should I wear a suit my first day at a new job, fighting writer’s block, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should I wear a suit my first day at a new job?

I will be starting a new job in a couple of weeks (thanks for all of the great cover letter, resume, and interviewing tips!).

The office is business casual. My wife thinks I should dress business formal at least on the first day because it would send a good impression.

The last two places I worked were both business casual and I wore a suit on the first day, and both times my supervisors mentioned “oh, you didn’t need to wear a suit.”

What do you think? Stick to business casual? Dress to impress? Or doesn’t matter either way? (For what it’s worth, this is at a law firm.)

Don’t wear business casual unless you know for sure that that’s their dress code. It doesn’t really matter what happened at previous jobs; this job is a different one and the expectations on dress could be different. Plus, you won’t horrify anyone by showing up in a suit on your first day even if it’s unnecessary, but you will potentially raise eyebrows if you’re under-dressed.

But there are two easy ways to solve this: First, what were people wearing when they interviewed you? If they were in suits, then yeah, they wear suits there and you should wear one too. If they were business casual, then you probably can be too. Or there’s the second, possible more reliable option: Email your new boss and ask for guidance on the dress code. That’s a very normal question, and they won’t think it’s weird that you asked.

2. How can I fight writer’s block at work?

I’m a university student about to graduate, so I’m on my last co-op term/paid internship term and I’m working at a research unit of the government this summer. My job often involves a lot of writing — some of it creative, some of it less so.

I’m wondering how people in creative fields are supposed to deal with writer’s block? Sometimes I just can’t seem to get any writing done and the writing I do get done is bad so I end up procrastinating by reading the news or researching unrelated stuff hoping to come back to my task with some more focus. I feel like that’s not professionally appropriate though because I’m getting paid but not producing anything specific for the project. How should I be handling feeling uninspired (I guess) at work?

Some amount of that is normal for jobs like writing and others that require creative thought. Sometimes you need to give your mind a break in order to come back refreshed and able to do good work. So it really comes down to how long those breaks are — for example, 20 minutes here and there is pretty reasonable, but an hour a day probably isn’t (at least not until you’re more senior and more in control of your own schedule).

For what it’s worth, some of this may also be about just getting used to writing on demand. That’s hard to do when you’re not used to it, but it tends to come more easily over time (or at least that’s what you want to happen if it’s work you’re going to do long-term). Writing jobs mean that sometimes writing will be a slog that you just have to force yourself through, even when you really, really don’t want to. But there are things you can try that may help — like changing up your environment, doing boring but productive work until your brain feels ready for something more challenging, and forcing yourself to just put thoughts down on paper, even if they’re not great (with the aim of having at least the start of something concrete to work with later when you’re more inspired).

3. I’m sweating off my makeup at work

I work as a sales associate and team lead at a chain of high-end department stores known for customer service. We have a massive sale, and our busiest time of year, coming up very soon.

I’m really good at my job but since I work in high-end retail, my appearance is more important than at most jobs. This means dressing in current trends and wearing full makeup (this is not explicit but it’s certainly heavily implied). Here’s the problem: I am overweight and tend to run hot in general, and on top of that I take medication that leads to increased sweating. The sweating is obvious, to the point that customers have pointed it out, and it makes wearing full make-up virtually impossible. I want to be seen as professional, but I can’t help the sweating. Help!

Wear the amount of makeup that you’re comfortable with, even if that’s none. If your manager mentions it to you, you can explain what you said here, as much of it as you’re comfortable with. For instance: “I’m taking a medication that makes me prone to sweating, and I found I was sweating my makeup off, to the point that I felt it looked unprofessional.”

If makeup is really important there, you could try things that are less likely to sweat off, like lipstick, or try keeping blotting tissues nearby. But really, even in environments that emphasize makeup, you can generally just explain when you have a good reason for needing to deviate from that.

4. Can I give feedback to managers I used to work for?

How can I give feedback to previous managers who I worked for in the past? I want to give all of the managers I worked for feedback so that they can take this with them and those with negative feedback can improve and those with positive feedback can continue using their skills that increases the productivity of their company. Is there a way of doing this?

Very unlikely. When you were working for them, there may have been an opportunity for you to give them feedback then (as long as it was about the way they managed you, not about the way they did their jobs in general; the latter isn’t something you had standing to give them input on).

But now that you’re no longer working for them, the only way this could go over well is if you happen to be very close to them and have continued to have a close relationship. If that’s not the case though, this would seem presumptuous and odd and you shouldn’t do it. (After all, think about if a former boss of yours contacted you out of the blue to give you feedback. Most people would not be thrilled with that.)

5. Executives won’t vacate the conference rooms I’ve booked

I recently began managing a team at my workplace of nine years. I regularly book meeting space for my team to meet or do conference calls with outside vendors.

Regularly, members of the upper management team (executive team, etc) are NOT booking rooms properly and do not evacuate the room when asked at times I have it reserved. I am unable to be on time to conference calls or perform functions of my job as we are unable to access the reserved space. All of these executives have large offices that could often host the clients or meetings that are taking place during my reserved time slot.

In addition, I can’t help but feel like the work we are doing and my employees are viewed as less valuable. I am hesitant to even book conference rooms, but as we have an open office I am unable to train or perform as expected due to this issue.

I have notified my immediate boss, but am not seeing any improvement. How do I approach this? What more can I do?

Talk to whoever’s in charge of managing the rooms and explain that the current system isn’t working. Explain what’s been happening and that it’s leaving you unable to access the space you’ve reserved, and ask what can be done.

If it’s a functional office, someone should be able to intervene and resolve this. If it’s not, you may be told something like “there’s nothing we can do when Bob wants the room.” If that’s the case, you may be stuck doing these calls and meetings in your regular office space, which isn’t ideal but may be the only remaining option. (But before you conclude that, it’s worth checking back with your boss one more time. It’s possible it just slipped off her radar or that she thought it had been resolved.)

As for your work being viewed as less valuable … well, it is probably viewed as less valuable than the senior executives’ work. That’s pretty normal. But they’re being rude, and that part may be able to be worked out.

{ 385 comments… read them below }

  1. DatSci*

    #5. Book a back-up conference room space for each meeting, especially important ones you can’t take at your desk. Then once you’re in one of the rooms, you can cancel the other reservation and let the squatter executive (or someone else) have at it.
    Less efficient than it would be if everyone used the system correctly, but it’ll get you what you need for now, namely a meeting space.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Or are you able to go and use the executives’ offices that you mentioned? I did wonder how you are asking them to evacuate – are you being really clear that the room is booked? Do they have assistants you could maybe talk to?

      Also, you mentioned notifying your boss but what did they say they would do? Did they give you any feedback on what to do? If not, it might help to get more actionable input on how to handle it.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        PS Obviously not implying you should barge into their offices. Just everyone uses my great-grandboss’ office when she’s not using it.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Yeah, this is what we often do at my agency. Unfortunately, only two people in the entire company have their own offices, so it doesn’t help much.

          Unfortunately this problem is endemic to offices that don’t have enough conference room space, especially if they’re open offices. I don’t think there’s a good solution (other than giving more people offices, in which case half the time you wouldn’t need to book a damn conference room), unfortunately. When the client’s on the phone and wants to talk beyond the scheduled time, you can’t just tell them “gotta go, bye!” This means the next group often has to start their call or meeting late as they scramble to find a replacement space.

          Some people try to plan for this by booking a conference room for extra time both before and after the call. But if you book for extra time before the call just in case the people before you ran over and they don’t run over, then you have a conference room sitting empty for 15-30 minutes, and *guaranteed* it’s going to get pounced on by someone who wants an impromptu meeting.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I suspect OP knocks on the door or enters, says something to the effect of “Excuse me, but we’ve reserved the room,” and the executives fully ignore OP.

        I like the idea, mentioned here and downthread, of forming an alliance with the executive assistants to those execs. I’m not surprised the execs are being so rude, but for better or worse, I suspect OP will have better luck trying to coordinate with people who have some control over those executives’ schedules/plans than with the execs themselves.

        1. MillersSpring*

          Yes, that’s exactly what I would do. But I have seen people who walk up to the conference room they’ve booked at the appointed hour, and they see or hear an executive in there, and they hesitate to knock or walk in. You can’t be nervous if you are in the right place.

          They’re scared to say, I’ve booked this room and need to dial in to a conference call that’s starting right now. Or, I booked this room for a meeting with (gestures to the 3-15 people lined up) these folks.

          1. Grapey*

            I like to go the fake ignorance route sometimes – “Is this the 3pm teapot design review?”

            1. mugsy523*

              Ooooh, I love this, Grapey! I’m going to start using this tactic in my office, as we have a chronic problem of people not vacating the rooms when their time is up.

              For conference calls & trainings, I’ve started booking the rooms 30-60 minutes earlier than I need to ensure that anyone who is taking too long to leave isn’t delaying my conference call start time. I use the time to make sure the monitors work, get training materials prepped, whatever. It’s not as efficient, but it helps so the room you reserved isn’t commandeered.

        2. designbot*

          The thing about executives is that you have to be sensitive to what kind of business they are doing. There’s an unspoken rule at my office that client meetings trump all internal meetings no matter how high up. So I would never interrupt someone else’s client meeting, but if the partners are just talking to each other nobody bats an eye if I open the door and say “sorry but I’ve got Big Client scheduled in here at 2.” The assistants or an office manager is the key if you don’t know these rules in your firm or if you aren’t sure about the nature/participants in a meeting.
          Best thing to do is go behind the scenes and ask an assistant or office manager, “Is Fergus’s meeting internal or external? We’ve got a training scheduled in there with an outside party and we don’t know where else to have it.” Then they can help you navigate either getting Fergus out of there, or finding you alternate accomodations.

        3. Liz2*

          Agreed. As an exec admin, in a place where rooms are never plentiful, a lot of people are way hesitant to speak up if they have room hogs. I try to make it known as often as possible they should never be afraid to let them know they have the room and to come to me to make other arrangements or let me shoo them out.

          As always though, if enough of the baddies are at the top rung, there’s only so much you can do.

      3. Not Australian*

        Admittedly I’m not the most tactful soul in the universe, but my instinct wold be to say to one of them “Okay, if you’re going to be here, can we use your office? Only we need X, Y and Z and that’s why we booked this room.”

      4. Another person*

        At my old job with wide open spaces, upper management (the only ones with offices) were very responsive to being kicked out of meeting rooms when someone else had them reserved. I did not hesitate because office culture was reserved is reserved no matter what your rank. These execs in the letter are just rude.

        Agree with others the OP needs allies here. If OP’s boss can’t/won’t help, making the person in charge of conference rooms aware every time this happens and being the squeaky wheel for improvement to the scheduling system is a start.

        The assistants to the offending execs can be looped in each time as well. Perhaps they can help find a solution like letting you borrow the private office, or better yet intervene and remind their charges that people reserve those conference rooms and they can start reserving them for the execs.

      5. Queen of the File*

        I second speaking with the assistants, if they exist! I used to get my boss out of rooms all the time–sometimes into a second room I had set up in case they needed to continue their impromptu meeting but could no longer use the space they were squatting in.

        1. DivineMissL*

          In my office, I’m the EA who works for the CEO, and I oversee the conference room bookings; so I frequently end up being the unofficial bouncer/referee for the meeting spaces. Generally it’s not intentional rudeness, mostly just that they don’t realize others are waiting. If this is a frequent occurrence, it’s usually easiest to book an extra 15 minutes prior to the time you actually NEED the room, so even if the previous meeting runs a few minutes late, you have a buffer. If this is not possible, then definitely enlist the AAs or EAs to move their bosses along. We were having trouble with folks overstaying their welcome, but after I consistently started poking my head into the overlong meetings and politely saying, “Will you be much longer? The next meeting group is ready to use this room…”, I found that people became MUCH more considerate of others. YMMV.

          1. SJ*

            Ditto to all this — I also give the incoming group a heads up that there’s a group coming to use the room right after. “Just so you know, there’s another meeting in here at 10:30, so you’ll have to have a hard stop at that time.” Usually it helps if they have it in the back of their mind that they do, in fact, need leave at 10:30.

          2. flibertyG*

            Yeah, it’s common in my org that meetings run long, and it’s not that anybody’s intentionally being a jerk, they just get caught up in their conversation and it spills over. I feel like it’s kind of a symptom that the organization doesn’t have enough meeting spaces, TBH. If you need to cut off good conversations because each space is reserved back to back, there’s a different problem than rude CEOs.

            1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

              Intentional or not, getting caught up in conversation to the point that you’re occupying a room someone else has reserved is pretty jerky.

      6. Karen D*

        Right now we have plenty of conference space – we’re rattling around like peas in a box! — but back in the day when we had limited space and lots of problems with squatters, I handled it by putting a big (11×17) sign on the door of the room I’d booked that said “Reserved for 11 a.m. for X meeting, setup at 10:45.” I put the same sign on the table.

        On those days when we had meetings, I’d make sure this was the very first thing I did when getting in – or the last thing I did before leaving the night before. People can ignore a notation in an online reservation system that they probably never look at anyway, but they had a harder time ignoring a big honkin’ sign telling them the room was booked.

      7. Artemesia*

        You don’t ask big wigs to ‘vacate a conference room’ they are using unless they are in there alone. AFTERwards you can perhaps approach them about process when you have the room booked if clients were involved.

    2. Midge*

      While I get the impulse to book back-up spaces, too, that can really screw things up when there is limited meeting space available. Now OP’s colleagues won’t be able to schedule meetings for their team because OP is blocking off time in two rooms. (I used to book meeting space in my last job, and someone doing that would have driven me batty.)

      OP, I’m sorry the execs aren’t leaving when you ask. How frustrating! Do you think if you keep asking (politely and cheerfully, but persistently) they would eventually get it? Also, is there some sort of admin who’s ultimately in charge of the system to reserve meeting rooms? That kind of person is often able to lay down the law about this sort of thing, even though they’re not technically in charge of the offenders.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Even though my company has a meeting room booking system, there have been several occasions when the best conference room hasn’t been ready, because executives need kicking out and guests are waiting in the corridor. In addition, there aren’t enough meeting rooms to go round anyway. In the case of the letter, I suppose it could be due to confidentiality i.e. the executives want to meet people in a neutral space and not their office.

      2. flibertyG*

        I’d advise OP to ask herself if her meeting is really more important than what the senior team might be discussing, though. We have a very differential culture at my org, but it would really be frowned upon here to even politely kick out senior people, unfortunately. We would find another meeting space for our work assuming that the senior team is doing something more important.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Well if the client meetings don’t happen maybe the execs will be out of a job so it is kinda important.

          1. AMPG*

            Exactly. I strongly suspect that if the executives were meeting with external guests or doing some kind of revenue-generating work, they would’ve reserved the room.

            1. flibertyG*

              To be fair in my office it’s usually that Senior Team did reserve the room but they have just run over and are not vacating for the next person – certainly if they didn’t reserve the room at all, you may have more wiggle room but I’m not sure what OP means by saying they didn’t reserve it “correctly.” But she says her meetings are for her internal team, or vendors – presumably not clients – and in fact says the senior team members are meeting with clients that they could take to their offices.

          2. Julia*

            Right? The OP is doing work FOR the execs, and I’m surprised they don’t realise that.

        2. Karen K*

          Where I work, it doesn’t matter. If you book a room, that room is yours. No one can come around after it’s booked and say, “My meeting is more important,” and get you kicked out. You are also free to stick your head in to the room and remind whoever is there, regardless of rank or credentials, that they need to vacate, as you have booked the room. It’s considered very poor form to hang around in a meeting room past your time if someone is waiting.

          I’m pretty sure I’ve thrown the president of the hospital out of at least one room, and countless doctors.

          The only exception to this is our boardroom. You can book it, but if the president needs it, you get chucked out. So, most of us rarely book it for anything.

          1. flibertyG*

            Just telling OP, I think this is cultural by the office. Where I work we would always give Senior team the benefit of the doubt that their meetings are always urgent and critical, and even if we are meeting with clients we would take that to a coffeeshop before kicking them out of the room.

          2. Zahra*

            Our boardroom is not even on the list of rooms you can book. Only the admins can book it, so if everything is booked and you absolutely need a bigger room, you need to go see them and they’ll book it for you.

    3. oviraptor*

      If you are booking Meeting Space A and the execs are taking it over, can you book Meeting Space B instead? Then you are not booking 2 spaces. And hopefully getting an exec-free meeting room!

      But if there is only one meeting space, and I were in that situation I know I would really, really want to just walk on in with the team and start the conference call with the execs still in the room. I know this isn’t the way to go. And in fantasy land, the execs would immediately realize how rude they have been and all is well in the kingdom again. Or something like that.

    4. Eden*

      Where I work, booking an extra conference room would backfire both in that it would really irritate people who notice you are double-booking rooms (which I have done inadvertently and had people email to say are you really using both rooms for what looks like the same meeting?) and also would generate a sense that you probably don’t really need the room, causing more sqautting. YMMV, but in my workplace this would not work.

      What works for me is to literally stand in the door with the door held open (smiling) until the offending parties depart. This won’t help you get to a phone call on time but if you can tolerate the almost unbearable awkwardness of just standing there, they will leave, in my experience. It takes about 2 minutes which is an eternity. I have conditioned myself to let the awkwardness wash over me and while it’s uncomfortable, everyone knows you, the room reserver, are in the right, so it can work. Not for the faint of heart though if the execs are super VIPs.

      1. KTB*

        Double booking would be HIGHLY frowned upon where I work as well. People are constantly renegotiating conference room space, since we’re all open office and no one has an office. Our office culture is such that meetings start and end on time. Running over is pretty much only allowed if you negotiate in advance.

        That said, we also have three two-foot-tall inflatable velociraptors that we use as props to kick people out of their rooms when they run over. They’re very effective.

        1. Lurkily*

          Oh now I’m dying to know how that works! Do you run around holding the velociraptors and making them literally “chase” people out? Do you make noises for them? If so, what kind of noise?? Curious minds need to know!

      2. Windchime*

        Yeah, we usually just peek in through window until we catch someone’s eye, and that way they know people are waiting. I’ve never had someone not vacate the room, or at least come to the door to explain that they will take a few more minutes. It’s been a rare occasion where we have been booted out of our room; in that case, we’ve just dealt with it by meeting in the common area.

        As others have said, most people (in my experience) aren’t intentionally stealing the room or being rude. They are just meeting right up to the wire, and will leave when they realize others are waiting.

    5. Us, Too*

      Booking two rooms (unless I was going to use two rooms) would be highly inappropriate in my workplace. Conference rooms are at a premium. There have been times that the lack of a room has delayed meetings and/or caused us to have to travel offsite to have a meeting which is highly inefficient not to mention gets expensive.

      In fact, the space problem is such a big deal that we have a check in process such that if I reserve a room and don’t push a particular button in the room within a few minutes of the start time, the reservation is cancelled to free up space for others to use ad-hoc.

      I don’t think it would get me fired, but the first person to observe it would definitely talk to me about it and if it continued I’m sure my manager would put a stop to it.

    6. SC*

      Is there another conference room available that the executives would be less likely to use? At my previous job, there were certain rooms that were nicer, fancier, had better views, etc. If you wanted more certainty that your room would be available, you could book a smaller room, a room that wasn’t renovated, a room on a less busy floor, or a room on the side of the building with a less-good view.

  2. hiring mgr*

    On #1, the OP says the office is business casual so I think it’s completely fine to not wear a suit (AAM you may have misread…)

    1. Artemesia*

      Another way for a guy to thread the needle there is to wear a sport coat and slacks — not grossly out of line in either direction.

      1. M-C*

        And much depends on the field. A techie who showed up in a suit would immediately be labeled a weirdo. OP, unless your wife is in precisely the same field and the same of company, you should ignore her advice, well – meaning as it may be.

        1. TBoT*

          This reminds me of my interview at the company I currently work for (which, at this point, was 12 years ago). I showed up in a suit, and every person who interviewed me was in a T-shirt and jeans, even the manager. I felt *completely* overdressed and uncomfortable in the interview, and when they didn’t get back to me by the day they said they would I wondered if my suit had been off-putting.

          On my first day of work, I wore khakis and a blouse, since a T-shirt and jeans felt too casual for first day of work wear, but a suit would have been very weird based on the interview.

          1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

            Same here. My Grandboss interviewed me in a Smirnoff hoodie. On my first day I didn’t show up in a suit, but wasn’t comfortable enough to show up in jeans. So black pants and a nice top was what I showed up in.

