The Importance of Company Culture

The number one thing that I look for in a company is culture. Personally I’ve always found it depressing that day-in-day out we work the same hours at the same desk. What makes April 14th of this year different from April 14th of next year?  Therefore something has to break this cycle. Company culture offers a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Not everyone is blessed enough to be doing something they love, and even if you love what you’re doing there is inevitably some routine to it all with is boring.

Creating a family in the workplace makes workers feel more socially responsible to everyone in the office, and indirectly feel a closer tie to their work. One could argue themed lunches and company bowling outings are a waste of funds. True, funds are being used, but instead of viewing these funds as “wasted” instead view them as an “investment.” One large important impact that our company outings have had on me is they help retain me. I may have a rough week every now and then where I get tossed a bunch of projects I’m not too fond of, thanks to our company outings I get a chance to remember why I started working here. It’s at those outings I form relationships with coworkers that help me overcome the bad weeks. Employee retention is a strong reason to consider putting more company culture events on your calendar.

If employee retention isn’t reason enough, studies have found that creating a strong company culture has a high financial payoff. In a way aren’t your employees your customers? What they tell their friends about the products or services offered really makes a difference. One of my favorite parts of working at Highly Relevant is that friends are encouraged to come to company happy hours. It really is fun introducing coworkers to friends, we’ve all started finding ourselves taking fitness classes together or going out in a group.

To give you some ideas of company culture boosting activities, here are a few:

  1. Bowling Alleys
  2. Watching Sports Games, on TV or at the game
  3. Pilates Class
  4. Salsa Class
  5. Fantasy Football Leagues
  6. Simply tuning into the same show and discussing it in the office the next day at staff meetings
  7. Holiday themed potlucks
  8. Training sessions with free lunches where everyone teaches each other a unique skill (work or non-work related). You can even use Power Points as content on your company’s website if they are work-related.
  9. Basketball Game
  10. Cooking Class
  11. Company contest to see who can drive the most traffic or sales to a client’s site with a specific promo code
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Dressing for the Workplace

Dressing for work and still managing to express your style can be a hard thing to juggle. One thing I’ve noticed since joining the workforce is companies are totally different. Where I work it’s much more casual than where my friends work, but I’ve also worked at places where you have to go all-out in business attire. Also as a former sorority I had to dress up in business casual and formal attire every single Monday so I am no stranger to it. So I’ve put together some options for different types of business casual outfits!

For nicer clothing you’re spending a good deal of money, that’s why it’s worth investing in some versatile basics. One tip is that blazers make most casual outfits formal, so splurge on that if you have to because you’ll get a lot of wear out of it!  Here are some blazer suggestions, I think its’a good rule of thumb to pick a lighter color, one darker one, and a fun one to spice an outfit up:

ImageTops are always an essential, try to pick more structured tops for a design that is timeless. A light sweater to go on top of a structured top is also an easy way to offer a little warmth for a cold office but easy to take off when you leave the office for lunch. A brightly colored top will spice up a boring outfit, like the red one pictured below (I’m pretty partial to the color red, so you’ll be seeing a lot of it). Red has been proven to attract more attention, especially from men, so even out of the office you’ll be able to put it to good use!  And a neutral-colored sweater you could easily wear on the weekends or around the house, makes a nice top to wear with structured pants. A fun tip is you can actually find a lot of these tops at your local Goodwill or thrift store so you don’t have to break the bank looking for one. Sure, there will be some less than desirable, worn-out ones but occasionally you can find a solid button-down or designer top for less than  bucks.

ImageWhat should you wear with these new tops? This is where I would also splurge or invest, however you’d like to phrase it. Pants go with a lot of different tops so spend your money here. I love pants from Gap because they go with a lot, don’t wear over time and usually come in fun colors or patterns. Also a fun way to spice up your outfit is to pick a pan with a flare to it, it gives more shape to the pant.

ImageDresses are my personal favorite because it’s a one-stop shop. All you have to do is slip it on and your work is done for you. There are three things to look for when picking out a dress for work. First, look for a higher neckline, because cleavage in the office is not okay! Second, on the opposite end keep your hemline longer. I went to an all-girls high school and the rule was at least three inches above the knee.  Some offices may prefer you keep your knees covered, it just depends on your environment. Last but not least, try to look for dresses with detail at the waist. This gives the dress character and lets you express yourself a little with all the other confines you are working under in putting this look together. You can find some of these dresses at thrift stores, although, I’ll be honest it’s less common than finding a solid top or even a sturdy blazer.

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Sometimes I think finding the perfect pair of shoes is like finding a “solemate” because rarely are work appropriate shoes comfortable.  I’m a fan of flats and boots because they are much more comfortable than heels. An alternative option are wedges, which is most of shoe collection, wedges are harder to trip in and generally more comfortable. None are pictured below, but you can typically find reasonably priced wedges. Boots tend to be expensive, but I’ll admit they’re worth the splurge because they go with a lot of outfits.

