how people perceive you.  That's why I think your style and image are important to manage.  My style may be different from yours but I hope you can get some ideas.  Also, I believe we all need to be dressing for our own body type and NOT what is currently trending.  But there are some definite rules and timeless expectations for professional dress and I hope you can learn more about those by reading my blog and exploring professional dress and your own personal style.

Tomorrow I'll get started with a post on "Developing a Style Mission Statement".  Developing your style mission statement is the first step and will help guide what you purchase and wear.  Stay tuned...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fashion Friday: Polka Dot PINspiration!

I've noticed a big trend in my style "pinning" lately.  I think I'm in love with polka dots.  This observation was confirmed with a quick inventory of my own closet.  I LOVE POLKA DOTS!  There, I said it.  Some of you may prefer stripes, paisley, or other prints but for the time being, mine is polka dots.  They are fun, yet subtle.  They are trendy, yet timeless.  I think they are just "me".

So, today's Fashion Friday post is all about the Polka Dot!

Here is my recent polka dot PINspiration!


Do you wear polka dots too?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

12 Professional Skills Needed for Success in Career and Life - Transition from College to Career

Today as I sit in my office you can just tell that graduation is in the air.  Students are running around campus completing last minute tasks before Commencement tomorrow.  Each year I get a front row seat from my office window into all the excitement and celebration of the Virginia Tech graduation ceremonies.  My office sits right across the street from Lane Stadium where the ceremony takes place.  Although I have to park further away from my building than I would like, the traffic is ridiculous and there are people EVERYWHERE (it’s almost like a game day) I really look forward to it. The grass is green, the trees are blooming, the skies are blue and the sun is shining.  I love to watch the students in their caps and gowns posing for pictures with their families, seeing generations of a family gathered together to celebrate and watching friends and classmates hug each other as they say good-bye to each other and Blacksburg.  I see tears, laughter, smiles, pride and hope in everyone’s eyes.  Those students are filled with excitement and hope for their futures and I secretly want to take each one of them aside and try to prepare them for life after college.  Because what they don’t realize today is that they are not only saying good-bye to friends and Blacksburg – most are saying good-bye to a stage in their life.  They are no longer college students.  They are now expected to operate and function in the “real world”, like the rest of us.  And unfortunately, colleges don’t actually do such a great job of preparing students for that reality.  I suppose it’s a rite of passage to try and figure it all out, but I do want to offer some advice to all those young, hopeful faces outside my office window. 

College is different from the professional world.  The world doesn’t operate by semesters anymore (unless you work at a college like me), you are LUCKY if you get two weeks of vacation a year (no more winter breaks or spring breaks with friends), going to work isn’t optional (no more snoozing through classes), and your boss is totally different from your professors.  New professionals will have to learn how to function in the world of work, expectations and responsibility.  A-level work is required all the time, you always have to do your best and meet all your deadlines. 

Transitioning from college to career is very challenging.  Surviving that first year on the job is quite a task.  Young professionals need to realize that the first year on the job is really its own unique stage in their career.

Here are my 12 Professional Skills Needed for Success in Career and Life:

#1:  Learn, understand and adhere to Dress Codes and Manage your Image
  • If unsure, start doing some research.  Familiarize yourself with Interview Attire, Business Professional, Business Casual, Smart Casual, Cocktail Attire, Semi-Formal and Formal.  Learn what is appropriate to wear for each code and when it’s appropriate to wear it.  A good rule of thumb is to dress in the position you aspire to have one day.
  • You start building your reputation the first day on the job (there is no grace period).  Manage your image on social media sites.

#2:  Polish your Communication Skills
  • This includes how you communicate with people in-person, electronically, in-writing and through presentations.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming electronic communication is casual or not business correspondence.  If you are communicating about work, it’s business.  Break your addiction to your phone.  There is NOTHING more important on your phone than your boss sitting across the table from you in the meeting.   And if there is, tell someone.

#3:  Know your Strengths
  •  How can you be your best at work?  What keeps you engaged in the job?  Understand that there are all kinds of opportunities to develop your strengths.

#4:  Develop a strong Work Ethic
  • A-level work is required all the time, always meet your deadlines and learn how to prioritize your work and manage your time.

