Category Archives: Career Tips

Giving Back as a Professional

When I think about some of the outfits I wore to my earliest job interviews, I cringe a little on the inside. For example, the get up I wore for my first job interview–a baby pink turtleneck, sparkly flared jeans with pink on the sides and pink sneakers–oy! I was in high school at the time and didn’t start college until I was 22, so there were years where I had no real professional mentors or a university career center to seek out. 

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to discuss topics like dressing appropriately for job interviews with students, but knowledge can only take one so far. Dressing professionally is not always feasible for everyone–specifically people who don’t have extra income, single parents, those on a fixed income, or students who don’t have their families’ financial support for one reason or another.

For example, my partner AJ works with LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) whose families have sometimes withdrawn financial (not to mention emotional) support after learning of their child’s sexuality.  These are college students who are working to educate themselves and find the careers they want who face significant challenges when it comes to dressing professionally for a job or internship interview.

Additionally, there are people (often women) who are leaving violent or unhappy relationships and getting back into the job world.  Starting over is difficult no matter what, but not having the tools to do so–proper work clothing, interview skills, etc., makes it feel near impossible.

As someone who didn’t have a lot of money growing up who has had to learn important skills–like how to dress professionally, business etiquette, etc., as an adult, I ask you to consider giving back.  Do you have clothes that you no longer wear just sitting in your closet? Consider donating them.  Do you have the time to take on a student once every few months who could shadow you at work? Consider reaching out to your local college’s career center about offering job shadowing (or even internship!) opportunities.  Are you a great presenter who knows what it takes to succeed in a specific career field? Give presentations to local women’s shelters or university career centers. 

Giving back doesn’t always mean donating money to a specific cause or volunteering for hours each week.  For students, new professionals, and people with low incomes, an outfit could change their outlook on life in some small way. 

If you don’t know where to donate time or clothing, here are a few resources:

1. Contact your local colleges and universities’ LGBTQ and women’s centers about holding a clothing drive or simply donating some of your own pieces.

2. Contact local women’s shelters and Dress for Success centers.

3. Contact homeless shelters–in many cities there are shelters specifically for homeless men where your old suits/business casual clothes would be greatly appreciated.

4. Ask your young colleagues and interns if they’d be interested in some of your clothing.

5. Contact local university career centers and workforce readiness programs to find out if you could talk with students about your experiences or invite them to your workplace to job shadow.

6. Contact local non-profits such as food banks and soup kitchens to see how you can help.

7. Ask churches, synagogues and other houses of worship in your area if there’s anyway you can help their members professionally.

No matter who you are, or what fields you’ve worked in, you have the ability to help someone else. Meet with a student interested in your career, donate some clothes to women getting back on their feet, or come up with your own ideas of how to help.  Most of us have had some help along the way–an interested teacher or professor, a good boss or mentor, or a cool aunt who bought us our first interview outfit.  Perhaps its time to pay it forward.


Leave a comment

Filed under Career Resources, Career Tips, Life advice

What Kind of Life Do YOU Want?

When choosing a career, most people consider these things: What they’re passionate about, how much money they’ll make, and what they’re good at. These are great starting points, but they are not the end of the career exploration journey. The following questions will help you determine not only what you’re good at or will get paid for, but what kind of LIFE you want.

 life two

Questions to Consider When Choosing a Career:

