Report Shows Clean Energy Jobs Outnumber Coal and Gas Jobs

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Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released a report that shows wind and solar energy jobs now outnumber coal and gas jobs 1.5 to 1 in 30 states, including Washington, D.C.

The report, In Demand: Clean Energy, Sustainability and the New American Workforce, finds that the clean energy and sustainability economy provides local jobs in all 50 states, frequently pays higher-than-average wages, and offers numerous career and educational pathways for individuals looking to work in the clean energy economy

“The clean energy workforce has skyrocketed, launching us into the new clean energy economy while supporting American workers,” said Ellen Shenette, manager of EDF Climate Corps, a summer fellowship program that accelerates clean energy initiatives and spearheaded the new report. “The growth in clean energy sectors can be credited to reductions in costs, increased demand for clean energy and efficiency technologies, as well as policies and investments.”

The report, coauthored by Meister Consultants Group, a Cadmus Company (MCG), also suggests a strong future for renewable energy and sustainability employment.

Other highlights from the report include:

The sustainability economy continues to be a large and growing source of jobs for more than 4 million workers in the United States, with wind and solar energy jobs outpacing those in the coal industry.

Solar and wind installations comprised 65 percent of installed electric capacity in 2016 and for the third year in a row exceeded the installed capacity of all other electricity sources combined.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that solar PV installers and wind turbine service technicians will be the two fastest growing jobs in America from 2016 to 2026, roughly doubling during that period.

The report also highlights the stories of three former EDF Climate Corps fellows currently working in this industry, including Ben Metcalf, a former Operations Officer for the U.S. Navy who shifted his career to focus on utility-scale solar development and now works at Galehead Development.

“Every day, I witness the many jobs – from blue to white collar positions – that support the demand for clean energy,” said Metcalf. “I’m confident that the policies over the next 12 months will not slow the market’s long-term positive outlook.”

The report also provides recommendations for sustaining clean energy job growth, such as increasing investments in clean energy research, supporting smart climate policy and ensuring that companies set big and public greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals.

“Businesses have become key catalysts in helping drive the clean energy economy by setting goals and investing in energy efficiency technologies,” added Shenette. “Companies are recognizing that the market is demanding a low-carbon economy, and they’re seeing the benefits to their bottom lines. What business wants to bet against the market?”

Source: Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

Guide to Starting Your Own Small Business

LinkedIn

By: Jessica Goodman

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had the Sunday scaries. As in, those sinking, pre-Monday feels you get before another week at your whatever job. Yeah, it can be a slog — one you needn’t do any ­longer. If you’ve ever fantasized about being your own boss or setting your own hours, there is a solution. A good one: Start your own business.

There’s never been a better time for a woman to strike out on her own. In 2017, there were 11.6 million female-owned companies in America, generating an astonishing $1.7 trillion in profits, according to American Express. Women now make up 40 percent of new entrepreneurs. Why can’t you be one of them?

You just need the right tools, people, and yes, money on your side…and this comprehensive guide. It’s time to turn those Sundays into can’t-effing-wait-for-Mondays.

Always known you’d kill it as a personal trainer or long dreamed of opening a ­coffee shop? Get it, girl. But if you’re ­struggling to define the something you want to start, follow these steps.

Find Your Idea

Ask yourself: What’s missing in my area? What do friends always complain about? “Go into the world looking for problems,” says Amy Wilkinson, a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and author of The Creator’s Code. “When you find solutions, that’s where your business idea will be.” Maybe your town has great hiking trails but no tour guides or your city has a dozen yoga studios but no cycling classes. Just pick something you’re actually into, says Wilkinson. “When it’s your company, you need to be committed.”

Then, figure out who you’re up against, says Tina Wells, CEO and founder of Buzz Marketing Group. If you want to open a gluten-free pizza shop, list every pizza place within 10 miles, then tally how many do gluten-free. None? You’re good to go. But if you’ll be competing with two spots in the next town, think again. (If you’re dead set on slinging that GF crust, you must have stuff that sets you apart: original toppings, 24/7 delivery, etc.)

Finally, ID your customer. “If you can’t name your first five customers right away, yours isn’t a good idea,” says Wells. So if you’re starting an SAT tutoring service, you should be able to say, “My friend Maria’s sister would pay for this. Ditto my cousin Nikki.”

