Kara and Kayla: a Dynamic Duo
We all have our unique challenges day to day. But more often than not, I find that the common challenges outnumber the unique ones. We’re all trying to get through our days feeling good and representing ourselves in the best way possible. I recently caught up with Kara and Kayla, two of my esteemed colleagues who always look great, to hear what their strategies are for success in the workplace.
How do you approach your work wardrobe?
Kara: Comfort is key, but I always have heels nearby to give that extra polish. Even though we both work in a casual office where jeans are accepted, we’ve both been called into more formal situations at the last minute where jeans were not appropriate and it did not feel good at all! Neither of us have worn jeans to the office since. You just never know what the day will bring!
Kayla: Workwear can be a tough balance as a woman because it’s important to look professional, but I also want to feel feminine. Starting out in my career, I thought pantsuits were the only option, even though they felt awkward and frumpy. Discovering suit dresses (paired with a blazer if need be) was a revelation! I’m a big fan of Calvin Klein dresses because they are simple, well-made and classic. It’s the style that works for me. Knowing that I’ve got a wardrobe that makes me feel confident and powerful is worth the investment.
You are both taller than average – Kara, you are 5’ 9 ½” and Kayla, you are 5 ‘ 10”. You both wear heels and look amazing. Have you always felt comfortable with your height?
Kara: I definitely haven’t always been comfortable with my height. I’ve been this tall since I was 11, so growing up it made me very self-conscious. My husband and I are the exact same height and when we first started dating I slouched a lot and lived in flats. Over time I’ve realized that he has no problem when I wear heels and pays me a lot of compliments when I do. At 27 I’m starting to embrace my height in heels for the first time.
Kayla: It’s the common refrain among tall women – the majority were tall early and at a young age you aren’t comfortable. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned that height conveys a certain elegance and power. I have to work on my posture by doing things like yoga and, especially in an office job, reminding myself to sit up straight. I feel my best when I remembering to walk powerfully, which is a good idea, no matter what your height!
What makes you feel confident for work?
Kara: Taking 10 minutes to do my hair and makeup makes all the difference in how I feel about myself going into the day. I remember at my first job, a coworker told me I’d get over caring about doing both. I love the ritual of taking the time to play up your favorite feature. For me that’s my hair!
Kayla: I’m a big believer in starting my day with something that makes me feel great, like exercise. Even if that means I’m waking up a ½ hour earlier, I’ll always make that commitment because then I carry that sense of accomplishment over to the rest of my day. It’s my ritual that I’ve created to feel like I can tackle the day.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known earlier in your career?
Kayla: You have to be your own advocate. At the same time, there is no substitute for being a good listener and absorbing all that you can from colleagues with more experience. Work hard (but work smart!), keep track of your accomplishments and be sure to reference those successes when it’s appropriate or called for, like in performance reviews.
Kara: I recently saw a study talking about how much women apologize throughout the day. Yesterday at a meeting I was leading, there were four women in the room out of 11. I caught every woman during the meeting (including myself!) start a comment with “Sorry, but…” or “Sorry, but I was thinking” at least once. I’m making an effort to stop doing it. Don’t negate your own position.
Kayla: We spend the majority of our waking hours in the workplace, so I like to make the hours outside of work something that’s going to rejuvenate me for the next day. I believe in doing things that de-stress me the night before I have a big day at the office, like doing yoga or making myself a cup of tea. These things give me the feeling that I can go into the next day with a fresh perspective, not a mind that is harried or burdened with other things.