#5:  Take it slow but take the Initiative
  • Observe the culture and see how you fit in.  Learn how “things are done around here”.  Don’t make a big splash.
  • Don’t just wait around for work, share your thoughts and ideas, and get involved with the organization as much as possible.

#6:  Respect your Elders
  • There are four generations in the work force right now and they all operate a little differently than each other.  Respect those with experience and work hard to earn their respect.  Remember, they aren’t your “buds” yet.

#7:  Learn how to work on a team
  • Figure out what you contribute to a team and how others can complement your strengths.  Produce results and be a responsible team member.

#8:  Offer solutions
  •  Don’t go to your boss with problems unless you are prepared to offer solutions.  Learn to problem-solve on your own first.

#9:  Learn from your mistakes
  • Everyone makes mistakes!  Own them and learn from them.  Accept criticism and don’t take everything so personally

#10:  Learn how to manage conflict
  • It’s business, not personal.  Try not to let emotions guide your decisions at work.  Avoiding conflict can often make a situation worse.

#11:  Write Thank-You notes
  • This will serve you well in every aspect of your life.  It demonstrates professionalism and appreciation.

#12:  Stay Relevant
  • Keep learning and building your resume.  Take advantage of professional development opportunities.  Find a mentor.

I hope you find these helpful!  What other professional skills would you add to this list?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Happy Graduation to the Intern, Christina

As many of you know Christina was an intern for me last summer and fall semester.  She helped get this blog started and taught me so much about blogging, social media, photoshop, and design.  She is also a walking fashion plate, and has such amazing style.

Christina contributed to many of the the first Fashion Friday posts and more recently guest blogged for me when I was at a conference.  Her hard work can be found throughout this blog.  She is graduating from Virginia Tech this weekend with a degree in Communications.  She is obviously extremely talented in design work and photography.

We met for lunch today to celebrate her graduation.  Here we are:

I thought the readers of young, polished and professional would want an update on our favorite intern!

Good luck Christina and thanks for all you did (and continue to do) for young, polished and professional.  You are the BEST!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fashion Friday: I Love Metallic Shoes

I really love metallic shoes, I think they are the perfect neutral for summertime (and spring).  I have all kinds of metallic sandals, flops, flats, wedges, and strappy sandals.  They are so versitile and can be worn with a variety of looks and styles.

I wouldn't normally suggest Jimmy Choo shoes but these are actually 85% off and cost just over $100.  So, if you're in the market for some designer shoes at a great price - check these out!

Do you wear metallic shoes?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

College Life vs. Work Life

Check out this infographic that describes some of the differences between college life and work life:

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fashion Friday: WHITE OUT in the Summer

There are hundreds of reasons why I love summer, but one of the many is that I get to wear white pants, shorts and skirts.  White is my favorite neutral - you can put almost anything with white bottoms.  Sadly, it's May 3 and I haven't worn white pants once yet!  That's because the weather has been so cloudy and cool that it hasn't even felt like Spring to me yet.  I'm on the hunt for a new pair of white pants which is what inspired by Fashion Friday post today.  And even though I already have four pairs of white shorts, I'm on the lookout for another pair.  I just love the way white reflects the sunshine and makes your sun-kissed skin glow!

Here's how I wear white in the summer:
I realize now that I really like to pair white with a bold, solid color so maybe I should look at some prints to match up with my white bottoms.  I think I like the sharp contrast between the white and the bright color.  White, after all, is actually the reflection of all colors (if you look at color as light). This is a lesson I learned from my 6th grade science class.  (Check out color theory here if you want to know more - like black is actually the absence of color in light.)

I would not wear the shorts to work, obviously, but I would wear the white shorts and black shirt for a night out and I would wear the lace shorts and sandals anywhere this summer.  I love the tie in the back of the blue shirt.   I am crazy about the white lace shorts, but I can't find any that I actually like or can afford.  I may be too old for them, I haven't decided yet.  I'm still looking though...

I love to wear sandals, wedges and peep toes shoes so summer is my favorite shoe season also.  I really like the shoes that wrap around the ankles this season.  Those are fun to wear with skirts and shorts.  I also love sling back shoes which I wear the most in the warmer weather.

Here are some white pants I've found that I like:
From Expess:

I love these white shorts from Victoria's Secret:

Is white a "go to" staple for you in the summer?

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