Write A Legit Business Plan

One study found that 78 percent of unsuccessful companies crash because they didn’t ace this crucial step. “But you don’t need an MBA to write a good one,” says Elizabeth Gore, ­president of Alice, a digital ­business ­adviser for women. You can download easy-to-follow ­templates from Alice, the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), or the Kauffmann Foundation’s FastTrac. Spend extra time on the below key factors, and seek help from SCORE, a nonprofit that matches entrepreneurs with mentors.

The Mission Statement
It should be hyperspecific and short — a few sentences max, says Gore. The tone needs to match the overall vibe of your brand.

The Background Research
To nail this section, you’ll need to amass in-depth details on similar businesses. If you’re opening a smoothie shop, go to every existing one you can and take notes on how long it takes customers to be served, what menu items are most popular, how many employees work at any one time, prices, and how the space is laid out. Are customers taking selfies? If so, perhaps your joint will feature a graphic selfie wall. Insta-success.

The Financial Proposal
Create Excel docs with estimates of how much money you’ll need to launch, how much you expect to make in the first year, how much you expect to spend in the first year…and whether you’ll break even or make a profit. In 2002, when Jeni Britton Bauer started Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in her home in Columbus, Ohio, she asked herself: How much can I charge for ice cream? If I got 10 people to buy from me every day, how much would we make? Would that total be enough for me to buy ingredients, pay myself, and pay back any loans?

Make It Official

Settle on a name that’s short, unique, and easily searchable. Try to think in two­syllable words (á la Starbucks, Twitter, Facebook, Tinder). Bonus points for wording that carries personal meaning you can later use to promote your brand’s backstory. Go to USPTO.gov to see if someone has already trademarked your first choice. If not, apply ASAP with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the same website.

Then, register your ­business with state and local governments to make it totally legal. The whole process should cost about $300. (Google “[your state] SBA” for help.)

And lock down a URL. Typically, [brand name]+[industry] setups work well (for example, MILKmakeup.com). But check what’s available by searching the WHOIS.net database. Claim your domain name via host sites like NameCheap, DreamHost, or GoDaddy, all of which charge around $15 a year.

Next, get an Employer Identification Number. You’ll need one to open a business bank account, apply for licenses and permits, and pay taxes. Apply for free at IRS.gov.

Then you can open a work-only bank account. Use this — not your personal one — to pay for legal and insurance fees, manufacturing costs, office supplies, and whatever else you need to keep the lights on. And once you launch, apply for a business credit card, which tends to have higher credit limits than personal cards.

Continue onto Cosmopolitan to read the complete article.

Sell Yourself and Your Brand

LinkedIn

Creating a personal brand helps employers see your uniqueness

Why take the time to develop a personal brand? See how you can stand out to employers.

  • In a tough job market, you need to stand out. Besides helping you identify your personal strengths, having a brand can pull your resume to the top of the pile, make you shine in interviews, and leave your LinkedIn readers positively wowed.
  • Corporations take great care to develop a brand that defines their product. Brands help inspire trust and commitment in consumers; if you apply similar thinking to your personal brand, you can distinguish your value in a way that inspires an employer’s interest in you.
  • With so many marketing options, you need to be consistent. Use your brand in all your job search communications, including your cover letter, in interviews, and in thank-you notes. Your LinkedIn and other social media should clearly reflect you and your professional brand.
  • Most work is project based. Your brand is a shorthand description of what you bring to a team or to the table for projects.

So, are you ready to start thinking—or rethinking—your personal branding strategy?

Consider several of your best work experiences and how you contributed to them. What skill or characteristic is reflected in your best work stories? How did you use it? With what result? Ask yourself: “Why do people like to work with me or employ me?” What earns you compliments or accolades? What do people depend on you for?

Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Are you friendly and always the one to organize social events at work? Your brand could include “an inveterate team builder and initiator.”
  • Do you take unusual care to ensure details are thoroughly thought through and accurate? Your brand could be “willing to take on the precision that scares others away.”
  • You might be an outstanding supervisor who makes operations flow and brand yourself “a problem-solver who excels at developing talent.”

You can identify your signature characteristics yourself or work with a career coach or counselor to help you identify them. It’s a good idea to ask for some feedback on your ideas from a few trusted friends or colleagues before you go public with your brand to avoid a mismatch of how you see yourself and how you may come across to others.

