10 Intelligent Questions to Ask on an Informational Interview

10 Intelligent Questions to Ask on an Informational Interview

There’s nothing worse than asking someone to grant you an informational interview and having nothing to say. This person is sacrificing part of her day for absolutely no ostensible benefit, so you’d better make it a pleasant encounter for her, and more importantly, make her feel like she helped. (It’s a scientific fact that people will feel positively toward you if they feel they’ve done something to help you.) Please, don’t subject them to awkward silences.

Even for a casual informational interview, go in prepared with as much information as you can possibly acquire. Research the company, and even more importantly, give the person’s LinkedIn a thorough review. Find out where she went to college, where she worked before this, her full job history. If you want to ensure that you hit it off, give her a quick stalk on Twitter, find out a few of her interests and see if you can naturally work one into the initial chit-chat portion of the meeting. Making people like you (and thus, want to help you) is not rocket science.

Yes, do your research. Yes, have insightful questions prepared beforehand. Emerge with new information that could help you. But remember that informational interviews are not Q&As. They are “feel me out and see what you think so maybe you’ll like me and be inclined to help in the future” meetings. What I’m saying is: Be friendly. Be casual, but not too casual. Compliment the person without it being obvious. Crack a joke for God’s sake. Approach it almost like you would a first date: Be interested in the other person and make her like you. Now, to business.

1. I know that you [spent ten years at X before this,] but how did you start out in [this industry]?

After the small talk (don’t skip the small talk), make sure they’re aware that you’ve done your research. Phew, they’ll think. I don’t have to waste time explaining my entire career path to this idiot when it’s right there on my very public LinkedIn page. You’re already ahead of the game.

2. Is there something you wish you’d known or a skill you wish you’d had starting out in [this industry]? Or Is there something you wish you had done differently starting out?

This is a question that will almost definitely get you some useful information. Always take advantage of the opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes.

3. What’s the culture like at [this company] compared to [prior company]?

In all likelihood, this person has worked at one or more comparable companies. Take the opportunity to get a comparison from the best possible source.

4. What’s your biggest challenge in this role?

If this person’s job is one you hope to do one day, this is a great way to get a better sense of what it takes.

5. What do you dislike about this company?

Unlike a hiring manager, random employees will actually give you dirt on a company.

6. Would you mind taking a quick look at my resume?

If this person has any hand in hiring people for this company in any capacity, you want her to take a look at your resume, which you should have on hand at all times. She can point out flaws that you didn’t even know were flaws.

7. How does my experience stack up to others applying for [X level positions]?

Again, this is only if the person has any hand in hiring.

8. What type of personalities fit in best at your company?

I think this is an absolutely crucial question for any informational interview or official job interview, because certain companies have a definite “type.” And you now have the chance to find out if that type is you before you even apply.

9. What is the best way to get my foot in the door here?

Don’t let the conversation end without any tangible next steps. If you want to work at this company, ask what more you can do.

10. Is there anyone else you think I should speak to?

If your informational interviews don’t spark a trail of more people to talk to, you’re doing something wrong. (I can’t pinpoint what exactly because I don’t have all the details on the company, your work experience, or a full-length film of this meeting, but it’s definitely something.) If you hit it off, Judy should say, “You know who should talk to? Ned. Let me give you his email address.” Maybe Judy can’t help you any further, but Ned probably can. And if Ned can’t, then you’d better get Marcia’s email out of him. And so on and so forth until someone offers you an actual interview. If Judy doesn’t spontaneously offer the name of the next person in your trail, you have to ask for it.

Photo: Joshua Hodge Photography / Getty Images

The Brief: Your Wednesday Boredom Buster

The Brief: Women Can’t Do It All, Drew Barrymore Says

Jealous Much?

Jealousy’s not a good shade on you, Bill O’Reilly. He used the final portion of his show last night to tease/passive-aggressively show his blatant jealousy of Megyn Kelly. She was recently profiled in New York Times Magazine that declared the current state of cable news to be “The Megyn Kelly Moment.” Or maybe it was because she beat his ratings for the entire month of November in the key 25-54 demo. Not too shabby! “They don’t like anybody else on the Fox News Channel, but they like her,” he insisted. “[Because] you’re charming.” Was that a criticism? Because charming is usually put in the complement category, Bill. But Kelly handled it like a pro, of course. “Jealousy is an ugly emotion,” she told O’Reilly at one point in the segment.