  1. Where do you want to live?
    1. Close to family? In a rural setting? Somewhere international? Determining where you want to work geographically will help you determine what kind of work you want to do.
  2. What kind of people do you want to work with?
    1. Laid back? Introverted? Type A? People who joke around? People who take their work very, very seriously?
  3. What kind of supervisor do you want?
    1. Do you want a supervisor who doesn’t mind when you take a couple of hours for doctors’ appointments or your kid’s recital? Do you want a supervisor who is quick to praise? Do you want a supervisor who gives you honest feedback? A director who is very clear about expectations?
  4. What do the hiring trends for the careers you’re considering look like?
    1. Considering a PhD in 1840s British literature? Great. Will you have a job once you get that doctorate? Maybe not…
    2. Know how fast the jobs you’re considering are growing and what the education requirements will be in the future.
  5. People, things, or ideas?
    1. Meaning, do you want to help people? Come up with new ways to do things? Work with your hands or use machinery?
  6. What DO you want to do all day?
    1. Do you want to be behind a desk? Working outdoors? Networking with lots of people? Do you want a job that ends a 5pm?
  7. What do you really freaking like to do?
    1. Confession: I really like to sing. I have fun singing with my friends or just in the car by myself. Problem is, I’m not so great at it AND I don’t have the passion to devote to a singing career. We often think that, just because we like to do something, or just because we do something well, means that we should turn it into a career.  Hobbies are great—they provide a wonderful break from your 9-5 job. So maybe I’ll never be a famous rock star—I’ll always have my car radio…
  8. What are you really freaking good at?
    1. Like I said, I like to sing. Sadly, I’m pretty certain no one will ever pay me for it. Why? Because I’m no Christina Aguilera.  You can really love anything: soccer, psychiatry, mechanical engineering, but if you don’t have the talent for it, you should probably consider another career path.
    2. Speaking in public? Taking care of children? Conducting chemistry experiments? Racing motocross bikes?
  9. What kind of life do you want during the workday?
    1. Do you want to be outside most of the day? Are you perfectly happy sitting in front of a computer all morning? Do you want to attend daily meetings? Do physical work? Have close friendships with your colleagues? Never come out of your cubicle?
  10. What kind of life do you want, period?
    1. Do you want a big house, expensive vacations, and financial security? It’ll probably require working 80-90 hours a week as an investment banker or a surgical intern? If you don’t mind, then you may have found a great career path. Do you want 4 kids and plenty of time to take them to Little Gym? Perhaps you should find a company or career that provides more work/life balance. Are you a night owl who’d prefer to work 3rd shift? It’s important to understand yourself, your needs, and the needs of those you love when considering a new job or a career path.

life one


Filed under Career Tips, Life advice

Budget Friendly Makeup

If you follow my search for the perfect concealer (y’know, one that actually conceals something…) then you know that I do a lot of online research to find the perfect makeup. I check out blogs, customer reviews, and make bi-monthly trips to Sephora or Ulta so that I can test it all out firsthand. Finding great makeup with a not so great budget can be a challenge, but it’s doable. The following are my tips for a fabulous look that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Know what your investment pieces should be.
My most important makeup products are brushes and primer. (Lots of people add lipstick to the “investment pieces” list, but I rarely ever wear it, so it’s useless for me to allocate that much of my budget to it)

My favorite makeup brushes are Bare Minerals. My best friend Eric bought me a Bare Minerals gift set for my 25th birthday and I still use the brushes every day (I’m 31 now!) Bare Minerals brushes give you lots of coverage and blend everything together really well. I especially love the eye brushes and foundation brushes. (Note: they need to be cleaned every week to keep your face from getting too many yucky germs or a color you don’t want—there are high end makeup brush cleaners, but I use the blue Dial antibacterial soap)


For primer, I haven’t found anything better than Smashbox Photo Finish primer (I use the clear one). My friend Cara gave me a bottle of this as a graduation present and I’ve loved it ever since—in fact, those graduation pictures remain some of my favorites and that’s partially due to the Smashbox “glow” I had going on!

I’ve tried other primers in the past—Urban Decay, Benefit’s Porefessional, the primers by Loreal, Revlon, and Maybelline, but Smashbox remains my favorite. It has a thick, almost oily consistency, but can be used on acne prone or sensitive skin and doesn’t look oily once your other makeup is applied. It also doesn’t settle into fine lines or wrinkles.

Know where you can save money.

A lot of beauty bloggers place high value on expensive foundations, but I don’t think that’s necessary unless you have issues like acne, rosacea or generally sensitive skin. I’ve tried many foundations, but always come back to Loreal’s True Match, which is about $9 at Wal Mart or Target.

If your budget doesn’t allow for more expensive brushes, ELF brushes are super cheap (usually $1-2 dollars per brush) and work really well. I use the ELF smudge brush for eye makeup and a slightly larger one to fill in my brows.

Speaking of Loreal, I usually use one of their eye makeup quads for everyday makeup. Currently, I love “I’m worth it!” a collection of neutrals with a slight shimmer. It isn’t too glittery, the color is pigmented enough to stay on all day but relatively easy to remove at night, and it’s just a great set of neutrals. For special occasions or if I have a work presentation, I bring out the big guns: Urban Decay’s Naked Palette.


These days, there are a lot of primers and creams on the market that are supposed to be used in conjunction with all the other makeup we throw on—eye shadow primers, under eye primers, CC creams, BB creams, hydrating primers, color correcting primers, highlighters, sculpting creams, lip primers, eye lash primers…the list really does go on and on. I’ve tried a few of these (okay, more than a few) but I’ve never noticed enough of a difference to justify spending a small fortune on them. Chapstik primes my lips just fine, thankyouverymuch.