            1. Sparkly Librarian*

              I forgot that I had an interview scheduled (from the hiring side) and wore my Thou Shalt Not Snivel sweatshirt.

          2. k.k*

            There are many cases where a suit would be inappropriate, and yours is a great example. If OP saw enough during the interview process to be sure it is business casual (or if that was explicitly said), it could make a weird first impression on people to show up in a suit. It can sent the message that you’re really out of touch, think you’re better than them, etc.

          3. Anna*

            I interviewed at a super casual place in a suit and felt the exact same way. Luckily as I was walking out the door I scanned what the other women in the office were wearing and it was fashionable dressy clothes, so I felt a little relieved. But yeah, it’s off-putting to be Dressed Correctly for an Interview and still feel like you missed the boat.

          4. Tammy*

            When I interviewed for my first job at CurrentCompany — in a dress, flats, makeup, etc. — the person who came to get me for my interview was wearing faded blue jeans and a US Marine Corps sweatshirt. Turns out he was the CIO. Now that I, 3 promotions later, am a hiring manager and motorcycle commuter, my general daily uniform is black spandex pants (that look like pants, not leggings) and either a blouse or a company T-shirt. Someone coming in for an interview in a suit wouldn’t be unusual, but if someone came to their first day of work in a suit people would probably wonder whether they’d not been paying attention during their interviews.

          5. Greg*

            I think a good rule of thumb is that you can generally be one “level” dressier without causing too much notice. So if it’s a very casual (shorts and t-shirt) office, it’s unlikely people will bat an eye at a dress shirt and slacks, but a suit would seem over the top. If it’s business casual, you can get away with a sport coat, etc. Note that this rule doesn’t work as well in the other direction. If everyone is in suits and you have on a sport coat, or if you wear jeans to a business casual office, it could reflect badly on you.

            Related: I was once invited to a wedding with “festive” dress (it was being held outdoors in the summer). I wore essentially a business casual outfit, and was mortified to see every other guy there wearing a coat and tie. At that moment I vowed “never again”. Unless it’s a beach wedding or I’m in Israel, I will always wear at least a sport coat.

        2. Sarah*

          Yeah, my husband will talk about how everyone chuckles if people show up on their first day in a suit at his office — it’s not the end of the world (and people are not mean about it), but it is sort of considered a culture clash.

        3. BPT*

          I think a good rule of thumb is to dress one notch up from what you think the dress code is on your first day. So if they’re business casual, wear a suit. If it’s like the tech industry where everyone is wearing jeans, maybe wear business casual (pants and collared shirt or skirt/shirt/cardigan). Sometimes you can tell the vibe from the interview, but I’m always worried that the person I saw in a t-shirt was the CEO who doesn’t adhere to a dress code, or maybe it was casual Friday and the other days they dress up, etc. I don’t think you can go wrong dressing a little nicer the first day.

        4. Artemesia*

          Yes. My son works in a tech field and interviewed for very high level jobs in just a shirt and pants — he said anyone showing up in a suit would have been totally out of touch.

          1. tigerStripes*

            I work in a tech field, and at my company, they expect people to dress business formal for interviews, but we can dress very casually at work.

        5. TootsNYC*

          I do think it makes sense to dress one notch more formally that the true office culture. But office formal (a suit) is too far away from office casual.

    2. MillersSpring*

      I would split the difference and wear business casual plus a jacket, which could easily be stowed on the back of a chair if the OP arrives and the jacket is too formal.

      1. Samata*

        I was thinking similar; a button down shirt with slacks and a tie. Tie can easily be tossed and top buttons popped for a more casual look.

        1. BRR*

          That’s what I was thinking as well. I like Alison’s suggestion of looking at what the interviewers were wearing but a shirt and tie would fit in more to me than a button down and jacket

          1. Naruto*

            Or a tie and a jacket, just not a suit. Honestly, I kind of think this depends what position the person is it, since it’s a law firm. Are you a partner? New associate? Paralegal? Administrative assistant?

            1. Naruto*

              I also think the location matters, somewhat. “Business casual” for a law firm means different things in New York, Minneapolis, and San Francisco.

      2. Lindrine*

        +100 this as well. I worked in a business casual office with wide variation between. For women, a pair of slacks and a blouse (or nice or trendy t-shirt) with some type of vest or jacket or sweater. Guys – it’s easier I think. A button down shirt with a t-shirt underneath and slacks.

        This not only will give you flexibility, but also keep you warm in the unpredictable office temperatures.

        Congrats on the new gig!

    3. Tiffin*

      I noted that too. The advice is good for people who aren’t sure of the dress code. However, I assume the OP has been told it was business casual based on the post; if that’s the case, it would be really weird to show up in a suit. My office is just plain casual, and I was told that in the interview. If I had shown up in a suit, it would have seemed like I was at best weirdly formal or at worst someone who doesn’t pay attention.

    4. JamieS*

      I think so too. My take away is it wouldn’t really hurt to wear a suit but it’s best to dress at the same level as others. Admittedly a big part of my take away comes from previous dress code posts though.

    5. CM*

      It’s business casual, and a law firm. My suggestion is that if the OP is a woman, wear a dress or skirt and blouse with a cardigan or blazer, and if the OP is a man, wear a button-down shirt with pants and a sport coat that you can take off at your desk. (Based on my experiences at Northeast US law firms.)

      1. Artemesia*

        Business casual has no meaning; for a law firm, I can easily imagine it is sports coats. I remember my brother years ago being invited to an outdoor party in the NE that was casual and showing up in bermudas and t-shirt and everyone was in slacks and sports coats and the women in summer dresses. We were from the very casual PNW.

    6. kittymommy*

      Definitely industry specific. Where I wish the first day is generally where yet are induced to everyone, from highest up (available) on down, so over dressing is very common and almost expected (though not required).

    7. Elysian*

      I feel like, especially in law firms, you can’t go wrong with a suit on the first day. You can always take off the jacket and tie, but if you’re under-dressed there’s nothing you can do. Business casual can mean so many different things to different places. In law, I feel like you can’t go wrong with a suit.

    8. Cat*

      If OP #1 is an attorney starting at a law firm, wear a suit even if it’s business casual day-to-day. At some offices, you take your firm headshot on your first day. Even if that’s not the case at OP’s firm, it’s just sort of a rite of passage… first day means a suit. Maybe OP ends up abandoning the jacket & tie at his desk when he goes out for the welcome lunch, but you show up in a suit.

      If administrative staff starting at a law firm, perhaps a sport coat / white shirt / dress slacks with a tie on-hand just in case.

      1. DoubleBigLaw*

        +1 to this advice. Even in a beyond-business-casual law firm, everyone will understand that you’re wearing a suit because it’s your first day, and not because you’re stuffy and going to be overdressed all the time. And I would add– at many law firms, I’d advise paralegals to wear a suit for day 1 too. Suits are easy to dress down (i.e. just take off the jacket) but business casual is harder to dress up once you’re there.

    9. De in D.C.*

      Ditto above; OP can always wear a suit and ditch the jacket (slacks, button down and tie are one interpretation of business casual), but usually it never hurts to be overdressed when meeting people for the first time.

  3. Artemesia*

    The best way I managed writers block was to do something productive when stuck. Writing was important in my job but not the only thing, and so if I got stuck I would ‘peel potatoes’ i.e. do whatever mundane jobs I had to get done so at least I was getting something done and getting stuff out of the way. This break would sometimes let me restart afresh.

    With writing, I would write out of order. E.g. when writing a book that had a dozen sections and stuck at chapter 2, I zipped ahead and wrote chapters 5 and 6 because those were my favorite parts and I knew what I wanted to say there. Chapter two might well end up being written last and by then it was ‘easy’ to fill in. In writing a report or article, again I would tackle the parts I had the most confidence in or enthusiasm for and back into the parts I was stuck on.

    I also ‘wrote’ when doing things like walk on a treadmill or track. i.e. I would think through a speech or article or report I was writing as a way to make use of boring exercise time and when I had spent half an hour outlining it in my head, the sitting down and writing would be easier.

    5. I have great sympathy for 5 having stood outside a room I had booked with 30 people schedule for that space but having big shots who never bothered to book occupying the space. There is nothing you can do but eat it. The only thing you can do is press for stronger emphasis on booking but it sounds like you have already tried to bring this up to space managers and perhaps see if there is one conference room that can be reserved for client meetings or something. But if you are stuck with rude entitled big shots who don’t follow the booking rules, your only option is to have a plan B since you know that may happen. You need a cover story for the client and the technology to take it to another office or space.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Doing something else can be really helpful. Gives your brain a chance to percolate (look up the resting state network for more).

      OP, while I don’t believe you should ever come back to work by sitting in front of a blank page (more below), it’s okay if you need some time to think and not do.

      “My staff need to be unproductive until they’re productive” – Don Draper

    2. Mookie*

      Yep. Mandatory breaks are a given for a lot of writers.

      I find that there’s a couple different species of writer’s block, but doing something else, usually physical (and otherwise pressing, of value to you, and requiring your full concentration) definitely helps with the procrastination, limited attention-span kind. If I’m experiencing that sort of block it never fails that the second I get deeply involved in something else, I get a quick, sharp jolt of inspiration for the abandoned writing and have to rush back to it to commit whatever mad thing I’ve dreamt up to print. Other times, the technical act of writing itself (for me, a touch of shorthand and diagramming, but the bulk being typed and word-processed and then broken back into diagrams before launching onto the final few drafts) is sometimes aggravating and imagination-stifling, but I’m absolutely crap at writing things (and problem-solving in general) solely in my head unless my hands are busy elsewhere. I have to trick the brain into thinking we’re in not-writing mode on those occasions. I’ve written whole chapters, pamphlets, and hour-long+ speeches that way, editing and all, just by repeating each line over and over again until I’ve memorized the entire thing, sometimes with footnotes, while watering the garden or pulling weeds or engaging in woodworking projects or whatever. Once I’ve memorized a complete draft I can type it up, immediately discard it, and then set out to re-jigging the best bits into something else entirely. There is nothing more pleasurable and stimulating than knowing you’ve shat out the terrible draft, flushed it from your system, and you’re free to pursue something grander and a lot less contrived.

      Other people, made of sterner, less egotistical stuff, just continue writing right on through a block, as Ramona Flowers and other commenters discuss below. I envy them that. It’s always a bit frightening, for me, when I get a glimpse of some dark obstruction on the horizon and wonder whether this is the one I’ll never break through.

    3. SarahKay*

      I definitely find writing out of order to be helpful. I’ll find myself struggling with the opening sentence/paragraph/chapter but often have phrases in my head that come later on in the writing. So I start with them, go on from there, and that often unsticks me for the opening lines.

    4. Rat Racer*

      I write this as I’m grappling with my own writer’s block this morning. What Alison said about giving the brain a break is SO true. I’ve read that reading on the internet is actually a *bad* way to take a break though – and that one should endeavor to leave one’s current environment (i.e. get up from the chair and screen) and then come back. Yesterday, stuck in the mires of writer’s block, I spent 5 minutes staring a the pear tree outside my window. It was amazing how much more ready I was to come back to that awful task just by staring into space (or tree rather) for a while. I definitely don’t feel that way after reading the NYT or whatever other internet site I stumble on. In fact, I should get off AAM and stare at that tree again…

    5. LDP*

      I do quite a bit of writing for my job (mostly blogs) and these suggestions are all great! You might want to check out Ann Handley’s book “Everybody Writes”. My manager loaned it to me and it was a major help!
      But my best trick with blog writing is once I find and research my subject, I just put whatever comes to mind onto the page. Sentence fragments, entire paragraphs, a single word, whatever. I also use the comments on Word heavily. It helps to insert links to your sources or just to remind you what you need to do. Sometimes I’ll just write a really blah intro and put a comment to remind myself to come up with something better. Then I leave it and do what others suggest, other work tasks. If you can, try to get as much writing done before lunch or another break, and then come back to it later. You’ll be amazed how much better it will go if you do it that way!

      The other thing to know with “creative” types of jobs, at least in my experience, you usually have more than one writing project at a time. If one project has you stuck, you can usually work on something else. For example, if I’m having a tough time coming up with an original blog post, I always have a running list of pages on the site that need their SEO copy updated. So changing your subject can be a great help, too.

    6. Sketchee*

      I’ve been a designer for 17 years and I write too. So can answer about creative jobs in general.

      I like the idea of writing out of order. I definitely do this. I take notes. I make outlines. If I’m doing research, I write a key phrase. I try to think of metaphors about other stuff I could be doing or have done. Anything to make it more fun or feel productive.

      LW, I think your answer is in your question: “the writing I do get done is bad so I end up procrastinating”. Keep doing. And edit. Most writing is editing. Most designing is editing. Most creating is editing. Your enemy isn’t bad writing. It’s a blank page. Put anything down on the page. Do terrible work. Look at it and figure out how to fix it. Problem solve from there. The answer is rarely more research. And if it is, you’ll know specifically what you need to research once you start. If you think it’s bad writing, can you identify what’s bad? Can you come with 5 more versions?

      And sometimes you just have to do some work that’s not 100% perfect. Perfectionism is not a strength and it’s not allowed. Aim to be average and productive. You’ll do more good work if you do good work. You’ll learn more the more you do it.

      Some days at work I don’t feel like doing it either. It doesn’t matter whether I feel like it or not in the short term sometimes. That’s okay. If my overall goal is to do well at my job, I just have to keep that in mind and keep going.

      Also I find just reorganizing ideas or making a second file where I jot down any random idea I have to be helpful. Write notes as if I was helping another person edit or design. Some of it is aimless. It helps.

    7. Emma*

      Super detailed outlines staved off writer’s block for years, for me. I’d write multi-level bullet point “outlines” which basically established every single point I wanted to make in every single paragraph, in scrappy shorthand with atrocious grammar. This was the planning and structure step, which I find a lot easier when I know it doesn’t have to be eloquent or even comprehensible to anyone except me.

      Then the next stage is “take these horribly-written but beautifully structured bullet points, and turn them into sentences”. You don’t have to decide what to write now – just exactly how to phrase it.

      This method works perfectly for me and not at all for some other people; but experimenting with your workflow in this kind of way can have big payoffs.

  4. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 Great question. Possibly deserves its own standalone thread. This answer is from an ex-journalist and copywriter. I still do a lot of writing in my work now.

    Here’s the thing: you can’t edit a blank page.

    My first editor told me writer’s block is generally a mix of fear, perfectionism and indecision. That nobody’s writing comes out perfect just like that. You mentioned that the writing you’ve done is bad so you end up procrastinating. But it’s okay for it to be ‘bad’ because it’s something. It doesn’t need to come out perfect. You are chasing focus, but I wonder how you are defining focus? Focus isn’t writing perfectly in one go from beginning to end. Most people can’t and don’t do that.

    When I am having trouble getting started I stop worrying about spelling or punctuation or sense and I just type whatever I can think of. There might be bit that make sense and bits that don’t. Maybe a line saying “write something about x here” or “explain y”.

    Or I step away from my computer and talk to myself about the topic (or my cat if I’m working from home). Ever hear of rubber duck coding? (If not, do plug that into Google.) Works with writing too. Explaining it as you do it can help you do it.

    Another thing I like to do is get a piece of paper and some coloured pens and do a mind map (or just a total brain dump) of everything I can think of about the topic. Or I write ideas on post-its and move them around.

    I never sit in front of a blank page or a blank screen just trying to write. I start with notes, a plan, a draft list of points to cover. I don’t write from beginning to end. I write whatever bit feels doable to start with. As Alison says, this really does come with practice. Writing on demand isn’t so much an art as a habit you can get into.

    I also swear by the Pomodoro technique.

    1. TeacherNerd*


      Yes to all of this (from a high school and college English teacher who primarily teachers writing classes). If you’re submitting everything you’ve written without revising, you’re doing it wrong. :-) I edit as I go, but others do their edits/revisions differently, and that’s okay; do what works for you. Just start writing, even if it’s notes (what you know as “free writing”), even if you start writing things like, “For this assignment, I need to write about cheese, parsnips, and galoshes.”

      1. Marillenbaum*

        My favorite saying was “All a first draft has to do is exist.” I can fix or rewrite later.

        1. Paige Turner*

          I tried to go by all of the advise in Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. My thesis document title was SFD for “Sh*tty First Draft.”

          Can’t recommend Bird By Bird, enough.

    2. 30ish*

      Great suggestions! I will add that some unproductive time is quite normal, probably more so in a writing job than in others. Writing just takes so much focus. Maybe use the time when you’re not so productive for literature research, reference formatting, e-mail and the like.
      If you have a complex topic and don’t know how to structure your writing on it, it can help to first make a mind map (there is good software for that). I’ve found this very helpful to get started with a paper. Later on I always end up rewriting it several times so I don’t usually stick to the original structure I envisaged, but it’s a good starting point anyway.
      But most importantly: The more you write, the better you’ll get at it!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I like to make the mind mapping type stuff really fun and playful. So I get a big piece of flip chart paper and some highlighter pens, or a stack of brightly coloured post-it notes, and let myself have fun playing around. I have been known to just sit on the floor with a big sheet of paper. Obviously this is very much in ‘know your office’ territory. But it helps me to just play and stop trying to force myself to Write Properly.

    3. Djuna*

      +1 to all of this.
      Also, if your job is anything like mine, you’ll have multiple things to work on at once. Some days, I knock out the “easier” stuff first which helps get the words flowing. Other days, if I’ve been given something tricky at the end of the previous day, I’ll tackle it first thing in the morning when I’m fresher. Part of my job is copyediting, so when I’m really stuck on something, I’ll grab a couple of edit jobs, run through them and come back to it.

      I start out with a series of bullets, flesh them out, move things around to improve flow, leave placeholders if I need to [PUT STUFF ABOUT Y HERE], and let it sit for a bit. For me, switching between docs is a way to catch things I’d be likely to miss if I just stared at the same thing for hours. It’s also a way to back-burner something in my brain so I come back to it with fresh eyes (and sometimes new ideas).

      I’ve only had one bad case of block, on a very high profile project where I was responsible for the most visible part (the words) and everyone else was caught up in the sexy part (the tech). I asked people what they wanted to see and got vague answers; I asked the devs for their input and got crickets. I got trapped into a state of analysis paralysis about one aspect of it, then got mad at myself, asked myself what I would want to see, and started writing. I figured at least I’d have something to rework even if people hated the way I approached it. I ran early drafts by my (wonderful, supportive) team first, to see if they liked where I was going with it.

      Turns out, I’d been overthinking (of course I had), and it went over really well. But if those pages had stayed blank, I would be telling a different story today.

      1. Kate in Scotland*

        Agreed with everything above. I’m most productive when I have a few different writing tasks to bounce between, so I can let one lie fallow and work on another for a bit. As Djuna says, it’s good if you can plan appropriate tasks for your most/least productive times.
        Building on Ramona’s point about planning on paper, I find that switching from screen to paper or vice versa is very helpful for making progress. Or dictation if you do that (I don’t, but I swear by text to speech when editing something complex).
        I also love Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’ and I keep coming back to her description of ‘shitty first drafts’.

      2. SJ*

        Yes re: tackling in the morning — I was given a bunch of letters to write at the end of yesterday, and even though I had about an hour left in the day, I knew my brain wasn’t going to work at the level needed to start that process. I did smaller busy-work things and then started all the letter writing first thing this morning.

    4. MissGirl*

      Also remember when a task is hard your mind will try to find an escape. Don’t know what sentence to write, I know I’ll refresh askamanager comments and see what’s going on.

      Occasionally this is fine but do not let your mind get away with it often. Force yourself through the difficult parts. You can check for five minutes once you’ve written 500 words. Set a timer and write without stopping for so long. You have to write a lot of crap to get to good. And usually the good comes after the crap.

      This is true of a lot of disciplines. I went from book publishing to data analytics. Sometimes I stare at rows of data with no idea where to begin so I begin and figure it out as I go or I write down everything I need and start mapping. Master the art of pushing through when it gets difficult and you’ll be successful in any endeavor.

    5. Mookie*

      I’m fascinated by the people who can soldier on under these conditions, happy to be writing gibberish. I mean, I’m writing gibberish when I’m working through a block, too, but I have to convince myself this is Good Stuff, Really Though to stave off disillusionment.

      1. Hellanon*

        It’s not gibberish though. When I’m really stuck and writing anyways, I think of it as text-based brainstorming, and that I’m working out the ideas so that I can see what they are. It helps sometimes to switch modes – I go to pen & paper and just let the words slide onto the page, and eventually, out will come a nugget of something useful.