It’s true though. Kelly really is having a moment. Sheryl Sandberg picked Kelly out of all the women to interview about her career and life at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit last year. And after seeing Kelly, she give fellow Fox News pundits Lou Dobbs and Eric Erickson a piece of her mind, after the two men said some not so nice things about the increasing number of U.S. households with female breadwinners. It was a major Lean In moment. Watch their Fortune interview here.

Women Can’t Do It All, Drew Barrymore Says

Drew Barrymore is sounding off again on how women absolutely can’t have it all. She’s said this a lot since having her second daughter and giving up work projects—like her directing and producing career. And now she’s using science to back up her theory. Except it isn’t like actual science, it’s Drew Barrymore science. In a new interview with More Magazine she said, “I’ll get in trouble for it, but I’ll say it anyway: Women can’t do it all. Quantum physics actually says you can’t do it all. Like, you can’t do everything at every minute of every day; it’s actually not mathematically, molecularly plausible. [However], I do think that women can do everything they want to do, especially if they work hard enough at it. I don’t believe anything comes easy.” Drew, what happened? You once thought E.T. was actually real! And that people would think you were a high school student when you were like 33 (yeah teenagers don’t wear feather boas, Drew). Where did that unyielding sense of optimism go? Here are 10 famous women on having it all.

You Got Served

Something is happening in women’s tennis and for once (thank heavens) it doesn’t have to do with what their skirts look like. According to The Wall Street Journal, women’s serves at the Australian Open are noticeably “bigger, louder, and nastier than ever before” (and we aren’t just talking about Serena Williams). So why is this happening? Better coaches, better strings in their rackets, or, some are surmising, that girls finally learned how to throw. Basically female tennis players are now getting trained more on the toss to make their serve better. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the 29-year-old American who hit a serve 112 mph last season, gives her father credit for her serve, as he taught her how to throw a football. Is this the next football players taking ballet sports trend?

 The BFF/Frenemy App

Is there a Regina George in your life and you don’t even know it? Well, good news: There’s an app for that and it’s called Pplkpr. Pronounced “People Keeper,” the app connects to a Bluetooth heart rate monitor and measures your physical and emotional response when certain people are around. It was specifically designed for the purpose of identifying your most toxic friends. You know the ones that make you curl up into the fetal position at night and eat a bag of Red Velvet Oreos in an hour because you didn’t finish The Goldfinch in time for book club?

It takes a list of your Facebook friends and tracks how they make you feel when you spend time with them in real life. It’s like a Fitbit, but for emotions. And if you don’t want to wear the heart monitor, you can just tell the app how the person makes you feel afterward. So it’s essentially a digital Burn Book. Were middle school girls behind this? What’s the point?

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, that’s who! These ladies are (almost) officially the cast of the new all-ladies Ghostbusters reboot. Wiig, Jones, and McKinnon (the latter two are both currently on Saturday Night Live) are still in talks, but director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) tweeted a pic of these four leading ladies, so we’re pretty sure they’ll be donning the proton packs. We’re all for those because backpacks are so convenient and super trendy right now, but we do hope they change the colors of those beige jumpsuits.

Levo Loves…

The Valley Girl. Levo’s friend Jesse Draper, host of The Valley Girl is moving her awesome tech talk show to CBS. The show is airing every Saturday on KPIX-TV in the San Francisco/Bay Area for the next 13 weeks.

Go Lo

We’re partnering with Lo & Sons to give one of our readers the Pearl Bag, valued at $248. Ideal for those on the go who need a multi-use bag in a small package, the Pearl is a convenient cross-body bag with the organizational qualities Lo & Sons has become known for. We also have a coupon code for all of our readers. Just enter LEVO115 during checkout to receive 20% off. You have until Monday, February 2  at 11:59 PM ET to enter the giveaway.

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Why It's OK to Make Dumb Goals in 2015

Why It’s OK to Make Dumb Goals in 2015

You’re a member of Levo (if not, sign up here). You’re most likely intelligent, driven, achievement-oriented, and kind to other people. You probably pay your bills on time and have a five-year plan. I bet you’re a really good person who wants to be even better in 2015. Good for you! I am, too. I have list of things I want to do and be this year, and a plan for making those things happen.

But here at the beginning of the year, there is something about all this goal-setting, all these best intentions, all this incessant and ubiquitous striving that just doesn’t sit well with me. It feels so harsh, and without regard to all the great stuff I already have going on. It’s all resolutions, green juice, detox diets, schedules, label makers, mantras, probiotics. Though it’s all fine in moderation and mostly well-intentioned, the annual self-betterment that happens in January is enough to make me dizzy–like I drank too much kombucha.

