June: Courting a New Career

Spring is a time for new beginnings, but sometimes you don’t know how to take that first step to create the change in your life that you really want.  That’s why we have dedicated the month of June on the Dress for Success Blog to “courting a new career.”  Just like dating, finding the right line of work for you involves some trial and error.  You may try something or even many things, only to find out that you’re not in the right position or even the right industry.  But there is the perfect job for you out there, you just need to be persistent, consistent and strategic.

Did you know that fashion guru June Ambrose originally worked in invest banking before switching over to the world of style?  Or that coming to a crossroads can be a good thing?  Or that there are many ways to try to get your dream company to notice you?

We tackle all of these topics on our blog this month to help prepare you for making your next move once you feel that the time is right.  Just remember: know before you go!

 Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide

June Ambrose: The Career Change Conqueror

It was a time of cobalt blues, bright yellows, parachute pants and LL Cool J wore a hat that put FUBU on the map.  Music and fashion were just beginning to fuse in the early 90s and product placement was exploding all over the clothing industry– that’s when June Ambrose first placed herself in the market. As celebrity stylist, designer, author, television personality and all around fashion guru, you’ve more than likely encountered June’s work somewhere in the media. Best known as the woman who put rapper Sean Combs in his signature sleek suit back when he was simply known as “Puff Daddy,” June is now the “style architect of the music industry.” But it wasn’t long ago that you would have found her chained to a desk, knee deep in finance stock and portfolios. Without a degree or even experience in the fashion industry, June not only made a career switch, she crafted a whole new one.  This month, June sat down with Dress for Success to explain just how she did it.

Fresh out of high school, June secured a lucrative position at an investment banking firm. After 2 ½ years buried in the research department, she carried out every parent’s nightmare, quitting her 9-5 for an internship at a record label. With no frame of reference, June’s only direction was her intuition and unwavering self-confidence.

“I needed something that made me want to get up every day. I didn’t have a plan, I just knew I was willing. I was willing to take the risk of saying I can do it, even when I didn’t know how I was going to do it and that was the sales pitch,” June explains.

Little did she know, she’d soon be on the other end of the sales pitch and sought after by numerous celebrities including her original muse, Sean Combs. Starting behind the scenes as a talent director at Uptown MCA Records, Combs searched for ways to brand himself to the public. Here, June watched as he flipped through French Vogue, for inspiration to elevate his image.  Recognizing the desire for high fashion in this rising urban music scene, she quickly and strategically inserted herself.

“It was really about finding that space. There are voids everywhere, but the window of opportunity is just becoming smaller, so you have to be more creative,” she says.

And creative she is. Working with everyone from the Backstreet Boys to Mariah Carey and Dave Matthews; June recognized the space for herself and her future clients, seeing both the music and fashion markets as one artistic platform.  “At the time, the designers didn’t see the opportunity,” she says. “Why should they put their clothes on these kids that they thought couldn’t afford it?”

June not only saw the opportunity, she made her own. “What do you need? What do I have? How can we help each other?” June recites for us the voice in her head guiding her from intern to entrepreneur.

Although the transition from investment banking to celebrity fashion mogul may appear seamless now, every career switch comes with its own set of challenges and June’s experience was no different. Before she became the go-to celebrity stylist, June was costume designer for music videos. Constantly pushing the boundaries from a very young age, she remembers cutting up her grandmother’s curtains to create her own looks. She never realized her childhood hobby could become an actual skill until she faced breaking into an industry without any contacts or credibility in her back pocket. Forced to be resourceful, June explains bluntly, “When the designer’s wouldn’t let me in, I designed the clothes myself.”

June’s first big break came when she styled rising hip-hop artist at the time, Missy Elliott, in an inflatable black patent leather suit for her hit single video, “The Rain.” A full-figured woman with an un-conventional style, June explains, “Missy Elliott was coming into the most provocative time for women in hip hop where it was all about sex and rock and roll, and I had to design a look for her that was obtainable and provocative in her way.”

The outfit broke down barriers to a whole new demographic for designers—elevating hip hop culture with a little haute couture.

In addition to navigating a new market, June also struggled with her personal finances. Shortly after quitting her position at the firm and taking on a few freelance styling jobs, June quickly lost track of her spending. “Imagine getting $1,500 for two days and you’re thinking ‘oh my god, this is more than I made for the week,’” she says.  But as the money rolled in, so did the credit card bills and eventually the bank seized her account. “You think it’s always going to come and so you’re spending and spending—that was a change of pace in life that I wasn’t prepared for,” June tells us.

