October: Treating Yourself to the Career That You Always Wanted

As children, we understood “treats” to mean a bagful of guilt-free candy, but as we got older, the word took on new meaning.  Treats became more than just a simple indulgence, but something that we earned.  They became rewards for a job well done– and what better way to reward that achievement than by treating yourself to the job that you always wanted?

Much like going door-to-door around the neighborhood in search of sugar-filled satisfaction, you must actively search out that perfect professional position for yourself.  Doors will open for you, you just need to know which ones to knock on, when to knock on them and why.  As each door opens, build on that experience to reach the next opportunity.  Finding a career that best suits you is definitely a process, but the journey is what actually makes this treat so sweet.

In this month’s edition of the Dress for Success Blog, we cover everything from defining success in your career to how to balance networking and friendship, all in an effort to help you treat yourself to the career you always wanted!


 Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide

Lubov Azria: Starting from the Bottom

A vision of her creative principles, Lubov Azria is strong, sophisticated and self-aware, clad in contemporary chicness.

“The idea of passion is what I’m interested in,” says Lubov.

And it’s that passion that drove a career at BCBGMAXAZRIA where she began as a design assistant in 1991 and now reigns as Chief Creative Officer. Since her arrival, BCBG has become an international fashion powerhouse with 570 retail stores worldwide. Under Lubov’s creative direction, the label has expanded from one line to four, not including forays into footwear, jewelry, handbags and everything in between. Closing out their 25th anniversary year, Lubov talked with Dress for Success about being your own inspiration, checking egos at the door and the constant evolution she embraced to become the creative leader of a global brand.

As CCO, Lubov holds the weight of almost 200 designers on her shoulders. In addition to her role at the office, she is also the better half of founder and designer Max Azria, with whom she has three young children and three step children. In order to keep her professional and personal life balanced, not to mention her sanity, she finds ways to be inspired every single day.

Growing up in Kiev, Ukraine, Lubov was raised modestly and remembers the feelings she got while staring in store windows—where fashion always sat behind glass and beyond her reach. As the woman who now spearheads the creation these objects of desire, Lubov vows to make all her garments affordable, contemporary and most importantly inclusive.

“I am designing for every woman. It changes over time, but at the end of the day the BCBG woman does it all and needs chic, easy options that match her dynamic lifestyle,” she says.

The concepts behind BCBG’s designs are also influenced by Lubov’s lifelong dedication to the arts. A former ballet dancer, she was lured into fashion after realizing her appreciation for costume design outweighed her dedication to the physical art. But Lubov doesn’t see the transition as that drastic.

“To this day, I don’t think I work in fashion. I think it’s more about art, creativity and working with an incredibly talented team. To me, fashion has a different connotation. We create everything here and it doesn’t have to be fashion, it can be anything,” says Lubov.

This open interpretation of art and design, along with an integrity of character that is true to her roots, is Lubov’s creative vision that keeps the BCBG brand modern and unique, but also extremely wearable.

Investing more than two decades with the company, Lubov has climbed from an entry level assistant position to the top, and has the wherewithal to prove it. She now navigates her career path just as she does the creative process. When looking for new hires, she says it’s those who can stow away pride, knowing there’s always going to be several drafts, and recognize each step (no matter how small) is necessary to reach final product.

“Along the way, I have learned that nothing is below you. Do windows, floors and bring coffee if you have to, make it happen,” Lubov says.

Armed with experience, Lubov believes that starting from the bottom was necessary to understand every aspect of the international brand she now spearheads. She constantly passes what she’s learned to her team explaining, “Compassion and leading by example can set you apart–you cannot lead without showing people how to lead.”

Her career is proof that if every step, even the minor ones, if taken with conviction, will always lead forward.

Overseeing multiple departments at a time, Lubov has adjusted herself to a macro view, but kept her eye for detail.  Incidentally this is why Max hired her in the first place. The two complement each other; Lubov is meticulous and he has always been a global thinker (think the first American designer to acquire a French fashion house under his label). As CCO, Lubov sees the collections go from concept to final sale, a process which totals around six to nine months. Despite her crazed schedule, she prides herself in fitting every garment and interacting directly with her customers as much as possible. She works off her M.O. that to reach every woman, she must be in touch with every woman.