In defiance, I give you dumb goals.

Dumb goals are pretty much what they sound like. They’re easy, maybe silly things that you want to do. Dumb goals are low-stakes and have no deadline. They’re about small pleasure and interesting little tidbits. You don’t have to do them, and you certainly shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t do them. They can change at will. Dumb goals are for fun.*

Dumb goals sound like this: Drink more gin. Learn how to use lipsitck. Go to the movies and buy popcorn. Buy new silverware. Make a great playlist for your commute. Celebrate Halloween. Make dorky beaded jewelry like in 7th grade. Make your bed. Get the fancy kind of tissues when you have a cold. Frame something. Make a wall collage out of stickers. Nap on Sundays. Eat more gummy bears, because you really like them and they are delicious.

[Related: How to Not Let Goal-Setting Get You Down]

At its heart, a dumb goal is about letting yourself be enough, as you are right now. And it’s about celebrating your amazingness with some pleasure. It’s about committing to the little things that give you a hint of joy, contentment, satisfaction, calm, or excitement.

Let your little dumb goal bring you some pleasure in this world of better-faster-more. Sure, you can drink that green juice while you eat some gummy bears, why not? But commit to giving yourself some regular doses of fun and enjoyment this year.

Make 2015 your dumbest year yet.

*You’ve probably heard of the concept of SMART goals— dumb goals are the opposite. If not, a brief explanation: a SMART goal is one that’s specific, measurable, achievable, results-driven, and time-bound. It’s a rubric for designing goals that can be met, and measuring your progress. A SMART goal is something like, “I will train to complete a 5K race in under 40 minutes by March 31, 2015,” or “I will ask my boss for a $3,000 raise next Tuesday.” It’s a good system, it works. Set some SMART goals, too, if you’re into it.

Photo: Ezra Bailey / Getty Images

3 Steps to Kickstarting Your Web Design Career

3 Steps to Kickstarting Your Web Design Career

You know that the Web is the place for you, you need an online portfolio, and you want to become the web designer that everyone is dying to hire.

But are you all talk and no action? Frozen with fear at even the thought of trying to get into tech? Freaked out about everything there is to learn?

Or have you been MEANING to get to those online coding tutorials for…well…for months?

Just a few weeks ago, Skillcrush Web Designer Blueprint graduate Stacey Baldini felt the same way you do. Now, she has designed, coded, and launched staceybaldini.com–a site that we’d all love to call our own! And Stacey is well on her way to unicorn status (i.e., she is combining her traditional graphic design skills with coveted coding chops to become a master of digital design and development). Graphic design plus web design equals rare and glorious combination all in one person.

And good news: You can do it, too! Just like Stacey, you can get over your doubts and take control of that career you’ve been dreaming of. Here are her 3 steps to getting out of the “I really should learn web design” phase, and moving into the “look at the site I just built” phase:

1. Get moving.

When Stacey studied graphic design in college, web design wasn’t really covered. “It was just an afterthought in our projects, and I felt like that area was severely lacking in my design education,” she says.

Stacey had taught herself some HTML and CSS back in the days of using tables for layout. But she soon realized that her skills weren’t up-to-date and felt overwhelmed by all there was to learn.

She got motivated to dig into tech after attending a talk by pioneering responsive design company Happy Cog‘s Yesenia Perez-Cruz and Alison Wagner.

Stacey was impressed with how intelligent these women were and “how they were kicking butt in the tech scene.” But, even though she wanted to start creating her portfolio website, she was anxious and unsure about where to start.

But, instead of sitting still or giving up, she decided to join the Skillcrush Web Designer Blueprint. And, as she says, “Skillcrush gave me the confidence to get moving.”

In other words, sometimes you just have to dive in and do it.

2. Keep getting better.

Before the Skillcrush Blueprint, Stacey says “I had been designing and redesigning [my site] over and over with nothing to show for my work in the end. I would create designs too complicated for me to code with my skill set at the time and end up getting frustrated.”

Now, after the Blueprint, Stacey reports that, “I have a starting point to progressively enhance [my site] and give myself little ‘wins’ to encourage me to keep getting better. All in all, I now feel like I have the confidence to keep moving forward.”

Making sure that you finish products and projects means you have milestones for getting better, and it also gives you something to show for all that hard work. Working at skills one step at a time comes with 2 rewards: a stocked portfolio and tons of confidence to keep going.

3. Stop overthinking.

Stacey describes her Skillcrush Blueprint classmates and instructors as “so positive,” which she says “helped keep the vibe light and friendly instead of scary.”