Determined to get back on track and pursue her new passion, June looked to her mother who raised her to struggle and persevere gracefully. A single parent in Antigua, June was 3 years-old when her mother immigrated the family to the Bronx, NY. In the Caribbean, June’s mother was a costume designer and owned a store where she produced clothing for various carnival celebrations across the islands. When they arrived in New York City, she no longer had the market or resources to support her business and took a position in retail.  Later, she also made a drastic change–switching from fashion to nursing, desiring a steadier income and flexible schedule to spend time with her kids.

“In the midst of all the struggling, she would always take us out of our environment. We’d take weekend trips to other boroughs, Coney Island, Midtown and visit places like CBS Studios and the United Nations,” says June. “Every weekend it was an adventure and because of that, I was able to see what else was out there. “

June recalls living paycheck-to-paycheck, watching her mother budget, old-school style, writing down rent and living expenses on a piece of paper, and putting money away in jar.  “There were times she was worried, but she would never let us see that and that stayed with me,” says June.

Like mother, like daughter. To this day, June’s best marketing tool is still her consistent, positive self-image, which also comes from her mother’s belief that good faith will always open opportunities. “It was almost like osmosis—watching her be good to others and herself allowed us to want to be good to her,” she says.

Carrying that advice into both her professional and personal life, June is now able to balance a high- powered career in the spotlight with raising her three kids. June has even created online support community based around this philosophy, calling it her “Rock Mom Chronicles.” Here she posts candid photos of herself and her family, as well as inspirational quotes and muses that she shares with a circular community of moms who simultaneously give and receive support.

The same principles apply when June works with clients, it all comes back to what you’re projecting. Whether it’s being a model for other moms, her clients or her children, June is in the business of role playing— knowing that the power to elevate herself allows her to elevate others.

What Does “Diversifying” Your Money Mean?

Financial Advice By: Carmen Wong Ulrich

Q: When someone talks about “diversifying” their money, what exactly do they mean? I have always been told that I should be putting money into a savings account each month, but it seems like some people save their money in lots of different ways. What are some of the best ways to save money so that I have a secure financial future even after I get on in my years and retire?

We all know that diversity is good.  But in money-land, when someone talks about “diversification,” they’re usually talking about investing.  And investing, whether it’s in your home or the stock market, involves saving money that you won’t need for ten, fifteen or twenty or more years.  This is your long-term savings, such as funds for your retirement.

“Saving money” is a bucket term that actually applies to several different moves for your money.  Ask yourself: “What am I saving for?”  Your answer will determine how you save, where you save and how much you save.

For example, are you saving cash money for an emergency fund–the funds that will be there to pay bills if you lose income?  Are you saving maybe for a vacation once a year?   Or a “pop-up” fund to pay for unpredictable (“pop-up”) expenses like family graduations, births, car repairs, or other sometimes pricey events in your life?  If so, all this money belongs in a savings account or even two.  It’s money that should be held in cash.  Why?  Because these funds function like insurance—it’s there to protect your ability to write checks and not go into debt.  You can’t afford to lose that ability, so keep this money “liquid,” with easy access.

Next, are you saving for retirement or a goal that’s more than a decade away?  Investing this money, wisely, means exposing these savings to some risk (you can lose money, you can gain money) over a long period of time so that you can grow what you’re saving.  The key here is to make sure this is money you don’t need for a long time and that you know what tools are there for you to invest your money.  This takes some important studying, such as learning to understand your 401k, what index funds are and what you are paying in fees, etc.

To really wrap your mind around what you need to know, particularly for long-term savings and investing, speak to your 401k or retirement plan administrator, review the materials given to you and delve into resources online such as www.kiplingers.com for tips and education.  This kind of education is one of the biggest investments you can make for your future.  It’s saving!

Carmen Wong Ulrich is a personal finance expert and author of “The Real Cost of Living.”

Dear DFS: How Can I Get My Dream Company to Notice Me?

Dear DFS,

I think it is time to move on from my current position and find a new job, but I don’t just want any job!  There is one company in particular that I have wanted to work with for years now.  I hate to sound cheesy, but it’s kind of my dream job! I regularly check their website to see if they have any openings that would be fitting for me, but haven’t seen anything yet.  Is there anything that I can do in the meantime to let them know about me?  I know that good things come to those who wait, so I am prepared to be patient until the right position arises, but I want to be as proactive as possible, as well!

