Big Business Wear

 She couldn't find anything at the mall that fit her either.

She couldn't find anything at the mall that fit her either.

Note: This post originally appeared on WorkHerWay.com

It's no secret that clothing options are limited for women who wear size 14 and over. But you don't have to let that keep you from looking your most professional and fashionable at the office. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a meeting wearing something that isn't quite right for the occasion, simply because it was the only thing in the closet that fit. I've been there myself, so learn from my mistakes and save yourselves.

Think you're above fashion? Wearing stylish, appropriate, well-fitting clothes to the office projects an air of intelligence and competence. Don't believe me? Remember the last person you saw with a muffin top caused by too-tight pants, or a beaded sweater better suited to a holiday party than the workplace? You probably wondered what they'd been thinking leaving the house dressed like that. If you're not confident in their ability to dress themselves, why would you entrust them with an important task?

For suit wearers, the solution is fairly straightforward. Buy suits in your size, don't forget to have them tailored to fit you impeccably, and your closet is full of outfits you can throw on during your morning routine.

But if your dress code fits into the wilderness between business casual and full-on corporate, things get a little more complicated. It's hard enough to find clothes that fit your company's sartorial niche. Finding them in plus sizes can be almost impossible. A trip to the mall is likely to leave you tired, cranky and in possession of approximately one-third of the garments you had hoped to buy. 

Shopping in catalogs or online improves your chances of finding the perfect work outfit, but does take some effort. I can hear you complaining about the shipping and handling costs, but you'd probably spend the same amount of money at Cinnabon after four hours of shopping that have left you with precisely one top. The savings in time and frustration alone are worth a few postage charges.

Since you'll be buying clothes without having tried them on, it's a bit of a gamble, but most retailers accept returns. Once you've figured out what size you take at each online store, you'll be able to order with confidence. Even then, you'll still probably need a trip to the tailor, but you should be doing that with mall-bought outfits too. Yes, it's cheaper to wear hems that dowdily hit you at the top of the calf rather than at the knee, but you'll look so much more put together once you have them fixed.

Follow fatshion blogs to find out about sale codes and retailers that you may not have heard of. For inspiration on what separates to get and how to put them all together, take a look at the fatshionista group, which displays photos of plus sized women wearing their latest fabulous outfit, many of them office appropriate.

No, it isn't fair that your thinner co-workers can build a work wardrobe with hardly any money, time or effort. But you can do it too, with much less aggravation than you expect.

Mentoring is All Around Us

 A coach mentors a player, just like anyone can mentor you in your career. It's how I got budged into becoming a freelance writer. 

Mentors just kind of sneak up on you. No one ever says, "Hey buddy, want a mentor?" And even though I've heard the advice to come right out and ask someone to mentor you, I can't imagine people actually having that conversation. 

In reality, mentoring usually comes in the form of unsolicited advice. You'll be having a conversation and someone will just lay some mentorship on you. So you should be ready for it.  

Early in my career as a technical writer for a software company, I was actually doing the job of a systems analyst - designing the system interface instead of writing a user guide explaining how to use the system. Long before I made the move to become a systems analyst myself, I said to one of the bigwigs something about how I should probably learn to program. He said, "Why would you want to do that?" so quickly that I knew he didn't even stop to think - it was a gut reaction. I explained that I thought analysts should know how to program and he said no, they didn't.

Now, if I were really as stubborn in my opinions as some people seem to think I am (Mom) then I would've thought, "well, that's his opinion, but I'm going to do it anyway." And then I would've spent years making myself miserable trying to learn to code. I tried to teach myself in high school and gave up the first time I had to find a bug. I really didn't care enough about it to work at it for fun, so doing it for work would've been agony. 

And he was right. It's possible to be a systems analyst without knowing how to code. I did it for years and I was pretty damned good at it.

Now, if I'd wanted to be a programmer, that bigwig might've encouraged me. Or I might have ignored his advice. But I was open enough to consider it. 

Years later, I was working at a company that I refer to as The Evil Place because it was so bad that one of my friends/co-workers can't stand to hear the real name of the company. At one point, my manager took me aside and told me that I didn't really have a future with the company (or even hope of getting a promised performance-based bonus) because certain people had developed a negative opinion of me. I began to object, but then she told me that it didn't matter what these people thought of me. We'd worked together at other companies, so she knew that I wasn't the cause of the problem. But she also knew that I was powerless to fix it. After all, I'm not the one who nicknamed it The Evil Place - it wasn't just me.

Again, if I hadn't been open to the advice, my natural need to please everyone would've kicked in and I would still be working there a decade plus later, trying to do such a great job that they had no choice but to acknowledge that I had great technical and people skills. Instead, I accepted that I wasn't going to get anywhere with these people, and got another job.

Even my decision to stop being a techie and become a freelance writer was triggered by some random advice. A co-worker mentioned to me (while we were at the theater waiting for a show to start) that I didn't seem to enjoy working in an office. That nudge set me towards using my technical knowledge and writing skill to write website copy and blog posts, among other things.

I'm not saying that all the advice you get is going to be good. I've gotten some monumentally bad advice over the years and I've even taken it on occasion. But if you refuse to really listen and consider that someone is handing you some primo mentorship, then you're going to miss out.

Does My Company Need a Blog?

 A giant question mark in a field wonders if your company needs a blog.

Probably. It's a great way to keep your site fresh. Google likes it when you update your site, so new blog posts are an easy way to add new content. So if the rest of your website is fairly static, you definitely need a blog.

I'd say the only reason your company wouldn't need a blog is if you already have more business than you can handle and you don't want more potential customers finding you.  I'm not just being sarcastic here. Amazon.com doesn't have a blog because everyone already knows about them.

