Cassandra’s Post: What to Wear to all these Holiday Parties?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 11:12 am

With the holidays around the corner, there are plenty of invitations floating about for upcoming parties both work-related and purely social.  Holiday parties are of course fun and give way to meeting new people.  This also means that I will have to be mindful of my budget, as more parties requires extra funds for gifts and great holiday attire!

Let’s first look at the calendar of events:

Event # 1- December 3rd – Boyfriend’s Boss’ Holiday Party

Event # 2 – December 10th – My Company’s Holiday Party

Event # 3 – December 11th- Coworker’s Costume Holiday Party/Potluck

(What social calendar progress I am making… I said yes to all three!)

The first event is taking place at the boss’ house and there is a possibility of being outside on a cooler evening.  In contrast, my work’s holiday party is going be a cocktail party indoors and although no one of the same crowd (other than my boyfriend and me) will be attending both, I couldn’t possibly wear the same thing!  The third party is a costume party where attendees are two dress up as anything relating to Christmas i.e. ornaments, famous characters, traditional Christmas food, etc.  It goes without saying that it is going to take some creativity, so it’s good that I’m planning now.  On top of that, I am to bring a dish and a present for the gift exchange.  Sheesh!  Being a social butterfly takes planning especially if I don’t want to be too stressed to enjoy myself, not to mention be appropriately stylish.

Dress for Success Plan:

Event # 1 – Since this is somewhat of a casual scene I could pull off wearing jean but better yet, why not my newly tailored skinny pants?  Paired with a light sweater in a festive color and my new pashmina (a recent gift from my boss!) would give me plenty of style and still keep me comfortable and warm outside.  Plus wearing pieces I already own will allow me to stay on budget and save my clothes budget for Event # 2 and 3.  What is great about this outfit is that I can wear flats or dress it up with heels depending on how “dressy” my boyfriend attire is.

Event # 2 – An evening of cocktails and fashion savvy professionals would be the perfect occasion for a little black dress with a little sparkle.  With Black Friday coming up and a shopping date already planned with a friend, this will be the perfect opportunity to get a dress without breaking the bank and maybe have enough for a new pair of shoes, too.

Event # 3 – I was so excited to be invited to a coworker’s party.  I’m really starting feel a part of the team and now it seems that I’ve been successful in making some friends too.  Despite this being a creative and friendly engagement, I want to make sure I still make an excellent impression on my host and attendees.  The great thing is that confidence won’t be a problem since everyone is required to wear a goofy costume.  That being said, I’ve been thinking up ideas that are still unique and creative but will still be comfortable throughout the evening.  To cut costs and rather than rent a costume that someone else may already have, I’ll make the majority of the costume myself and buy the embellishments on discount!

With three upcoming parties and plenty of networking opportunities at each of them, I’ve been extra motivated not to get sucked into gaining holiday weight but still enjoy myself.  I’ve been doing great at meeting my four times a week gym goal (okay, you caught me; last week I could only make it three times).  A huge step in my progress happened when I solicited the help of a trainer to show me how to use a new machine at the gym.  Much like a scared animal, I had been circumventing the machine’s area fully aware of its potential to step up my gym routine, but had no clue how to use it.

The result of speaking up and asking was that I ended up getting my own mini training session—for free!  He showed me not only how to use the machine properly but how using it in conjunction with another set of machines would really help me target strengthening and leaning out my legs.  While it didn’t hurt to ask the trainer how to use the machine, even after a short twenty minute session with the trainer, my legs were so sore the next two days! Gym tip: Pick a machine you’ve never used at your gym and ask a trainer how to properly use the machine in your workout.

Cassandra Altman

Ask GGG: Dating When Broke

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 11:48 am

Dear GGG, I recently lost my job and my finances are really tight. Every time I get asked out on a date, I decline or make excuses because I can’t afford to go out! I guess I’m the type of girl who likes to pay for the popcorn when the guy pays for the movie tickets. What should I do? How can you date when you’re broke?! — Marla*, age 27, Tampa

Dear Marla, I’m so sorry to hear you lost your job. I’ll be honest: my thoughts on dating tend toward the traditional. I think the guy should pay, at least on the first handful of dates. Even if the date is inexpensive, it’s a gesture that is more about the romance (and, I’ll add that if a guy really likes you, he’ll insist on paying even if he had to borrow money to try and impress you. Ever read the book The Rules? I’m a big fan…)

