September: A Labor of Love

Every year, on the first Monday in September, the United States pauses to pay homage and offer gratitude to the men and women of the Labor Movement. On this special day, the nation celebrates the contributions that everyday workers have made to the vitality of the country.

Dress for Success, then, could think of no better month than to pay tribute to women who work hard day after day to pursue their dreams and attain self-defined success.

This month, we are pleased to introduce you to a woman whose success we’ve watched catapult before our very eyes. Businesswoman and TV personality Bethenny Frankel is our September Power Woman, because her relentless pursuit of her passion has led her into the spotlight of success.

September is also a special month for both Bethenny and Dress for Success because it is during this month (on September 12th to be exact) that we will announce a new partnership that will help positively impact the lives of the women that Dress for Success serves.

Bethenny is a phenomenal example of women who propel themselves forward while simultaneously reaching back, which is why we are proud to share our interview with her this month.

In addition, to learning from our Power Woman, you’ll get to read celebrated TV producer Denise Hendricks’ letter to her younger self. Be sure to have a pen handy, as she definitely offers some advice worth taking note of.

We’re also recommending a poignant memoir in our Book Shelf, that will challenge you to change the way you view others and yourselves.

We’ll also offer you a fun and free fitness option that will help you put the work in workout!

As always, all of our Dress for Success experts and our money maven Carmen Wong Ulrich are here answering more of your questions, and our beauty feature offers some absolutely hair-raising advice on how to look beautiful on a budget.

In the spirit of Labor Day, our editorial team has really worked hard to create an informative and enjoyable September issue of the blog for you.

I hope you’ll find the tips, insights, and advice to be exactly what you need to keep you Going Places. Going Strong.

 

Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide

Build Your Personal Brand with Bethenny Frankel

Everyone’s talking about Bethenny Frankel. From magazines to television screens, the reality star turned self-made businesswoman has been in the spotlight for nearly eight years. But with her own daytime talk show, bethenny, premiering this September, soon Bethenny will be the one doing all the talking. Taking matters into her own hands, Bethenny is gearing up to turn the tables and shine the spotlight on someone else for a change—you! That’s right. The former Real Housewife is bringing the real woman to the forefront of daytime television, providing practical solutions for life’s little problems and priceless advice for following your biggest dreams.

 You’ve probably read more than a few stories about a celebrity who got their big break because of a lucky coincidence or who just happened to stumble upon their success. You know how it goes. They became an overnight sensation, living happily ever after in their dream house in Beverly Hills. But Bethenny’s success is more than a fairy tale—it’s a story of her strategic climb to the top—and she wants you to know that sometimes the best way to become a working woman is to work for yourself. This month, Dress for Success spoke with Bethenny Frankel to get the exclusive on how building a personal brand can lead to self-made success.

Long before Bethenny was a television personality, best-selling author or talk show host, she was an aspiring entrepreneur with an abundance of ambition up her sleeve. Determined to get into the game, Bethenny started to develop her one-of-a-kind brand early on to lay the foundation for her career. “Life is a chess game, and it’s all about making the right moves. Throughout all of my decisions, there’s been a clear purpose.”

But if you’ve ever played a game of chess, you know it can be difficult to make the first move. That’s why Bethenny decided to go with her heart and pursue her passion for natural foods, attending the National Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. As it turns out, doing what you love may be the smartest career move of all. “Going to culinary school for food and healing was the big step because I went to a school that had an angle and a twist. Being a natural foods chef set me apart.”

In 2005, standing out from the crowd became Bethenny’s greatest asset when she was chosen as a contestant on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. Going head to head with 15 other entrepreneurs for the chance to run one of Martha’s billion-dollar businesses, Bethenny thrived in the face of competition and placed first runner-up. Though Bethenny’s on-camera work didn’t earn her the job, she still found opportunity behind the scenes.

“When I went on The Apprentice, I wanted the job and the money, but I was also trying to market myself. It wasn’t a success, so I used it as a sponge and squeezed the tiniest drop of moisture out so I could to get myself to the next place.”

