On average, successful careers don't come easy. There's no magic formula or paint-by-the-numbers instructions. That's why books on the subject are legion. Each one has an answer, but none have the answer.
Add to the list "The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career" (out May 17), by the powerhouse co-founders of fashion and style site Who What Wear and Clique Media CEOs Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power.
In their soup-to-nuts approach to building a successful career, readers aren't promised the moon, sun and stars — but that's a good thing. "The Career Code" takes creating a career path step by tedious step, breaking down both the small details (What does one wear on a first interview?) and the Big Questions (What should I do with my life?). There's a clear balance between "follow your bliss" and "don't get shown the door."
In other words, you can be a dreamer, albeit a lucid one. Here's what Kerr and Power had to say about getting your career to take off while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground.
When you're just starting out, asking for a raise or promotion is daunting. In your book, you wrote about how quantifying your work is key to boosting confidence. Any specific tips on this?
If you actually take the time to quantify your work — reviewing your own performance and seeing the many ways you've been additive to your company, department, and direct boss — you should be able to find all the confidence you need. I'd also advise you to practice what you're going to say so you're at least feeling prepared, and watch Amy Cuddy's TED Talk on body language. It's really helpful!
Nowadays, lots of people have a few part-time jobs in our "gig economy," versus one steady full-time job. What advice do you have for people who are juggling multiple gigs and lack the structure of an office and colleagues?
If you don't have the structure of an office and colleagues, it's really important to create your own version of both. When we were just starting our company, we were working from home and freelancing, but we still acted like we were going into an office. For us, that meant having a basic routine, which included getting dressed for work every morning — even if the "office" was the dining room table — and "reporting" for regular work hours.
Whether we like it or not, women are often judged by their appearance. We can be accused of looking too sexy or not attractive enough. Sometimes it seems like we can't win.
We truly believe in the idea of dressing for the job that you want, not the job that you have. One trick that helps many people is to simply identify your "uniform" for work and then stick to some version of it. That might mean a pencil skirt and a simple sweater, or black trousers and a printed blouse, or a sharp blazer over a sleek dress. The point is to find something that you like, that is also appropriate for the workplace and your body, and to make that your go-to outfit formula.
What are some of the most common fashion faux pas that people make in their first weeks and months on the job?
While every company has a different culture, sometimes people think they need to wear very trend-based outfits to work, even if this means sacrificing polish or professionalism for said trend. When in doubt, first consult your company’s dress code, and then look at your colleagues and immediate boss.