This is not to say that you should show up to the date unprepared in the event that he isn’t planning to pay; we’re financially independent after all. One friend of mine refers to the “obligatory reach for the wallet” when the check comes; he’ll likely stop you before you actually take out a card! Which brings us to your dilemma. You deserve to go out and have some fun (plus, it’s never good for the self-esteem and job-hunting confidence to stay cooped up like a prisoner in your house). Ideally, I would put aside an “emergency date fund”, maybe $50-$75 so that you know you have some mad money if you’re on a first date and the guy unexpectedly asks you to go dutch. Another option is to be completely upfront about your situation when he asks you out. Say something like, “I’d love to, but my budget is really tight these days.” Definitely do NOT ask him to pay, mention money, or seem like you’re just trying to get a free meal. But you’ll see his reaction. Most guys that are really interested in you will say immediately that the date will be ‘their treat.’ Or, they will plan something unique that doesn’t cost any money. If the guy makes a big fuss one way or another, he’s probably not worth dating anyway.  On to the NEXT!!!!

Seeing is Believing! How to Create a Vision Board

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 2:13 pm

[Editor's Note: The following GGG Firsthand was written by Rashana A. Hooks]

Growing up, my mother would always tell me to keep my “eyes on the prize.” As an educator, she instilled in me that education was the key to success, and if I wanted to become successful I not only needed a college degree; I needed a vision of what I wanted to accomplish.

I’d heard about vision boards for a while, and I learned how to fully create one from an article in O, The Oprah Magazine. The purpose of the board is to help you see your goals and dreams clearly by using images and sayings/quotes that represent your aspirations.

Here’s how it works: There are three main elements on my board (which you can see above!). The first are quotes–motivational sayings to encourage me, inspire me, and lift me up. The second element is photos that represent my short-term and long-term goals, such as becoming a published author, owning my own home (including a summer home in South Hampton!), and increasing my salary in the next couple of years. There are picture clippings of Oprah, Michelle Obama, and Desiree Rogers to remind me that intelligence, beauty and being all around fabulous is so sexy. I also have dreamy pictures of sandy white beaches with blue waters to motivate me to continue to work hard so I can take beautiful vacations! Symbolically, the third and last element is a photograph that represents my spirituality. Its purpose is to keep me centered, focused and humbled.

I keep the board above my computer in my home office, and look at it for a boost of confidence before I begin a new project, or to help me refocus after a setback. Not long ago I was in a job that I was absolutely not passionate about.  I went to my vision board, and one particular quote caught my attention that day: “Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do.” It was at that moment I knew I deserved to be happy doing what I wanted and I was not going to stop until I reached that goal. I’ve since left that job and have been freelance writing. Two of my proudest accomplishments since? My short story titled “GOAL DIGGER” is published in the anthology Souls of My Young Sisters, Kensington Publishing 2010, and I’m now nearing the steps to owning my first home.

Thinking about giving a vision board a try? Here are a few steps to create your own:

  1. Write down your dreams, goals, and aspirations (Be very, very specific).
  2. Get a poster board, small to mid-size bulletin board or a large sheet of paper (11 x 14).
  3. Grab a few magazines, tape and a pair of scissors.
  4. Search the magazine for pictures that mirror the goals and dreams you identified in step #1.
  5. Place your selected clippings onto the board.
  6. Take a few minutes to look at each “vision” and then envision yourself achieving them.
  7. Place the board at eye level, in a place you frequent often.
  8. Look at the board every day – and keep your eyes on the prize!
  9. Revise your board from time to time, replacing completed goals with new ones.

Rashana A. Hooks

5 Ways Volunteering Can Land You a Job

Monday, November 15th, 2010 11:48 am

With free time on your hands due to un- (or under-) employment, it might be time try a new job-seeking strategy that is both fun and opportunistic. You may already know that volunteering makes you feel good, but what you might not know is that working for free could lead to your next paycheck. Here are five ways volunteering puts you ahead of the pack:

Explore your interests. With millions of job-seekers out there all competing for the same positions, the last thing you want to do is start down a career path only to realize that it is not a good fit. Volunteering at various organizations is a no-pressure way to explore your interests without a long-term commitment. Be strategic in choosing an organization, finding one that falls in line with what time of work you hope to do can help you determine exactly what it is you want (or don’t want) for your career.

