The Dos and Don’ts of Office Parties

I know, I know. It’s summer and it isn’t really prime time for office parties. But, as I’ve discussed before, my husband’s company is anything but normal. Instead of scheduling the festivities around the holidays, they take one week in the spring or summer to do some office bonding. This includes going paintballing, out to dinner, playing a little golf, etc (are you jealous yet?). It also means that near the end of the week there’s a lovely party for all of the staff and their significant others and/or a date of their choice.

Where was my invitation? This looks like a blast!

Where was my invitation? This looks like a blast!

Not only do they provide a delicious dinner with an open bar at a beautiful country club, but everyone goes bowling afterwards (hello clown shoes)! I mean, who could pass that up? The party is usually so fun (and held on a Thursday evening) that I even decided to take the next day off this year so I can truly enjoy myself and not feel like we need to rush home because I need to wake up at 6am.

Now, just because this isn’t technically my office, doesn’t mean the normal rules of party etiquette don’t apply. In fact, it’s just as important that I make a good impression as it is for my husband to do the same. Here are some dos and don’ts to make sure you put yours (and your significant others) best foot forward no matter whose office party you’re at!

Do dress appropriately. For women, this means don’t wear anything too short, too tight, or wear shoes you can’t walk in. Instead, stick with a classy little black dress, a sleek pantsuit, or a cocktail dress that isn’t too distracting or over-the-top. You want to look clean and well put together, not like you’re heading out to the club!

If the only dress you own is leopard print, doesn't cover your butt, or has been sitting in your closet since 1999, please buy something more appropriate!

If the only dress you own is leopard print, doesn’t cover your butt, or has been sitting in your closet since 1999, please buy something more appropriate!

Men, make sure you still look groomed and are wearing at least business casual attire. You can’t really go wrong with nice slacks, a (non-wrinkly) button-down shirt, and a jacket.

My rule of thumb is if you’re questioning whether or not it’s appropriate, it probably isn’t.

Do not take advantage of the open bar. Last year there was one date who went a little wild with the open bar. While it didn’t ruin the night by any means, it was the topic of conversation for a little bit. Don’t be that person who looks sloppy and is slurring their words. It’s unprofessional, inappropriate, and makes you (and your date) look silly.

Please, for the love of all things good, do not make-out with anyone!

Please, for the love of all things good, do not make-out with anyone!

Instead, enjoy a glass or two of your favorite drink with dinner while adding in some water.

Do make sure you know everyone’s names (or at least the most important people). Nothing is worse than walking into a party and not knowing anyone or their names. If you’re like me and you constantly forget names, ask your significant other to remind you of them beforehand. Worse comes to worse, make sure you at least know the important names like the CEO, VP, his/her direct manager, etc.

Do not try to talk up your significant other’s accomplishments. In a nutshell, no one really cares. You may think you’re being helpful and highlighting why he/she should get a promotion, but this isn’t the time or place. Everyone is trying to enjoy themselves so try to lay off the humble bragging and too much business talk.

Stop talking… Now.

Stop talking… Now.

Do enjoy yourself. Even though this is technically a business related function, you should still be having fun. Just make sure you’re doing it without being inappropriate or completely trashed. For example, when we go bowling it’s always a blast because we’re in formal clothes and those awful bowling shoes. Everyone just laughs and has the time of their lives. We all remember that it’s supposed to be a party, not a funeral. Laugh, eat, drink (a little), and have fun.

Do not forget to thank the person responsible for coordinating the party. I mean, they did put together a huge and wonderful party that you got to enjoy. Be polite and thank them for their generosity.

Now, it’s your turn. What other tips do you have for successfully attending an office party?

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Learning to Swim in the Deep End: 3 Tips for Handling Challenges at Work

Remember last week when I talked about that project that confuses the heck out of me? Well, this morning as I was relaxing and getting my morning tea (oh how I love the copious amounts of free tea, coffee, and hot chocolate), one of my project leads for a new contract I’m taking on started chatting me up. I mentioned how I was becoming the project manager of that very large and mature project (it’s been around my company for about 20 years now). He looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’m sorry you’re being thrown into the deep end.” Oh, well thanks for the comforting comment there, buddy.

Now, this metaphor really hits home with me because I’m a terrible swimmer. I mean, I can swim, just not well. I almost drowned once in the ocean and now I panic quite easily when I can’t touch the bottom of the pool (or at least I panic when I can’t touch the bottom and then people think it’s funny to try and dunk me -_-). So anyway, I don’t like swimming and the metaphor crashed into me like a rogue wave (you see what I did there?).

I would feel a lot better about this project if it included bacon...

I would feel a lot better about this project if it included bacon…

Despite my initial reaction of “oh no, what are they doing to me” I realized that this is actually a blessing in disguise. First of all, I’m getting to learn more about project management which is something I have dabbled in, but not on such a large scale. Second, if I succeed (and I plan to) this is going to look great on my resume, my performance review, and when I want to be placed on other projects. Plus, maybe I’ll actually love it and am just freaking out about nothing (fingers crossed). Either way, here are three tips to help you learn how to swim (and swim well) when you’re thrown into the deep end at work!