Source: careeronestop.org

This 21-Year-Old Vegan Cafe Owner Is Making Healthy And Affordable Foods “Accessible To Everyone”

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Francesca Chaney is changing the game, one meal at a time. The 21-year-old college student is the owner and creator of Sol Sips, a vegan cafe located in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood.

Sol Sips started as a temporary pop-up shop that is being renovated to become a permanent location for anyone looking for a healthy and affordable meal. The cafe features an entirely plant-based menu of food and drinks, with no more than four ingredients in every product.

“The response that we got in the three months was really positive,” Cheney told VIBE of the pop-up shop. “We got a lot of feedback that encouraged us to keep going, so what it’s grown into is making these foods accessible to everyone.”

Despite being the daughter of a vegan nutritionist, Cheney was never pressured into following a plant-based diet. Instead, her mother made sure that she “understood the importance of eating healthy and eating plants.”

At age 16, Cheney (and some of her friends) transitioned into vegetarianism, but she wasn’t exactly eating the best foods. The only after-school meatless meals available in her neighborhood were fried tofu and broccoli from a local Chinese restaurant. “In terms of being a ‘healthy vegetarian’ or ‘healthy vegan,’ I didn’t really start that until around the time that I started creating the Sol Sips brand,” she said.

Cheney began making her very own beverages and unique herbal tea mixtures three years ago, which she sold in her community, and at different festivals and events. By 2017, Cheney scored a temporary pop-up space, and as of this year, her story has been spreading all around the internet.

Going forward, Chaney wants to lead neighborhood food tours and visits to local farms, to teach residents about the food options in their own communities. Her main goal is to educate people on the benefits of a plant-based diet without being pushy or overbearing.

Days before her official grand opening, VIBE spoke with the young entrepreneur about the challenges of running a business, and how she plans to turn Sol Sips into a global brand.

VIBE: How did Sol Sips evolve into a cafe?
Francesca Cheney: We were doing events, weekend gigs and festivals and we had an opportunity to do a pop-up [cafe] in an actual space. It was our trial period to test that vision with regular, local people, as opposed to somebody that is going to the festival because they know that they want to buy certain things. This was solely to be in the space of community.

Continue onto VIBE to read the complete article.

USA Today’s New Publisher Is Gannett Veteran Maribel Wadsworth

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USA Today has chosen one of its own to lead its highest ranks. Maribel Perez Wadsworth, a two-decade veteran of the company, will take the paper’s reins as its new publisher. Up until now, Wadsworth was president of the entire USA Today network, in addition to overseeing its content strategy. She’ll continue leading those efforts in her new role.

Wadsworth joins USA Today’s newly appointed editor-in-chief, Nicole Carroll, in a move that puts women in three of the company’s top leadership positions, including executive editor Patty Michalski. The new publisher says she plans to focus on expanding the outlet’s digital growth and doubling down on investigative and enterprise journalism. Wadsworth began her career as a beat reporter for the Rockford Register Star, a role she said is still very much part of her DNA. “Once a reporter, always a reporter,” she says.

Wadsworth’s background at the USA Today network included building digital products and helping the company’s innovation efforts. “We’ve grown our consumer revenues pretty significantly,” she says. She plans to continue that with her new role as publisher. USA Today, she says, has been experimenting with many different revenue models. It has a few audio projects–including serialized podcasts–on the horizon, as well other skirmishes in video, mobile, and membership.

EXPLORING NEW REVENUE MODELS

As I wrote a few months ago, membership and subscriptions have resurfaced as a promising revenue engine for the journalism business. Companies like the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times have shifted resources toward these offerings as a way to offset declines in advertising revenue. Wadsworth, too, is looking into this option. “We’re beginning to develop our plans for digital subscription models,” she tells me.

Many media companies have also been beleaguered by recent changes to Facebook’s algorithm, which have resulted in traffic declines. For Wadsworth, this predicament underscores a common strategic pitfall in which outlets come to rely too heavily on a single distribution channel. “We try very hard to not think or be driven by platforms specifically,” she says. “We want to make sure that what we’re doing is following our audience.

Another program Wadsworth finds promising is the ad-free option on USA Today’s app–as well as its push into franchised media programs. The newspaper’s video channel, Humankind, “has grown really nicely, to over a billion video video streams last year,” she says. Which is all to say that she believes that the national newspaper is building a stronger, less platform-dependent business model.

“We’re doing more and more experimentation,” she says.