        When I’m in fear mode, I default to writing outlines and filling them in, and if I do enough of that I will have something I can edit. It’s really true, you can’t edit a blank page, but you *can* edit crap into something that does what it needs to.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Text-based brainstorming is a great way to describe this! I learned the “just write something” strategy doing NaNo in my twenties (National Novel Writing Month – a challenge to write a 50k work of fiction in one month). I actually applied it when I worked as a law clerk, where my job was all research and writing. My strategy would be to put the brainstorming parts in brackets or bold or colored text. Yes, breaks are very useful too, but if you let yourself get past the “oh no, it’s bad!” block and remember that everything can be edited, having a page of text with some notes in it (many of which I used in one way or another) was very motivating. I can’t think of a single writing profession where the first draft is expected to be the final draft.

          1. Gelliebean*

            Very true! I was going to recommend the NaNo forums as a great place for tricks and challenges to make yourself write – everything from pseudo-RPG style stuff (write 500 words to choose a sword, or 600 to choose a spear, etc.) to timed challenges, and all kinds of neat things that I use all year. You do have to have an account to access the forum threads, though.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            I definitely do the brackets with notes to myself thing. And sometimes I just start typing out what I think I need to research and what issues I need this document to address, and from there try to come up with a rough outline (which usually changes a lot once I start writing). Anything I can do to keep typing and thinking of things to type. That gives me something to do that’s at least related to what I’m supposed to be doing, and it usually eventually gives me a starting point I can work from.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Seconding Pomodoro. I use the marinaratimer online because you can do a custom timer if you find 25 minutes is too long for what you’re working on.

    6. KHB*

      As James Thurber said, “Don’t get it right, just get it written.” Getting something – anything- down on the page is progress compared to having nothing on the page.

      A trick I learned in grad school, and which I still use to this day, is to write my whole first draft out longhand on actual paper. That carries less of an association (to me anyway) with “this is the final thing and it needs to be perfect,” so I feel freer to make mistakes, change my mind, write incomplete sentences knowing I’ll fill in the verbs later, and so forth.

      Another thing I used to do is imagine that I’m writing an email explaining the assignment to a close friend who’s interested in what I’m writing about. (Sometimes I’d actually open up an email window and type into it. Sometimes I’d actually send it. My friends are very patient with me.) I write about science, so there’s a natural tendency to get bogged down with overly stuffy and technical language, and pretending I’m talking to a friend can help to keep things more conversational.

      All of this only really works if you give yourself plenty of time. There’s no use drawing free-association maps when your deadline is in an hour. The earlier you get started, the easier it is to tell yourself that it’s OK if the first draft is bad, because you have time to come back and make it better. So instead of giving in to the urge to procrastinate completely, do a little bit at a time, then reward yourself with a break.

      And again, it takes practice, and it gets better. The writing brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised to grow strong. I’ve been at this for ten years, and while I still get writer’s block, it’s easier to overcome now because I know that I have it in me to produce something that’s pretty darn good, even if it feels tedious and uninspired in the moment.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I write about science, so there’s a natural tendency to get bogged down with overly stuffy and technical language, and pretending I’m talking to a friend can help to keep things more conversational.

        Having gone on a stultifying lab tour this week (with a bunch of people primed to have this be the best part of the week), this really resonated with me. Not everyone has the gift of doing this well and easily, but it is a skill really, really worth developing.

        1. KHB*

          I mean, technical jargon exists for a reason: Sometimes you really need it to precisely explain a technical concept. But when that’s the case, it’s all the more important not to load the rest of the sentence down with ten-dollar words and twisted grammatical structures.

          I think, though, that working academics are subtly trained to obfuscate on purpose. When no one but you can understand what you’re talking about, the you’ll feel smart and they’ll feel stupid, you’ll have fewer competitors to potentially implement your ideas better than you can, and no one will be able to call you out on your mistakes. It’s not great for scientific progress, but it may give you a better chance of keeping your job.

          1. Artemesia*

            A lot of academic work is juggling vocabulary and obfuscation is a feature not a bug.

      2. Yorick*

        I teach my students (in the social sciences) to write as though they’re talking to their grandma.

      3. Tuckerman*

        I agree that getting something down on page helps. But sometimes it’s good to evaluate what is causing the block in the first place. I found that sometimes I was blocked because I did not have enough information in one area, and needed to research more before I could fill in the gaps enough to explain the concept.

        1. KHB*

          That’s a good point. I often find in the middle of writing a first draft that I need to go back and do some more research – and for me, the process of writing the draft is often instrumental in showing me where the gaps in my understanding are. For example, if I know I need to explain A, B, and C, the paragraph about A might flow easily, but I’ll get to the part about B and realize that I’m not really clear on what’s going on. So I’ll leave a placeholder (“something about B”), move on to C, then go back and try to figure out what I don’t know. Whereas if I try to collect all my knowledge about A, B, and C in my head until I write it all down at the last minute, there might be too many ideas swirling around together for me to notice that there are big pieces missing.

          This is another reason why it’s so important to get an early start on the actual writing. You can try to partition your time into research time and writing time, but there’s often going to be some blurring of the line between them.

      4. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)*

        “Another thing I used to do is imagine that I’m writing an email explaining the assignment to a close friend who’s interested in what I’m writing about. ”

        I got stuck writing a grant proposal once so I wrote an entire draft in LOLCat. It is one of the most amazing pieces of writing I have ever produced. I then back-translated and ended up with a perfectly serviceable grant proposal.

    7. Another Creative Writer*

      OP#2, have you tried using an extension that blocks your internet access during your designated writing time? There are lots of products out there, I’m sure you could find one to suit your needs.

      I have to disagree with Alison, in that a professional writer should never wait for inspiration. I like to recommend “Write or Die” to people who feel like they are suffering from writer’s block. Arm yourself with an outline for your next 500 words or so (scene 23: intrepid llamas must scale the mountain in the face of onrushing storm, littlest llama is lost to the storm, etc). Set the timer to 15 minutes and pick your punishment for failing to keep pace or reward for doing well. I need the negative reinforcement, so I use “kamikazi,” which erases the vowels from your words if you don’t keep writing. When you are done, you take a short break to prep your next outline. Rinse and repeat.

      1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

        “(scene 23: intrepid llamas must scale the mountain in the face of onrushing storm, littlest llama is lost to the storm, etc)”


      2. TheOtherLiz*

        I really like StayFocusd – I have it on Chrome. I have ADD and I like microbreaks, and I also use social media for work, but it can get out of hand. So I installed StayFocusd and customized it to block my problem websites once I reach 60 minutes that day. For me it’s Facebook, Twitter, a blog or two. It’s really made a huge difference. I also find that I’ve had to be more honest wtih my bosses about when I’ll get things done – if a day is full of meetings until 3pm I know that I won’t be a good writer from 3-5. I’ll be capable of little easy tasks but I’m more likely to bring my laptop home, wake up at 5am, and crank out the writing before I leave for work. End result is the same – I just promise things will be done at 9am the next day, rather than COB. It helps to know your rhythms, build in little routines that help you get creative or focus – whether proven or placebo effect.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      An anecdote I return to, from back in the pre-computer days: a writer who was always at his typewriter at set periods. He said that even if the muse didn’t come, she at least knew where to find him if she tried.

      I think a modern problem is that almost all of the things related to writing (like research, or working out the tables or math or art), along with the writing, take place sitting at the computer. It can be easy to sit and type for hours without producing anything because you don’t need to stand up and walk yourself to the library or stash of references to check something, an act that changed your environment, level of motion, and way of focusing.

      So seconding the advice to focus on some sort of mundane task you have to get done, rather than drift off to check facebook or other rapidly-updating media. People vary of course, but I think a lot of us find it easy to fall down a clicking wormhole rather than spend ten minutes.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        This reminds me of the writer’s notes Piers Anthony put in the back of his books (insert disclaimer about how I was quite young when I read these and oh boy I understand the issues with many of his books now). He described writing very much like shift work: wake up at 7, spend 8-12 writing something new, take a break, spend 1-5 editing or rewriting, then call it a day. Sure, the man published a lot of drek, but people bought that drek, and I find it hard not to admire the work ethic.

        1. Artemesia*

          BF Skinner put himself on a writing schedule, where he would write for X hours in the morning and then reward himself with a nice lunch and an hour of classical music. Find what reinforces you and associate it with completing writing goals.

    9. Bunny*

      Current Journalist here who writes on very tight deadlines. Think minutes. I found writers’ block tended to fade as I gained experience and confidence. You are not, I presume, writing The Great Gatsby. Neither am I!

      Don’t go for brilliance at first. Go for competency. This is not settling or doing a bad job. This is allowing yourself to find your style, your voice, and your way–even in a government job.

      Read some straight news pieces and see how simple the structure can be.

      You’re communicating, not performing.

    10. LQ*

      I have a coworker who struggles with this a lot. Sometimes whatever she’s working on REALLY needs to get done and she’s sort of flailing, I’ll have her talk it through with me and then I will type up the ugliest version of whatever it needs to be. Nothing gets her head out of the perfection space like trying to edit the shit I spew out.

      Hey boss man,
      We should totes buy this software for realsies.
      Here are the reasons:
      It would make us better work people
      I like blue

      I don’t always go that bad, but sometimes. Having something like that written down, even that ugly, bs mess can help you get started and going in a direction. I vote if you are really stuck start intentionally ugly and move from there.

    11. Lora*

      This also applies to any focused intensive intellectual work. Scribble notes down as they come to you, then assemble them when you’ve got a long stretch of uninterrupted time (block it off as a meeting with yourself on your calendar, hide in a break room, however you have to achieve that) into some kind of coherent fashion, look at the existing literature around each of those things, THEN start actually drafting what you want to do.

      Also would add: be aware of your personal brain function cycles. I have two periods in the day when I am actually productive, potentially three if you count waking up at 2am and not being able to go back to sleep. If I tackle a thing in the morning by 8:15-ish, it’ll be done before 1pm. 1pm – 3:30ish, I’m useless and can only do routine boring things I don’t have to think about. Then I get another productive burst 3:30-6.:45. After that, forget it, I need to eat dinner and knit and read and snuggle my dog and have a glass of wine. It’s different for everyone, but once you’re aware of your personal circadian rhythms, you can schedule your work around them. And that reinforces your sense of accomplishment and being able to do things, so you end up with less brain farts and writers block and things of that nature, because instead of getting frustrated with yourself, you just kinda, “OK, well, I’ll tackle it tomorrow morning when I’ve had my coffee” or whatever. You relax and it’s easier to get into that flow state.

      1. Artemesia*

        I wrote my dissertation when my son was an infant. I would write from midnight when I put him down to 4 am when he woke up to be fed; I would nurse him and then go to bed and he would generally wake me up at about 9. My husband was great about sneaking out to work without waking me.

    12. Emelle*

      My husband rubber duck codes to me all the time. I have no clue what he is saying, but when we get to the Q&A portion of the show, I ask some dumbass question that will send him down a path he never considered and that gets him going forward again.
      He used to rubber duck our kids when they were babies who thought 3 am was the perfect time to party.

    13. Sara, A Lurker*

      There’s a lot of great writing advice in this comment particularly and thread generally, but I want to nitpick the idea of writing “good” when you’re inspired and “bad” when you’re blocked. In my professional writing experience, which includes short copy for things like events and longer copy for products like books and then more conversational pieces for the newsletter or blog, there is always a structure to follow (even if I’ve had to figure it out for myself.) Short copy HAS to contain x, y, and z information or it’s useless. An article doesn’t get to go into the newsletter unless it is describing, explaining, or celebrating something for the organization. I definitely don’t wait until I’m inspired to write blog posts or we’d have no blog. In any of these formats, “bad” writing is writing that doesn’t do the job it’s created to do. So you figure out what each piece is supposed to do–either for your organization or for your field generally–and then you do that thing. Then you revise the thing until it’s smarter or funnier or whatever you’re going for.

      I’m not saying that I never have moments when I need to take a break from writing and think it out, but if you’re looking for inspiration, read other writing in the world that’s similar to your responsibilities and start working out a set of best practices. Or think of it as a genre, if you will.

    14. Backroads*

      Heh. I write through writers’ block. It may be a summary of all that yada, but it gets me to point K and I can go back later.

    15. 2 Cents*

      My tips (YMMV)
      –Never start with the 1st paragraph. That’s the hardest to write. I find the conclusion can be the easiest to start with, then work backward from there.
      –Pretend you’re explaining whatever it is to your mother or grandmother, so use clear language and avoid jargon.
      –If you can’t fill in a part, just skip it. “Blah” is a useful placeholder!
      –Tell your inner editor to shut up till the end. Misspellings, typos, rearranging paragraphs — that can wait until later (or until you get a clearer picture about what it is you want the piece to look like).
      –Keep a notepad by your bed handy. Oftentimes, the best lines or that one turn of phrase I’ve been searching for all day appears just as I’m falling asleep. If I don’t write it down immediately, it’s gone by morning.

    16. hazel*

      Legal drafter here (in your public service, writing your laws), and I too frequently need to do other things while my mind churns away in the background.

      I think it’s pretty inevitable that you won’t be constantly writing, but I agree that spending lots of time reading the news can look pretty unprofessional (and I’ve been pulled up on it) so my first piece of advice is: talk to your manager about it! Your manager obviously manages professional writers and they will probably understand that a great deal of your job is *thinking about things*; they might not have a problem with you doing other things while you refocus.

      In actual working-through-the-block solutions, I tend to start with (as appropriate):
      – what is the mischief? (ie, what problem am I trying to solve?)
      – what is X? (working towards a workable definition of an idea or thing)
      – what’s the goal? (what is the outcome meant to be?)

      I doodle a lot while I’m thinking; I spend a lot of time brainstorming on whiteboards; and I write a lot of flowcharts whenever I’m trying to figure out (or create) a process. Sometimes I spend a full day working hard and the final output in terms of drafting is a single paragraph – and that’s the reality of the job!

      I agree with a bunch of others in this thread: your first draft doesn’t have to be (and won’t be) perfect. What I aim for usually is something that shows the shape of the ideas, and I refine the language from that.

      Good luck!

  5. MadGrad*

    For #1, a very simple solution: wear the slacks/skirt and button up shirt, carry the jacket. The line between business professional and business casual is pretty easy to straddle that way (at least as I know it), and since it’s summer (assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere) it won’t look weird to walk in without a jacket on. Put on/leave off as needed once you’re in and fit to guage better.

      1. SarahKay*

        And if you’re a man, wear a tie. Easy to pull off if you reach reception / the front door / whatever and none the men are wearing one.

    1. SarahKay*

      Also, unless it’s an extremely casual environment, my experience is that it’s really common for new starts to turn up looking very smart, and no-one thinks anything of it, other than to reassure them that they don’t have to be that smart. I’m in the UK though, so this may be different from the US.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        It’s the same at every place I’ve worked in the US that had a business casual dress code. There may be one person who thinks it’s weird, but pretty much everyone else understands that people usually err on the side of caution on their first day.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Same thing! Showing up too formal your first day is not required, but also not a faux pas. Showing up too casual can be, depending on the office. Do your best to hit the dress code as you understand it, erring on the side of over-formal wherever you’re not sure. If you’re comfortable in the outfit, even if it turns out to be too formal, you’re good; otherwise make sure you’ve selected it in a way that you can make it less formal as the day goes on and you get a sense of the office. But very few people, in my experience, will judge you for entering the door too formally dressed the first day. (If you continue to do it month after month, you might find yourself categorized as a little odd based on that. But not the first day or two.)

    2. Jujubes*

      Basically came here to say this exact same thing to OP #1. Probably the safest option is to have a jacket with you that you can add or remove from the outfit if need be. Maybe also bring a tie/necklace to make the outfit more formal if needed as well? I think it’s normal to be dressed a little more formally on the first day compared to what you would normally wear, but I don’t think you need to go as formal as what you wore to your interview.

      I do disagree on one point that was made (at least based on my experience with a recent interview). I wouldn’t assume that what was worn by your interviewers during your interview is normal day to day dress. When I interviewed for my current position, my interviewers were dressed more formally than what they normally wear (I discovered this on my first day and noticed they dressed up a little bit more when we interviewed candidates for an open position recently).

      1. AMPG*

        I agree with your second paragraph, but that means that if the OP was interviewed by people in fairly casual dress, it’s even more of a sign that business casual is the norm.

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 I think the one exception here is that if you had a really great manager, you could write to them and let them know how much they inspired or helped you in your career. If it’s just feedback on their management style though, that would be a bit odd.

    I have to say AAM makes me wish I could do over all my exit interviews ever.

  7. Marcus*

    I wore a jacket and tie for my first day at my current job, even though it wasn’t required. I just wanted to look my best for the ID badge picture. I work midnights so I’m often here in shorts and sandals since I’m not customer facing.

  8. JulieBulie*

    Oh, how I wish that giving critical feedback to ex-bosses could be a thing.

    My feeling, though, is that if they’re not open to hearing your thoughts while you’re working for them, they’ll be even less open to hearing them after you’re gone.

    If they are open to hearing your thoughts while you’re still reporting to them, then that is the time to talk. I have given feedback before – things like “it’s helpful if you can give us a hint about what the meeting is for when you schedule it,” or “if you could give us the project tracking code when you assign the work, that would save us a little back-and-forth.”

    If you mean some other type of unsolicited feedback, I don’t know if it would be welcomed.

  9. Noobtastic*

    OP#5 – Reach out to the upper-level administrative assistants and secretaries. Tell them what their bosses are doing, and if anyone can fix it, they can.

    A mid-level manager will not have much sway in this matter, but an admin can work wonders, especially when it comes to booking space for meetings and nudging their bosses into better behavior.

    1. KR*

      Yes! And if it’s just one or two stubborn execs, you could reach out when booking your room and say, “Lucinda, I’ve had a mix up with Carla a few times on conference room reservations. Does she have a meeting in Room B planned for next Tuesday? It’s open on the room calendar and I’d like to book it for 11:30.”

    2. Kerr*

      +1! Exec assistants and admins can really help, and potentially keep an eye on upcoming meetings – “Do you need a conference room booked for that, Executive? A is booked, but B is open.” Not that I’ve ever had to do that.

      No other suggestions, just commiseration. Why is it so hard for people to book (or check) conference rooms in advance?

    3. Monodon monoceros*

      Agreed, go to their assistants. And, although it is just rude of the execs to monopolize the conference room, AAM is right that they probably are not seeing your meeting as being as important as whatever they are doing….whether that is correct or not, I’d point out to the assistants (who will hopefully point this out to the execs) that if you are starting conference calls late or missing them completely, especially with outside people, this reflects really poorly on the company as a whole. The execs are setting up the situation for the company to look disorganized.

      And for meetings with insiders only, they are wasting their employees valuable time.

      So if rudeness alone doesn’t encourage them to behave properly, maybe the business’ bottom line will.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, the question of who the execs are meeting with matters — if it’s clients, you probably do just have to eat it. If it’s internal, you might have some more leverage to work with.

    4. evan*

      Absolutely. The other thing I wondered about was OP using the word ‘evacuate’ the meeting room. You only evacuate a meeting room if there is a fire or a flood or something, otherwise you just ‘leave’ the meeting room.

      It’s not clear from the letter but approach is something that the OP could look at. If you go into a meeting room and try to throw out the exec for a standard meeting that doesn’t cost the business a lot (while still being very important to the OP’s performance criteria for eg) you will get a different response to a meeting that will cost the company gazillions.

      I have a great deal of sympathy for OP, OP says they were with the company for many years before they were promoted. That’s a hard situation to be in because everyone sees you as who you were then rather than who you are now. It takes time to assert your new role without alienating all the people you have worked with before.

      Best of luck OP. Another point is that at the very least, getting in touch with the EA’s PA’s Secretaries etc will give you the inside track as to which rooms they have booked so you can (hopefully) book other rooms with people not so high on the foodchain where you can throw them out with no harm done :)

      1. SystemsLady*

        I’ve heard that usage of “evacuate” outside of the US and in technical contexts (“let’s evacuate the tank prior to fixing the leak”).

    5. always in email jail*

      I was going to suggest the exact same thing- the executive assistants are your friends here. Work with them on this. They have the standing to fix it. When their exec says “Jane, I’ll be in conference room B” Jane can say “I believe B is booked, would you like me to move them to A or book A for you?”