I am determined to achieve my dreams,


Manchester, UK

Dear Tara,

We are really happy to know that you’re following your dreams and are inspired to develop a great career with the company that you really desire to work in, but you have and can do much more than just checking their website or waiting for the lucky start to reach you!

So what can you do in the interim until you reach your dream position? Well, that gap can be filled in many ways—by continuously collecting information and research on the company, as it seems you have been doing; posting your resume to company’s online job board if they have one; or even attempting to reach out to their human resources team directly to set up an exploratory interview.

Are they hosting an event in the near future?  RSVP for it and make plans to attend, so that you can mingle with those that matter the most in the department that you’re aiming for.

Are there other organizations in your area that are hiring for the same type of position that you’d like to acquire?  Garnering more experience in your preferred area of work is never a bad thing and this might actually make you a more desirable candidate to the company that you really want to work for.

And never underestimate the importance of networking!  If you ask most people, “how did you get your job here?,” I bet that nine out of ten of them will say that some person told them about it. Here in Lisbon, we refer to those people as “bridge people.” They know you, you know them and they know someone else. Most jobs get filled by these “bridge people.

You already identified your dream company, so now it’s time to identify your “bridge people.” LinkedIn can be your best friend here. I´m sure that the company you want to work for has a Company Profile page on LinkedIn, as most employers recognize it as a valuable tool to find valuable employees just like you!

Go to that Company Page and see if you’re connected to anyone that works there.  Is there just one or two degrees of separation between you and a current employee of the company?  Then ask your mutual acquaintance if they will make an introduction for you.  If the degrees of separation are a bit greater, simply send them an invite to connect and see what happens.  Now that you have the names of the current employees that would be most relevant to you, you can also Google them and see if you can find their work email address and try to connect with them directly that way.

Bridge people” or not, never forget that people are crucial to your job-hunt and beyond.

Good luck and count on us.


 Fernanda Machado

Founder & President

Dress for Success Lisbon

Karen Amster-Young and Pam Godwin’s “The 52 Weeks”

How many times have your weekdays blended together? Going to work on Monday and coming home to the same leftovers for dinner by Thursday. Most of us slip into routines unconsciously.  It’s completely natural. We are creatures of habit. Our cup of coffee and the morning paper after a hot shower is comfortable, familiar and we like it. But when does a routine become a rut?

Karen Amster-Young and Pam Godwin asked each other these same questions over drinks one night. Two New York City women, settling into their 40’s, accomplished what most consider the “American Dream,” contentment with their families, careers and home lives. But Karen and Pam still found themselves in a “state of stuck.” To break free, they challenged each other to try something new each week for a year and write about their experiences in a blog.

Their experiment took off and they began to receive phone calls from reporters and letters from followers who wanted to know more. Already overwhelming their small blog, Karen and Pam knew they has so much more to share and decided to turn their experiences into a book.

The 52 Weeks details a journey of simultaneous self-discovery and camaraderie, acknowledging it’s important to challenge yourself, but also necessary to have a friend in the cockpit for reassurance, accountability and the occasional extra push.  Navigating through the twos’ adventures the book details everything from incorporating blueberries into a healthy diet to racing Maseratis. Reading in a similar style to its original blog format, The 52 Weeks alternates between Karen and Pam’s voice, sharing their experiences and recapping each chapter with advice from experts and easy-to-follow tips for readers. Spliced throughout, are inspirational quotes including everyone from Dr. Seuss to Carrie Bradshaw.

The 52 Weeks challenges readers to always push boundaries, proving that no matter how small, change can renew spirit and keep you growing and learning at any stage in life! So if you’re looking for a little inspiration to recharge your motivation, this is definitely the book for you!

A Crossroads in Your Career Can Be a Good Thing!

Guest Post by Alissa Finerman

It feels like the biggest ordeal when we come to a CROSSROADS, almost as if you’re the only one this is happening to.

Which direction shall you take with your life? Is it time to change jobs, move to a new city, start a family, make a shift in your relationship or finally start your own company?

The feelings can be overwhelming at times. This is all normal for being at a crossroads – that time in your life when you need to figure out your next move in some area of your life, such as career or relationships or even when you feel bored working at the same company or are ready for something new.

This feeling will happen over and over again as long as you are creating and continuing to uncover your potential.