Blush/lipstick. Honestly, I often use my lipstick as a blush. I have a few blushes that work okay—ELF’s blush is one of them—but I think using a lipstick as a blush creates a more natural look (and saves money!)

When it comes to makeup, everyone is different. I don’t pay a ton of money for moisturizers (I just use Olay) but I do buy Neutrogena 100 SPF sunscreen—I’m hoping that’ll save me a fortune in dermatologist fees later! Some people have incredibly thick, dark eyelashes (lucky!) and buy the cheapest mascara available. Some people have no use for concealer. It’s all about figuring out where you want to invest your makeup money—there is absolutely no need to spend a fortune on a bunch of cosmetics, primers, and brushes you don’t need. Take note of your beauty routine, think about what you want to emphasize or de-emphasize, and buy accordingly.

What’s YOUR investment make up product? Which products do you think are totally overrated? Let me know!


Filed under Career Tips

5 Things They Don’t Teach You About Work in College

Originally posted on Campus To Career:


Getting a first job is something that’s a milestone for every person. Whether you’re a college graduate or started working after high school, a first job is something that is nerve-wracking and unforgettable at the same time. Not only that, this is your first experience into a world that’s totally different from school. Your assignments and exams will be replaced with tasks and deadlines, bosses are the counterparts of your school teachers, and your peers will be equivalent to people of different ages and work status. It’s a change of scenery from the campus scene that you’ve gotten used to over the past years.

High grades and great student performance are equally important. But then, school doesn’t teach you everything you need to know about life after graduation. Here are 5 examples of things they didn’t teach you in college about “the real world”.

1. How to handle your salary

View original 521 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Career Tips

How To Win At Professional Networking Every Time

Originally posted on the leadership focus:

Some interesting ideas here. The author states that even though with networking “80% is showing up”, it’s the other 20% that counts. What do you think? And, what have you found works best for you?u3people

How To Win At Professional Networking Every Time.

View original

Leave a comment

Filed under Career Tips

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Job Interviews

Readers often find The Proactive Professional by doing internet searches regarding questions they have about the job interview process.  I have compiled a list of these Frequently Asked (and Searched) Questions and answered them here:

  1. Can you wear heels higher than two inches for a job interview?
    1. You *can* but that probably doesn’t mean you should.  I suggest wearing 2-21/2 inch heels—three inches at the most—for job interviews.  I’ve participated in plenty of interviews where the candidate didn’t realize how much walking would be involved and was practically tripping in her shoes.
  2. Are capri pants professional enough for a job interview?
    1. It depends.  If you’re applying for a job in the service industry or an artistic field, capris should be fine—provided you wear them with a nice blouse and dress shoes.  If you’re applying for a position in business or a more conservative office, wear a pencil skirt or lightweight dress pants.
  3. Is it okay to wear a sleeveless dress to an interview?
    1. I suggest pairing a sleeveless dress with a nice cardigan or blazer for a job interview.  I suggest this for a couple of reasons—one, offices are often unreasonably air conditioned during the summer and you don’t want to be uncomfortable, and two, as with capri pants, more conservative/traditional fields may not approve of sleeveless clothing.  (My job interview motto is always “Better safe than sorry!”)
  4. What do I do if the interviewer says dress “comfortably, but professionally”?
    1. I suggest wearing clothing that allows you to move freely—i.e., clothing that allows you to comfortably sit, stand, bend, climb stairs, etc.—but isn’t casual.  A sleeveless dress that comes to the knees with a nice cardigan, a pencil skirt with a long sleeve blouse, dress pants with a short sleeve blouse, etc.
  5. What is the worst thing to wear to a job interview?
    1. Anything that calls attention to you in a negative way.  I am a major proponent of being who you are and celebrating yourself, but the job interview is a time to showcase your skills and experiences as a professional.  It is not the right time to highlight your clubbing make up or your fashionista wardrobe.  These are a few things I would make “non grata” for a job interview:

Halter tops, strappy sandals, heels above three inches, see through clothing, leggings worn as pants, visible bra straps, major smokey eye, bright red lipstick, more than a very light spraying of perfume, patterned tights, more than 2-3 pieces of jewelry—especially long, dangly jewelry, shorts, skirts more than an inch above the knee, blue jeans.