  10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, are there sweat-proof makeup blends or a setting spray that could help? I suspect you’ve already explored all of those options, already, but there’s been an increase in not-greasy-or-gross-feeling-or-likely-to-melt makeup specifically designed for women who are going to be in conditions where they’re likely to sweat.

    But assuming all of that has failed, then it seems much worse to make you wear makeup that is going to sweat off while you’re working (that customers have noticed) than to let you deviate slightly from a workplace expectation that’s not written anywhere. It will mean that you’re going to have to be extra fastidious with your attire and other presentation, and it may help to preemptively speak to your manager.

    I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this—as someone who also runs hot and is extremely prone to sweating, I’m super sympathetic. :(

    1. MillersSpring*

      I recommend Urban Decay setting sprays, but there are several other brands at many price points.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I love All-Nighter. It’s my favorite setting spray for normal wear (Nye’s setting spray is effective, but I find it overwhelming in non-stage-performance contexts).

        1. PatPat*

          I live in a tropical climate where the humidity is terrible for makeup. Mineral base makeup stays on all day, even through sweating. I used to use Bare Minerals but found drugstore brands work just as good. I use Neutrogena Mineral Sheers and it stays on all day, even on days when I’m outside suffering through the constant heat and humidity.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            I am working in the Caribbean for the summer, and ELF minteral primer is my best friend. Upper 80’s with 80% humidity every day, and it helps stay put together.

            1. B*

              I was coming here to say I heard great things about this primer helping makeup stay on.

              As well, I would suggest lipstick, waterproof mascara and eyeliner, plus a tinted moisturizer.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            That’s what I was going to say. I have a friend who has a condition that makes her prone to sweating, and she loves mineral makeup for this reason.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              And if your mascara runs because of sweat, and if you want to keep wearing mascara, try tubing mascara. Blinc used to be the only one, but now there are a number of brands, including one you can find at Target.

              1. ginger ale for all*

                You can also try dyeing your eyelashes. There was a post about it on a recent Sunday thread here a while back. I don’t remember who originally posted about it but I would like to thank them. I tried it and it has made my mornings easier. I was able to dye both my brows and lashes at home for a more pulled together look.

                Also, try to keep your nails ‘done’ and as perfect as you can. If your company likes the full face of make up look, I suspect polished nails would be taken into consideration that you are out there trying your best.

          3. CoveredInBees*

            Yes! I learned this the hard way the first summer I lived in Miami. I touched my face and had a handful of foundation pooled in it. This was before mineral makeup was a thing, but most powders worked great for me. That and lining my eyes with actual kejal (not just the stuff marked “kohl” in pharmacies) which is super sweat-proof.

            If LW really needs a thick base, she’ll have to check out theatrical makeup (which should be thoroughly removed at the end of the day!) or the aqua makeup synchronized swimmers wear.

          4. The OG Anonsie*

            I wore Bare Minerals loose powder when I lived in the tropics and had no AC, it’s definitely a good option.

        2. Jennie*

          All-Nighter is amazing. It sounds like it is for club use, but it lasts me all day. I usually use primer before applying make up and then spritz with All-Nighter. After that apply mascara. You can buy the Travel Size at Sephora for ~$15 to try it. It lasts a long time.

          1. Blue*

            I know many people who swear by All-Nighter, but it’s definitely smart to try the travel size first. It does nothing for me (it can’t handle my oily t-zone), so I’m glad I didn’t shell out more for it!

        3. AnotherHRPro*

          Yes, Urban Decay All Nighter is amazing but expensive. NYX Setting Spray is much cheaper and almost as good.

      2. Karyn*

        I work for A Fancy Makeup Store and I used to use Urban, but now Supergoop setting spray is my favorite. It mattifies, you can use it throughout the day to refresh, AND it has SPF 50 in it.

        1. Delta Delta*

          Seconding Supergoop! I’ve used it just as sunscreen, too. A couple squirts and I’m good for the day. Coola also makes a nice setting spray, also with high SPF. It’s pretty pricey, though.

          1. Julia*

            I’d be careful about using spray as your only sunscreen. You need quite a bit to reach the level of protection on the bottle, and even if you think half of 50 is 25, it doesn’t work like that.

        2. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Ooh, I’ll have to check that out, I love Supergoop’s sunscreen!

          UD’s setting spray is awesome, I got my makeup done for an event once and the makeup artist used it on me when she was done. I still remember her saying, “You can get blackout drunk and just collapse into bed and your makeup will still look great tomorrow morning!” I was like, “Ummm not going to do that but good to know!”

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ooo, this is exciting news! What I liked about UD is that it basically meant I didn’t have to reapply/touch-up makeup on marathon days (i.e., most days). But mattifying with SPF 50? That sounds like magic dream setting spray.

        4. Blue*

          …definitely checking this out. UD doesn’t work for me, but I continue to live in hope that I’ll find something that will!

      3. Paige Turner*

        Yes, I’d recommend trying a few brands if possible to find one that works best with your body chemistry.

      4. ACA*

        This! Urban Decay All Nighter is great, but they also have a “De-Slick Oil-Control” setting spray that might be good for you as well. (I am also on a medication that makes me sweat a lot, and I used this setting spray at Disney World – and after 8 hours in the park, my makeup looked almost as good as it had in the morning!)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I like De-Slick, but I found it was not as good at setting/prolonging makeup (it’s effective at mattifying, though!). But maybe this is a person/climate-specific effect? De-Slick, when paired with oil-absorbing Boscia sheets, can be pretty effective.

      5. Maolin*

        Count me in for UD All-Nighter, too! Don’t know how I did it before I discovered the magical properties of primer+setting spray. I get flushed & sweat easily, too (Yay menopause! Yay business professional suits! /sarcasm off), and wear primer, tinted moisturizer, full coverage foundation, cream blush & eyeshadow, with matte powder all over & set it with UD – it locks everything in place for my 12 hour days. It doesn’t melt over time or create creases/cracks or feel tight – it permits range of motion, if that makes sense – the spray isn’t like hairspray, cement, or glazing that would crack if the area were stretched (think raised eyebrows, and all manner of mouth movement!). It can be a little on the pricy side, but well worth it. Good luck!

      6. poptart*

        Urban Decay setting sprays are THE JAM. I sweat off makeup right away and I don’t even sweat that much, but the oil control matte setting spray basically makes a mask of makeup that does not move. I went to Disneyland in 90 degree heat from 9am to 9pm and my makeup was still perfect by the end of the day. I’ve also done super intense sweaty workouts after work and my face is still 10/10 perfect makeup. It’s $20 at ulta or sephora, a LIFE SAVER. You can also pair it with a primer and that should help a lot! Good luck, the struggle is real, especially in the summer!

    2. Zombii*

      Another vote for All-Nighter, if you have the extra cash (if not, there are comparable drugstore variants, but the trick is to make sure the sprayer on the bottle is an ultra-fine mist). Also try different primer/foundation/setting combinations, some things just do. not. work. together. and I don’t know why.

      If you don’t want to wear a full face of makeup, ignore everything I’m saying, but my perspective is where I have some hyper-pigmentation and my face tends to go red when I’m overly hot, so makeup feels necessary for me when I’m doing anything customer-facing, just to avoid the awkward conversation where they ask if I’m okay and I go “Yeah, I’m fine, that’s just how my face looks. :D” I usually go with an American CC cream that’s full coverage or else an Asian BB cream (I’m pale so they work for me, but ymmv a lot because the darker shade range for most brands is nonexistent), then a silica setting powder and a setting spray. Other than that, I only bother with (waterproof) mascara and a tinted lip balm. This looks like I made an effort and lasts all day.

      Alternately you could look into airbrush makeup because once that sh!t’s on, it does not melt off—but that’s a serious investment and (repeating for emphasis) you shouldn’t do any of this if you don’t want to, no matter what your company has implied about what they feel is professional.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, this is worth repeating. I’m taking notes on all the suggestions people are making here, so I appreciate all the advice even though I’m not the OP. But OP, don’t go through all this trouble if you don’t want to.

      2. Goyangi*

        Oh my gosh, the “this is just how my face looks”. Not only do I have to say that all the time when I don’t wear makeup, but I’m white and my husband is Korean and our first daughter got my same fish-belly-white skin tone. EVERY DAY he freaks out about something causing her skin to look so red and I have to tell him “honey that’s just what happens to white skin when it gets overheated/irrirated/a bugbite/you tied her shoes too tight/she bonked herself at the playground” lol.

    3. Jolie*

      Depending on your skin needs, you may be able to pull off a slightly more minimal make-up look that still looks “full face of make-up” : put on a good primer first, then mineral powder. No foundation. Touch of bronzer only, no cream blush. Good bright waterproof lipstick (Rimmel 24 h Colour Stay is practically indestructible). Pencil, not liquid eyeliner- if it suits you consider even going for navy or green rather than black or a more neutral colour. Bold, bright eyeshadow. Maybe touch of waterproof mascara. Tweeze your eyebrows well, but don’t colour them in.

      Basically the gist of it is :accentuate eyes and lips so that you can keep the rest of the face as minimal as possible

      1. Catalyst*

        Totally agree, sometimes you can get away with a light touch on the full face. I also second the notes above about setting spray, it can work wonders.
        I wanted to add, if you have issues with pencil liner staying like I do, you can use a little eyeshadow over it with a very thin brush, it sets it really well.

      2. Leah*

        I second this except for the pencil eyeliner- I have super oily skin and and that’s always the first thing on my face to get messed up, even if I set it with shadow.

        1. Karyn*

          Urban Decay eyeliner is the best for this. I had the same issue, but that stuff does NOT move.

          1. Gaia*

            I wish I could wear eyeliner. I love how it looks on me for like 10 minutes. Then, even UD just slides off :(

            1. But you don't have an accent*

              I use Tarte’s Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Powder to set my eye liner. I have super oily skin, and was getting the dreaded “line” on my eyelid every day by 10:00 AM. I take a little brush (not an eye shadow applicator) and pat it directly onto the eye liner I just applied to set it. Then I swipe a little bit on my eyelid/around my eye and it stays in place all day!

            2. Librarygirl*

              I swear by Kat Von D’s Tattoo liner. It’s not 100% waterproof but outside of a major gym session I have yet to sweat it off and sweaty is my default state these days.

        2. Lora*

          Waterproof liquid eyeliner. My skin is a grease pit (and I sweat like a horse, thank you hot flashes) and any pencil or shadow oozes into my wrinkles and makes me look like a zombie within 3 hours. I put on a little bit of beige-ish shadow, a thin line of black liquid eyeliner, Too Faced Lash Injection mascara, Cover Girl matte lipstick (weirdly, the Katy Perry branded line is both cheap and lasts for-friggin-ever: my friend’s kid wanted to play Beauty Parlor and her mother had bought her the cheap Katy Perry drugstore stuff to play with, and let me tell you NOTHING gets it off, including cold cream and dish detergent).

          I gave up on anything other than tinted moisturizer for foundation. One hot flash, it’s gone.

        3. e.monday*

          I also have oily lids and went through YEARS of smudgy eyeliner before I discovered Make Up For Ever’s Aqua Eyes pencil liner, which was apparently originally created for synchronized swimmers. Along with a lid/shadow primer, this is my daily go-to… and I know I sound like an advertisement, but I also do theater and music stuff, and this liner will last through the sweatiest set.

          Also, OP#3, is there any way you can dress more lightly and/or carry a small folding hand fan to keep cool and alleviate sweating? Good luck!

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        I agree, except I’d skip the bronzer and powder, which are likely to clump/run with perspiration. Primer alone will give your face a more even finish, and won’t be as noticeable when it wears off or is wiped off. Bobbi Brown makes some awesome long-wearing cream eyeshadow (yes, really) and gel eyeliner. (Come to think of it, their Art Stick lipcolor is long-wearing too, and you can use it as a stain.) Keep some blotting papers on hand.

      4. Easter*

        I was absolutely going to say the same thing — keep the face makeup minimal if you can and play up eyes and lips. Classic black eyeliner and mascara, a bold red lip, and done.

        My personal faves are the Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner (doesn’t budge!) and the Becca Ever-Matte primer (reeeeeally doesn’t budge/mattifies).

        As a fellow plus-size, runs-hot gal, I feel your pain LW!

      5. Julia*

        Pencil over liquid eyeliner??

        Here in Japan, they make some seriously waterproof liquid liners and mascaras, and eyebrow coat. Seriously, it’s been soooo hot and humid lately that I’ve been sweating my foundation off, but my eye make-up stays on.

    4. Anonanners*

      When I lived in a tropical climate I definitely had to adjust my makeup routine or it would clump and fall off. I found a good primer to be a lifesaver, something I’d never needed in the previous place I lived. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend going to a place like Sephora and asking an associate to recommend products based on your particular needs.

    5. MsEsq*

      OP #3, I have the same problem – I take a medication that leads to sweatiness, in addition to naturally being sweatier. When I am doing a lot of running around I swear by setting spray and primer. If you are looking for more budget conscious choices, I’ve found NYX spray and silicon primer work just as well as Urban.

      I also carry hankies – I’ve got a lot of pretty ones for very cheap from vintage/second-hand stores. They can easily be tucked into a pocket.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I like the NYX spray itself, but the sprayer doesn’t seem to be as high quality as the UD sprayer – I get splatters instead of a fine mist. I saved my old UD bottle and refill it with NYX.

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          Good idea! I find the NYX stuff works almost as well, but I think part of the problem is the sprayer. I’m going to have to steal that hack! Thanks.

    6. OP3*

      I should clarify, makeup being part of looking professional truly is implied. I’ve never had a manager say to me “hey you need to be wearing makeup”, but I’m management track at this point and get great feedback from customers and management when I wear makeup. I also feel some extra pressure to look good because I’m plus size, but that’s just my own insecurities.

      1. Menacia*

        Well, you could probably wear waterproof eye/lip makeup, and I second the mineral wear lines of makeup, they even make blush.

        You’ll have to experiment to see what works for you.

      2. Polar Bear Don't Care*

        I’m also overweight and a sweating machine, and I swear by REVLON PHOTOREADY PRIME + ANTISHINE™ BALM (apologies for caps – cut and paste from their site). It’s white in the compact but vanishes except for a matte finish on the skin, and it holds up well through heat and as an added bonus my skin looks awesome in photos. :)

      3. EP*

        I am also plus sized and have found the best way for make-up to look nice & stay is priming and setting – I was at the Nationals baseball game on the 4th of July and with the Urban Decay Self Adjusting Primer and the Supergoop setting spray (I get their Barre to Bar go kit) my face stayed on my face (I did full highlighting and eyeliner {which usually is what runs all over the place}).
        Also I have found that for my skin (normal/oily in the summer) and my sweat levels cream/stick blush, bronzer, highlight/contour (all from NYX) work best for me.

      4. DrMouse*

        OP, I had a similar issue with a client-facing role; I’m just genetically a sweaty person, and it made me crazy because I felt like I appeared nervous when I wasn’t. Also, for everything makeup can do, it didn’t help with my sweating head and the rivulets that would run down from my hairline. In any case, I spoke to my primary care doctor and she prescribed a beta blocker to take as needed. The one I used is a pretty standard blood pressure medication, but I was able to use it despite having normal blood pressure. Obviously everyone’s situation is different and who knows if this is an option, but it might be worth talking to your doctor! Good luck, and remember to be kind to yourself….I know it’s embarrassing, but it’s not a character flaw!

      5. Judy Seagram*

        OP3, my face and scalp sweat terribly, so I finally talked to my dermatologist and found out that have hyperhydrosis, that condition that usually leads to excessive sweat on your hands and feet. But I have it on my face and scalp! I’ll sweat so much that I’m dripping, and there’s no way that any sort of face makeup would stay on through that, not minerals, not setting sprays, not anything.

        If this describes you, you can get a topical medication made up from a compound pharmacy, a solution of glycopyrrolate. It’s too harsh to use every day, but I’ve found it invaluable for important work days, like interviews, when I know sweating will be a problem.

        In the meantime, I don’t think most people really perceive whether you’re wearing foundation, blush, or other face makeup or not. If you’ve got your eyes done nicely with waterproof makeup, and some color on your lips, probably nobody is going to notice the difference.

        1. ancolie*

          Oh my god, thank you for this! I sweat HORRIBLY on my face and scalp… And ONLY my face and scalp. It’s humiliating and maddening that it’s on the most visible skin.

          1. Judy Seagram*

            Really! I know there’ve been times that people thought I had something wrong, medically, because I was sweating so badly. And it’s awful during interviews! I’m in academia, which means most interviews are in the summer, and include a walking tour of campus. I really suspect that I’ve lost out on jobs because I came back from that tour drenched, looking soggy and sick!

      6. Treecat*

        OP I am also a sweaty person with oily skin, and I feel you on the makeup. If you need blotters, the seat covers for toilets provided in public restrooms are the BEST for blotting oil/sweat and of course they’re huge so you just pull one out, cut or tear it into pieces, and you’ve got blotters for weeks.

        1. Birdbrain*

          Napkins (the brown ones that you can get at fast food places) also work well to blot oil/sweat in a pinch.

          I love Urban Decay’s De-slick Mattifying Powder, if it’s in your budget. It’s great for getting rid of shine without looking cakey and it blurs pores a bit too.

        2. Chinook*

          You can also sometimes buy blotting paper that is essentially thin tissue paper. I learned about this stuff from Japanese coworkers ad it really does a good job of removing the sweat without the makeup. It isn’t easy to find, though, so you may have to ask someone at the fancy makeup counters about them.

      7. LDP*

        Just to add a few more great setting sprays, the Ulta brand matte spray is good, but you do have to make sure the sprayer isn’t too close to your face. Also, the Hard Candy one from Walmart is pretty great, and has a much better sprayer.

        I have pretty oily skin and live in a more humid climate than I’m used to now, and I’ve gotten a lot of great tips from some beauty YouTubers. Check out Zabrena’s channel. She does a lot of great high-end and drugstore looks, and she talks about how she has oily skin and lives in Florida, so she might be of help to you, if you do decide you want to keep wearing makeup to work! (I can’t blame you there, I don’t feel like “me” without at least a little something on my face!)

      8. The OG Anonsie*

        I feel you. If you want to share stuff you’ve tried, maybe the folks here who are into makeup could give some specific advice so we’re not just listing stuff you already know won’t work. People’s skin is sooo individual, even if you have the same skin type as someone the products that work can be wildly different.

        I also have a tendency to sweat really heavily on my face/head/neck, plus I have very oily skin. I’ve also typically lived in very hot, humid climates (mostly the tropics) so I do have a couple tricks. Under normal circumstances, moisturizing really well and then doing primers and setting sprays + powders can work really well. If you’re in a high end department store that has a cosmetics section, see if you can get some assorted samples of different products to try before spending any money. I really recommend two things no matter what you do: keep your skin REALLY well moisturized (counter-intuitive, but I promise it helps) and blending a heavily mattifying powder on top of whatever base makeup you use with some kind of spray so it’s applied damp.

        HOWEVER, under really hot circumstances, I find trying to beat my makeup into submission has worse results than going lighter. I still blend in a very matte powder using a moisturizing spray, but I stay the hell away from mattifying bases or liquid foundations. I used to use Bare Minerals loose powder foundation, but I’ve since moved on to BB creams. A thinner, lower coverage but more moisturizing formula will look more like skin and not cake up even if your pores rebel. That means using Asian ones if you are anywhere near the skin tone range they usually cover it. They weirdly blend in even if they don’t match very well, so it’s not like foundation where it needs to be exact. But they are all pretty light, so if you need deeper shades you’d need to look for an American BB. Smashbox has a huge color range of products like this IIRC but they are also much heavier, which means they are more prone to cake up than the thinner Asian ones.

        So find a BB cream. Use a more opaque concealer underneath it if you have anything that needs that– I find just dabbing some in places that tend to be less evenly toned, like around my nose and chin (plus under eyes) makes a big difference in making my whole face look bright and more put together even if my skin already looked totally fine. Then I put cream highlighter (Becca Corrector specifically, it’s stupid expensive but also amazing) anywhere that’s shadowed by my face shape plus anywhere you’d want to highlight, like under the eyes and on your cheekbones. The BB cream goes on top of that. Concealing and highlighting around your eyebrows, BB cream, matte powder + moisturizing spray, then just some waterproof liner and mascara will look perfectly done up. Cheek products are ehhh, adding them looks better but I have yet to find a way to make them really stay all day on me. I guess you could reapply throughout the day, but I can’t be bothered. Anyway, I sweated to death on the 4th outside in 100+ degree heat and my face still looked great at the end of the day with this formula. If you want to try to keep a full face on, I’d recommend trying this. Asian BB creams are pretty cheap online (like drugstore foundation price) and if you can get samples of other products from either your own or another department store to take a test drive of it, the investment can be pretty low.