Whether she’s looking back on her decades in the fashion industry or wrapping up one long day at the office, Lubov’s growth and longevity lies in her ability to embrace evolution and adapt to the inevitable changes that occur in any profession. She attributes BCBG’s constant expansion to investing in a team that helps spur new vision and supports the company’s forward motion.

“Everyone in our company is a member of our extended family. My peers, designers and incredibly creative team inspire me with their own personal style.”Surrounded by those who keep her burgeoning vision sharp, Lubov’s influence weaves like a solid thread through the company.  Each collection marks an evolution of the previous season. Her progression and a commitment to that lifestyle is evident in this year’s 25th anniversary collections, which were based on reinventing pieces from their archives. The garments were built on solid fundamentals and juxtapose the old with new; echoing the model that has earned Lubov her dream career and the contemporary edge to constantly bring it new life.

Should You Take Out a Second Mortgage on Your Home?

Financial Advice By: Carmen Rita Wong

Q: Sometimes I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones: I found my dream job about a year ago and am so happy with the work that I’m doing!  Unfortunately, I had to take a pay cut for this position and my money seems to be coming up short every month, no matter how I try to readjust my budget.  I’ve heard other people talking about “refinancing their home” or getting a “second mortgage.”  I’m not sure that I fully understand what either of those mean, but I do own my own home, so do you think either of those would be useful options for me to consider?

I’m thrilled that you’ve found your dream job– so few of us do that it’s nearly worth its weight in gold! But of course, dreams don’t pay the bills. It’s also good news that you are a homeowner, but let’s not go there yet.

Allow me to expand your mind first: Your income doesn’t necessarily have to based only on your full-time salary. Dream jobs plus a family (if you have one) tend to take up most of your life, but if there’s any way that you can carve out the time to find ways to bring in other income, I’d rather you head there than pulling money out of your house, which can be a slippery slope, draining your biggest asset. I don’t know what you do for a living, but there are some great, legitimate ways (stay away from those cheesy work-from-home-get-rich ads) to earn on the side, such as TaskRabbit.com or Elance.com.

And if working more is out of the question, then instead of borrowing from your home’s value–which can be costly not only in interest and fees, but in terms of lowering your own net worth–consider which relationship you want long-term: Do you want a long-term relationship with your career or with your home? When budgets can no longer be slashed, I always advise what feels like some tough love. We can’t have it all. That can mean sometimes considering selling your home instead, using some of your proceeds as a down payment on another, less expensive home, then setting aside some earnings into an emergency fund.

In that way, you maybe can’t have it all, but you can have two very important things: both a dream career and, peace of mind.


Carmen Rita Wong is the President and Founder of Malecon Productions. She is the former co-creator and host of the only national, daily personal finance television show, On the Money, on CNBC. Carmen was also the co-founder and former President of an all-female financial planning firm and is currently Assistant Industry Professor of Finance and Risk Engineering at NYU Polytech.

Tone Your Beauty Routine!

The days are becoming shorter, but somehow your sleep patterns are not getting any longer and by the time you finish at the office, make dinner, shower and pack lunch for the next day, it’s already later than you realized! If the winter is wearing your skin out, instead of simply piling on the make-up to cover up, try applying toner after washing your face for a refreshing addition to your beauty routine.

Once a part of most women’s make-up routines, toner has fallen by the wayside, but this Fall we are calling for a revival of the forgotten exfoliate. Toner can be applied to the face after cleansing and helps to remove excess oil and dead skin—not to mention that it also helps to shrink your pores and can even help prevent ingrown hairs. When you’re over-tired, your face may appear drawn and pale; toner improves the overall appearance of your skin’s tone, giving you an energized glow.

At work, this is especially important as your physical presentation actually influences whether or not people perceive you as qualified. If you walk out the door looking tired and disheveled, you may attract a few odd looks, but you may also be passed over for job opportunities.  Subconsciously, when you walk into a room, potential employers will immediately evaluate you on your “warmth” and “competence,” whether they will like you and/or respect you, simply based on your appearance.

If you look dazed and like your skin has seen better days, it could be misconstrued for incompetence and you could find yourself overlooked for that new position or the next promotion.  This is especially true if your job requires you to interact with the public. Here, your presence is reflective of the company as a whole and will play a large part in influencing clients’ or patrons’ opinions of your business and its credibility.