Gannett, USA Today’s parent company, has been feeling squeezed by the pressures of the industry. Over the last few years, the company has reported sinking revenues as the print advertising market continues to plummet. “There’s no question that revenues overall have been under pressure over the last many years,” says Wadsworth. “At the same time,” she adds, “we’ve had a clear focus on revenue diversification.”

Read the complete article on Fast Company.

Betsy Duke — A career of firsts in leadership

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board chair of wells fargo

Amid crises and accomplishments, Wells Fargo Chair Betsy Duke has forged a career of firsts, culminating with being named the first female chair of a major U.S. bank.

As she relaxed on a Saturday afternoon in 1991, Betsy Duke received a phone call that would change her life. Her mentor and boss at a community bank in Virginia, the Bank of Tidewater, had died from a heart attack. Twenty-four hours later, Duke became one of the state’s first female banking CEOs.

Duke took the helm at that bank during the country’s savings and loan crisis — at that time the biggest threat to the U.S. financial system since the Great Depression. Despite some sleepless nights, she said she gained insights that have guided her career ever since.

“At first, I was worried all the time about our loan portfolio and what could potentially go wrong,” Duke recalled. “But I learned that the first thing you do in a crisis is to deal with reality the way it is, not get caught up in the angst of ‘Why is this happening to me?’ You have to pay attention to the way forward, dealing calmly with every challenge as it comes along.”

The 65-year-old native of the Virginia Beach, Virginia, area said she has drawn from that and other experiences in taking on the job of Wells Fargo’s independent board chair. On Jan. 1, roughly three years after joining the board, Duke succeeded the retiring Stephen Sanger — and became the first woman to chair one of the largest banks in the country.

A trailblazer in banking

Duke is stepping into her new role at a key juncture for Wells Fargo, as it navigates one of the most challenging eras in its history and enters the second full year of rebuilding trust amid sales practices issues.

The new role also marks the latest in a career of firsts for Duke: She was the first woman to head the Virginia Bankers Association (1999) and the American Bankers Association (2004). In 2008, she was appointed to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, joining the Fed as the financial crisis exploded and the stock market crashed. She was the seventh of nine women to have ever been appointed to the Fed in its history.

Duke’s expertise and decision-making influence at the Fed during that extraordinary and controversial period helped establish her credentials on a national scale, drawing praise from some top leaders in the financial services industry.

Duke said being a veteran of crises has equipped her well for leading Wells Fargo’s board during this period. She promised heightened oversight of the company, but also gave a vote of confidence in its commitment to address its problems, implement solutions, work to compensate customers, and rally team members.

After only a month on the job, however, Duke faced some new challenges for Wells Fargo as it agreed to a cap on asset growth as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Reserve Board.

Amid the latest developments, Duke said the company must redouble its efforts to fix the problems, while not allowing them to overshadow the real progress Wells Fargo is making in dealing with mistakes of the past and building a better bank for now and the future.

“There should be no doubt about the commitment of our board and company leaders to meet the highest expectations of regulators, shareholders, customers, team members, and the community,” she said. “Every change we’ve made to date is geared to reflect that commitment.”

She also voiced strong support for Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan, who she said has provided steady, determined leadership and positive change.

The highest priority during a time of crisis is “you have to choose the right leader,” she said. “And I believe we have the right leader for Wells Fargo.”

Read her complete story on Wells Fargo.

One of The Largest Black-Owned Airlines Is Being Run By A Savvy 29 Year-Old Woman

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women owned business

You may not have known that there are black-owned airlines, but guess again. Sherrexcia ‘Rexy’ Rolle is the Vice President of Operations and General Counsel for Western Air, a Bahamas-based black-owned aviation business.Although the company was founded by her parents Rex and Shandrice Rolle, Rexy has led the charge in expanding her family’s privately-owned business which has been in existence for approximately two decades. With a net worth of $90+ million, Western Airlines has been steadily increasing its routes across the Caribbean, including direct flights to Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and soon Florida. In this interview, Rexy describes how Western Air came to be and shares advice on how to make it in the aviation industry as a person of color.

Let’s get into the history of Western Air. What prompted your family to delve into the business of aviation?