Let me make this clear: these rules do NOT apply to every job.  When I was 20, I applied for a position at a convenience store in a nice pair of dark blue jeans and a dressy top.  As a candidate for a graduate assistant position at a university LGBT center, I wore gray slacks and a short sleeve blouse.  For my first professional position after graduate school, I wore a navy blue Anne Klein skirt suit with nude pumps and a cream colored camisole.  These aren’t hard and fast rules for every position at every stage of your life, but they are a good foundation for dressing for job interview success.


Leave a comment

Filed under Career Resources, Career Tips

Personality Types of Orange is the New Black Characters

With the recent premiere of season two of Orange is the New Black (Netflix), I’ve had requests for the MBTI types of the OITNB characters. created a great diagram detailing the MBTI types of the characters.  I’m not quite sure I agree with some of the MBTI types listed for certain characters (example: Is Alex really “Judging” which implies that she prefers things to be planned and orderly? I’m not so sure…) but it is a good reference.  Enjoy!




Leave a comment

Filed under Career Tips

Repairing Your Professional Reputation

 Years ago I started working for a major company that was going through a major scandal. All new hires were required to go through a rigorous training program that not only taught us the fundamentals of the job, but worked to sell us on the idea that this was a great company. I was about twenty and I didn’t have a solid grasp on what the fuss was all about. I knew that some important people in the company had made big mistakes, but I thought it would blow over after they were fired. It was when I began my full time customer service job that I realized just how pissed off the customers were. Customers who were locked into contracts demanded out–threatening to sue everyone in the company, from the VPs to the custodians (and usually me). Loyal customers wanted reassurances that they were in the right hands. So what was the big deal? The company’s reputation was in shreds.

Two years later, my own professional reputation was in jeopardy. I was a waitress and had a romantic entanglement with a co-worker (this is probably one of the reasons I’m against dating colleagues). It didn’t end well and all of our co-workers knew the story. Why? Because I analyzed everything that happened in conversations with them and was sad over the situation for months. I began to have a reputation for focusing too much on my personal life and not taking my job seriously. After a few months I gave notice, deciding to stay with a friend in Montreal for a while to clear my mind.

Once I had a goal I did everything possible to complete it. I requested extra shifts and worked to earn good tips. I came in early, stayed late, and paid little attention to my former love interest. I wanted a clean start in Montreal and getting over this disastrous relationship was imperative to my new beginning. Slowly, people at work began treating me differently. I was tasked with more responsibility and praised for my work. Without realizing it, I had begun to repair my damaged reputation.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the effect a bad reputation has on one’s career. “He goofs off all day” or “She’s a gossip” sound fairly harmless, but they can be a death knell for your career. So, how did I overcome a bad reputation?

1. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.

Acknowledge the things you’ve done that have contributed to damaging your reputation–then apologize. I went to a couple of my managers and told them I’d been going through a tough time, but cared about my job and the restaurant and was committed to being better. If you’re aware that you’re work rep is less than stellar but don’t know why, ask a trusted colleague or supervisor to give you honest feedback regarding how you’re perceived in the workplace.

2. Change your policies.

Now you must actually change the things you’ve been doing wrong. Gossiping too much? Create a tight-lipped policy. Have you been coming in late? Switch up your morning routine so that you can get to work ten minutes early. Treat your career as a company you’re responsible for and create policies to improve the not-so-great areas.

3. Develop patience–and a thick skin.

For a while, not so nice co-workers would bait me, asking questions about my ex or divulging information. I learned that just because I had decided to change didn’t mean that everyone else had done a 180. It took time for people to believe that I was different and all I could do was be patient.

4. If all else fails, maybe it’s time to move on.

It sounds a bit defeatist, but sometimes you have to accept that you did the best you could in repairing your reputation and cut your losses. Though you may have the best of intentions and are committed to changing, some people may not be able to move on from the past.

After I came back from Montreal, I visited my old workplace to try and get my job back. Completely over my ex and missing the restaurant, I was ready and willing to be a great employee. Unfortunately, one manager was unwilling or unable to forget my bad reputation. I had sensed this before I left, but tried to accept that I couldn’t change her mind. Unfortunately, she’d been promoted to hiring manager and informed me that I would not be considered for my old position. I was disappointed in myself for letting it happen in the first place, but I resolved to do better in my next position and not let the Ghost of Reputation’s Past prevent me from doing better in the future.