Take advantage of a scary opportunity. One of my all time favorite quotes is “don’t let your fear decide your fate.” Just because you’re scared of something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try it. Take advantage of opportunities like this to step out of your comfort zone and learn new skills. You may just find that you actually excel at this new thing. If anything, you’ll find a weakness that you need to work on. There is nothing wrong with better understanding your strengths and challenges and scary new projects can help you do that!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. How do children learn to swim? Well, they usually start out with those little swim floaties and some help. You should do the same (metaphorically speaking). Chances are there are people who have a little more knowledge about the project or activities you’re being asked to complete. It may not be directly related to this exact project, but many skills are transferrable. Don’t be shy about reaching out for a little guidance. Most people are more than happy to point you in the right direction and give you that extra push to help you complete the project well and efficiently.

Just keep swimming. Keep singing that to yourself in Dory’s voice. When the going gets tough (and it’ll be tough sometimes) just keep pushing through. You will eventually make it out on the other end. You might be a little tired and stressed, but the knowledge that you successfully battled through a tough obstacle will increase your confidence. Next time you hit those rough waters you’ll be able to get through it more easily. Just remember don’t ever give up! No matter the time it takes, you’ll get there and be more awesome when you’re finished!

just keep swimming

Now it’s your turn! How did you handle a really difficult project or task?

Why It’s OK to Be Completely Confused About a New Project

Today I was reminded of something really amazing: it’s ok to have absolutely no idea what you’re doing as long as you’re trying to figure it out! I’m currently on a project that leaves me so frustrated I want to pull my hair out. Part of the reason is that it’s very technical and that’s just not my background. The other difficult part is that this program has been up and running for about 20 years now with multiple changes over those 20 years, so trying to wrap my head around it all is a bit overwhelming.

So, I was given a task for this project dealing with cost estimations for changes to the product. Now, I have never done that before for anything let alone a very technical program upgrade. I seriously just sat and stared at my screen and wanted to cry as I tried to make sense of the things in front of me. I even e-mailed someone a bunch of questions and that was no help because answers aren’t particularly useful if you don’t understand the underlying facts surrounding them. It left me partially brain dead and unfocused for a good portion of the morning.

i have no idea what i'm doing

In the afternoon, though, I was brought back to life! The lead of the project stopped by my office and asked how I was doing. I told him very honestly that all of this stuff was way over my head and I was getting very frustrated. His response, “It’s ok to be confused. We expect you to be. No one is a master at everything. That’s why everyone on this project is here to teach you so you can help out the next newbie.”

A wave of relief poured over me. For the first time in my life I wasn’t expected to be perfect. Actually, it was expected that I wasn’t perfect! However, it was anticipated that I ask tons of questions (which clearly I’m already a master at), set up one-on-ones to get first hand guidance on tasks, and put in real effort to learn what I needed to. Seems like the smart way to go about things in an organization right?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in a lot of places. Oftentimes, bosses expect you to jump on in and be an expert at everything you’re doing, but I’m telling you now, don’t fret! It’s ok to be confused and frustrated when you’re put onto new projects! How else would we learn new things if we only took on work that we were experts in? So, even if you’re scared of looking like a fool, step on up and try something new. Ask questions and for help if you need to. There will always be at least one person who is willing to show you the ropes. All you have to do is get out of your own frustrated, embarrassed head and ask for some guidance. One day someone will be asking you for exactly the same thing!

Now, it’s your turn! Have you ever been confused about project work? What did you do to help you overcome the challenge?

Baseball and Entrepreneurship: Go Steal Home Base

I know it’s been a while, but I’m finally back and I have an exciting post about entrepreneurship. So, here it goes!

On Friday I got to sit through a surprisingly interesting training at my job. It was supposed to be focused on master data management (sounds exciting, I know), but somehow we got onto the topic of entrepreneurship. The presenter said something very interesting.

“You have to think of business in terms of baseball.”

I sat there looking at him confused. Baseball? Really? I hate dislike baseball. I happen to think it’s quite boring, especially when it’s on tv. My mom loved the Yankees (Knoblock was her favorite), but I would do anything to avoid watching those games with her. Then, he explained what he meant.

“The two most important things are to steal home and hit a home run.”

Steal home: Reject the status quo and do something crazy (but still legal) that everyone notices. This is hard, but helps you score big points.

Hit a home run: Focus on the bigger picture and score as much as you can as easily as you can. In essence, work smarter, not harder.

Those two ideas hit me hard and fast (see what I did there?) as I realized they were brilliant! As an entrepreneur, what makes your product stand out from the crowd? What makes you so much more interesting and better than your competitors? You have to be willing to take a chance and do something daring and outrageous (like steal home) if you really want to make it big!

Solve them by thinking outside the box!

Solve them by thinking outside the box!