Rexy: My parents were very young and just started out their lives when they had me. My mom was 17 and my Dad was 18,  just beginning his career as a pilot. We are from a small town called Mastic Point, Andros in the Bahamas. My father started his career in the aviation industry as a private pilot by trade, however, owning his own airlines and developing it in the Bahamas was a lifelong dream of his. My parents worked tirelessly and persevered in developing this business by saving their money and doing their research with various aircraft brokers. My parents were eventually fortunate enough through faith, their persistence and dedication in their business plan to [receive offers] from two aviation investors from the U.S. From that moment moving forward, Western Air Limited was a dream that is now a reality.

Developing an airline is a lucrative but very competitive industry. What were the market gaps that your family wanted to bridge when developing Western Air Ltd.?

Rexy: With any business, it is all about knowing your industry and what particular problem you are solving for the consumer. In the Bahamas, there are over 700 islands and many Bahamians usually take small charter ferries as transportation to the other islands. Even though we have a very efficient government airline in the Bahamas, there were certain islands that were not being targeted for our consumers to have a convenient way to travel. This is where our airline comes in and once we recognized those gaps in the market, we were able to convince our investors why our airline is needed.

Continue onto Bauce to read the complete interview.

Resources for Women with Disabilities Who Own Businesses

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Women Business Owners

By Michelle Herrera Mulligan

For women with disabilities, entrepreneurship offers a dynamic opportunity to break through barriers. In the corporate world, women with disabilities face a high unemployment rate and other challenges with employers who can be less than accommodating. But, as the Disability Network reports, the good news is that for the 27 million women with disabilities in the United States, being SELF MADE helps create a promising future. For SELF MADE women, flexible schedules and custom careers are par for the course. And in the past few years, more programs have launched that offer loans, mentorship, and support.

Check out our list of business resources for women with disabilities below.

Resources for Funding
What’s a great business idea without funding? Just another great idea! Don’t let your business dreams fall by the wayside for lack of funding. Below you’ll find information on funding specifically for disabled entrepreneurs. For more funding leads, please visit our “ALL WOMEN” section.

Accion
Provides small business loans to businesses that have a hard time gaining capital, such as small businesses owned by disabled persons. http://bit.ly/1Qx9k50

Abilities Fund
Offers business development training, referrals to funding and other financial assistance options, and more support designed to help people with disabilities succeed. abilitiesfund.org

Kaleidoscope Investments
This financial institution pledges a commitment to helping entrepreneurs with disabilities gain capital for their businesses. kaleidoscopeinvestments.com

American Association of People with Disabilities
The largest nonprofit for all people with disabilities, this organization fights for economic and political empowerment for people with disabilities. aapd.com

State Assistive Technology Loan Programs
Services vary state by state, but this organization offers a range of financial assistance including low-interest loans to buy assistive technology that helps provide access to educational, employment and independent-living opportunities. http://bit.ly/1Suwc7m

CouponChief.com
While this isn’t a fund-raising resource per se, it is a great way for women with disabilities to save funds. couponchief.com/guides/savings_guide_for_those_with_disability

Resources For Training
Women with disabilities face unique challenges in entrepreneurship but these challenges do not have to keep you from your startup dream. Below are more business resources for women with disabilities that specialize in training and development to help entrepreneurs with disabilities achieve their dreams of owning a business.

Community Options
Operating in 10 states, this organization helps people with disabilities find housing, employment opportunities, and other support services. comop.org

Disabled Businesspersons Associations
These groups offer entrepreneur education courses specifically for people with disabilities. disabledbusiness.org

Disability.Gov
An online database of resources and links to assistance for entrepreneurs-in-training with disabilities. disability.gov

Job Accommodation Network (Jan Network)
This network connects entrepreneurs with disabilities to other people in their field and provides technical assistance and mentoring programs for entrepreneurs with disabilities. careersbeyonddisability.com

Hadley Forsythe Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Offers free online training courses that prepare its blind and visually impaired students to become entrepreneurs. hadley.edu

Disability.biz
This group offers business plan consulting and coaching for disabled entrepreneurs. disabilitybiz.org

Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities (CREED)
Chicago-based training and development center for entrepreneurs with disabilities. ceedproject.org

WSU Online MBA
This online resource is loaded with all varieties of tools and tips for entrepreneurs with disabilities, from writing a business plan to marketing and pretty much everything in between. onlinemba.wsu.edu/business-programs-and-resources-for-entrepreneurs-with-a-disability-2/

Resources For Networking

When it comes to business resources for women with disabilities, finding like-minded business owners and a close network of friends is a great way to get jump-started on your journey to success. Here are business resources for women with disabilities that focus on networking.