In fact, Stacey had such a good time at Skillcrush that she tells us that she’d “love to come back for the Skillcrush Web Developer Blueprint and the Skillcrush Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint as well. With Skillcrush, I know I will be in a class with a bunch of people that aren’t going to be judgmental and will make learning fun!”

And her advice to you regardless of where you are in your learning?

This article was originally published on Skillcrush.

Photo: Thinkstock

Amy Purdy on Almost Dying, Always Living, and Everything in Between

Amy Purdy on Almost Dying, Always Living, and Everything in Between

I celebrated my 22nd birthday in a coma.

It was the end of October 1999 when I started getting a headache. My neck hurt. I felt … sick. I wish there was some specific thing I could describe that would explain to you what death feels like. Some people reading this probably know exactly what I’m describing. And if you don’t know, well, I’m glad you don’t know.

Long, long story, very, very short: I was flown by emergency helicopter from my school, Penn State, to Hershey Medical Center. By the time I was loaded onto the helicopter, I was already gone, drifting into a medically induced coma. A week later, I awakened, having missed my 22nd birthday, but lucky I made it to that age alive.

I had contracted something called bacterial meningitis, and it had destroyed my hands and feet (think about what frostbite does to your body–that’s similar to how meningitis poisons the blood flow to your extremities on its way to killing you). I spent the next year fighting to walk again, enduring multiple amputation surgeries on my feet.

Around the same time in 1999, Amy Purdy was fighting the same fight. She got sick in July 1999 at the age of 19. Like me, she spent the tail end of 1999 and a good chunk of 2000 trying to figure out what just happened. And more important: What now?

You’ve probably heard Purdy’s story. She’s battled back from her illness, which resulted in her losing both legs below the knee and requiring a kidney transplant. She’s turned what could have been a curse into an incredible life and career as a Paralympian, a world-class snowboardcross athlete, a “Dancing with the Stars” favorite and, now, a member of espnW’s 2014 Impact 25.

Amy and I sat down recently during a flurry of promotional appearances for her new mission: raising awareness for bacterial meningitis vaccinations.

espnW: Take me back to the day you got sick.

Amy Purdy: I woke up feeling great. I went to work that day [as a massage therapist]. I did a few massages, but then I started feeling really rundown. I thought maybe I was coming down with the flu. I went home early, and I had a fever that night. The next day, I told my family I thought I was coming down with the flu. But instead of getting better, it got worse. I ended up getting rushed to the hospital. By then, I was in septic shock and needed to be on life support. I was given less than a 2 percent chance of living–that was all within 24 hours of feeling sick. At that point, I was nearly dead.

Did you end up in a coma?

Yes, they put me into a medically induced coma. Pretty much every organ in my body was hemorrhaging and shutting down. Only my heart and my brain were OK. The tests showed I had bacterial meningitis. It sounds like you know how traumatic that is.

I got sick when I was 21; you got sick at 19. I’ve found that one of the blessings is, at a very early age, I realized how fragile life can be.

It forces you to grow up very quickly. My biggest concern back then was whether I shaved my legs that day, or if I put on a few pounds. Then suddenly my life was flipped upside down. I was losing my legs and my body was never going to be the same. But I had another opportunity at life, and it put everything in perspective. For all I knew, I could only have another day or another year. Every day that I’m healthy, I want to use that day to its fullest now.

It’s been a good thing for me to be extremely aware of my mortality. You’re still 19, though, and you want to hang out with your friends, who are all 19, 20, 21 years old. They don’t have that perspective. And because of that, I have found myself migrating toward older people.

I haven’t thought about that before, but it’s so true. I definitely would say the same thing. Even though I wanted to go out and drink and party with people my age, I had to force myself to be more responsible. I grew up a lot faster than most people my age. And I connected a lot more with people who were out of that phase. There’s no way to go where you and I have gone and not come back changed and aware of how precious life is.

After I got sick, there was a certain amount of denial about the loss. You do have to process that loss and mourn what’s gone and accept what your life will be like going forward. How did you do that?

You do have to mourn. There wasn’t a major depression episode for me. It came on in various smaller circumstances. I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, my friends just throw on dresses and heels and run out the door? I have to sit here and figure out how to make my legs work.” Those moments hit me early on, how much different my lifestyle was. I just tried to deal with one thing at a time, which allowed me to take things in little bits and not get overwhelmed.

I’ve found that when I tell people that my feet hurt, they instinctively give me a free pass. They are so sympathetic and understanding if I need to just lay in bed. But that’s an infectious disease, too, isn’t it?