Simply adding a little toner to your morning beauty routine during the week is an easy way to give yourself a refreshed look and a quick boost of confidence. Finish with a little brightening moisturizer on top for a polished glow that will leave your skin and your body feeling hydrated and more awake.

Defining Success in Your Career

Success is not a one-way street that let’s you coast on your bike while riding downhill. There are lots of pot holes, flat tires, some flowers on the way, but mostly, it’s up and down, and you just need to believe in yourself and keep on going. You will experience true success as you invest time and energy in actions and projects that make you feel satisfied and fulfilled.

Top 1% moments help us define what success means at different stages in our life.

These top 1% moments are available to all of us regardless of where we are in our life—married, single, lots of money, no money, fancy graduate degrees, no degrees, kids, no kids, love your job, despise your job, old, young, lots of challenges, or minimal challenges. These accomplishments are important to recognize and celebrate because when one of us reaches higher, we can all leverage the inspiration to take a step further ourselves.

A top 1% moment is when you accomplish something that you feel good about and is meaningful to you. They can be big or small—ordering business cards, swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida (thank you, Diana Nyad), going to sleep before midnight, changing careers, writing your first book, successfully leading a team project, buying your first home, re-connecting with a relative, running fifty-two marathons in fifty-two weeks to raise awareness and money for pancreatic cancer (thank you, Marathon Goddess), getting back into your photography hobby, earning your certification as a yoga teacher, making your first public speech, completing your first 5k walk/run, or simply making yourself a priority.

These moments expand your view of what’s possible and build confidence in yourself. Top 1% moments help us define our personal best. It’s not a competition; it’s about cooperating. We can all live in our top 1%.

Here are the recurring themes that emerge with my clients when they experience their top 1% moments:

Dream: The journey starts with an exciting dream. Your dream/goal may seem impossible and crazy to others, but it’s not about them; it’s about what adds meaning to YOUR life. For example, Diana Nyad recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida. After four failed attempts to complete her goal, Diana, at the ripe age of sixty-four, became the first woman to complete this accomplishment while swimming without a shark cage to protect her. This was going to be her last attempt either way. And yes, swimming 110 miles and fifty-three hours is definitely beyond what most of us can comprehend. (If you are not a swimmer, substitute that word for something that does represent YOUR dream.) Diana’s journey showed us what it means to have a dream and pursue it.

Belief (a.k.a. mindset): All people who achieve top 1% moments have a deep belief in self. Even when others think your dream is crazy, YOU need to believe it. That’s key with every new invention or achievement. You may not know how you’re going to do it, but you believe you CAN. This is exactly what happened with Julie Weiss, known as the Marathon Goddess. She had a crazy idea to run fifty-two marathons in fifty-two weeks to raise awareness and funds to benefit pancreatic cancer (she lost her father to the disease). She had no idea how the journey would unfold. She started with one marathon, and for the next year, she did a marathon every week while working her full-time job. She’s raised over $200,000 and has decided to continue running marathons and raising awareness.

Challenges: Every top 1% achievement has challenges. There is no other way. The challenges may seem unique, but they are all just challenges—time, money, resources, health, knowledge, motivation, etc. Challenges test how much you want to complete your goal. Whether you are looking to take a photography class or complete your first 5k race, speed bumps will show up, but know they are not a valid reason to abandon your heartfelt goals.

Resilience: You may fail several times and feel discouraged many times before success. Diana failed four times and tried one more time—that alone is courageous and a top 1% effort. Part of living in your top 1% is knowing when to move on. Diana understood this and decided this would have been her last attempt. Even if she didn’t complete the swim, it would have been a top 1% effort. Often, when we are operating in the unknown territory, it’s scary, and you start to doubt yourself. Every top 1% moment has that brief period where you want to throw in the towel and call it quits. It’s part of the process, so don’t let the feeling push you off course.

Age: Often, you will be on the wrong side of the age factor—too old, too young, too much experience, or not enough experience. Perhaps you’re too young to start a business or too old to change careers. Forget this and keep moving forward. Disregard age as an excuse. As forty-one-year-old Olympic medalist Dara Torres said, “the water doesn’t know your age…[goals] may become harder to achieve, but your dreams can’t stop because you’ve hit a certain age.” Invest the time to figure out what you want to do and keep moving forward.