American Association for People With Disabilities
The largest nonprofit cross-disability member organization in the United States, this organization helps people with disabilities find independence and political power in the United States. aapd.com

Global Network for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities
A networking and public advocacy group offering real life stories, resources and networking opportunities for people with disabilities. entrepreneurswithdisabilities.org

International Network of Women With Disabilities
A blog that catalogs women’s groups around the world and offers links to different organizations. inwwd.wordpress.com/network

The Mighty
A moving blog that shares inspirational stories of people with disabilities overcoming obstacles and creating new opportunities for their lives. themighty.com

National Organization on Disability
An organization that raises awareness and creates employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for the community. nod.org

Source: becomingselfmade.com

For online: becomingselfmade.com/business-resources-for-women-with-disabilities/

This Female Founder Just Raised $19M To Pick Your Kids Up From School

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Freedom of choice.

This was at the top of Ritu Narayan’s mind when she left India. As a girl, Narayan dreamed of becoming an astronaut. In school, she was one of six girls out of 300 students in her engineering class. By the time she immigrated to the US, she had become the first engineer in her family.

After starting a family of her own, Narayan realized that her ability to make choices, especially as a working mother, was becoming increasingly constrained. “I was working at eBay when my daughter started school, and it was very hard to find someone reliable who I could trust to pick her up,” she explained. “It was a crazy hassle trying to juggle work and childcare. I kept feeling like I should be working.”

This internal tension is what initially sparked her idea for Zūm. Narayan quickly realized she was not the only working mother to experience these challenges. There are 63 million families in the U.S. and mothers spend over a billion hours driving their children around and taking them to school. Even more critically, 41% of mothers find it very difficult to advance in their careers because of childcare needs.

Her vision as CEO of Zūm was to create the biggest ally for working mothers by providing safe, reliable rides for kids. “ Women should never have to make the choice to leave work or to take care of their children ,”  Narayan said.

From the beginning, the demand for Zūm was clear. Her turning point came she she met Miriam Rivera of Ulu Venturues who wrote their largest seed check giving Zūm the ability to quickly launch and scale “There was an instant connection with [Riveria],” Narayan says of her early investor. “Having faced this problem for years, she knew the scale of what we could become and even compared us to Google early on.”

“We are always looking for founders with an authentic personal story,” said Bryan Schreier, partner of Sequoia Capital, who led Zūm’s $5.5 million Series A in 2017. “Ritu built a company based on her own experience as a working parent and created an elegant solution that tackles a key problem facing modern families.”

Today, Zūm announces their $19 million Series B, led by Spark Capital. The raise makes Narayan one of the few female founders to close a significant late stage funding round. In 2017, female founders captured just 8% of late stage venture rounds. Looking forward, Zūm plans to expand its school offering to select major cities in California, and grow its footprint to 20 additional US cities in 2019.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

What to wear to work

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Dress for Success

For six months, Edward Rangel excelled as a waiter at a Red Robin in Bellevue, Washington. Customers and supervisors might occasionally notice the small religious inscriptions he had tattooed around his wrists, but no one complained about them, and they didn’t interfere with his duties serving food.

Then a new manager started at the franchise. Displeased by the tattoos, the boss told Rangel to conceal the ink, citing company policy. Rangel explained his belief that covering the tattoos violated his Kemetic faith and asked the company to accomodate his religion. Management refused to make an exception on the grounds that changing its dress code policy would undermine its “wholesome image.” So Rangel was fired.

That’s when the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stepped in, filing a suit to defend Rangel’s right to an accomodation. Red Robin eventually agreed to settle the case, paying Rangel $150,000 and making policy changes to protect the rights of other employees.

Choosing work attire poses a perennial puzzle. Companies often have both explicit dress code policies and unspoken rules about the unofficial office dress code, but as Rangel’s story demonstrates, those rules can’t infringe on workers’ rights. And just because an outfit is allowed at the office doesn’t necessarily mean it will make a good impression on your boss or clients.

What’s legal at work?

Companies are legally allowed to implement and enforce a dress code as long as it is reasonable and tied to a legitimate business purpose, says J.J. Conway, an attorney who specializes in employment law.

What’s appropriate for the office?

Choosing appropriate work attire depends on your industry, company and specific job function. The key consideration? “Dressing for your audience,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach.