I know what you mean. But as long as I’m healthy, I don’t want a day to go to waste. I dealt with kidney failure, in addition, and it made me feel extremely sick all the time. I just always felt like, ‘If I ever feel better, I can do anything.’

I’m 37. I have three daughters. I catch myself on Saturday afternoons running around in the front yard, chasing them, having a blast … then the pain hits me, and I have to stop. In those moments, it really bums me out that I got sick at such an early age.

It’s when I compare myself to what other people are able to do that I run into trouble. It’s a bummer. I just constantly try to put things into perspective. Yes, there are losses here. But there are also lots of gains. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if that hadn’t happened to me. I usually allow myself a moment to mope, then I get over it and move past it.

In a lot of my dreams, I have my feet. What about you?

This is a fun interview, just having so much in common. In my dreams, whatever I’m doing, I look down to see if I have prosthetics. It sets my time frame in my dream, I think. I’d have these dreams that I’m running and launching myself, and I look down and see that I have prosthetics. I have a lot of those, where I do great, amazing things with my prosthetics.

I miss my toes sometimes. I’ll see somebody clipping their toenails, and I’ll be like, “Aw, look at that. I remember when I used to clip my toenails.”

I have a friend who survived the Boston Marathon bombing, and she has a prosthetic leg on one side and a foot on the other side that’s just crushed. It’s to the point where she wants it amputated because she can’t function with how it is. But her biggest hang-up is that she’s going to miss her toes. I can’t really say I miss my toes. For you, having half a foot on both sides, it’s probably hard to see the first half of the feet and not think about the other half that’s gone. I do miss my feet and the simplicity of just getting up and throwing on clothes and shoes and going. I have kind of an ankle fetish right now. If I see a girl with pretty ankle bones, I think, “That’s so feminine and beautiful.”

Did you love your ankles?

No, actually, I didn’t. My feet were not my favorite part of my body. They were not pretty feet. I’m so used to this now that I don’t miss them. It’s my normal, and I don’t think anything of it.

I get hung up sometimes thinking about what my life will be like when I am 80. Does that happen to you?

You can’t go there. You have to live in the moment. In any way you can, you prepare yourself for the future. But every minute or hour you spend thinking about life when you’re 80 is a minute or hour you lost. There are times when I worry about thinner skin some days, and how that will affect my prosthetic. But I don’t even want to think about. I try to be appreciative for what I have right now.

Why is the campaign so important to you?

A lot of people know me from Paralympics and Dancing with the Stars. Most people have heard of bacterial meningitis at this point. But I don’t think people realize they’re at risk, or their kids are at risk, and, most importantly, that there’s a vaccine. It’s one of those things that people just think won’t happen to them. I want to boost awareness, so people can make educated choices about the vaccination. It’s heart-wrenching to meet people who lost someone and they say they had no idea about the disease and the vaccination.

I think about this scenario often: If someone gave me a magic button and I could go back in time and not get sick, would I do it? I think I would. But I would stare at the button for a long time, because I wouldn’t want to give up some of the things I learned at age 22.

I would definitely not go back. It has made me the person that I am today. It tested me to see what I was really made of. I always wonder where I would be if it hadn’t happened. I don’t think I would have made it to where I’m at today without getting sick.

This was originally posted on espnW.

Photo: Amy Purdy / Facebook

How to Stay Healthy at the Office

How to Stay Healthy at the Office

Let’s be clear—there is no willpower like lunchtime in the office willpower. While you’re noshing on a roasted kale salad, the scent of a gooey cheese pizza or fried fish tacos are assaulting your olfactory senses. Trust us, we feel your pain.

We work in an office where catered and group lunches are a regular occurrence; there’s always a birthday celebration, an office visit from an out-of-town employee and an ex-boyfriend to cry over (our current record is two separate break-ups during a 24-hour period). Nothing heals the heart or says “Go Team!” like a group meal. After all, food is better than trust falls.

But if you’re trying to eat healthy, office lunches are a daily challenge worthy of a Survivor episode. Read on for our tips.

1. Did you say quinoa party?

Work with your coworkers and office manager to provide healthier lunch options. If “Taco Tuesday” is a weekly occurrence, request grilled fish in addition to fried. Do end-of-the-month sales meetings end with an office pizza party? Order a salad. Is this the fun option? No. Is this the healthy option? Yes.