      9. HR Girl*

        I feel you on being hot-natured, prone to sweating, and being plus size! I know it’s one of those MLM, but I’ve started using SeneGence products and it’s helped a ton. At least for eye shadow/liner and lipstick smearing when I’m wiping sweat off — it doesn’t budge. I haven’t tried their foundation yet but have heard good things.

        1. heatherskib*

          +1 on Senegence. Mine stays through running/gym trips/hot yoga. Wish I’d known about Senegence when I was on call for the funeral home. My boss was a stickler about makeup on women, even in the middle of the night.

      10. AnonAcademic*

        I am a bike commuter who feels naked without at least a “natural” face on, in part because I have some acne scarring. Today it hit 89 degrees and I was definitely sweaty after mile 10, but my makeup is still on point, so here are my tips:

        1. Like others have said, primer and setting spray. I use the Wet and Wild primer and NYX matte setting spray.
        2. I don’t apply makeup where I’m really melty – temples, upper lip, below lower lip.
        3. I apply as sheer a layer of BB cream as possible (Dr. Jart Black Label BB) and then spot conceal with MUFE Full Cover concealer -it’s waterproof and heavy duty – or Urban Decay Naked which is a bit less hardcore. I set using Coty airspun powder.
        4. If I need to look put together I use Urban Decay eye primer with LoReal gel eyeliner and a waterproof mascara, and Anastasia brow pomade. For lips I like Sephora cream stain. These products survive swimming, sweat, etc. If you search for “Thrift Thick” on youtube, she’s a sweaty/oily gal who does some great tutorial using these and other products.
        5. I do touch ups before things can get super melty – a damp beauty blender with a powder foundation is the best for restoring coverage in spots where I sweat it off. I use Sephora’s 8 hour mattifying powder foundation.

        1. meat lord*

          Sweaty after mile 10? Oh, jeez. If it’s 89 degrees, I’m sweating after 10 steps walking. A bike commute has never, ever been an option for me.

      11. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        My saving grace has been HD powder. It controls oil, if that contributes to your issues, but it also does help (not cure, but help) sweating. I live in DC and it gets muggy. I stopped wearing full makeup just because it felt so gross, but I put on HD powder each morning and it just makes my face feel so much cleaner and less gross. Also, I feel like dudes get away with having a handkerchief and just dabbing sweat more than women do, but tbh that might be a good option.

      12. Daisy*

        From my experience a suggestion that cost 0 to try and I found incredibly helpful: don’t use foundation. No BB cream, no imperfection minimizer, nothing they sell for the whole face. Stick with lipstick, eye shadow, mascara and some blush. You can get a very professional look even without foundation.

        Waterproof and sweat-proof product work great on light to normal sweating, heavy sweating is a different category. Plus you will be worried every time you need to use a tissue to absorb the moisture and oil (which is something that you should be able to do when you feel is needed). Give your skin the space it needs.

      13. Librarygirl*

        OP3 the best advice I can give you is go to Sephora or the like and tell the girls your problem. They will not only make recommendations but they will also put the products on you and you can see what they will do. Also Sephora at least has a pretty good return policy. I returned a skin cream because my partner had an allergic reaction to it, not only did they refund me but I left with free samples of similar products to try.

      14. JB*

        I’ve had the best luck with wearing primer, eyebrow pencil, waterproof mascara, and long wear lipstick only. It’s what I do when I have a work event and will be literally running around in a skirt and heels, but need to look pulled together at all times. When I overheat, my cheeks flush anyway. Eyeliner smudges on me no matter what. I have pretty good skin, so the primer just mattifies. This way I can blot or wipe my face and at no point is there anything with color running. I think that’s better than trying to wear foundation or blush or eye makeup and having a customer see you with runny makeup. If the lack of eyeshadow would be an issue, maybe some highlighter near your brow? With the rest of your look, that might visually trick people into thinking you’re wearing more eye makeup than you are.

        Maybe it’s just me, but looking neat is preferable and more professional than being more heavily made up just for the sake of wearing makeup–even if that means no makeup at all.

      15. Melissa*

        Bake your concealer with powder and use a good setting spray. Urban Decay All Nighter or Chill, Ben Nye Final Seal, or similar one with a good spray that mists instead of spritzes. Use a makeup sponge/beauty blender to gently pat it in after you spray.

    7. saby*

      I’ve been using setting spray at multiple points in the makeup application process (primer -> setting spray -> foundation -> setting spray -> rest of face -> setting spray) and it has been helping me through the gross summer months so far.

      And whether you choose to wear makeup or not, if you feel that your face is noticeably sweaty I would also recommend the Beauty Blender Blotterazzi sponge! Because the sponge has lots of absorption it works much better for blotting sweat away than those flimsy little blotting papers.

    8. Shoe Ruiner*

      You may have already tried this, but primer below and setting spray on top of makeup changed my life.

    9. DataQueen*

      I was overweight early in my career and working in the south, so my sweating was a wicked problem. It’s a little extreme, but if you’re comfortable with botox, it’s your best friend. Armpits and forehead are a great place to start. My upper lip was the worst, but it took me a long time to find a doctor that I was comfortable with for the lip – it’s a very dangerous place, so you need a real pro. Again, this is the extreme fix, but it made me much more confident because I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.

      In terms of makeup though, I still run a little hot now, and the first thing that sweats off are my eyebrows, so I solved that by getting them dyed a darker color and growing them out a little longer – now I don’t have to fill them in!

    10. Venus Supreme*

      OP3, I too run hot and sweat my makeup off halfway through the day. Recently I shifted my focus from “makeup that stays on my face” to” a good skincare routine that I would be proud to go in public sans-makeup”

      It’ll be a different routine person-to-person, but I think it’s a good place to start. I still feel professional and on-trend – at most, I use a tinted moisturizer, waterproof mascara, and a clear brow gel. So long as your skin is clean and fresh, you’ll look fabulous too!

    11. De in D.C.*

      Also adding that just lipstick and waterproof mascara with a tinted powder can look professional and done up, without having anything that could actually run with sweat.

      I’ve never had much luck with setting sprays (have used ELF and Urban Decay), but am excited to try some of the other products mentioned in this thread. Thanks, OP, for starting the conversation!

    12. Another Agency Girl*

      Yes — this!
      I am also in a profession where looks matter (advertising agency) and I am also a Sweaty Betty.
      In order to still look put together, I keep my face makeup light (think a mineral setting powder or setting spray over light blush) and either do a lipstick or wear some eye makeup. Urban Decay eye makeup primer is my friend, as is waterproof mascara. (I think some of the other commenters mention tubing mascara.)
      For what it’s worth, when I go to makeup counters, I steer away from the salespeople who do the whole shebang — primer, foundation, contouring, blush, etc, etc. And I look for salespeople who have makeup styles like mine. Personally, I’ve found that they’re more likely to listen to my preferences (wearability, SPF, non-comedogenic.)

    13. Anon55*

      I can’t recommend Lancôme’s Teint Idole Ultra Makeup Stick enough! I have combo skin that’s prone to clogging up in our very hot, humid Northeast summers and this is a winner. Stays on through anything and no zits :). If the OP is looking for product recommendations, I swear by Paula Begoun and her Beautypedia website!

    14. TheOtherLiz*

      I like that Alison led with “screw norms! Don’t wear makeup if you don’t want to!” so my advice is for both wearing and not wearing makeup. I only wear makeup to work because I have adult acne that makes me look like a teenager. Here are my non-makeup suggestions:

      There are good moisturizers out there with SPF that won’t leave you greasy and stay put when you sweat – I like Andalou Naturals. That’s always my base and my skin doesn’t get so greasy during the day when it has moisture provided.
      I always wear one of two sheer powders on my face on non-makeup days – it keeps sweat out of my eyes, keeps my skin happier generally. I use Clinique Redness Solutions loose powder – the yellow color and sulfur content help with redness and a jar lasts literally years. I also use, as an alternative, or on top of liquid makeup on those days, Laura Mercier’s translucent loose setting powder (life hack: buy the travel size, it also lasts forever). If I know I’ll be sweating during the day, either of those is a handy touch up during the day. It doesn’t look like makeup to anyone else but it brings my skin more back to normal.

      Now, my makeup suggestions:
      I like others who have commented swear by mineral makeup. I buy from a small business, Silk Naturals – they’re all natural and they have vegan versions of everything. They sell the powder foundation as white bases of different opacities, and then different toned color adders, and you mix your own! It’s so perfect and it means I can change the blend if my skin is more tan in the summer. It holds up pretty well when I sweat – redness would show through, of course, but it doesn’t melt off, and because it’s perfectly matched to my skin tone, there’s no streaking if some does drip off. (Also handy in crying situations) Works well with primer underneath too – I like Smashbox.
      For fancy events Make Up Forever’s liquid foundation is legit, but I wouldn’t personally put so much makeup on my face on the daily.
      Finally, since someone suggested just using lipstick, Silk Naturals’ Velvet Matte lipsticks are bold and have serious lasting power.

      But if makeup is not bringing you joy, skip it! I wish I didn’t need to wear it every day.

  11. Elizabeth West*

    Artemesia says she writes out of sequence; I do that too. I’ve only written one book in order and it just came out that way. I skip through the rest and write whatever I feel like writing, and then stick it all together and smooth it out later (editing and rewriting and polishing is my favorite part anyway). It’s a jigsaw approach, and it works better for books, which I have to write in scenes anyway. Often I’ll save scenes I really want to write for last, to reward myself for getting through transitions and the dreaded middle bit. I write blog posts or essays beginning to end.

    Also, sometimes if you begin in the middle, you find that’s a better place to start than your planned opening anyway. :)

    The most important thing is to FINISH. So it doesn’t matter how crappy the first draft is. You can polish it later. I think a lot of people get stuck because they expect to write exactly what they want to say exactly how they want to say it right off the bat. But sometimes you have to just get it out, and it often will change later on anyway.

    1. KR*

      Yes to just finishing. When I had writing for school both creative and non creative I would even just write, “This is the header sentence. This is the filler sentence making point A.” If I could not think of anything so I knew what I wanted to say and had a place to start.

      1. Hellanon*

        My consistent advice to my writing classes: sometimes, “done” is all it needs to be.

      2. Corporate Drone*

        I do this, and then I will record myself telling a friend* what I want the sentence to say. I listen to myself talking and write down exactly what I said, then edit that. Often, when I cant remember how to write, I can still remember how to speak.

        *my dog. its my dog you guys.

    2. Zombii*

      OP should hit up Chuck Wendig’s blog for advice about writers block. “Finish your shit” is like the first commandment over there. Maybe the second. Or both. Whatever. I know it’s at least 2 of them.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        OMG Chuck is the best. He’s also hilarious, which doesn’t hurt. I have a couple of his writing books. And his book Invasive was a hell of a fun read. I follow him on Twitter and whenever he likes a reply of mine I squee a little bit. :D

    3. The Other Dawn*

      “I skip through the rest and write whatever I feel like writing, and then stick it all together and smooth it out later”

      I do the same thing when writing blog posts. I also did this when I was writing papers in college. Glad to know I’m not the only one! I’ve been thinking about writing a book for a long time, so this makes me feel better.

  12. Librarian - academic librarian, manager information technology*

    #3 make up

    1. A really good primer can help, but the best thing I have found is to use Milk of Magnesia (do not use as a laxative!). Put on a make up sponge and use as a make up primer. It will stop your face from sweating.

    2. Anti-antiperspirant. I’ve never done this, but I’ve heard that using a heavy duty anti-antiperspirant can work as well.

    3. Ben Nye’s setting powder (the translucent if you’re pale, the banana powder if you’re dark) as it has anti sweat qualities.

    1. Librarian - academic librarian, manager information technology*

      Accidentally left my job title there… oops!

    2. Zombii*

      Re: antiperspirant on the face. Spray-on is better (spray on a beauty blender/sponge and apply to face, do not spray on face, I’ve choked, not fun), unscented is better (especially for sensitive skin). Fwiw, I tried this once before and it worked okay but when it wore off it seemed like I was sweating more—probably just the perceived difference after not sweating but I still wouldn’t do it daily. (Also I have sensitive skin and didn’t want to tempt the universe into any kind of hilarious/awful Murphy’s Law type situation (I’m also of Irish decent, so Murphy’s Law does double on me).)

    3. Hellanon*

      Or give up on the makeup as a lost cause, and up your hair and jewelry game a bit. If the rest of your presentation is strong, anything more than a bit of lipstick isn’t necessary – you’ll look polished and professional, and most importantly, you won’t feel self-conscious.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Along these lines, do not underestimate the difference a well-chosen pair of shoes can make to an outfit. I started expanding my work shoe collection last year and it has been kind of shocking how many compliments I get on exactly the same outfit with nicer/more coordinating shoes.

        I am eternally grateful that my job and complexion mean I do not need to wear makeup, but I definitely play the compensatory clothes and jewelry game.

  13. Alliebot*

    #3 If you do want to keep wearing makeup–not saying you should, because Alison’s advice is great–you could try Ben Nye Final Seal as a finishing spray. It’s from a stage makeup company and it’s designed for keeping everything in place under hot stage lights, during dancing, etc.

  14. Limepink22*

    To OP3- I work in the luxury beauty industry in Florida, so I beyond feel empathy. A few tricks you can consider: (and to expand on what Alison suggested) Rice Paper Blotting tissues you can slip in a pocket. Mattifying foundations. Dry shampoo in the mini sizes – the cooling mist and sweat/oil absorption does great things if like me, you sweat from the head. Ignore facial makeup, use just concealer under the eyes, waterproof mascara/liner and Matt lipsticks that won’t be as affected as full, regular makeup but still leave you looking “done”. Look into a setting spray- kryolan has an amazing one that was developed for stage and tv lights and their pricing is reasonable online. That will keep your normal makeup on your face. If you’re not in an official uniform, just a dress code, invest in thermal clothing designed to cool your body – if you can wear shoes with side vents or peep toes that you find comfortable to run around in all day. I believe 80% of body heat goes from your head and feet from what I recall. Look for a hairstyle that keeps your hair from acting like insulation- maybe a ballerina bun, fishtail braid, dramatic slick back high pony- it’ll keep your face cooler if your face is exposed to the ac and not being cushioned by hair. Look into a strong anti perspirant spray- I use deodorant on my underarms and my love handle and uhhh underboob area to help with sweating as well. Hope any of these help!

    1. Sarah in Boston*

      Alas the 80% of body heat through the head is a myth… from WebMD

      “The real reason we lose heat through our head is because most of the time when we’re outside in the cold, we’re clothed,” says Richard Ingebretsen, MD, PhD, an adjunct instructor in the department of internal medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine. “If you don’t have a hat on, you lose heat through your head, just as you would lose heat through your legs if you were wearing shorts.”

  15. Atomic Orange*

    OP#3: I worked at a high end department store years ago and got called out for not wearing makeup. It wasn’t part of the official dress code, but people certainly treated it like an unofficial one. I pushed back at the time (mostly because I was 20 and was terrible at makeup), and my manager made me sit through lessons with the in store makeup artists. So I definitely understand your worry, since your work place sounds like it has similar expectations and culture.
    Being an oily skinned gal myself and having regularly worked under bright (read: really hot) lighting, melting makeup was something I actively battled. I’ve researched, consulted makeup artists, and tested enough products to work out a routine that’s pretty foul proof for me. I don’t know what you’ve already tried and everyone is different… but if you’re interested I can give you some recommendations. (Just didn’t want to make this into a full on beauty routine post if you’ve decided against wearing makeup.)

    1. KR*

      Same. Holla if you want some tips. I’ve worked in a grocery store to go service, going outside in all kinds of weather, running around the store, heavy lifting, sweating, talking to customers. I’m familiar with keeping makeup on.

    2. Courtney W*

      I’m not OP, but would totally be interested in this advice if you guys don’t mind sharing! I’ve tried various types of primer, setting sprays, and setting powders, but my foundation never seems to make it very far into the day – and I’m using fairly expensive foundation that is supposed to last!

      1. Zombii*

        The problem still might be your foundation, if it’s not right for your skin type—which is especially annoying when it’s an expensive foundation that you would expect would be worth the price tag (o hai, Too Faced Born This Way, yes I am talking about you!).

        1. Courtney W*

          I have Too Faced, Cover FX, Makeup For Ever, Kat Von D, and Lancôme, so I’ve tried a lot! (Yes, I have a problem/Sephora addiction.)

          1. PizzaDog*

            Might be something to do with your skincare routine. I always thought I had oily skin, but it turned out that my skin was dry, but overproducing oil because I kept stripping it by using the wrong products for my face. Now that I’m (mostly) using what’s right (too cheap to let a $50 moisturizer go to waste / too shy to return something half used), my makeup stays on longer.

            Have you tried the Amazonian Clay line? The powder one in the pot is pretty good.

            1. But you don't have an accent*

              I love Amazonian Clay pots! Tarte has a good loose powder. I mix that with Smashbox products (they were the first that I found that actually covered my rosacea) underneath.

        2. Venus Supreme*

          What makeup would you recommend for sensitive skin, that’s prone to redness, and the occasional sweat-fest? I’m currently using It Cosmetics CC Cream with SPF 50 (can you tell I have sensitive skin? Lol)

    3. Atomic Orange*

      Warning: This is gonna be one long post.

      Okay so here’s my tried and true, ride or die routine to everything proof my makeup. Not all the suggestions might be applicable to you, and you definitely don’t need to do them all every time (I definitely don’t). But on a day when you know your makeup will be put through the ringer, do the full routine and it will not fail you. (… hopefully won’t fail you… I’ve worked for hours, soldiered through rush hour public transit in the heat of summer, ran through an impromptu thunderstorm, patted my face dry, nailed a performance, then had someone compliment my makeup on the way home.)

      It comes down to 3 parts:
      1. Skin care
      2. Waterproof
      3. Fight against the oil slick

      1. So important and often missed. Your skin is the foundation of everything that comes on top. The better your skin is, the less coverage you need to look polished, the better your makeup will look and sit, and the less likely you’ll end up with a full on melt attack. I’m not going to get into regular skin care routines here, which is different for everyone. But the night before a ‘big day’, I make sure to carefully exfoliate and use a moisture replenishing face mask. Maybe even a sleeping mask for good measure. We know that dry skin causes increased oil production. This helps to even out my skin tone and texture, and decreases oil production the next day.
      2. This part is relatively easy. I find most good quality face makeup generally last well against water (assuming you’re not going swimming). You’ll want to use a finishing spray for good measure though. And always, always use waterproof eyeliner and mascara. Eyeliner – I find gel and liquid works better than pencil – I personally swear by either KVD tattoo liner or MAC fluid line. Also go for a gel or wax based brow product.
      3. The oil is where the real fight is. My philosophy is to go as light a coverage as you can get away with, but always prep and seal. Start with a good moisturizing but oil free moisturizer. Follow with a mattifying primer (lots of good ones at different price points. Rimmel is currently one of my favs.) Then do your foundation and everything else. Powder with a finishing powder – very important to keep that oil in check (Many good brands have already been suggested. I currently switch between UD and Laura Mercier.) And finish with a setting spray. Lightly blot every few hours as needed, but that should only be removing the excess hour and not the makeup.
      Now, the foundation… which is where I assume most of the ‘melt’ comes from. As I said… go as Iight as you can. Mineral powder is the least likely to self-destruct on a hot sweaty day, but it lacks coverage for a lot of people. Next step up would be an oil free tinted moisturizer. But if that’s still not enough… one trick I do is to take a full coverage camouflage or stage makeup (CoverFX, Dermablend, Dermacol, etc.) and mix a small amount with a light oil-free day moisturizer. Essentially I’m mixing my own ‘tinted moisturizer’, which is light but has much better coverage. Apply with a wet sponge, then go back and layer over the problem areas as needed.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Atomic Orange*

        I should add that if you still prefers a heavier coverage, using the above suggested full coverage brands alone should do the trick. Stage makeup (as suggested by others) is another option. I have used both Ben Nye and Cinema Secrets. But they are harder to work with and takes more time to blend out. And in my opinion, stage makeup are not designed for every day use. If you use it regularly, your skin care routine becomes so much more important, as they are harsher on the skin and will clog your pores.