At the same time, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. Use your brains to outthink your competitors and look at the big picture. How will your product or service be used in five or ten years? How are you making people’s lives easier without completely stressing out your own employees? However, don’t confuse this with a lack of hard work. You still need to put in a lot of effort to make your business great. Every up at bat won’t be a home run so you need to do the other leg work too!

Now, it can be a hard balance to step out of the box while also thinking big picture, but it’s a must do for all new businesses. Like anything else in life, they’re both calculated risks that you must take in order to continue to grow. If you plan it right (as in, look at what you’re currently doing and brainstorm with some trusted partners), you’ll know exactly when you should go for either option!

So, go ahead and take the leap. Steal home base on your first go around and then hit yourself a home run! Who would have thought I might actually start to like baseball?

Now, it’s your turn. What do you think of this concept?

Getting Out of a Fashion Rut: Day Five

I made it through my first full week of my new job! Thank goodness it’s finally casual Friday and I can dress down a bit. Here’s what I wore today.

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Hellooo peachy pink and brown (again)! One of my favorite mixes of colors right there.

Like many offices we’re allowed to wear jeans on casual Friday. That doesn’t mean you should go all wacky though! While I typically like to wear darker jeans as I find them a little more professional, my favorite pair were in the wash (maybe I need to do laundry more often). Instead, I chose these simple jeggings that fit nicely.

I paired them with a fabulous tank top I got from Express (on sale of course for only $12)! The cardigan is from Forever 21. If you’re ever looking for a good, but affordable cardigan, Forever 21 is the way to go. Plus, they have tank tops for $1.80! Seriously, go there for cheap basics!

My adorable boots were a Christmas gift from my husband. He even picked them out himself! He does have some decent fashion sense I guess.

This outfit is clean, yet comfortable. I try to stay away from wearing sneakers or ill fitting pants. Instead, I take staple items that I could wear on any other day of the week and mix them with a nice pair of jeans. This way you don’t end up looking sloppy. And please never, ever wear sweat pants/yoga pants to work (unless of course you’re a fitness instructor or something). They will never be appropriate in an office even on casual Friday. Save yourself from the judgmental looks and wait to put them on when you get home.

Now, my plan is to continue looking cute and classy for work! Hopefully I can keep this up and not fall into another boring rut of yucky black pants with cardigans. I’ll keep you posted when I come up with a particularly good outfit! Wish this somewhat fashion challenged girl right here some luck!

Now, it’s your turn! What are some of your favorite office fashion looks and accessories?

Getting Out of a Fashion Rut: Day Four

Phew, I made it to day four of my office fashion challenge! Let’s look at today’s outfit.

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First of all, if you haven’t noticed by now, I love pinks and peaches. The majority of my closet is made up of these springy colors because I find them very calming. I like to match them with other more neutral colors.  I mean, I do have a few blues and greens and greys, but my go to is pink and peach. If you don’t like that, oh well.

I find this outfit to be a typical look that you would probably find if you googled pencil skirt. The top is a simple button down shirt I got from H&M a few years ago. I actually have the same one in blue, but it was in the wash so I didn’t even have the option to wear it.

The skirt is from PacSun. Yes, PacSun! What’s even better is I got it in the clearance section for $8! It’s so comfy, but still looks professional. Check those clearance racks ladies and gents!

The shoes are from the clearance section in DSW. I got those cute suckers (those bows are to die for) for $15 (which was actually 70% off. I know this because the price tag was still on it). Like I said, if you don’t shop in the clearance section at DSW you need to go there now!

Come back tomorrow and check out my casual Friday look!

Getting Out of a Fashion Rut: Day Three

So, I’m a little bit obsessed with this outfit. I mean, when I put it on I knew I had to buy it! How could I not? It’s fricken adorable!

IMG_2488 IMG_2487

The dress itself is from a no name store in my mall that recently opened up. It was only $27 and came with that fabulous necklace. What a steal! Now, with a dress like this you have to be careful because of the length. Any shorter and this probably would’t be office appropriate. Just be aware of what you’re comfortable with. If you think it looks trashy and inappropriate, it probably is.

I got that blazer from H&M on Black Friday for $7! If you couldn’t tell I’m a serious bargain shopper. I very rarely buy anything that’s full price. There’s really no need to because there’s always such good sales. I would say the majority of my clothes were bought on some type of sale for $25 or less. No shame in going to the clearance section!

My shoes are from the clearance rack in DSW. If you haven’t shopped the clearance in that store than you’re insane! I’ve gotten brand name shoes for about $7. Oh man, it’s fabulous and it’ll feed your shoe addiction nicely (not that I have one or anything).

My favorite thing about this outfit is how it mixes spring colors with a flattering silhouette. Adding the blazer makes it look a bit more professional, but it can easily transfer into a night on the town dress too. This is a great outfit that helps me feel confident, sexy, and office ready all at the same time!

Tomorrow I’ve got another great deal and a simple outfit anyone can put together!