2. Mutual moderation.

Form a healthy alliance with a coworker and encourage each other to stay on target. If you make your monthly goal–treat yo’ self to a slice of pie, a piece of cake, or whatever satisfies your craving.

3. Don’t be that girl.

The office doesn’t need a constant reminder of your diet. Your eating habits are a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Got it? Good. Moving on.

4. Be a recluse.

If your willpower has taken a sick day, don’t join the lunch. If your office has an outdoor seating area, go get some sunshine. If you’re stuck in a high-rise, put on your headphones, surf the web, and enjoy a desk lunch.

This was originally published on The Politesse.

Photo: lauracuriacu / Pixabay

How to Find Validation from Within

How to Find Validation from Within

I consider myself a person poised for success. After my last 9-5 job, I knew I never again wanted to work for anyone else. And, if there were ever going to be a time in my life for me to achieve my goals, the time was now.

I decided to follow the 7 Strategies of High Net-Worth Individuals. I had already eliminated my options. Now it was time for me to set goals, deadlines, and cut-out distractions. It was a pivotal point in my life. All I had was the little voice inside my head. It told me that if I wanted to make a living as a writer and entrepreneur, I would have to breakaway from the mold.

I stopped going out, stopped keeping in touch with certain friends, and canceled my cable subscription, which meant spending more time alone–doing the things that mattered. No more girls’ nights out, fancy dates, glam New York parties, or any of the other activities I engaged in for constant reassurance and a measurement of my self-worth.

Spending time alone changed my perspective. I began to see things more clearly. There were occasions when I did go out and I saw my old self everywhere–women who were reminders of how insecure I was. I used to be someone who sought constant validation from others.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I needed the compliments. They provided reassurance about my looks, my intellect, my success, etc. It wasn’t long before what others thought of me was exactly what I thought of myself. I spent thousands a year on beauty treatments and products. I wouldn’t be caught dead without full hair and make-up. And I, too, weighed my financial security against others, compared my education to that of my associates, my apartment to the apartments of friends. I didn’t even own a pair of flats!

I had slowly built a house of cards (speaking of HOC, watch Kevin Spacey on Office Hours). It finally reached a point where I felt so much pressure from the outside world I could no longer keep up. A difficult break-up and host of other problems were the push I needed for it to all come crashing down.

This was my Aha! moment. The moment I realized I had been working too hard to please others and not myself. Society puts so much pressure on women. We’re expected to be slim and fit, attractive, have a career, and be homemakers, mothers, and wives. I was trying to do it all.

Today, I have managed to rebuild my life, and it looks a lot different than it did. I shut out the chatter of the outside world, and instead, vowed to rely on my internal guidance.

We’re not always going to be fortunate enough to have the perfect partner, job, boss, kids, etc., but we’re the creators of our own worlds. Only you hold the perfect image of who you are. Practice meditation and finding the voice within. Let it be your guide. You’ll find that it’s the only validation you’ll ever need.

Photo: Bernd Opitz / Getty Images

5 Confident Pieces Every Woman Needs in Her Closet

5 Confident Pieces Every Woman Needs in Her Closet

Confidence comes from within, no doubt. And, as with anything worth having, developing into a confident person takes effort and dedication. With this said, looking and feeling great on the outside can only support–and even fast track–the confidence we’re striving for on the inside.

Here are our top 5 favorite items to help boost and support our inner confidence:

1. An oversized black knit.

This may be counterintuitive at first glance. Where some women might use an oversized black item to hide away a bit, we see it as liberating. A gorgeous black knit that you can cozy up in allows you to be free–to be your best self. Black is always flattering, yet it makes a bold backdrop so you can shine.

This gorgeous cashmere oversized dolman top from Neiman Marcus (on sale now!) is the perfect piece to slip into for ultimate confidence and comfort in the office and beyond.

2. A bold statement piece.

On the other end of the spectrum, every closet needs one great statement piece that leaves no doubt about the bold and confident woman you are. Whether it’s an accessory or a bold-colored suit, choose something that turns heads. (Does the idea of this take you out of your comfort zone? Go for it anyway. One way to foster your inner confidence is to push yourself a little and see what comes of it.)

In an office setting, you’ll want to strike a balance between bold and business appropriate.  We love the wow factor of this red French Connection fit and flare dress. It’s cute and sassy and totally bold, but will also work in most any office setting. We also love this Michael Kors animal print dress for this purpose. It’s a great day to night piece, too.