  16. lokilaufeysanon*

    LW1 said the dress code for the new office is business casual and that his wife thinks he should dress in a suit on the first day, anyway. Unless I misread it, but I went back and re-read it just in case. So I would say if the office dress code is business casual, LW1 can stick with that. Or layer, if possible, so they can go from a suit to business casual. Options!

    1. Iris Eyes*

      Business casual can mean just about anything unfortunately. My sister and I both work in offices where the dress code is business causal but what is normal in her office would not be ok in mine on an average day and some days we have mandatory suite/tie days (with equivalent for women) most of the men keep a tie at their desk and most of the women keep a more formal jacket just in case. In a law firm I’d be more likely to place my money on the more business side than the casual side. So maybe wear a suit but more colorful. Layered so that it can be dressed up or down as needed would probably be what I would go for.

      As it is suggested in AAM, you can totally ask for a copy of the employee handbook in advance which usually has some sort of appearance standards.

  17. KR*

    Conference room OP, when you book the conference room can you run over a few hours beforehand and put a big note on the door and on the table that says “reserved from x:30-x:30 for teapot testing training”. I know people don’t always look at signs but it might do the trick and it gives you something to reference when you let them know that you’ve booked the space. “Oh, Ms. Exec you must not have noticed my note. I’ve booked this room for our Teapot Testing Training and this is really the only space available for us. ” At that point, Exec would be blatently rude to tell you to bug off or not move the discussion to her office.

    1. Zoob*

      This is a great idea, I have proposed this to the management in our office as I think knowing someone’s entering the space after will help people better time manage.

  18. Lemon*

    #1 – my experience in the legal field on the East Coast is that it’s standard for lawyers to wear a suit on their first day of a new job, regardless of the normal office dress code. (Similar to how you always have to wear a suit to court, even if your office is otherwise more casual.) But I could see it varying a bit based on the region – maybe it wouldn’t be the expectation in California. If you’re not an attorney (couldn’t tell from your post) it might not be necessary.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      (re: the legal sector) It’s an expectation in CA to wear a suit on your first day unless you’re working for a very laid-back nonprofit… but even then, it’s common to wear business casual that could be court-appropriate if you throw a suit jacket on.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Adding to the geographic diversity, this is the norm in my part of the Midwest as well, and as best I know, pretty much all the law firms (except maybe the Jones Day satellite?) otherwise follow business casual dress-codes. That said, I’m thinking the fact that the LW asked the question indicates that they are probably not an attorney.

    2. t*

      +1. Generally, wear the nicest thing you’d normally wear in the course of your duties. I’m fairly senior at my office where jeans are the norm. I wore nice business casual for my first few weeks until I could get a better feel for how people really dressed. Then when I saw that my boss really did wear jeans every single day, I started dressing down a bit.

    3. Ace*

      Agree. I was with Allison until I saw “law firm.”. If you’re working as lawyer (or law student), suit first day. If you’re working with lawyers (e.g., as a paralegal, in other support functions, etc.), suit may also be a good idea.

    4. Zoe*

      I was just going to post this. My old law firm had a pretty laid back dress code (for an East Coast law firm)…but there was an expectation that new attorneys would wear a suit on the first day. People will probably tell you that you don’t need to wear one, and it probably won’t be a big deal if you don’t, but in my experience that’s the expectation. And in my office was NOT the expectation for non-attorneys, for what that’s worth.

    5. Triangle Pose*

      Agree. And I think this is everywhere in the law, not just the East Coast.

      Two things from OP’s letter strike me as odd:
      (1) OP says last two empoyers were business casual as if that bolsters the argument OP should go business casual on the first day. It’s totally irrelevant because this is the first day at a new employer, unrelated to the normal dress code at 2 completely different past employers.
      (2) It’s a law firm, it’s one of the more conservative industries and errs on the side of more formal workwear. It reads oddly to me that OP added this at the very end in a parenthetical as if OP thinks it may not matter when I think it’s totally clinches the advice to go with the suit.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        This is why I’m thinking the OP is not an attorney. I would guess the first-day-suit convention might not be as strong if you were a librarian or assistant or IT.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It makes sense that OP may not be an attorney, but in every law place that I have worked or interacted with (courts, big nonprofits, legal aid, firms of various sizes), even librarians, IT, paralegals and clerical support staff wear a suit or suit-level-business-attire on their first day. The only exception I’ve seen is some environmental nonprofits, but even then, the first day’s attire is pretty formal even if the rest of the office is wearing North Face fleeces with khakis that look like hiking pants and Vibram toe-shoes.

          After the first week or two, support staff often relax their attire, but even when relaxed, most of the folks I’ve seen (maybe with the exclusion of IT?) have a very polished business casual look that is effectively one step below a suit. There have certainly been outliers, but they were pretty rare.

        2. Triangle Pose*

          I actually think the convention is still just as strong for the first day. Our librarians and IT still wore a suit or suit-level-business-attire on their first day. The only exception I can really think of is if you are in food service, security, janitorial or facilities of a law firm and even then you’d have a uniform and it would be really clear what you are support to wear.

  19. The Other Katie*

    OP#2: I write (non-creative stuff) for a living, and one thing you learn when you do that is that you need to abandon the concept of writer’s block. If I waited until inspiration struck, I’d probably starve. There’s stuff you can do to keep the words flowing even if you’re not feeling inspired. For example, writing up statistics and document formatting requires little creativity, but it’s gotta be done sometime, so if you’re feeling like a 50th refresh of your facebook feed would be a better use of your time, why not do it then? I’ve also found that if I just start writing and power through the dun-wanna feelings, I get into it within about 10-15 minutes. Sure, I have to go back and edit, but you have to do that anyway, right? Eventually, you develop a mindset where you can get through it, even if it’s not the best thing right in that moment.

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      In my case it helps that I write about what I love, cooking but still it can be hard to create a new way to cook chicken!

  20. t*

    #5: If I have a meeting that absolutely must start on time, I book the room 15 minutes or more early. This way, the previous meeting can go over a bit, and I have time to dial into the conference number and set up any needed technology.

    Of course if the execs are squatting (not even bothering to book), rather than going over on a scheduled meeting, then that’s a bit more problematic. In places I’ve worked, if you have a booking, you have standing to (politely) kick out whoever is in the room at the appointed time. If that’s not how it works in your office, in addition to talking with the admins, this may be a good time for some group outrage. If a lot of people complain about an issue like this, it is more likely to be addressed.

  21. Andy*

    My workplace has a super casual dress code – T-shirt, shorts or jeans, sneakers, even got away with wearing thongs (flip-flops for the unAustralians) for a while.
    It always amuses me to see new people get super dressy on day 1, then immediately lose it all for day 2. :p

  22. Legalchef*

    Re #1, I’d definitely wear a suit, since this is a firm. Not sure if the LW is male or female, but if male perhaps wear a less formal suit/shirt/tie combo (such as not a black suit but a navy or gray with a checked shirt instead of solid white). If female then wear a suit with a shirt that would look fine if the jacket were taken off. No one is going to look down on you for being overdressed (as long as you weren’t many steps above the norm, such as a suit in a shorts-and-flip-flops kind of place), but they might if they think you are underdressed.

    I work at a nonprofit that is on the casual side of business casual, and for my first day I wore a patterned dress, blazer, and heels. I ended up not needing to wear the blazer, and it became the blazer that I leave in my office in case of emergency court runs.

  23. Almond Milk Latte*

    OP#2, I take my glasses off or change the size of the text box I’m using to be tiny, and then I just start typing without looking or backspacing. It might be crap. It’s probably crap. But it’s words on a page, and some of those will turn into sentences, which you can refine into whatever you’re trying to write.

    1. LQ*

      I’ve turned off the monitor and done this too, it can be pretty helpful, alternately doing this but in a dark room. (Mostly this is something I’ve done at home for creative writing things vs workier writing.)

  24. evan*

    OP4, giving feedback to previous managers long after you have left may come across as either stalkerish or like you’ve spent a night on the turps and sent them feedback before you have sobered up. Just like you, managers learn as they go along and may already have addressed any issues you might want to raise in between when you worked for them and now. Unless you have maintained any kind of personal relationship with them in the interim and know them well enough to know how they would take your feedback, then better left alone (exception being if someone helped you through a difficult stage and you want to thank them for their efforts because it means so much down the track).

    You also run the risk of getting a bit more feedback in return than you might anticipate.

    1. motherofdragons*

      Re: BB creams…I swear by LA Girl Pro BB Cream. It’s under $10 and provides just the right amount of coverage/redness reduction without feeling super heavy or greasy. And it has great staying power. If I know I’ll be running around, I’ll put some NYX primer on first, or even blend them together and apply at the same time. A little concealer on the zits, some pressed powder and I’m good all day.

      1. Artemesia*

        almost any kind of foundation is a disaster if you sweat. but some tinted moisturizers and very light BB creams may help even things out. I would focus on lipstick and eye makeup and go very easy on anything else if possible. A turned out look with nicely styled hair, earrings, attractive glasses if you wear them, a nice conservative necklace and appropriate tailored clothing will give that professional look and with modest eye make up and lipstick, you will look good.

  25. Jenny*

    For what it is worth I work in an entirely casual office (I typically wear jeans) but almost to a person everyone wears a suit in their first day. It took a solid week for the people I started with to start wearing jeans. No one thinks it is silly. I don’t think it is a bad idea to do so.

    1. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Yes, I always wear a suit to the first day at a new job. I may end up ditching the jacket, but I figure it’s always better to err on the side of being over-dressed. And you might need to take a picture for your badge, so it’s always nice to be a little dressed up for that.

  26. Lady Phoenix*

    #3:Livlovesmakeup made an excellent video on “Makeup that Won’t Melt”. I like using matte products since I originally had more oily skin. Some of these being Nyx matte setting powder and spray. As for eyeliner, the KatVonD tattoo liner.

  27. Arianwyn*

    #3 I am an incredible warm person and I struggle with makeup in offices even with AC (in my ten minute walk, it all ends up on the floor…)

    the biggest thing that makes a difference is whether or not I wear foundation and whether my hair is up. If my hair is up and I have no foundation, I can wear lipstick, eyeshadow, eyebrows etc and look heavily made up.

  28. MommyMD*

    Feedback at this stage is going to make you look like a weirdo and will make no difference in the long run. If word of this gets out, it could even affect future job prospects. When you part ways with an employer, just move on. It’s not productive to dwell on it.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. The only occasion would be a note, say when you took a new job, of how something the manager did has been a big help to you. Any attempt to critique the management style of a previous manager is likely to get you a reputation. This is the sort of thing that gets told around the cocktail table at a conference.

  29. MommyMD*

    Wunderbrow stays on very well. Use a brush applicator not the brush in the tube. They now have an all day foundation.

  30. Vaca*

    #5 – the conference rooms exist to provide senior management with a space to host clients. Ideally they would let you know if you’re getting bumped but getting bumped is not only appropriate, it’s expected. In most offices there are one or two interior conference rooms that don’t have a view: those are the ones you should be booking. Alternatively, you can meet in the kitchen / your office / downstairs at coffee. If it’s a conference call with a vendor, don’t meet at all – just have everyone dial in 2 min early and do your side talk on slack. Do not go to your boss again and complain that your vendor discussions keep getting bumped by senior execs hosting clients and ask them to tell the senior execs to reserve the room. If I got that message I would assume the person who sent it to me was loony. Client work comes first.

    1. Alice*

      Assuming for a moment that’s the case – why can’t the execs (or the admins) book the room when they want it?

      1. BananaPants*

        They should probably make that a standard work practice – have the admins bump (or gently nudge) scheduled occupants out when the higher-ups need the conference room, so that they can book it for the big meeting. This is the practice in my office and it works well. We all know that the executives have the right to the good conference rooms over the worker bees, and that complaining about it or trying to kick them out when they run long is just not a good idea.

      2. Vaca*

        Because clients show up at short notice and everyone has more important things to do, in particular when you are a senior exec.

        1. HRGuru*

          This type of attitude causes turnover in many organizations. This goes against most HR recommended guidelines for how to run a successful office.

      3. DArcy*

        Having the execs’ admins book the room when they need it is ideal, but the point is, they have priority for good reason and they’re not doing this to spite the lowbies.

    2. Toph*

      This is not at all my experience and I think it very much depends on what the room is being used for who should get priority. A conference room exists so a medium-largish group of people can hold meetings. Some of those meetings might be internal only, but a large group of people, some might be smaller but still too many to be in an office, but including outside people such as clients or vendors or consultants. Ideally priority goes to whomever actually reserved the room, but if evaluating the conflict in the moment, 4 senior execs who choose to have a chat in the conference room when they all have offices and could have been meeting in one of them are rude to bump, for example, 25 staff of mixed seniority who booked six weeks ago for an onsite training with a consultant who flew in and needs the projector and screen in the conference room, and, you know, a room that can hold that many people. It would make no sense for execs to bump that group or suggest they go to the kitchen, or one person’s office. It also makes the execs look like massive jerks. However, if the room were booked for 4-6 internal staff to do an internal training, and the execs were in a meeting with 4 people from a major client having intense discussions over a $$$$ project, then sure, even if the staff had reserved the room I can see it making more sense in the moment for them to just reschedule themselves.

      Still, the ideal is that these decisions are not frequently needing to be made while one group stands in the doorway surprised to see the room occupied. Senior execs may well have seniority, but if the room has a booking system, the people not using the booking system are being rude to anyone else who might book the room. It doesn’t matter who is more senior here. If someone more senior needs a room and it’s already booked, and when they realize this in advance when they are attempting to schedule their own meeting, it’s normal they might bump the booking and make others reschedule. But just showing up in a shared space and not ceding the room to those who have it reserved is super rude. Running over into someone else’s res is also rude, but more understandable and if it only happens from time to time, less of a big deal. It is not inherently true that a senior person’s meeting is always more important and “wins”. If you have to operate that you can never truly reserve a meeting space because it implicitly belongs to execs and is always subject to their removing you, then you need to operate as though there is no meeting space for anyone else (and might as well plan all virtual meetings over GoToMeeting or WebEx or some similar rather than planning to have a significant number of people physically in the same room).

      1. Vaca*

        I wouldn’t bump something important like the consultant thing you’re talking about. And if I was in a conference room that had a truly important booking, I’d hope somebody would politely knock and alert me. But no, it’s not rude for me to take a room if I want it for client meetings. The real issue here is that nice conference rooms shouldn’t be used for internal team meetings. They are needed on a moment’s notice and I shouldn’t have to check a booking system to see if somebody is using it for a non-client purpose. There should be less nice, internal conference rooms around. If there aren’t, then that’s something that should be raised.

        For what it’s worth, I have regular, sudden meetings with important clients for whom I need a conference room. I can’t often have clients in my office – I might be able to fit one or two, but otherwise it would be tight, plus my office has tons of other-client stuff all over it. In general, I will try and call down the hall to reception and see if something is available before grabbing a room. But it isn’t always possible, and client business trumps all. I don’t mind if you get annoyed, I don’t mind if you think I’m being arrogant. But I do mind if you “escalate” this issue to somebody. If it happened once I’d probably laugh about it and say I’ll try harder next time. If it happened twice I would probably just block the conference rooms for executive meetings in perpetuity.

        1. Wheezy Weasel*

          I used to work for a company that sold meeting room scheduling software. Almost all of my clients had space that they didn’t put in the reservation system, and it was specifically for execs that needed ad-hoc meeting space and didn’t want to deal with others using the room. Was it a ‘waste’ of space to not have it allocated for use when it was empty? Sure! Was it in the best interest of the company to keep that space available…yes, and for the reasons Vaca illustrated.

          Painfully enough, the executives at the meeting room software used this same behavior: camping out in a room and not reserving it, staying late and keeping others from using the room, last minute bumping for strategy sessions. If they won’t follow protocol at a company that exists for the sole purpose of scheduling meeting rooms, I don’t hold out hope for the rest of us :)

          1. Artemesia*

            LOL. You make the point very convincingly. In my case I was using space where I did have lower priority for my big group. I would have had to yield it to the big shots. My issue was that since I had booked it properly, they needed to do the same which would have meant they would have notified me I was being bumped and I would have made other arrangements and not had 30 people standing in the hall making me look like an idiot. Thankfully a still small voice in my brain whispered ‘go away, don’t make a fuss’ It would have been a very bad move for me to walk in and say ‘I believe I have this room booked.’

        2. Morning Glory*

          That may be true of your office, and it’s a good perspective… but you’re positioning it as a universal truth when I see it more as an outlier. The OP says the execs have large offices they can use to host these meetings, which appears to be different from your situation. It’s also common in most offices to schedule meetings with plenty of notice so that if you need to kick someone out for a higher priority meeting, you can tell that person in advance.

          And conference rooms in many offices exist for meetings, not specifically client meetings. It’s not inherently wrong in most offices to use them for internal meetings.

          1. Izzy*

            If a reservation needs to be bumped it’s at least common courtesy (and good for business) to notify the people being bumped as early as possible. My boss and I once hosted a meeting with a number of community stakeholders (several executive directors of nonprofits, others at around that level), I think there were at least ten of them. We reserved the room weeks in advance and were bumped for an internal executive level program review. It made sense that they were given priority; but the EA who overrode our reservation didn’t bother to tell us. Our external guests and we were left standing in the hall while we scrambled for another meeting place. We finally ended up cramming into boss’s office, which was definitely not big enough. One guest arrived a few minutes late, accidentally walked in on the other meeting and sat down, as we had specified the room in the invitation and she didn’t know either the other invitees or the executive team by sight. That was awkward, and didn’t make a good impression on our community partners on whose collaboration we depended.

        3. Toph*

          That’s interesting, and I think reflects that norms can vary widely in different industries. For one thing, I’ve never worked for a company that had more than three conference rooms total (and they widely differed in size, so one might be comfortable for up to 10 people, another for closer to 20, and another for maybe 30). Raising the issue of not having rooms available, in my cases, means either: get a new building with more rooms (not likely to happen) or institute a reservation system to prevent conflicts, which it sounds like the OP already has. Also, the vast majority of client meetings for me would tend to be at the client’s site, not in ours. 90% of meetings happening in our conference rooms are for internal purposes be they all-internal, or with a vendor or consultant. Clients don’t tend to show up unexpectedly, and if they do it might be one person, wanting to speak with one person, in which case they end up in that person’s office. So I think probably your office environment is potentially an apples and oranges comparison, and it makes sense that you would need some form of exec-only perpetually open room for these spontaneous client meetings. But for any company that does not generally have that need, it’s far from universal that conference rooms are for executives and everyone else should assume at all times they could get bumped regardless of who reserved the room.

  31. neeko*

    Weird! My comment evaporated!

    I would try a setting powder and/or a setting spray. Laura Mercier makes one that was a game changer for me. I hear that the NYX one is very good (and wayyy cheaper).

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      This. Sometimes I just forgo all that foundation and instead do some concealer for under eyes, eye makeup, and lipstick.

  32. Oryx*

    Summer after job after college graduation, I worked at a call center. I go to the interview and saw the hiring manager, who was in a skirt, and the colleague who escorted me to and from the front door. She was in a full on sweat suit track suit. So, I think this means it’s casual and show up on my first day in jeans.

    Turns out, no jeans allowed. SWEAT SUITS were allowed, but jeans and a nice blouse were not. (This became a thing of contention after I’d been there for awhile and we successfully advocated for jeans.) I was mortified.

    Anyway, I’ve always been hyper aware of first day dress after that and either ask my new manager in advance or show up dressed in professional dress. Granted, as a woman, I don’t require a suit but even for my current job, which is casual and I wear jeans 75% of the time, I showed up in a dress my first day.

    1. Queen of the File*

      This sounds like a hilarious example of how office dress codes end up going sideways.
      Dress code: No jeans
      Staff: Well then I guess I will wear track pants
      Dress code: Ugh. Fine–suits only from now on.
      Staff: Complete sweatsuits–got it.
      Dress code: I give up

      1. Oryx*

        It was so bizarre. When we — my peer coworkers and I — wrote up our proposal to allow jeans we even pointed out the disconnect between allowing sweat suits but not allowing nice jeans and a nice top. Like, WTF. I distinctly remember one set that was pastel pink with, like, animal applique on it. BUT DENIM WAS EVIL.

        1. Artemesia*

          I am voting for pink athletic/sweat suit pants as the absolutely least attractive garment in the universe for anyone older than 8. Double that with animal appliques.

        2. Chinook*

          I honestly think the “denim is evil” mindset comes from the stigma of it being a working class/blue collar fabric (I recently ran across a whole meta about Supernatural and the use of clothing as a class signifier). It is banned in offices who want to say they are not a blue collar working environment (even when denim would be the more practical choice – think the IT person who is moving and installing computers).