But chances are that your company name isn't a household word and you need a company blog.

But I don't know what to blog about.

That's fine. In fact, you're probably better off that way. I've seen some company blogs where the CEO treats it like their personal blog. They build websites, so use their blog to write about the latest technology. But guess what? No one cares what some random tech guy write about Twitter buying Vine. They can read that news in loads of other places.

If you want to write about things related to your industry, it might be more appropriate for you to do that in your own blog. Or in guest posts on other blogs that get your business exposure. 

Your company blog needs to be focused on content marketing. Your blog posts should be about the sorts of things that your potential customers will be searching for. What problems do you solve?

Going back to the web development company example, their potential clients are wondering: 

  • How do you pick a web design/development company?
  • What should my website include?
  • How much will it cost me to have a website built? 

So those are the sorts of blog posts the company should write. 

But I don't have time to write a company blog.

That's also fine.  Unless your company is Great Writers R Us, this is probably something you should delegate to someone in Marketing or outsource to a freelance blog writer. They can write faster and better than you can.

One potential client told me that it takes him four hours to write a blog post. I can't even imagine a blog post long or complicated enough for me to need even half that time to write it.

I'm not going to try to tile a floor myself because I just don't have the expertise. I CAN do it, but not as well as something with training and experience. It's the same with writing a company blog. You have a business to run. Let someone else worry about SEO and cranking out 500 words on how your company can solve their biggest problem.

So I'll just set up a free blog.

Wait, stop. If you set up a blog completely separate from your company's website, you're not going to get any content marketing benefits. Potential customers will find your blog posts, then will have to work to find your company website so they can give you their business.

Talk to whoever built your website and have them add a blog, fully integrated into your website. Just like this one is here. I built this site myself, so if someone who charged you money to build a website can't do it, then you need to hire someone else. (As an ex-techie, I can suggest a few good people, so let me know if you need a referral.)

So to sum up, your company needs a blog and it shouldn't hurt a bit. 

What's This Content Marketing I Keep Hearing About?

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You hear so many new buzzwords that you don't even know which ones you have to care about anymore.  So I'll give you the quick version: content marketing helps potential customers find your business.

Now, you may think, "But I advertise. I network." But that's not customers finding you. That's you finding customers. Which takes more effort on your part than when customer find your website and contact you.

Besides, these days consumers have grown up with advertising. So they tend not to believe it when they actually pay attention to it. We skip the commercials on when we watch TV shows on DVRs, so now we have product placement during the shows. (Anybody else remember cringing through the episode when Daddy Duggar joined Weight Watchers?) Think of content marketing like that, only more subtle, like when all the characters on a show use Apple laptops.

So how can content marketing work for you? 

Let's say you sell gourmet pancake mixes. So think of the problems you solve for your customers. What sorts of things might people be searching for when you'd want them to stumble across your site and realize that you sell exactly what they need?  So with gourmet pancake mixes, that could be gifts for foodies, hostess gifts, what to serve at brunch, what to buy that impossible-to-shop-for relative, and so on. Then you write blog posts on those topics. When people Google "gifts for foodies" your blog post will be among the search results. And that will lead them straight to your website.

But don't write a blog post called Gifts for Foodies that only lists your products. People will notice that right away and move on to the next search result. And worse, Google will notice and it will hurt your search ranking. List several items, including your gourmet pancake mixes. But give other suggestions too so that customers won't be instantly repulsed by the hard sell.

And if you keep giving your customers valuable, useful information  (say, brunch cocktail recipes, suggested add-ins for your pancake mix-ins), they'll spend more time on your site during their first visit, and they'll keep coming back.

Some people have the time and resources to do this in-house. And others are beyond thrilled to farm this out to a freelance writer (like me). And hey, I'd lose my mind if I had to write about pancakes for 35 hours a week. Even the little silver dollar ones.

Still have questions about content marketing? Ask 'em in the comments.

It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Google

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Besides, you can't. So stop trying. 

Once upon a time, about three years ago, everyone was flooding the web with keywords. It didn't matter to them if their content was dreck because they wanted to use lots of keywords to get Google's attention and raise their search ranking. They got Google's attention, all right. Then the royal smart persons at Google changed the search algorithms to ignore poor quality content and punish any webpage that was waving it's arms around trying to get attention with keywords and nothing else.

And the world breathed a sigh of relief and threw parades in honor of the royal smart persons because they didn't have to sift through pages of poor quality content when they were just trying to find out how to fix their leaky sink.

Oh wait, that didn't happen. Because most people didn't even notice. And those that did freaked out and started looking for new ways to trick Google into giving them web traffic whether they deserved it or not. Seriously, some web masters would've sacrificed a chicken if they thought it would do any good. They'd already sacrificed quality and the sanity of countless web surfers.

Sorry kiddies, but the best way to bring in search traffic these days is to create high quality content. As in, something a real human being would want to read. Don't even worry about keywords. Google's search algorithms are smart enough to know what you're talking about, and what someone is searching for, and they'll put you together if there's a logical match, not a keyword match.

If you want customers to find your website, then add text to your webpages that speaks to their needs. Do blog posts that discuss the things people might be searching for when you want them to find you. If you sell those squishie stress balls, write a blog post about ways to promote a product (including giving away stress balls with the product name on it). Then when someone searches for ways to promote a product, they'll find your blog post, and therefore your website.

Google isn't going to turn back the clock. If your business has a web presence, you need good writing. A freelance writer like me isn't there just to protect you from grammar nerds and people who will can help you build your business.