People who work in creative fields, like media, advertising, entertainment or cosmetology, may have more freedom to express their personalities in their clothing, Whitmore says. In those careers, bright colors, funky accessories and innovative hairstyles may be acceptable or even expected.

Conversely, employees in conservative fields like wealth management or a government agency often must dress more formally, sometimes in suits.

No matter your general industry, your company will likely have written or unwritten corporate culture rules for what to wear to work. Figuring out what’s acceptable may take research and a bit of inference. When you first go into an office for a job interview, make sure to look at what your interviewer and the other employees are wearing and take mental notes.

After you’re hired, if your workplace lacks a written dress code policy, or if you want more clarification, it’s best simply to inquire with the human resources department, says Edward Yost, manager of employee relations and development at the Society for Human Resource Management.

“Ask the questions rather than blindly roll the dice and send the wrong message,” he says.

Even if your company has a general set of guidelines, what you should wear depends on your particular job responsibilities. People who work in customer service jobs, for example, should dress for the comfort of their clients and in ways that project competence, Whitmore says.

Regardless of the particulars of your company dress code or office culture, office clothes should fit well, be clean and cover what children call “private parts.”

“Presentation is the most important,” says Bridgette Raes, personal stylist and author. “No matter what you’re wearing, make sure it’s in good shape, well cared for and you look groomed.”

What is business casual attire?

Many office environments call for business professional or business casual attire. That typically means slacks, khaki pants or modest skirts or dresses; cardigans, blouses or button-down collared shirts; and closed-toe dress shoes. Raes suggests putting thought into work bags, too: “Don’t take the same grubby backpack you carried all over your college campus.”

In terms of what not to wear, it’s important not to distract others with your outfits, Raes says. “You want to make sure you’re standing out for the right reasons,” not because your clothes call attention to you, she explains.

There are two universal “don’ts” for how to dress business casual: no shorts and no flip flops. Beyond that, Raes advises against casual sandals, sweatshirts, any type of “athleisure” wear and clothing that is distressed or ripped. Outfits that are too revealing are not appropriate for the office.

Dress for the job you want

It may sound trite, but experts agree that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Taking clothing cues from your boss could help you attain his or her position in the future.

You never want your manager to question your professional capabilities because of your outfits. Supervisors sometimes have to “fight the stereotype or that silent judgment that’s been formulated” because of what a worker wears, Yost says. “People who don’t work with the individual on a day-to-day basis may see the tattoos, piercings, vintage clothing that’s not your standard business casual, and when they’re up for a promotion, the question will come: ‘How serious are they?'”

This also means to think carefully about what to wear to an interview. It’s important to dress to impress when you’re hoping to get hired, so even if the company usually follows a business casual dress code, consider donning formal business attire. For example, after a period of job seeking, one of Raes’ clients changed the outfit she wore during interviews and saw immediate results: She received three job offers in one week.

The lesson? “When we change how we present ourselves, we send our message more effectively,” Raes says.

What happens if you violate the dress code?

If you had to wear a uniform in school, you’re probably familiar with the impulse to disobey the dress code. And although your boss probably won’t make you stand up in front of your co-workers while she measures the length of your hem, employers may take punitive action against workers who repeatedly violate the office dress code.

There’s usually a “progressive discipline process,” Yost says, meaning that a manager or HR representative may treat a first-time violation as a learning opportunity: “We’re not going to send you home today, but going forward, we would prefer you not wear jeans with rips and holes in them.”

If someone continually flouts the rules, an employer might send him or her home and dock pay. And if the problem continues, the employee may be fired.

What’s appropriate for the office gym?

Office gyms are popular perks, but they are also landmine fields when it comes to clothing. Employees who work out at the company gym should remember that they’ll likely run into their co-workers while putting in miles on the treadmill or lifting weights. Avoid wearing T-shirts with offensive slogans or outfits that are excessively revealing, Raes recommends: “You’re still in the workplace; this is not personal time.”

What’s appropriate for the office holiday party?

Similarly, treat your office holiday party as a work experience that requires appropriate dress. Your boss will take note if you wear anything too revealing or silly.

“You want to continue to send a professional and positive message,” Yost says. “People make silent judgments all the time. They’re not going to come up and tell you, ‘That tie you wore was stupid and I lost a lot of respect for you,’ but it still may be happening in their minds.”

On Halloween, if your workplace permits employees to wear costumes, keep yours reasonable.