          I also suspect that this is why denim is more acceptable in Calgary as office wear as long as it is not ripped, overly faded or worn – most of the jobs revolve around blue collar industries and turning up your nose at the fabric would make us wonder what kind of snob you really are (especially at this time of year wear my wearing a dress to work gets me the side eye. My response is that only a fool wears denim and cowboy boots in a heat wave unless you are using them for PPE protection).

    2. Elmyra Duff*

      I worked at a store along the same lines as Marshalls right after high school. I was given the job directly after my interview and told denim was fine for pants. I showed up in a nice top and dark blue jeans. Big mistake. I was sent home to change immediately. The dress code actually stated workers could wear any color denim EXCEPT blue. It’s been like 12 years and I still don’t understand. Who would even think to clarify if denim meant all denim or everything except blue?

      1. Nerdgal*

        I once went on a business trip that included a meeting at a country club. Same thing! No blue denim but grey, green, etc. denim was fine. Luckily the host organization had learned to be very explicit about this so at least we were prepared.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Haha, I had a volunteer position that explicitly stated that in the dress code! Colored denim was fine, but not “blue.” So weird!

        1. Artemesia*

          I wore dark black jeans for most of my professional life. They were not styled with grommets and such and didn’t read as ‘jeans’ when worn with decent top and jacket. An entirely different look than blue jeans.

          One of the problems with blue jeans is that the range of formality is so huge. In the US it is common to value the scrungy worn faded thing in jeans. Those jeans are not appropriate for lots of settings whereas dark blue jeans might well be. Lots of places just don’t engage by banning blue jeans. That way no way has to judge whether John’s dirty, ratty faded jeans are banned, but Phil’s somewhat worn or faded by clean ones aren’t etc.

        2. Chinook*

          Really, coloured denim was considered more acceptable? That shows a true cultural difference because, around here, the only people wearing coloured denim are true cowgirls (and you can only find them at the western wear shops). Blue and black are considered more office suitable, especially when worn with button down shirts and dress jackets.

    3. nonprofit manager*

      Reminds me of job I had during college. We worked with the public in a casual environment. But no jeans were allowed! Suits were too dressy, though, and completely impractical for the work. Anything else was fine. Some of the clothing that was worn looked really bad. But hey, they weren’t jeans!

  33. nnn*

    #2: You say the writing you do get done is bad. So do the bad writing – that’s called a first draft!

    Once all the bad writing you can squeeze out of your head is typed out, then you take a break by reading the news or researching unrelated stuff (or, if your workload permits, working on something else) and you revisit your first draft after allowing your brain to reboot – ideally the next day if deadlines permit, so as to benefit from sleep consolidation.

    Since you’re in a workplace, the other advantage to typing out whatever crap you can is that if someone asks you how much progress you’ve made, you can say “I’m 80% done my first draft!”

    1. JulieBulie*

      This is so true, all of it. Including the 80% done with first draft. I’ve found that most people don’t expect much from a first draft – they just need something that they can work with. And getting their feedback will help you with your next draft.

      I would go so far as to say that it almost doesn’t matter what’s in the first draft (as long as the obvious required stuff is there in some form, even as just a bulleted list or outline). You have to produce it, but it doesn’t need to be anywhere near like the end product. Your NEXT draft is the one that matters.

  34. Samata*

    OP#3, I live in 96% humidity most of the year and am definitely a sweater….4 things have helped:

    1. I bought Olay’s $30 version of the Clairsonic and use it every other day.
    2. I use a night serum and night cream both morning and night. (Garnier is my favorite and pretty affordable @ Target)

    On days where I do *need* to wear make up I use one of the following, depending on time of year.
    3. I switched to Bare Minerals powder foundation in the winter with the Mineral Veil – seems to help with my shininess.
    4. In the summer I use a tinted moisturizer with the Mineral Veil when I need to look more polished.

    Honestly, though, 1 & 2 alone have really made a difference in my skin, appearance and especially confidence when not wearing make up.

  35. Marcy*

    #1 Every place I’ve worked has been business casual unless you were meeting with clients or going to court, but I always still wore a suit on the first day and I’m pretty sure all my coworkers did too. You’ll be going around the office meeting people so there’s no harm in “looking like a lawyer” when you first meet them.

  36. Mallory*

    Alison- your answers are always on point, but sometimes it seems like you skim questions. OP #1 stated right in his letter that his new job is business casual- he was just asking if you he should overdress on his first day…..

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Business casual can have a wide range, though. It can be slacks and jacket to jeans and polos. Erring on the formal end, unless it is an industry known for being casual like IT, is usually a better bet until you get a good idea of where the company falls on that range. You might feel a bit overdressed in a suit, but that is better than feeling underdressed when you show up in a polo and the office version of business casual is button down.

      Or ask ahead of time. Alternately, the LW could ask for a copy of the employee handbook to review before starting.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah. I think *every* office where suits aren’t required describes itself as business casual. Everything from “dress shirt& tie for guys, nice blouse for women, dress slacks but no suit jacket” to “jeans with a polo.”

        “Business casual” means so many different things to different people that it doesn’t really tell you much at all.

        1. Greg*

          Not sure exactly what it means for women, but as a man, “business casual” has always meant a dress shirt and slacks. Maybe there’s a little wiggle room in terms of whether short sleeves/polos are acceptable, but I’ve never seen any office where ties were considered anything but formal, and jeans were anything but casual.

    2. Squeeble*

      I interpreted that as her asking the OP to make sure that’s true, or to make sure that everyone is on the same page as far as what “business casual” means.

  37. (Different) Rebecca*

    OP2: if you’re allowed, give your rough draft to someone to proofread–a new set of eyes can be a real boon when it comes to the good/crap divide.

    OP3: You mentioned that overall customers have noticed, so may I suggest dark colors, if that’s not against uniform for where you work? Navy or black slacks, black or burgundy shirts, that type of thing. I know you asked about makeup, and I agree with all the tips above, but having clothes that won’t show sweat lines may help you feel better put together.

  38. Nancy*

    Do what works for you and your body ALWAYS! However, like others, if you still want to try make-up I would recommend Estee lauder’s doublewear. They have a reg and a light, depending on coverage. However, the best part is its sweat and waterproof. I’ve used it in the pool and it doesn’t come off!! I’m a big girl too and I sweat and I use it for my cruise vacations in the hot humid Caribbean. It’s about $40, but the bottle will last for a while. TBH, that’s pretty reasonable for that level of foundation and I’m a cheapskate. But before you buy it, go find a Estee Lauder counter at your local store and have them find your color and give you a sample to try. Make sure it will work for you before buying it. I also second the people who are saying a good primer and setting spray. I use Elf, because I’m cheap. Also, try youtube for some tutorials to help with you skin type etc. I have oily skin and my make-up got blotchy, so I went to youtube and watched several professionals and non-professionals who had techniques for oily skin. Now, I have a routine that works for me. Good luck! Remember, always be you.

  39. BusinessCat*

    #5 – is there anyway for your office to add a new conference or is there an existing conference room you can designate for the executives’ use? If this is happening frequently enough, they are performing value added work (such as hosting clients), and it’s hard to predict the schedule in advance, then the executives should probably have a space that’s kept open for them. Then, you and others who also need conference space can follow normal booking procedures and not have to worry about your planned space getting co-opted. Now, if the above conditions aren’t true, like if these meetings could be planned better, then I like the suggestions of working with the admins.

  40. RedHeadRedThread*

    #3 I have a similar problem. I work in tropical DC and run hot (plus hot flashes!). I am very pale (Irish/Swedish, red hair and blue eyes) with dry, sensitive skin. If you can wear a tank top or any undergarment made of technical (keep cool, athletic wear) fabric it will help a great deal. Hair up, shoes as open as practical.

    For a foundation with medium to full coverage the CC cream by IT Cosmetics has been very useful. Then any needed concealer on top of that. Set with powder. I use the IT Cosmetics “airbrush perfecting powder” (SPF50) but NYX HD setting powder for under eye coverage. Estee Lauder Doublewear is a very good foundation that lasts, too. Eyeliner set with powder. Then Urban Decay AllNighter setting spray. IME, the NYX setting spray doesn’t work. (I’m going to try the Kryolan after seeing it mentioned here) After setting spray, then mascara. I have had the best luck with waterproof mascara (Lancome literally will not come off while swimming) Lip liner, fill in lips with liner for a matte look that stays maybe with a little gloss on top.

  41. Green T*

    #3 Something to consider is medication for excessive sweating. My daughter has that problem and her dermatologist prescribed medication. She went through a couple before finding one that works. It even helps with her sweaty feet which saves us on replacing smelly shoes. They also approved her for Botox injections (under the arm). She passed on that one.

    Just a suggestion of something you may want to research. I know medication is not the answer for everyone.

    1. em2mb*

      Someone up thread mentioned having been diagnosed with hyperhidrosis and having luck with the topical creams. I sweated right through those and had to switch to a dermatologist who would prescribe oral glycopyrrolate. I didn’t realize how much excessive sweating was impacting my life until I wasn’t sweating anymore. I can put on make up, wear colors and fabrics that I avoided because they’d have pit stains down to the elbow before I even got to my desk, and even wear skirts/dresses in the summer.

      The botox injections sound like they’re going to be horrendously painful, but after I convinced myself it was worth trying once, I’ll never go back. The combination oral medication/botox injections have dramatically improved my quality of life.

  42. Karyn*

    Dear OP3:

    As I said above, I work for A Fancy Makeup Store in skincare. I have to wear makeup every day, and during the summer, my skin is SO fricking oily, it slides right off. While I agree with Alison’s suggestion to talk to management, and while I understand that your medical condition may affect the efficacy of products, I can give some insight into the practical, make-up related side of things to give you some options that will achieve a “no makeup makeup” look that may work for your purposes, should your manager be unreasonable and demand you wear it.

    One thing that may help is getting a good toner for oily skin. It will wipe off any traces of makeup that you haven’t gotten with your cleanser, and should mattify without drying you out. So many people think of toner as the Clinique, alcohol-based kind that burns, but it doesn’t have to be. Lancome makes a really nice one, Tonique Pure Focus, that actually has a powder in the bottom and is alcohol-free. It also has a small amount of salicylic acid, which will help with any breakouts you might have, but it shouldn’t dry you out since it’s not alcohol-based.

    A good primer and setting spray can make a world of difference. If your skin is oily or otherwise slick, Boscia makes a reasonably priced one that will mattify your skin (Porefecting White Charcoal primer). Or, you can use Boscia’s charcoal setting spray which can also be used as a primer before makeup. Both are relatively reasonable in price and because you only need one pump of the former or four sprays of the latter, they will last you a long time. Supergoop also makes one that has a high spf in it – and they make mini versions that you can throw in your purse to use throughout the day!

    I suggest a tinted moisturizer instead of full-face foundation. During the summer, it will look “dewy” and not slide off as quickly – especially with a primer. Laura Mercier is awesome, and gives you a little more coverage without looking cakey. She has an oil-free version which I really like, and also has an spf in it. From there, I would use a water-resistant or otherwise long-lasting mascara (Tarte’s “Lights Camera Lashes” has been my go-to for years, but really, as long as it’s water-resistant, you can even use drugstore brand), skip the eyeliner, and use an eye primer for any shadow you might want to do (Sephora Collection makes one that is fantastic and super cheap), as it will extend the wear of your shadow. I recommend using nude shadows, whatever your skin tone is. Literally any brand will do, just make it a nude, because if it creases or wears, it won’t be as noticeable. For cheeks, get a simple highlighter or, if you get a shimmery champagne colored eyeshadow, you can use that too in a pinch. Again, Sephora Collection makes tons of these for reasonable costs. As for lips, tinted lip balm is your friend! You won’t have to think about touching it up as much, and you can reapply without a mirror. Burt’s Bees makes some, as does Kiehl’s, or really any brand you want. Just a little hint of color is all you need.

    So, to review:

    1. Primer/setting spray
    2. Toner
    3. Tinted moisturizer
    4. Eye primer
    5. Light/nude shadow
    6. Mascara
    7. Highlighter, if you like
    8. Tinted lip balm

    I know this seems like a lot, but once you see how quickly it all goes on, it’s not as intimidating. My summer face is like 5-10 minutes of effort. I hope any of this helps. I understand how frustrating this must be, particularly if you work where I think you work. But as Alison said, talk to your manager. They may be more understanding than you think!

    1. OP3*

      Thanks for the advice! And yeah I’m guessing mentioning the customer service focus and giant sale coming up was a pretty big hint as to where I work, particularly for other people in retail.

      1. Karyn*

        I am always happy to share my knowledge! I won’t ever take a real guess at where you work since everyone wants to remain anonymous, but as we both deal in companies that require/encourage makeup, I figured we’re probably retail-sisters.

        I hope you find a solution that works for you, whatever that is. My work REQUIRES me to wear makeup, so there’s no real way around it, but there was a six-month period where I was having some kind of eye issue (massive tearing at the outside corners that caused them to get red, irritated, and constantly watery). I talked to my boss, and I ended up going minimal-makeup for a few months while I resolved the issue – no eyeliner, bare minimum mascara, no concealer, etc. There are ways to work with this issue, and I hope someone does with you!

    2. Hermione Lovegood*

      Great tips, Karyn! I’m trying to up my makeup/appearance game a bit, so I will definitely use some of these. I had a question about a skincare product, if it’s not too much like asking a doctor for medical advice at a party. :) What’s up with micellar (sp?) water? Is it as good as everyone claims? Can it be used instead of a toner, or instead of a cleanser altogether?

      1. Karyn*

        Before we get too off topic, I’m gonna offer up my services via email (if the email address links here, you can use that, but if it doesn’t, I can reply again with my email). Anyone who wants advice can email me, so that we keep the threads related to the letter writers. :)

        1. Karyn*

          Welp, it seems that the email field doesn’t give the email with your name, so I’m just going to post it here. I didn’t see anything in Alison’s commenting guidelines that says you can’t do that, but Alison, if this is against the rules, feel free to scold me! :)

          The email you can use is – don’t ask. ;)

  43. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No. 2 I write a weekly column with a hard deadline. Some weeks the content flows and other times the clock is ticking loud and hard. When I have less than 24 hours I take a break and do something completely unrelated because my brain is frozen in panic mode and nothing is happening. It also helps that I have at least one backup column tucked away.

    For the conference room, try booking it an hour ahead of when you need it so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute.

  44. OP3*

    I’m the OP for question 3. Thanks for all the advice! I should clarify a couple of things: I sweat a lot on my face so that is what customers have commented on (luckily I work in our plus size department so it’s usually an empathetic comment from other women of size). But I actually do enjoy wearing makeup, I feel better about myself when I’m made up and since I work on commission that confidence translates to a bigger paycheck. I have never been told by a manager hey wear makeup, my feeling that it’s expected is based mostly on observation of others and the response I get when I wear makeup. Some of this may also be an issue where I feel self-conscious being plus size and working in fashion. Anyway, thanks for all the advice! I am planning on trying some different setting sprays to see what works and I really like some of the other ideas I’ve seen here too.

    1. Rincat*

      Some other people have mentioned it, but I’m throwing in my vote for Ben Nye stage makeup. I used the face paints and other stage makeup for live action role playing – and I would wear a full face of detailed makeup for 12-14 hours, running around in the woods wearing full armor, and sweating buckets. And it barely budged! It also, surprisingly, did not make my skin freak out, and I have pretty sensitive skin. So you might also give stage makeup a try. Good luck!

    2. Observer*

      Another suggestion for foundation is Clinique. Their exercise line holds quite well I find.

      Also, if you know someone who does makeup professionally for events like weddings and the like, tap their expertise. Since you work in retail fashion, I’m betting that there may be some people in your organization who do that kind of stuff. If they are good they’ll know to match products and tips to your skin.

      1. em2mb*

        Have you tried the Clinique exercise line mascara? I don’t do much eye makeup at work, but I’ve found a little bit of mascara really makes my eyes pop, which boosts my self confidence. But, I feel like most brands leave me with raccoon eyes by lunch! Not exactly the put-together image I want to project.

    3. Beezus*

      I put it in its own comment down thread, but if you’re friendly with anyone in cosmetics, they were always VERY kind to me when I needed a new product and may even help you test run some product if you/they have time on a break, etc.

    4. Riley*

      OP, I’m guessing I know exactly which department store since I’m anxiously counting down the days until pre-sale opens next week :)

      I came to second the setting spray recommendations (e.l.f. from Target has a great one that’s only a few dollars) and also suggest using no liquid foundation, just a powder over primer and concealer where necessary, and using any other eye/lip makeup as normal, followed by a setting spray. I’m a very sweaty person and this is my morning routine which even works for business trips to super humid climates! But as Alison says, wear whatever amount of makeup makes you happy and best of luck during the sale!

  45. Elmyra Duff*

    OP 2: My job is writing, too, and being creative on demand is the worst sometimes. Especially when it’s on topics you are completely disinterested in, which is a frequent thing for me. I get super distracted online and on my phone, which no one really notices because I’m alone in my cubicle all day, so I can absolutely sit here and do nothing on lighter days. To stop myself from that, I use the app Forest. As long as I don’t touch my phone while it’s running (set on a timer!), I’m making my own forest of trees and bushes and other neat things. I try to do 20-25 minutes a time and get writing done then. Afterward, I give myself 10ish minutes to piss around online (which is what I’m doing now!) and then repeat.

    Good luck! I’ve been writing my whole life, have a BA in English and an MA in writing, and never really knew how hard a job like this could be until I landed one.

  46. Minta*

    2: I see others have mentioned free-writing. It’s a tool I use very frequently. Whenever possible, I free-write in a large-scale format–like on a whiteboard. Research has shown that physical movement helps our brains fire more and more readily. Whiteboarding allows you to incorporate at least some physical movement when taking a break to exercise first is impossible. If a whiteboard (or chalkboard) isn’t available, you can use marker on flip-chart paper or poster board. Best wishes.

  47. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    Dress codes can be tricky to judge from the interview. I had a job where I was interviewed and everyone I saw was dressed more professionally than casual and then I showed up on day 1 and they were all in jeans. Turns out there had been a rare meeting that day that required dressing nicer.

    My current job, I was told business casual – no jeans except Friday – by HR. Turns out that only HR and execs have that dress code. Everyone else wears jeans/tshirts. And since this was my first job after working 8 years in a SUPER casual environment (sweatpants wouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eye) so I purchased a new wardrobe!

    I’d err on the side of too professional. A lot of good suggestions to wear a button down shirt and carry the jacket. You never know if you saw business casual when interviewing because they needed to do something offsite that called for more casual attire.

  48. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I worked at a small law firm for a long time and we had more than our share of people come and go. Lawyers, on their first days, generally wore suits, and then figured out from there what was the right thing to wear (every day was different; some days were court days and some days weren’t). Support staff often dressed in a sort of business casual way. The men in support roles generally wore button-down shirts and non-jean pants. That way if they had to sit in on a client meeting or take notes in court they could throw on a jacket and look perfectly professional. I think it also depends on the area of the country you’re in and the discipline of law. If you’re doing high-end securities stuff in NYC, chances are good you’ll have to dress a little more conservatively than someone doing criminal defense in a very laid-back small town. (FWIW, I have worn LL Bean duck boots and a turtleneck/sweater/jacket combo to court in the past when the snow was knee-deep and literally nobody cared because weather is a thing and the fact I wore sensible shoes did not make my legal argument any more or less persuasive)

  49. BananaPants*

    #5 – I have several regularly scheduled meetings in conference rooms that get bumped by executives, or delayed because their meetings run long. I probably get bumped or delayed on a monthly basis.

    When I get bumped it’s always ahead of time (although sometimes on short notice) by one of the admin assistants, who offers an alternate conference room if available. When they run long I either find a new conference room for my team or I switch it to a teleconference only.

    Frankly, their meetings ARE more important than mine – or at least are perceived to be – and whining about it or being a jerk to a pack of executives is not a career-enhancing move. Welcome to corporate America!

  50. Subsriba*

    I work in tech, and almost all the places I’ve worked have been business casual and (much, much) lower. I don’t think wearing a suit on day one is that big a deal, even in the places where people are in shorts. It will be noticed and people will probably poke fun at you, but in a good-natured “it’s a rite of passage for everyone” kind of way.