Build your resume. Whether you have no experience, too little experience, or the “wrong” experience on your resume, volunteering can help you fill in the gaps.  Once you identify the career field you would like to pursue, begin taking part in  activities that double as “on-the-job training” in a particular skill set. Have a degree in child psychology but have no face-to-face time with kids? Find an organization that works with children so you can add hands-on skills to your resume.  Remember, experience is valuable whether you are compensated for you time or not. Treat your volunteer job as if you were getting paid to do it and don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation letter once you have a good relationship the organization.

Be the first to know. When a position opens up within an organization, job opportunities are usually first circulated internally to staff and volunteers.  If you are interested in working for a particular agency (or an affiliated one), being involved in a volunteer capacity could put your name at the top of the prospect list.

Network. Most nonprofit organizations rely heavily on volunteer assistance and community support to operate successfully.  Supporters often include community leaders, public figures, and local business owners.  You never know who you might connect with while working a charity function or serving on a planning committee– especially if you are working with an organization that falls in line with your career goals.  Building rapport with those in your volunteering network and making it known that you are on the lookout for new career opportunities could put you on the path to your next job interview.

Build character. Volunteering is a great way to get involved and make a difference. Donating your time to a worthy cause also shows an employer that you are a committed, dedicated, and hard-working GGG!  Bonus: doing something good for your community can provide you with all the feel-good endorphins you will need to stay on top of your job search.

Instead of sitting at the computer and waiting for an opportunity to appear in your inbox, take action!  Need help getting started? Check out these sites for info and resources on finding the perfect volunteer gig:

Rosalyn Wik

Rosalyn Wik graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007 and is the Finance Director at a private nonprofit organization.  She currently resides in Destin, Florida.

Cooking in Heels: Easy Peasy Stir-Fry

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 11:43 am

We all know that feeling. When you come home after a long, hard day and face the same question every single night: What am I going to have for dinner?! It may seem like an easy decision; just pop a frozen pizza in the oven or grab some take-out from the Chinese place next door. But what is that really doing to curb your hunger, give you the vitamins and energy you need, and keep you in shape? Absolutely nothing.

Before you throw in the towel, consider this: research has shown that making dinner from scratch actually takes less time than preparing convenience foods.  Choose something that takes less than half an hour to cook (including prep time) and can be done without even slipping off your heels. In fact, you can multi-task: start a dinner and spend its cooking time taking off your makeup or emptying your handbag.

A really simple, easy dinner that may seem almost TOO basic to make is stir-fry. Full of healthy veggies, lean chicken, and packed full of vitamins, a stir-fry can be ready in less than 30 minutes, and the best thing is you can pack some up for lunch the next day.

Easy Peasy Stir-Fry

Start with good oil. Jamie Oliver always preaches that starting with a good olive oil can make the meal, and a good quality one will be putting the RIGHT oils into your body– not fatty, greasy, processed oils. (Bonus: Good oils help your hair and skin stay supple and shiny).

Ingredients:

¼ onion
1 cup frozen peas
1 ½ cups chopped snow peas
1 carrot
1 lb chicken breast
½ head of broccoli
1 potato
½ sweet potato
1 pepper (color of your choice)
½ cup sweet chili sauce
Any other vegetables that you like and find in your fridge!

Method:

Begin by chopping up all of the vegetables.
Heat about a tablespoon of oil in the pan over medium high heat until slightly sizzling.
Saute the onions until slightly brown, then add all of the vegetables into the pan.
Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the vegetables are cooking, chop the chicken into bite size pieces. Remember to use a different cutting board!
Add the chicken to the vegetables and continue to turn.
Pour the sweet chili sauce into the vegetables and chicken.

Once the chicken is cooked give it a quick stir and enjoy!

Quick Tips

  • I always like to slice open a piece of chicken with the tip of my wooden spoon. If it easily comes apart then the chicken is cooked!
  • Grace Young, author of Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge suggests investing in a good wok. Grace says “a wok’s concave shape makes stir-frying easier, and the sloping deep sides prevent food from spilling out.” Translation: faster cooking for all us working girls out there who are in a rush to get their stir-fry cooked!

Tara Lamont-Djite

Tara has worked at InStyle magazine in the distant land of Oz, as an Editorial Assistant and assistant to the Editor in Chief. She completed a Certificate of Business at FBI Fashion College and currently lives in New York City.