Yes, it’s normal.  It’s ok.  And you are on the right path.

You can find yourself at a crossroads regardless of your education, title, role, or how much money you have. It happens to all of us including CEO’s, managers, moms, athletes, musicians and entrepreneurs. It’s actually a good thing because it’s your internal watchdog telling you that something needs to change. This is where the problem rises — the dreaded change factor. On one hand you’re telling yourself that something needs to change, but on the other hand to honor this feeling you have to move outside your comfort zone and experience change!

Why would we want to do this when we know that change leads to feelings of uncertainty and with uncertainty there can be fear? Because it’s part of the process of growth and there can also be excitement, learning, success and fulfillment. Please note, you may experience some dips along the way – this is normal too!

I’m working with coaching clients and the theme of crossroads/transitions continues to emerge regardless of industry, background, specific role, money or age. Some are considering their next move such as starting their own company, redefining success and what the ideal environment looks like, launching a new product line, deciding between two jobs, moving to a new city, and starting or ending a relationship. It’s scary, but it’s also possible. It’s challenging to leave something that is known even if it’s not particularly fulfilling or the best role for you. It takes courage, listening to your truth, and stepping into the unknown to create something new.

To read more advice from Alissa on how to conquer your crossroads, please check out the full post on her website!

Have you successfully moved through a recent crossroads? We’d love to hear about it!

Alissa Finerman’s focus as an executive coach, author, and motivational speaker is to help you and your company or team make progress on key goals and redefine success. She is known for her clarity, energy, and ability to see the bigger picture to help you redefine what’s possible. She traded in a Wall Street career, so she could give back and inspire others to find fulfilling work and raise the bar in their life.

Alissa bridges her experiences as a former professional tennis player, Wall Street professional, and leadership coach to inspire others to think bigger and get results. Alissa holds an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She received her coaching credential from New York University. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit www.AlissaFinerman.com and www.Facebook.com/AlissaFinermantop1.

Shake-up Your Make-up for Spring

We’ve all heard the phrase “less is more” when it comes to polishing a work appropriate look. And with warm weather finally arriving, the last thing you want to do is cover up, but that doesn’t mean your “9-5” beauty regime should only be confined to the nude and taupe family. Spring is the perfect time to shake up your routine and introduce some new colors to your palette.  And hey, Mother Nature is playing with some new hues, so it’s only polite to follow suit, right?

Easy on the eyes

Give your lids a subtle lift with a sweep of peach champagne or sheer gold shadow over top of a neutral earth tone. This will keep your look casual and office appropriate, but give you that extra boost of confidence during the morning meeting. For a liner, skip black and try a smoky grey, charcoal or khaki. Use the sponge tip to smudge the ends—this will give the eyes soft definition and a subtle wing without the bold, cat-eye effect.

Sun a little, bronze a little, blush a little

During the spring and summer months, nature does most of the work for us. Though many enjoy their new transformation in skin tone, it’s important to protect your skin against UVA/UVB rays. Nowadays, a lot of foundations have built in sunscreen and bronzers can also help provide that sun-kissed glow without the damage. To keep it professional, choose a bronzer that’s only a shade or so darker than your skin’s natural tone. You can add a seasonal touch with a berry-colored blush. Try using a large round brush and start at the base of the cheekbones and sweep upward. This time of year, you can get away with a sugar plum or a soft, shimmery pink to add some dimension and youthful color to your cheeks.

Let your lips do the talking

The lips are always a point of contention, especially when it comes to the workplace: do you go bold, nude or sheer? The answer can be all the above! Spring is a great excuse to go bright with a coral or rich tangerine color. And to balance it for office wear, pair it with a neutral eye. Try a light grey liner with a peachy brown shadow. Or switch it up with a sheer rose water gloss on the lips and a cool clover green and tan on the lids. As a rule of thumb, play up one feature and have the rest of your palate compliment the bolder hue.

When considering new looks and colors at work, tailor your choices to your environment. Is your company conservative? If you’re working at a bank, you may want to skip the Marilyn Monroe red lips, but if you’re in an artistic-driven industry, you may be able to show off your edge a little more. New to the office? Take cues from your co-workers. It takes a while to adjust to a different environment, but finding a way to express your own sense of style within those office walls can be the most liberating of all.

For some tips on how to apply your make-up, check out this past post from cosmetics queen Bobbi Brown herself!