    Your response to the comments is more important to manage as a first impression, I think. If you grin and shrug off your jacket and roll up your sleeves, that will go down a lot better than if you are stiff and awkward generally and stay in a suit (as this reinforces the stuffy-suit stereotype rather than just the new-guy stereotype).

  51. Triangle Pose*

    #1 If you are a lawyer, wear a suit. No question. Don’t even send the email to ask, just wear the suit.

    Does not matter at all that your last two employers are business casual.

    If you at a law firm as anything other than a lawyer and they didn’t give you any guidance on dress code (IME law firms give everyone dress code expecatations for the first day) then email your contact and ask.

    1. LawBee*

      If #1 showed up at my law office in a suit, it would be really really weird. I’m literally in workout pants and a Radiotopia t-shirt today. It wouldn’t do anything to make us think better or worse of LW, but it would be strange. BigLaw is different, which may be what you’re thinking of, but thank god not all of us work in BigLaw. (I did for four months and wanted to pitch the whole building into the river by the end of it.)

      Call and ask. LW can call HR if she doesn’t want to call her new boss.

      1. Triangle Pose*

        But it’s the first day of the job. I don’t think workout pants and a T-shirt example is really relevant for the very first day, for a lawyer, at any law firm. If someone who is a lawyer called and asked at any firm I’ve every encountered, it would come across super oddly.

        1. LawBee*

          Well, obviously I’m not saying to show up in a tshirt. But business casual would be completely appropriate for a first day in my firm, and in a lot of plaintiff’s firms. I don’t know why it would be weird for a new hire to check the dress code – seems like a very normal question.

  52. Ruthie*

    LW3, I have an usually sweaty face and live in an usually humid city. High-quality primer and setting spray do nothing for me. I’ve had some luck with a face deodorant by a company called Mehron. It’s actually made for entertainers who need to wear lots of makeup outside or under stage lights. It definitely helps. It makes skin feel very tight, so it’s not an everyday thing, but I use it for special occasions like job interviews.

  53. Lora*

    OP4, do not do it. Unless you are sending a nice note to a manager to tell them how great they were, they will not receive it well.

    Mentioned it in yesterday’s thread about culture fit, but I’ve had employees who will happily tell me that I am the Worst Person Ever. There’s also some who will say I was great and super-helpful, and some who will say I was just OK. It’s my boss’ job to tell me if I’m a good manager, and sometimes I don’t even listen to their feedback either! Have had a few whose opinion I didn’t respect at all and were terrible managers themselves. I gave them gentle suggestions at the time on how to improve and they didn’t care to hear it then either – we just had very different management philosophies and attitudes. And that’s OK! In some jobs, you want an authoritarian manager, in some you want someone who encourages innovation.

    There’s a lot of things managers do that you don’t see, too: attacks from other departments that they have fended off on your behalf, responsibility for mistakes you made, telling senior management how great you are and why you should not be laid off. Telling them that they could improve their 1:1 meeting agendas is going to be like, “really? Gee thanks…”

  54. La Revancha del Tango*

    #3 – you don’t need a full face of make up to look good in front of clients. I find less make up to be more appealing, some blush and mascara is really all you need. You look more refreshed as well.

    1. NaoNao*

      Well…you do if you work in a cosmetic store, as the LW is hinting that she does. Like most retail locations, it’s expected, encouraged, and sometimes demanded depending on the event, that the employees use/wear/own the product the company makes.
      It’s one thing if you work for DunderMifflin Paper. Sure, you don’t need makeup. But if you work for Sephora or Ulta….yeah, you kind of need to be wearing the item you’re recommending or at least have worn it at some point before it melted off :)

  55. Charlotte*

    Op 3, you could also try talking to your manager about this and see if she has any suggestions. Just say that you like to wear makeup on the job and have found that it helps your job performance, but lately you have been having some sweating due to a medical condition and ask if she has any suggestions. It might depend on your relationship with your manager, but even if she doesn’t have any suggestions and you can’t find a solution that works, it will probably make her more supportive if you decide you need to go without makeup.

    I also wonder if there could be a way to make the temperature a little cooler. This may not be realistic but might be worth a try.

  56. Luke*

    On the subject of dress code:

    I’d just ask the boss directly.
    When I interviewed with my current employer they happened to have a cookout going,so the staff were in company polos and jeans. Found out about the cookout through the interview small talk and didnt associate it with the dress code initially.

    At the second interview everyone was wearing super formal attire ,which made me very glad I chose to wear a suit and tie out of professional habit. Had I based my attire off of what I saw that day it would have backfired horribly. I later discovered the dress code here is complex enough to merit its own flowchart; if it’s the second Monday or fourth Wednesday then business casual is permitted (but not mandatory) with jeans and company polo shirts,unless you’re a member of the volunteer charity managed by the CEO ,in which case you can wear polos and jeans every Thursday and Friday. Unless it’s a designated casual day ,in which case everyone can wear company polls regardless of volunteer status. People who’ve been here 20 years get it wrong sometimes.

    Incidentally I dress just a little above the prevailing norm when it’s a formal attire workday. You never know when A Big Boss might stop by your desk with a question – or a spontaneous invite to a meeting way above your normal paygrade.

  57. Anna*

    #3) I wear make up on my eyes, concealer under my eyes and a little lip gloss. Even though I am in my 40s, my skin still breaks out and I find that wearing foundation makes the breakouts worse. Then throughout the day when I feel oily I use these little face wipes by Burts Bees. It works great for me. Even just adding some water proof mascara and a little lip gloss does wonders for making me look more refreshed and put together. When I go without eye make up I get too many comments like “have you been crying” ” are you ok” “wow, you don’t look like you are feeling well!” etc… and it annoys the crap out of me and makes me feel super self-conscious, but if i even wear a tiny bit of eye make up, I don’t get those comments :) good luck with everything. I know that skin issues are no fun.

  58. Mrs. T. Potts*

    #2–I worked as a journalist and then as a public relations marketing assistant for more than 10 years. What worked for me was just to get something down on paper, as suggested. Once I started typing, I was fine.

  59. Merida May*

    #3 – I actually use an anti-chafing gel (mine is monistat, but there are plenty of others) as a primer on my face when I do a full makeup look. It has the same ingredients as a lot of makeup primers and sets to a powder finish. Additionally, the gel, when used for its intended purpose, works wonders. Or, eye primer and lining your top lids with a bit of mascara is a great work look if a full foundation routine isn’t feasible! As a fellow sweaty person I definitely sympathize!

    1. LawBee*

      Monistat as a primer is WONDERFUL. I don’t wear makeup often, but when I do the Monistat is my go-to primer.

  60. Darth Brooks*

    I work in a government office with a business casual dress code. A new employee came to work on his first day wearing what looked like a dirty t-shirt and jeans. To say the least, it raised eyebrows. Another guy came in with a full suit and jacket. Unnecessary, but he definitely made a better impression on everyone.

    1. Bea*

      Oh my gosh, I noticed immediately at my interview my boss and all the office were wearing jeans. Even after a decade of a jeans and t-shirt office, I showed up my first day in slacks and blouse. It took me awhile of carefully surveying the land to feel comfortable showing up in jeans. So I’m extra wide eyed at this fellow and his bad choices in a government office of all places.

  61. Kristine*

    #3 – I sweat a lot, too! Even when I step out of the shower. There’s a cycle to it – my sweat machine kicks in in the morning, then tapers off later in the day. If you have a cycle you can find something that works to mitigate/hide it (cold water on wrists, damp cold cloth on back of neck, a fan, etc.) between times that you have to be “on.”

  62. YarnOwl*

    OP #3, I feel you on the sweating! I am also a generally sweater person and I walk to work in the morning from the train station, and in the summer I show up sweaty every single day.

    My makeup routine now is just a brow pencil (I’ve found pencils stay on better than gel or anything liquid) and mascara, and it makes me look still polished and made up a little bit, but it’s not heavy makeup that is gone after a few hours.

    I hope you find a solution that works for you!

  63. Leah*

    I don’t usually give beauty advice in the comments of AAM, but for the retail employee worried about their makeup coming off, I recommend a good setting spray (assuming you don’t want the makeup to wear off). Urban Decay All Nighter has helped my makeup stick better than anything else I have ever used.

  64. LawBee*

    My solution for writer’s block is to dive into the middle of document I’m working on. Example: Instead of beginning my draft at the fact section (the usual beginning place for legal briefs), I’ll go straight to the argument and at least get the bare bones down. That seems to help unclog my brain, and gets words on the page.

    As an aside, it’s also turned out to be a good practice in general. Once I nail the argument section, everything else can be drafted to fit, which is a LOT easier and gives the whole document a good flow.

  65. Roker Moose*

    #1 if you drive, wear the button-down and suit trousers and leave the jacket and tie in the car. If everyone else is in suits, you can nip out and grab them.

    #3 I understand why you don’t want to not wear makeup, but your bosses will understand. Better to not wear it than sweat it off in front of customers.

  66. Landshark*

    OP3, one thing that may help if you want to try small amounts of makeup is to use clear mascara. That is a lifesaver in sweaty conditions.

  67. Imaginary Number*

    OP #5: Are there “not as nice” conference rooms that you can book?

    My workplace uses an automatic conference room booking system, but there are certain conference rooms where it’s understood you might get booted from if a high-priority meeting comes up. Generally these are the ones closest to executives’ offices and have the most up-to-date teleconferencing tech.

  68. Greg*

    OP #1: My go-to dress code in those somewhat ambiguous situations is to wear a sport coat with no tie. I find that in most situations, it’s very difficult to look under- or over-dressed in that outfit. Plus, if you do feel overdressed you can always hang up the coat.

    But I agree with Alison that you should look for clues based on your previous interactions with the company. The main way this could “hurt” you is if you make a bad first impression by coming across as oblivious to social cues. I used to work in a very casual office. and if someone showed up in a suit on his first day, I might (consciously or unconsciously) tag him as an overly ambitious climber. But in my current job, that would be much less conspicuous. As in many other scenarios, you have to be able to read the room.

  69. Beezus*

    LW 3 — Are you friends(ly) with anyone in cosmetics? I know how much hustle and bustle happens at the store that time of year (I worked there) and there could be a setting spray and/or primer to help keep your makeup from running off your face even when super sweaty. I’d go downstairs and see if there’s any option there. If you aren’t already, be sure you’re using a primer + liquid foundation + setting it with powder over. I know this sounds like overkill to a lot of y’all probably, but it helps so much and yeah a full face is pretty much the norm at the store for employees.

  70. Jeff*

    #1 – wear a suit with a shirt/tie combo which would look good if you ditched the tie and maybe slipped off the jacket. Calling ahead of time to ask about dress code in the office, as suggested, is also fine.
    #2 – make an outline or bullet points. You don’t have to write full sentences or expect things to be final draft worthy. Just get some thoughts down, even if its just single words. Then, set it aside and do something else. Go back to it when more words and thoughts come into your head. Do this with actual pen/pencil and paper.

  71. LeisureSuitLarry*

    re: LW #2

    The first thing you need to do is just get something down on the page. A previous commenter had a quote that you can’t edit a blank page. Just write something. It might be crap. That’s fine. Allow it to be crap. Revel in its crappiness. Embrace it. At the very least it will help you get your thoughts on the page. Then you can go and polish your piece of turd writing until it’s a shiny, gold masterpiece. The hardest part of almost any activity is starting, and I’ve found that especially true of most hard mental activities, like writing.

    If you get truly stuck, take a break. Get away from your desk and your computer for a few minutes. Take a walk, listen to music, grab a beer (if that’s cool in your office), chat with co-workers. Do pretty much anything that’s not writing and let your sub-conscious try to work out the problem. Don’t try to think about the writing too much. The answer to your problem might not come to you, but you might get an idea that leads to the answer.

    1. LeisureSuitLarry*

      Also, I want to add something here I just thought of.

      Anytime I get something new and I don’t know how to start it, I get a little bit of panic. How the hell am I supposed to do this? I don’t know anything about it, so how do I tell someone else about it? I even do this with things I know very well, like god-mode well. It’s perfectly natural to me, and I’ve learned to expect it to happen. When it does, I let it happen. I let myself panic for a bit – 5 minutes, 10 minutes, whatever suits. Then I dive in. It’s that first dip into the pool that’s tough. Those few moments before you jump into a cold lake. Give yourself permission to panic then gather your courage and dive in.

  72. ManderPants*

    OP#3 -Try finishing powder and/or a finishing spray. I just discovered these (NYX brand) and they work wonders! Hope they help!

  73. consultant*


    I know this problem so well.

    I only found one good foundation that would last the whole day (Revlon). The problem was it was destroying my skin. Other foundations shine after 2-3 h.

    I now found two good mineral foundations which seem to work well – I don’t shine even after the whole day. However, I have to take care for them not to be visible on the face. There are many ways of putting mineral foundation on and for me only rubbing it in lightly is an option, otherwise it’s very noticeable.

  74. Noah*

    Re OP #5: While I totally agree that the execs should respect the meeting room system, it is most likely not appropriate to see clients in their offices. To do so requires meticulously keeping the office guest-friendly, and that doesn’t just mean neat: it also means hiding anything related to another client, turning of auditory alerts on your computer, silencing the phone when the person comes in and any number of other things. “Lots of space” is not the only requirement for a meeting with clients. If it were, the execs could hold meetings in a city park (or, for that matter, OP could make her calls from one).

  75. phedre*

    I work in fundraising & marketing and spend a lot of my time writing, whether it’s a grant or an appeal letter or marketing copy or a case statement. I frequently have writer’s block – some days you’re in the zone and the words come easily and sound awesome, other days it’s like pulling teeth just to write something that sounds terrible. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to get something, anything on paper.

    What works for me is to come up with an outline of how I think the piece should be organized (don’t stress about this part – once I’m actually writing I frequently change the order of sections or add new ones/remove ones I don’t need. Sometimes the process of writing takes you in a whole different direction than you originally thought!). My outlines aren’t comprehensive – most of the time it’s just headers/sentence fragments. For example, currently I’m working on a grant proposal. The first thing I did was think about generally what needed to be in there and make section headers. So I made an “About Us” section, “Need Addressed” “Population Served” “Program Details” “Outcomes” “Budget” sections, etc. But that’s all my outlines are – just simple headers with a few words in them.

    Then once I figure out the general sections I think I’ll need (and again, this can change – sometimes I can be mostly done with writing when I reorganize stuff, add sections, remove them etc.), under the headers I list what information I think should be under there. This is typically a few words and fragments of thoughts, not complete sentences. The point is just to start organizing your thoughts and thinking about the kinds of things that should be in there. For example, for the “Program Details” section of a grant proposal I’d think through what information I’d want to include and list it under the header: description of program, staffing structure, details of exactly what we do in the program, how we do it, list research supporting why we do the program a certain way, etc.

    Once I get all of the outline done, I go through and start writing. I don’t worry about how pretty it sounds at this time, the point is just to take all of the brief thoughts/bullet points and put them into complete sentences. After that process is over then I edit. I figure out what’s missing, what isn’t working, I fine-tune, and I make it sound pretty.

    The other suggestion I have to fight writer’s block is to create boilerplate language when you can. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel – while individual grant applications are all different depending on what the funder is asking for, there’s some language that doesn’t change. So I have boilerplate language for how we talk about certain programs, how we describe the agency in general, how we talk about the populations we serve, etc. The language needs to be adapted/updated/modified for each piece – I might edit boilerplate one way for one grant and different way for another grant – but it’s a great starting place for writing.

  76. Macedon*

    #2. As Alison said, your perspective shifts dramatically when you’re writing for pay. You can no longer afford the luxury of inspiration, writing block or perfectionism. Some days your best by your deadline is average, competent copy — and that’s what you deliver. I’d genuinely recommend that people who are uncomfortable with losing control over the writing process (from having to write to a given length/audience/deadline to the final edited shape of their copy) should consider a different career.

    Writing blocks are typically the result of perfectionism: you’re not physically incapable of stringing two words together, it’s just not the witty arrangement you want. So you get stuck on that lack of quality and don’t push through it. You have to become okay with the fact that getting decent copy out on time nine times out of ten trumps publishing brilliance.

  77. Kate 2*

    OP #1 did you get to see the whole office when you interviewed, even as a walk through? What positions were the interviewers in? It might be that if the interviewers are higher ups, dressing more casually could be a privilege of their positions, and lower workers have to dress more formally. I have worked a couple places like this.

    Additionally, you didn’t have your interview on a Friday, did you? Because the office might do casual Fridays, and you wouldn’t want to dress that way on a Monday.

    I would just go ahead and email like Alison said. As others have said, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, dress more formally in a way that is easy to tone down if you do turn out to be too formal.

  78. Tim*

    On #1 – suit wearing – asking your manager is a good idea but doesn’t always pay off. In the interview for a previous job, everyone was obviously dressed formally (I was interviewed by my prospective line manager and another manager) and I asked in the interview what the dress code was. The answer: basically what you’re wearing now will be fine. When I actually started working there, the ‘shop floor’ staff were quick to inform me that it was really more of a smart casual place, excepting the managers when they had meetings. I removed my tie before the end of the day and dressed more comfortably thereafter. No harm done. :)

    On #3 – higher ups in your meeting room – I’ve had success just walking in with whoever I’m meeting with and saying something like ‘Oh, hi John. I didn’t know you were joining us for this meeting… you’ve met Bob have you?’. They either quickly realise they have to be elsewhere or they fake it and do actually join the meeting (usually only for a bit before remembering they have an ‘important phone conference’).

  79. LN*

    #3 – this may have been mentioned already, but have you tried facial antiperspirants? They do exist, and you can buy them on Amazon. There’s also Botox treatments designed specifically to redirect excessive facial sweating. This is something I deal with too, so you have all my sympathy. People really don’t understand routine facial sweating, and it always tends to read as nervous/unkempt/etc.

    Also, try looking up MUA Emily Eddington’s video “the makeup that survived childbirth.” she wears a full face of makeup most days, and used to be a newscaster, so she’s got all the best tips and tricks. She ended up putting on a full face the same day that she later went into labor, and it still looked FANTASTIC after. Investing in some super long-lasting sweat-proof makeup like the stuff she uses might be in order, too. Best of luck!!!

  80. Erin*

    For #3 – I also run hot and get a sweaty face. I have found that primer makes a huge difference in the durability of my makeup. I like Smashbox Photo Finish Primer and Bare Minerals foundation. For mascara, if I have to wear it, I use Blinc. It doesn’t run at all, ever. And you could try makeup setting spray, although personally I don’t use it.

    If you really just want minimal makeup, then try filling in your brows with a pencil (I use Anastasia brow wiz, it doesn’t sweat off) and wearing some lip gloss. I feel like filled in brows make people look instantly more polished, unless of course you’re lucky enough to have strong brows on your own.

    I’d also suggest incorporating stretchy fabric headbands or head scarves scarves into your hairstyles. They soak up the sweat and keep it from running down your face. A ponytail or bun with a sleek wide fabric headband can look perfectly polished.

    1. Rocky*

      Totally agree that a filled-in brow plus bold lip gives the impression of full make-up. I love a New Zealand brand called Backlash. Their eyebrow pencils do not sweat or smudge or move in any way. I specially love that the colours look very natural (avoiding that gingery pencilled-in look).

  81. Champage_Dreams*

    OP #3 go to Sephora, and get DERMADOCTOR MED e TATE antiperspirant wipes. When I rub one of these wipes all over my face and neck, it stops the sweating dead. Closing off the pores of your face and neck will make the sweat come out more on the other parts of your body (I find my scalp sweating more), but the visible parts of you will look great.

  82. Emma*

    #1: wear a suit. No one at a law firm will hold it against you if you do, even if they say “oh you don’t have to do that.” In other words, it’s not going to hurt to wear one, whereas dressing too casual might. (I work at a law firm that is business casual dress. No one would think twice about someone wearing a suit their first day, though they might say “oh you didn’t have to”).

  83. emma2*

    Re writer’s block: Unless your bosses are super anal about your schedule, give yourself a good half hour to take a walk, get a coffee, etc. If I do this, I shorten my lunch hour a bit, but there is a difference between completely slacking off and just refreshing yourself. Since our jobs are writing intensive, my manager doesn’t judge us for taking breaks since most people are productive in 2-3 hour spurts rather than for 8 hours straight.

  84. Not Perry Mason*

    #1: since you specify this is a law firm, wear a suit. Barring something very exceptional with the firm culture (e.g.,
    you’re working at Quinn Emmanuel), a suit is never going to be out of place at a law firm. That is true even in Silicon Valley.

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