Bethenny is living proof that life’s most disappointing failures can lead to the greatest opportunities. Instead of dwelling on her almost apprenticeship with Martha, she got down to business and didn’t miss a beat. After all, with great risk comes great reward and Bethenny was ready to cash in on the exposure she got from her run on reality television.

Taking advantage of the connections she made on the show, Bethenny started her own cooking business and made a name for herself in natural foods cuisine. Soon, Bravo TV reached out to the NYC native hoping she would star in their latest show, The Real Housewives of New York City. Rather than jumping at the chance to get back into the limelight, Bethenny took a step back to think about what was best for her career. The budding businesswoman knew that seizing opportunity is about more than acting fast, and wanted her career choices to reflect her personal goals.

“When I was approached by Housewives, it was a difficult decision. I turned it down for about a month because I thought it would discredit me for being on two reality TV shows. But I knew that following those things that kept me up at night and listening to my gut would lead me to the right decision, so I decided to join Housewives.”When the show kicked off in 2008, Bethenny made sure she kept the “real” in Real Housewives and stuck by her personal brand. This time, it was less about business and more about staying true to herself—the down-to-earth, hardworking woman looking for personal fulfillment and professional success. “I was honest about who I was on the show, and it created a relationship between me and my women because I wasn’t trying to be someone I’m not.”

Bethenny quickly learned that honesty really is the best policy when her female fan base catapulted her career and her name into new heights. That’s when Bethenny created Skinnygirl Cocktails, the low-calorie cocktail line for the woman with a social life and a healthy lifestyle. “I developed a relationship with fans, and that trust was really the platform to create Skinnygirl. I knew it could be a brand. If you have a good idea and you’re passionate, you can make anything happen.”

How did Bethenny come up with such a brilliant idea? She found inspiration in the greatest resource of all—herself! “No one wanted to do a low calorie margarita in an industry that was run by and marketed to men. So I decided to do it myself, and all those companies ended up copying me or trying to purchase me.”

The rest is history. Bethenny’s passion for healthy living turned into a booming business when her name and her career became one and the same. Today, Skinnygirl is a full-fledged health revolution and the Bethenny brand is blossoming into a symbol of self-made success. “Bethenny will go on to become a brand for empowering women to do things they never thought they would do, and reach goals they never thought they could reach.”

So as you continue to explore new ways to take your career to the next level this month, think of the opportunities that you currently have in your life and how you, like Bethenny, can use them to catapult your career to the next level.  When one door opens, don’t wait for it to close before thinking about how you can make your career bigger and better—use that open door to open the next… and the next!

If there’s one thing we can learn from Bethenny’s career, it’s that every decision counts. Check out these three tips inspired by Bethenny’s story to make sure your next move is the right one.

1. Start strong. A network of support and professional connections are key to success.  “Everything is like a house: It has to have a good foundation, and if it doesn’t the whole thing crumbles.”

2. Think ahead. “Have a plan for what you’re doing rather than just doing it as you go, but don’t get bogged down in the plan. There’s a fine line.”

3. Choose wisely. Take opportunities into careful consideration. “Don’t just grab a shiny object. Decide what to do next, and do that to the best of your ability instead of doing everything.”

Let’s Stay in Touch: Networking to Get a New Job

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half

In the job search, as with many things in life, the secret to success often lies not in what you know, but who you know. The fact is that all things being equal, hiring managers will often give an edge to applicants who have been referred to them by someone they know.

Why? Hiring is risky business for employers. Hire the wrong person, and your company loses valuable time, money and productivity. Not to mention the negative effect a bad match can have on team morale. So managers look for any input, including referrals, that will help them make the best hiring decision.

As a job seeker, you can increase your odds of getting hired by constantly expanding your professional network. The more people you know, the better your chances of hearing of job openings first and getting a foot in the door by having a personal referral.

Start by telling everyone you know — and everyone you meet — that you are in the job market. Job leads can come from anywhere, so leave no stone unturned. Of course, if you already have a job and are looking for something better, then your inquiries will need to be a little more discreet.