Stretch Zone: Every great dream and goal pushes you into your stretch zone—the zone where you need to draw on your strengths, face uncertainty, move past challenges, and achieve something beyond what many thought was possible. When you declare that you are writing a book or changing jobs, there will be lots of uncertainty and challenges. Top 1% moments do not happen in your comfort or stress zone. They happen in the stretch zone.

Top 1% Team: Although great journeys may start from an individual effort, they are more commonly team efforts. Diana Nyad had over thirty people on her team helping her navigate the waters, chart her course, and provide care during her swim. Epic efforts require resources from many different areas. Do you have the right team to help you share YOUR top 1%?

Everyone can enjoy top 1% moments from any starting place. You need to show up with the willingness to invest time and effort, face challenges, and make progress. You will find yourself completely committed to your vision when it’s meaningful and genuinely excites you. You may have some speed bumps or flat tires on your path, so stay on your course. Your top 1% moments can be big or small as long as they’re meaningful to you.

What dream speaks to your heart?

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 andwww.Facebook.com/AlissaFinermantop1.

Don’t Just Be a Soccer Mom, Be a Soccer Player!

Many of you may be proud soccer moms, but you might be surprised to hear that there are benefits to getting out there and kicking the ball around with your kids. Soccer is an easy sport to pick up, and most people have so much fun playing that it’s easy to forget you’re also working out.

Soccer is great for fitness and cardiovascular health. Its biggest health benefit comes from the fact that soccer forces you to keep moving. By forcing players to shift between walking, running, and standing still, soccer builds strength, flexibility and endurance. The sport is also known for lowering body fat, improving muscle tone, and increasing coordination. By simply grabbing a ball and kicking around with a friend in the park, you can easily start getting all the benefits of this fun sport.

Don’t be afraid of being inexperienced either, soccer is designed for all skill levels. In addition to the awesome benefits soccer provides for your body, the sport is also a great way to make some new friends. Soccer is all about teamwork. In fact, unless you chose to practice by yourself, the game itself requires you to work with others. It is a great way to meet people and exercise with friends.

Besides just a more toned body and new friends, women benefit from many other side effects of this great team sport. Soccer teaches its players to think on-the-go, a habit that is great both on the field and can easily be carried into the boardroom. While at first running and kicking the ball at the same time might bring out the clumsiness in all of us, don’t give up, you will also most likely see an increase in your concentration, persistence and self-discipline skills after only a few games. And don’t forget, like most physical activity, soccer provides an opportunity to increase your confidence and self-esteem. So join a game and let loose those weekly stresses from the office by scoring a few goals on the field.

Here are a few tips on how to get started:


  1. All you need is one piece of equipment: a ball! The soccer field can easily be substituted by backyards, streets, or beaches. So head to your local sporting goods store or Walmart and pick up a soccer ball to start practicing.


  1. A game of soccer doesn’t require a large number of people; it can be as simple as playing with a few friends. Or you can even practice your kicking skills all on your own!


  1. If you find that you love the game, most cities have free pick-up teams. Pick-up soccer is a great way to meet other individuals in your local community who enjoy the sport and the work out that comes with it. Can’t find a team in your town? Be bold and start one yourself!

Dear DFS: How Can I Balance Networking and Friendship?

Dear DFS,

I recently decided to make a career change and need to get back into networking. I have a former colleague, who also used to be a close friend, working in the business that I’m now pursuing. I know she has a lot of contacts, and I want to ask for some advice to see if she could possibly introduce me to a few co-workers, but I’m not sure where to start. Since she was a friend when we worked together, I do not want my sudden reemergence to seem abrupt or insincere. I know networking is important in today’s working world, but I still consider this woman my friend and do not want my favor to devalue our relationship. How do I approach her to get the help I need, but maintain our friendship? Is there a balance when it comes to networking and friendship and where is the line?

Needing some ground rules,


Lancaster, PA

Dear Victoria,

Congratulations to you for making a career change!  It is a wonderful opportunity for you to pursue.

In this day and age when sharing of information and social networking has become very much part of both our personal and professional life, the rules have changed. It is commonplace now to make our lives more publicly available and more intertwined.

Do reach out and make contact with your former colleague and be honest and upfront with her as to why you are contacting now.  Do tell her that that it has been a long time since you have been in contact and you want to reconnect with her as a friend and be upfront that you also want to ask her professional advice up to a point where she is comfortable.