Leave a comment

Filed under Career Tips

10 Life Lessons for 20-Somethings

10. Know that there is NO magic number.

Like most people, I thought of 30 as pretty grown up (read: old) when I was a kid.  After all, my mom was 30 when I was like 12 and she seemed pretty darn grown up to me.  I’ve since learned, however, that there is no magic number or event or epiphany that suddenly turns one from a normal (sometimes immature, not always right) human being into a GROWN UP.  I’m still afraid of scary movies sometimes and I never turn down playing at the park with my nephews and nieces–things my ten year old self didn’t think grown up 30 year olds would do.  We all seem to grow up and mature at our own speed (and some of us never do!) so it’s a little naive to think that a graduation, a job, a baby, an age, or anything else will make us a grown up overnight.  It’s a process and we have to be okay with that.

9. Don’t compare yourself to others.

In the same vein, don’t compare your journey to someone else’s.  Maybe in your mind, someone your age should have a house, a career, a child, a sports car, or a stamped up passport.  So? I guarantee you, everyone your age does not have any of these things–and some of them don’t even want these things.  In our current Facebook/Twitter/Instagram inundated world, it can be difficult to not compare ourselves to our 400 or so “friends” who seem to constantly be on trips or getting promotions.  I started college at 22 and didn’t finish my Masters until I was 28.  I graduated and began my job search with classmates who were 23 and it was a little daunting at times.  But I know that I learned so much during my twenties–through mistakes, second chances, taking risks–and I wouldn’t trade those things for a Masters at 23.

8. Know what you’re working towards.

We work so hard to find a job and make money, and often, we have this sort of vague idea of what we want to accomplish by having a steady income.  But on days when you’re feeling a little burned out or annoyed by some work policy, it will be important to remember exactly what you’re working towards.  Maybe for you, it’s a house to live in with your partner, a baby by 32, or early retirement so you can travel the world.  Knowing what you want outside of the office can make the world of work much more enjoyable.

7. Figure out your priorities.

It’s funny–at twenty, it can be easy to blow off class or be distracted during a test because you’re thinking about a crush, a breakup, or a great first date.  At 30, it can be just as easy to come home to your partner late everyday for a week because you’re so engrossed in work.  Life will always be about balancing your needs and goals with the needs and goals of those around you–especially those you care about.  The ending of a three month relationship at 21 can seem devastating, but man, there are more important things–like that math test.

6. Figure out why you work.

For money.  That’s the most obvious answer, right? Personally, I understood at an early age that getting an education and a job I cared about would mean freedom for me.  Freedom to do the things I enjoy.  Freedom to make decisions based on my happiness and not because I’m struggling financially.  Free to be with someone, not because I’m dependent upon them financially but because I love them.

Why do you work?

5. Learn where to get the help you need.

Whether it’s financial, career, or relationship counseling, find resources and use them.  Figure out which supermarket offers the best value for your money.  Figure out which mentor to go to with an issue.  Figure out an alternate route to and from work in case a random tornado comes (hey, it happens–trust me).


4. Don’t be afraid to learn new things.

Last year, I knew very little about social media marketing or website design.  But I really wanted to start this blog–so I figured it out.  I’m not super technical, but I know that I have to be willing to learn new things to continue growing.

3. Learn the art of patience.

There were times in my twenties when I felt like college would never end.  Working for minimum wage would never end.  Bad dates would never, EVER end.  But, you know, they did.  They ended sooner than I thought and taught me more than I’d planned.  So be thankful for the times that feel like they’re never ending-maybe they’re leading to something else entirely.

2. Don’t feel guilty for your success.

It can be hard to feel happy or proud of our accomplishments when other people we know are hurting or in a bad place.  But remember, you earned this.  You worked hard, you set goals, you figured out your priorities, and you were patient.  Everyone has moments of greatness–celebrate yours.

1. Know that this list might just be a bunch of crap.

Steve Jobs once said something along the lines of, “This thing we call life–these rules and ways of being that we think we have to adhere to–were made up by human beings just like us.  So don’t live someone else’s idea of life–go live your own.”

These were my lessons and I am happy to have shared them.  Now, stop reading my little list and go live your life.  :)



Filed under Career Tips, Life advice

10 Powerful Quotes From Maya Angelou To Build Your Life On

Candace Lamb:

Remembering one of my greatest inspirations, Maya Angelou.

Originally posted on Black America Web:

Maya Angelou was a great woman. She died this morning leaving a spiritual chasm of an elder gone on to prepare a room for us.  She  inspired a nation. Her  life  should be one that celebrates the elegance of living and improving.

Today, allow me to introduce you to the powerful words of Maya Angelou. They are words that have helped me throughout the course of my life. And I think they can help you too, if you let them.“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
# 1  “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
#2 “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
# 3 “I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it…

View original 340 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Career Tips