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Finally accessories! Accessories are my absolute favorite because you really get to express yourself with them more than with other items you wear to work. I’ve pulled together some classic accessories that reflect my style below. A watch is a really nice investment, even if you get a simple gold one from Target because it will allow you to keep an eye on time without looking at your phone while in a meeting.

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Another fantastic accessory is scarves! Even if it’s the middle of summer you can pair a scarf with a top and pull it off. I have the scarf pictured below, from The Gap (can you tell I love that store?), and it’s great because it’s got florals so it’s easy to wear any time of the year.

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Best of luck to you in picking out your outfits for work, hope this helps you stay professional and fashionable. As an added treat here’s one of my work outfits. I paired a sweater with a Juicy Couture necklace that was a gift from someone special. I paired it with the red Gap pants pictured above, a button down white shirt under a patterned blue/white sweater, and nude heels.

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Six Ways To Get that Job After College

1. “First things first, be first.” The response rate for jobs I applied for the minute they were posted has been exponentially higher than jobs I applied for after they had been up on job boards for a while. This is especially important if the company is looking to fill the position quickly. Not to put you down, but even if you are not the most qualified, the sheer fact you applied early could be key in getting you the job. First thing in the morning check job boards, also keep an eye on them throughout the day, the payoff will be worth it!           

2. “Breakdown your previous experience be it work or philanthropy chair in your house, with bullet points.” Do you remember those two months you spent slaving over your sorority’s pancake breakfast philanthropy for XYZ charity? Now is your chance to let that hard work work for you. List out what you did, without being too specific, to give your prospective employer some idea of what you are capable of managing. Otherwise they are going to look over philanthropy chair immediately as just another activity, make it sound interesting so they’ll want to interview you so they can ask. One of my favorite interviews was one where they asked me “are you able to deal with difficult people?” I smiled, tried to not laugh, and proceeded to explain how I spent every Sunday night for the last two years attending officer meetings where all 36 of us sorority girls had to agree on some course of action for the chapter.  One guy replied “you got 36 college girls to all reach a consensus on something, damn that is pretty impressive. We only work in teams of 5 or more here.”

3. “Don’t up your privacy settings, loosen them on social networks.” This seems like an odd tip, and that being said it’s not for everyone. Nowadays employers actually like to see that you are involved on social networks (especially key if you are applying to a job in marketing or advertising). While over a phone or in-person interview they only get to know you for a few minutes your online presence lets them see your personality. Maybe you have too many embarrassing Facebook photos, so no harm in keeping those private. Perhaps keep your tweet open and retweet articles about the industry you want to work in, keep a few Facebook photos public that show your involvement in that pancake breakfast you slaved over all in the name of charity. Trust me, it’s an easy way to let your employer know you are quality candidate.

4. “Quantity does matter” No, I’m not talking about the amount of work experience here; I’m talking about using numbers on your resume. One really easy way to give you an edge when you apply for a job is the ability to quantify what you have done. Your prospective employer may not know what a philanthropy or social chair does, even worse they may hate Greek life all together. However, everyone understands numbers, they are universal and therefore they are golden. If you sold 1000 Macbooks at the Apple store when you worked there over the summer, put it in a bullet point under your job on your resume. If you increased the traffic to a company’s Facebook page by 45% put it down! Obviously, there are some numbers you can’t get but in those cases use your best guess. Or another way is to ask your previous employer, they may be happy to help find the data you’re looking for anyway! Often employers have to report to someone with what you have done and therefore are constantly measuring your progress, so more often than not they have those numbers.

5.. “Mentor, mentor, mentor” Cinderella had a fairy godmother, you had a big sis in your sorority, it only makes sense you’d need a professional life mentor as well. You may very well find this person through Greek Life, a great deal of my sisters certainly have, but that’s not the only place you can look. My mentor is a former boss of mine from a well-known company. I chose her not only because she had been my supervisor for over two years and was a fantastic reference but also because she knew a lot about the industry. She had worked in technology for over 18 years. Beyond just advising you on jobs these mentors can sometimes provide a foot-in-the door to a job you want.  Keep in touch with them, call them, email, and set up lunches so they won’t hesitate to call you should an opportunity arise. 

6.. “Kill them will kindness” I once had this interview go horribly, it seemed like no matter what I did I couldn’t impress the people interviewing me. Despite knowing I was doomed early on I soldier through and sent a follow-up thank you. I got a response from them thanking me for following-up and some more questions about the field I was trying to get into. A few weeks later I was starting there as a paid intern. Also months later at that same job I overheard a woman talking about how one of the students she had interviewed had written her the most thoughtful thank you note after. Despite the fact the student wasn’t qualified for the position she ended up offering her a job for a year later if she came back with more experience.