Your friend should be delighted to hear from you and delighted to hear you have changed the focus in your career. A good rule of thumb is to tell your friend your situation and what you are looking for, but let her steer on what she is able to do for you.

Make sure you have plenty of time to catch up on a personal level, as well, and try to reconnect the friendship side of things.

One of the most important results that networking can give you is the simple act of letting other people know you are available. Reconnecting with your former colleague on both a personal and professional level will be a benefit to both of you.  By reaching out to one person, you are creating opportunities to get connected to a wider network. Your friend is probably delighted to have the opportunity to network as well so it is a win-win situation for everybody!

Best wishes,

Susan Butler

Programme Co-ordinator

Dress for Success Dublin

The Success Diaries: Beth Schmidt

To my younger self,

Life is truly as simple as it feels today loving your Dalmatian puppy, playing in the sand and riding your bike. Find the people you really value in life and love them and find the things you really love doing in life and do them. Make time for these people and activities like you do now, everyday.

  • Things don’t have to be hard to be good, but don’t miss something great just because it could be difficult.

Whether it is hard work or tough conversations, sometimes the greatest things also are difficult.

  • Accolades and achievements are fleeting but making someone’s life better is a feeling that sticks with you.

People will remember how you made them feel, and you will remember how you made them feel too.

  • Potential is important, but never confuse potential with reality, especially in relationships.

How someone treats you today is how they are probably going to treat you tomorrow and the next day and the day after that too.

  • Big dreams lead to big goals, but achieving a big goal starts with a backwards plan and small, continuous steps towards it.

Becoming an expert in something actually takes thousands of hours.

  • See what people are choosing for their lives and respect it.

Don’t make them climb your mountain when they need to climb their own.

  • Go face first into really hard things.

Feel the fear and then do it anyway.

  • Never apologize for the things you really want in life.

Following the beat of your own drum is the most attractive thing of all.

  • Don’t let little riffs and tiffs become big ones.

Always identify your part in something and take ownership to make it better.

  • Being feels better than doing.

Reconnect to the things that make you feel.

  • Invest in your family.
  • Treat your body well.

Beth Schmidt is the Founder and Executive Director of Wishbone.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to sending low-income students to high-quality out-of-school programs. She is a former Teach for America Corps Member and graduated from Middlebury College. She holds a Masters in Secondary Education from Loyola Marymount University. 

Beth is a Kauffman Labs Education Ventures Fellow, a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and was celebrated twice on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list – both in 2013 and 2014 for her work in education. She was honored by the World Economic Forum as a “Global Shaper”, and attended the 2014 Meeting in Davos, participating on the International Business Council to discuss the international youth unemployment crisis.


Kate White’s “I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know”

For every woman who has ever lived The Devil Wears Prada nightmare of facing icy rejection or moral compromise to get ahead, we hold the roadmap to navigating the sharp curves and steep hills to career success. Writer, editor and boss in every sense of the word, Kate White has been on both sides of the office door and is now sharing her insight in her new book mockingly titled I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know.

Five publications after beginning her career as an editorial assistant at Glamour, Kate ended her run with the magazine industry after 14 years as the Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan to focus on her work as an author and public speaker. Armed with sage wisdom, spunk and a refined swagger for navigating one of the most competitive fields for women today, Kate’s expert advice is practical and digestible at any stage of your career. Through some personal anecdotes, intrinsic wit and the occasional celebrity cameo, Kate explains how to get ahead and stay ahead, without losing your head.

Inside, she breaks down the career trajectory into three main parts: “How to Get It,” “How to Go Big,” and “How to Savor It.” Starting at that first interview, Kate is candid when she talks building confidence as a necessary step to progress. In the next chapters, she elevates the conversation, handing it off a few times to fellow power women as she shares secrets to guide  us through career moves like capitalizing on change, flexibility in your work-life, networking and building your own personal board of directors.

Unlike most self-help books that get you through a crisis and take their spot on the back shelf, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This should be open from the time you send your first resume, to your retirement party– where you pass it on to the next gutsy girl. Kate does not just spout tips and wisdom from a pedestal, but rather gives the highlight reel of her journey to the top and how to continually evolve even through comfort and security. Perfecting her delivery through years as an editor, Kate gives us the facts, not only opening the door to the career we’ve always wanted, but also making sure we’re getting what we want from our careers.