What about tattoos and piercings?

Attitudes toward tattoos in the workplace and piercings in the workplace have changed in the past few decades, but not every employer will be happy to see them, Yost says.

“[Tattoos] are generally more accepted than they would have been 10 or 15 years ago,” he says. “However, there are going to be some ‘family-run’ environments, or ‘family-friendly’ environments who may be a little more rigid: ‘Sure you can have your tattoos, but we’re going to ask you to keep them covered while at work.'”

If you’re wondering how to cover up tattoos for work, Yost recommends long-sleeved shirts, strategically placed Band-Aids or applying foundation makeup that’s the same color as your skin tone.

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Advice for MBEs Attending a Supplier Diversity Conference

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By Angelique Solorio

You must commit both time and money to attend any conference. All businesses wish they had more of both, but small businesses, like many MBEs, are especially careful about spending. Each expenditure is an investment that must have a solid ROI. Office supplies or phone and data services more easily demonstrate their importance, and it can be tempting to see it as a luxury and discount the benefits of attending industry conferences.

If you didn’t get a contract with your targeted companies after the first time you attend, you may find yourself thinking, “Why go back?” Don’t make the mistake of thinking this way—it takes time to develop a relationship and really understand companies’ needs and how your goods or services can help them. As an MBE, you may need to grow and strengthen your company’s offerings so that you are prepared to work with some of the larger global corporations. Also remember that moving from your first contact with a program manager to a sale is a process, and annual attendance at the Opportunity Fair can be an important step in that process.

Recognize that the benefits of attendance are cumulative. Each year, you build on what you did and whom you met last year.

  1. Year One – The year of introduction. Spend your time getting the lay of the land, so to speak—find out which companies are present, the location of the booths, how the sessions and workshops apply to you, and which workshops you will attend. Spend most of your time introducing yourself. Perhaps one of your clients or another MBE owner you know are attending, but many first-time attendees don’t really know a lot of other people. That’s the point of going—getting your company noticed, meeting people, and connecting with buyers from companies looking for your product or service and beginning the process of getting to know each other.
  2. Year Two – The year of reconnecting. Research whom you want to see again and whom you would want to meet for the first time. However, meeting with every company and person will waste your time. A good idea is to reach out to people you met last year to set up a meeting or let them know you’ll be stopping by their booth. You’ll use this conference to further the relationships you made last year. Of course, a business opportunity can arise at any time, and one meeting at any given conference can result in something awesome. But it’s usual for it to take time, especially if you are trying to break into a large Fortune 500 company. There may be a wait before they add suppliers to their roster through an RFI or issue a specific RFP.
  3. Year Three – The year of improving. The third time you attend, and each subsequent time, you’re improving your relationships across the diversity community. You’re reconnecting with clients, prospects, and fellow MBEs, people you have met at past conferences, and perhaps have also seen or worked with throughout the year. You’re cementing these relationships, but you’re also developing new ones. Each year, the conference provides a chance to improve and deepen your relationship with the people you know. It also gives you the opportunity to meet new program managers and procurement professionals from companies that may not have been represented before or may not have needed your services until now.

Of course, reconnecting and improving your relationships will be much harder if you do nothing in between attending conferences. You need to stay in touch throughout the year by sharing thought leadership, connecting on social media, or some other appropriate way. If a company offers informational webinars or seminars, attend one. Learn more about the company and its supplier diversity program from its website, and reach out with questions. Or share knowledge with them by sending an article or information they would like; be sure it’s relevant. Even if it is just to say hello with a holiday note, keep in contact until the next conference.

The point of annual attendance is to help take your relationships to the next level. Like a good friend, you can always learn something new that will deepen your connection and make you better able to serve them, whatever it is that your company does. As an MBE, don’t underestimate the importance of the relationships you develop with other MBEs. They can be a great source of referrals, recommendations, and references and can provide introductions to buyers you may want to know.

With this advice in mind, it’s applicable to any conferences or events sponsored by industry organizations. If it’s relevant to your business, then the right people, the people you want to meet, will be there. That’s why you go. But going once isn’t going to give you the best results. Repeat attendance, whether it’s an annual conference, or a monthly luncheon seminar, means that you build better relationships. Better relationships are what lead to greater sales success and growth.

About the Author
Angelique Solorio is Corporate Outreach Manager at ATR International.

Source: ATR International