The first rule of networking is to make connections long before you need them. Keep in touch with the people you meet throughout your life, including past teachers, bosses and coworkers. Don’t overlook the family friend who works in a field or industry that has always interested you. If you lose contact with old acquaintances, rekindle the relationship with a friendly call or email.

The second rule of networking is to pay it forward by being a resource for others, no strings attached. If you offer support to someone who needs it, he or she will be more inclined to return the favor when it’s your turn to ask for help.

When someone introduces you to a person in their network or helps you land an interview, be sure that you are professional and courteous when you meet with the new contact. Your friends are going to bat for you. Make them glad they did.

Become a ‘Social’-ite

LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites are good channels for building and cultivating your professional network. You can use these sites to locate people who can help you expand your network. Be sure that you have an up-to-date profile so that your contacts get a complete picture of your skills and work history.

Facebook is one thing, but don’t overlook the value of face time. Arrange to have coffee with former colleagues from time to time so that you can keep the connection alive. If it’s been a while since you talked to someone, bring that person up-to-date on what you’ve been doing, including any new work experience you’ve gained. This will help him or her identify career opportunities that may be a fit.

When you ask your contacts for help, keep your requests reasonable, and make it as easy as possible for them to help you. For example, if you are applying for a job at their company, personally hand them your resume and explain why you think you would be a good fit. If you know the name of the hiring manager, share that information, too, so your contact does not have to do the legwork for you.

Not everyone will be in a position to help you, so be gracious if they decline. They may not feel comfortable advocating on your behalf, particularly if the two of you have had only limited interaction in the past. This is all the more reason you need to stay in frequent contact with members of your network.

If networking isn’t a habit for you, make it one by engaging in at least one networking activity each month. It could be as easy as sending a quick thank-you note to someone who has helped you in the past, attending a business mixer or congratulating a friend who was promoted.

Networking shouldn’t feel like a chore. If you foster great relationships over time, then your contacts will start to feel a lot more like friends than professional colleagues.

 

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

How to Start Saving Today!

 

Financial Advice By: Carmen Wong Ulrich

Q: I just got hired at my new job about two months ago and I want to make sure I’m not only spending my money wisely but saving it wisely as well. I haven’t had a steady income for awhile though, so I’m not exactly sure how to create a budget that’s right for me. I want to make sure that I have enough money saved up in case I become unemployed again. Is there a standard percentage of my income that I should be tucking away? If so, how much? When should I start and where should I put my money?

Congratulations on the new job!  It’s great to have some steady income, but you’re right to start saving up money right away just in case you find yourself between jobs again.  Some folks talk about a ‘standard’ goal of saving 10% of your income, but that’s simply a goal.  The amount you should save depends on your living situation and if you have any other demands on your money such as high interest debt– which should get paid off ASAP!

What you can aim for first with an emergency fund is a total goal of saving up three to six months’ worth of living expenses.  If you’re a homeowner and support children, you can keep on truckin’ to even nine months or a year’s worth of savings.  Once you have that total number in hand, crunch your monthly expenses vs. your monthly income to see just how much you can put away to reach your savings goal as quickly as possible.  Let’s say you make $2,000 a month after taxes and your monthly expenses are $1,800 a month.  For three months worth of living expenses, your goal would be to have $5,400 in emergency savings.  If you can take $200 each month and put it toward that goal, you’ll be all set in a little over two years.

Don’t get discouraged by the long time it may take you to save what you need!  Dedication is key.  To help, set up an automated savings deposit so that $200 is taken out right away from your paycheck deposit each month so you’re not tempted to spend it.  And don’t worry about wanting to earn any money on these savings by investing it, for example.  You need to protect this money so it can protect you.   That means looking for an interest-bearing savings account or money market account where you can at least earn a little interest (say 1%) but not risk money at all.  Shop around for free for these accounts at www.Bankrate.com or if you can use a credit union at www.NCUA.org.  Happy savings!