3. A power suit.

Nothing does more for confidence than a perfectly tailored, sleek fitting power suit. Whether your office calls for business attire or not, this is one piece you must have in your wardrobe. Anytime you’re in doubt about what type of appearance to make–personal or professional–you can’t go wrong with your best power suit, your hair up in a high bun, and a nude lip gloss for a fabulous, confident look.

This Calvin Klien skirt suit in navy blue is timeless (and on sale!), as is our favorite go-to navy pant suit from Banana Republic.

4. A fabulous, funky pant.

We’re big fans of a great pant–one that makes you feel both feminine and powerful at once. While we often think of dresses as the best way to exude confidence, more and more, pants are it.  Try a fun, asymmetrical pinstripe like these Yigal Azrouel pants. So chic, office cool, and unmistakably confident.

5. Your signature look.

Finally, every confident woman has a signature look–that go-to that you know will make you feel and look great no matter what else is going on. This is uniquely yours and should be distinct from everyone else. For inspiration, channel iconic women like Mary-Kate and Ashley, Tilda Swinton, or Kate Middleton. Whether you’re into their styles or not, they’re unmistakable–and unmistakably confident–in who they are.

What pieces do you wear to reflect your inner confidence?  Share your tips with our community in the comments below!

This was originally posted on House of Marbury.

Photo: Vanni Bassetti / Getty Images

4 Ways to Turn Your Inner Critic Into an Ally

4 Ways to Turn Your Inner Critic Into an Ally

It’s the voice that tells you not even to bother applying for that position because you’d never get it with your skill set. It paralyzes you when you’re creating a presentation, and it will never let you forget that stupid thing you said at an important meeting. Self-criticism is like a drunken heckler at a comedy club, and it could be stifling your ability to thrive. But there are ways to tame the demon, and even befriend it.

Psychologists point out that the human mind is much more likely to remember negative information than neutral or positive, and this tendency informs our actions. This focus on the negative sometimes results in the cultivation of an inner heckler that will be sure to exaggerate the dangers of any planned course of action.

When I started doing stand-up comedy a few years ago, I had no idea that it was going to involve anything more than memorizing jokes and reciting them. Trying to get a room full of potentially hostile strangers on your side is actually a bit more complicated, especially when some of them are emboldened by alcohol. Seasoned performers have a great way of dealing with unwanted comments: They embrace it and make it part of the act.

The intrusive voice of the heckler is certainly jarring, but it doesn’t have to ruin your show. Noticing when your morale is flagging and turning it into a motivation to stay grounded can turn the tide.

1. Make use of the negativity

Forget everything you’ve heard about forcing yourself to stay positive. Even your most negative thoughts, the ones you’d most like to ignore, can be useful. Negative thoughts aren’t the problem here. The problem is how you relate to them. The fear of blowing an interview can motivate you to prepare better if you can avoid the pitfall of letting it make you feel like a certain kind of person, like a “person who always blows interviews.”

Focus on the behavior, and not the illusion of a solid, unchanging you. A heckler just wants attention. If you can understand where that’s coming from, it’s a step towards transforming the situation.

2. Don’t identify with it.

Self-criticism isn’t inherently correct just because it came from your own mind. If you believe your thoughts are always objective depictions of reality, your self-criticism will seem very accurate. Cultivating a sense of curious and creative detachment from your inner heckler can allow you to untether yourself from its grasp.

When you catch yourself in the midst of tearing apart your own plans, take a breath. Ask yourself an open-ended question about where these thoughts are coming from. Address the fears related to your anxiety. It’s scary! But only you can give yourself the space and permission to do it.

3. Respond, don’t react.

Reacting is what you do out of habit. Responding skillfully is an art that takes awareness and effort. But like anything that takes practice, it can be mastered. When you learn not to identify with thoughts, it’s easier to respond to them rather than react. Once you’ve noticed the thoughts and examined them, you can choose how to respond to them, rather than defaulting to obeying what could be an exaggeration of potential outcomes.

It’s easy to go through a work day entirely on autopilot, simply reacting to anything that comes up. Exercising some choice in how you respond to incoming requests and turbulent situations in your workplace is a way to begin active engagement with your heckler.

4. Have a little perspective.

When we say someone has a “good sense of humor” about something, we often mean that they are able to zoom out and see the bigger picture. Things are more likely to roll off our back when you are able to take the long view. Applying this to self-criticism can radically change your relationship to our little inner heckler. You might even have fun being experimental and trying different approaches rather than just hopping straight into the rabbit hole of self-defeat.

When you notice that you’ve gotten caught up in that same closed loop of negative thoughts, make an intention to zoom out and see the absurdity of the situation. You’ll notice some recurring patterns, and you can learn to laugh at yourself.