Carmen Wong Ulrich is the co-Founder and former President of ALTA Wealth Management and a Professor in NYU PolyTech‘s school of Finance and Risk Engineering. She is an author and the former host and co-creator of CNBC‘s “On the Money,” and currently the money advice columnist for Good Housekeeping, a contributor to MSNBC and CNN as well as a frequent expert guest on ABC’s “The View.

The Success Diaries: Denise Hendricks

Dear Young Denise,

Girlfriend, you are in for the ride of your life. You’ll be able to make your wildest dreams come true as you embark upon this journey of producing television news and entertainment. You’ll get many roses along the way, and they will beautiful, sweet-smelling opportunities… but they will come with thorns on their stems. Here’s how to thrive in the rose garden with minimal sting.

Attitude is everything – Positivity and optimism will take you a long way; you can out maneuver anyone with a smile and smarts any day.

Take the Initiative – This was a favorite mantra of my father, the late Colonel Bernard D. Hendricks; everything is not going to be handed to you, even if you are doing exceptionally well, there will be times when you have to speak up to implement new plans, speak up for injustices taking place, speak up for promotions and pay. Remember this phrase: “enter action with boldness.”

Pick Your Battles Carefully – Think before you speak and know that every fight is not worth entering the ring. Through consistent prayer and trusting your gut, you will know when to act. Trust Yourself.

Know Your Craft – Seek out ways to grow professionally throughout your career; attend conferences, workshops, lectures and read as much as you can. You should also get a mentor who works inside of the industry  and one who works outside of it. This will help you stay ahead of the curve.

Be authentic – Be true to yourself, remember why you wanted to become a producer – to inform, educate, entertain and help shape and transform mindsets and perspectives; and with any new endeavor, ask yourself, ‘what is my true intention?’ Your heart will tell you.

Cultivate genuine relationships – Treat everyone with the same respect and kindness with which you would want to be treated, no matter their position in life. Befriending receptionists, assistants and the like, will allow you access to key information and in many instances, a seat at the table.

Have Faith – No matter where the business takes you-  and it will take you around the world – find a church home, develop a consistent prayer life and memorize scripture.  This might not make sense now, but trust me, you will encounter situations when calling a scripture or two to mind will keep you from losing your cool and blowing your future.

Lastly – HAVE FUN! You only go around once so enjoy it. Be thankful for the opportunities that come your way, give back to the community, spend quality time with family & friends, and take vacations. If you do this all with a smile, the roses I talked about earlier will flourish in ways you never imagined and those thorns – they’ll still be around, but the sting won’t be so bad.

With love,

Producer Denise

C. Denise Hendricks is an award-winning television producer and writer. She is currently a Senior Producer for HLN (CNN Headline News) in Atlanta, Georgia.  Denise has been in the news and entertainment business for twenty years. Her list of credits include associate producer for “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” producer for ABC’s “The Revolution” daytime talk show, producer for BET’s late night talk show “The Mo’Nique Show,” and News Producer/Executive Producer for CNN, and NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX television affiliates. 

Staying Fit, One Step at a Time

One of our main goals in the Fun, Fit & Free column of our blog is to help you find low cost to no cost ways to live an active lifestyle. When money is low, gym membership fees can feel especially high. But with a creative look to the world around you, you might discover that opportunities to exercise are all around!

This month, since we are focusing on work and labor, we encourage you to really work it, and trade in elevators and escalators for good ole’ fashioned stairs.

Opting for the stairs over more modern means of height climbing can be a time-saving and calorie-burning exercise that you can easily incorporate into your life. In today’s busy world, who has time to wait on crowded elevators to finally reach your floor and carry you off to your  destination? The stairs are always waiting and willing to help you get to the top!

As far as the health benefits go, you don’t have to take our word for it. A study by Preventive Medicine found that taking the stairs regularly  for  12 consecutive weeks yielded the following the health benefits:

  • Increased their stamina
  • Reduced waist circumferences by approximately 2%
  • Lowered weights by almost 1 %
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lowered “bad” LDL-cholesterol

So go ahead, climb your way to the top.  Because after all, there are no shortcuts to success, you have to take the stairs!