I’ve been doing stand-up comedy on and off for about five years, and there’s just no way to ensure that someone won’t interrupt the show. Rather than letting this dictate how I create my material, I’ve decided to accept that whether or not I like it, heckling happens. It means the audience is alive (and honestly probably a little drunk). So, it’s a good thing that you have thoughts. Taking the perspective that even the most negative internal monologues can teach you something is a great way to learn about how you interact with others and how you treat yourself.

With a little space, some curiosity, and a resolve to soften toward yourself, you can at least transform that voice into the kind of heckler you can laugh with.

How do you beat your inner critic? Share your tips below.

This article was originally published on Idealist Careers.

Photo: Joshua Earle / Unsplash

10 Tips for Someone Starting a New Job

10 Tips for Someone Starting a New Job

The other day a coworker mentioned that today would be my one month anniversary at my job. I couldn’t believe it. In some ways it seems like I just started yesterday. When I was on the subway home from work tonight I jotted down a few reflections about being the new person in the office:

1. Just Google it.

A wise friend of mine once told me about an acronym her coworkers use, JGI, otherwise known as Just Google It. You should ask questions when you’re new, but save your questions for those that have to do with company procedures and things that you can’t Google. Example: What time do people usually get to work? (Ask it!) What’s the Excel command for counting the number of characters in a cell? (JGI.)

2. Say “good morning” and “good evening.”

This is a very simple way to get to know people and come off as the friendly person you (hopefully) are. When you get into work in the morning, say “good morning” to people that you see. When you leave, say “good evening” to people you see. Simple. You learned it at a young age.

3. Learn every person’s name.

People really like it when you call them by their name. Life is less awkward when you know people’s names. Try to remember people’s names when you’re introduced to them on their first day, but, when in doubt, use the team page or company bios to learn people’s names (similar to the Devil Wears Prada scene where Andi and Emily go to the party with Miranda and have to whisper the names of the people she’s about to greet). I must admit that I still don’t know everyone’s name, but at Dip Day I recommended that I start calling people by the dip they brought in. I haven’t tried it yet and think that once I meet a few more people I’ll know all of their real names (sorry, Skinny Hot Spinach Dip aka Samantha).

4. Eat lunch with people.

Lunchtime is a great time to get to know your coworkers without talking about work. If people usually go out to lunch ask someone if they want to go to lunch with you. If people usually pack lunch and eat together go join them. They probably won’t pull a Mean Girls and say, “You can’t sit with us.” If they do, you have bigger problems then who to sit with because your coworkers aren’t very nice.

5. Get organized.

The best way to stay organized is to get organized right from the beginning. Create Gmail or Outlook folders, create the organized email inbox you’ve been dreaming about since you were a little girl, make desktop folders and a document filing system—in short, go crazy.

6. Take outfit cues from your boss.

No, this doesn’t mean you need to wear a pantsuit and a headband, but take cues based on what you see your boss (or someone higher up than you) wears. If your boss never wears jeans, don’t wear jeans. When in doubt be a bit overdressed.

7. If you leave for coffee offer to bring something back.

If you’re leaving for coffee ask the people who sit near you if they want coffee. This is a polite thing to do. Plus, who doesn’t love coffee?

8. Make it clear you’re a hard worker.

You don’t get a second chance at a first impression. You should always work hard at work, but you should work especially hard during your first few weeks.

9. Smile and hold the door for people.

Be nice. Smile. Hold the door for people. Little gestures can go a long way. You may think that I’m writing this to future people I date (which it does apply to), but it also applies at work. People like to work with nice people. Be nice.

10. Say yes and you’ll figure it out afterwards.

A wise woman named Tina Fey once said, “Say yes and you’ll figure it out afterwards.” I agree with this statement (except if you’re a surgeon, in which case please dismiss this). When I worked at Levo League, I was asked to be the Social Media Associate on my first day. I hadn’t managed any social media other than my own Facebook and Twitter, but I said yes and figured it out afterwards (in this case by going to Barnes and Noble and picking up Likeable Social MediaThe Social Media Strategist, and just in case those weren’t enough, The Complete Idiots Guide to Social Media.) I ended up learning a lot really quickly, and no one knew that I was learning along the way.

Extra Credit: Watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” to learn the benefits of “Power Posing.” I have to admit that before my interview at Likeable I went into the bathroom and did the “Power Pose” for a few minutes—it worked!

This article was originally published on The Preppy Post Grad.

Photo: Thinkstock