Fashion: Building a Workwear Wardrobe

Disclaimer: I have a LOT of clothes. Despite sending off a total of five binbags to a charity shop over summer, selling another bag full on Ebay, and chucking more than a fair few odd socks, baggy knickers and bobbly bras, I have far too many clothes. I’ve taken over more than my fair share of the wardrobe, I have three under-bed boxes. Yet all the things I currently own do get worn.

 photo Workwear Outfits 5_zpsldfjftmh.jpgAs you might be able to tell, this isn’t about building a capsule workwear wardrobe.

Now, I work in the City. Whist I’m not expected to be in a ‘full suit’ everyday, I am expected to wear business attire, carry a jacket, look smart etc. The point of reference I tend to use is whether the guys where ties; they do in my office, so I dress smart(er) to reflect this. My usual go-to is a miss-matched suit, or a tailored dress and light-weight jacket. I also have a few floatier skirts which I tend to through on with more structured jackets, likewise I have a couple of smarter outfits for days with important meetings. I also have my go-to ‘Friday outfits’ – whilst my office doesn’t have formal dress-down Fridays, I have already noticed things do get a bit more casual for the last day of the working week.

 photo Workwear Outfits 2_zpsm49egudq.jpgThe key for me is the fit. If an item isn’t fitting right, it will never look smart, no matter how hard I try. Nothing used to bug me more at interviews, seeing guys in too-short trousers, girls in too-tight skirts. Good workwear doesn’t have to cost a fortune; I’ve had some excellent suits from ASDA & H&M over the years, and I think getting a good fit is far more important than spending a fortune on a pricey label. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight since buying a good half of my workwear wardrobe, so it’s bugging me that some pieces (particularly the jackets and grey dress) are a little too big. I’m hoping to gradually replace those bits – but for now I’m finding M&S great for petite-length tailored pieces that don’t break the bank. Machine washable too is a big bonus!

 photo Workwear Outfits 1_zpsybvrfppg.jpg photo Workwear Outfits 4_zpsogvom8nx.jpgThen there’s colour. Even if I’m wearing a black/grey outfit I need some colour in there. Be it a bold lipstick (I haven’t dared postbox red in the office yet though), something from my satchel collection or more ‘out there’ shoes (I have a pair of gorgeous oxblood stillettos, slip them on once I get to my final tube leg and I’m good to go!), I can’t be all in neutrals. My go-to way of adding colour is a cardigan. I can’t go to work without one (damn you air conditioning!), and I have one in every possible shade. Duck-egg blue, navy blue, royal blue, burgundy, fuschia pink, shell pink, cream, black, grey, red, orange, mustard yellow, white…Another way to add colour (and one that I really wish I could pull off more) is jewellery*. Think chunky bracelets, bold necklaces. The perfect way to jazz up a plain shift dress!

 photo Workwear Outfits 7_zps5fwvtccv.jpg photo Workwear Outfits 8_zpsze97qcct.jpg photo Workwear Outfits 9_zpslcorsys5.jpgMore casual Fridays are what fill me with dread. I’m okay with my usual ‘uniform’ – it’s comforting having limits in place. But on Fridays things get a bit more casual. One of my go-to styles for smarter weekends has always been a shirt dress, so I decided to take this to the office too. This dress from JD Williams* is a little longer than I’d like, but cinches in nicely at the waist. It doesn’t gape (essential for work – gaping shirts are the main reason I stick to dresses!), is lightweight (a godsend over the last few weeks, the tube commute has been rather warm!), and goes well with a plain black jacket.

 photo Workwear Outfits 6_zpshkxv7wpj.jpgNow all I need is this tweed pencil skirt (serious heart-eye emoji going on, I love it!). And to stop getting W to take outfit photos at 7.15am, when I’m bleary-eyed and with only half my makeup on…

What is your workwear wardrobe like? Any inspiration for where to shop?


Careers: Preparing for Competency Questions

“Tell me about a time when you saved the world whilst dancing on your head?”

There’s an example of a competency question, albeit a rather silly one. But they are often seen as the most difficult part of a job application process, and so they’re worth getting right. A competency question simply asks you to demonstrate your ability at a skill, or set of skills, using your own experiences. I’ve sat in on quite a few careers seminars which aim at helping with competency questions, so feel I can help you out a little.
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Here’s a few examples of competency questions. These are ones I have actually been asked in interviews or on application forms – but no, I’m not revealing by which company!

  • Please describe an example of when you have successfully completed a complex task or project. What was the task, what obstacles did you face, and what was the outcome?
  • Please describe an example of when you have built a successful relationship with a colleague or a customer. What did you do, why did you do it and what was the outcome?
  • Give an example of a time when you’ve been an effective team member.
  • Describe a time when you have challenged convention and found an opportunity to improve things. What did you do and how was it received?
  • Describe when you have built a strong collaborative relationship, how you achieved this, and what were the rewards?
  • Describe a difficult situation and how you have resolved it.
  • Please describe a time you’ve used analytical thinking to find a simple solution to a complex problem.
  • Tell me about a task that you have delivered under a tight time constraint. How did you plan your time to ensure you delivered what was required?

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The best bit of advice I ever heard was to create a grid detailing key skills, with examples next to it. This should be just short, just one page, so you can memorize the examples and the skills they gave, or use in a telephone interview.

I always have a spreadsheet which lists all the competency questions I have ever been asked, alongside full answers. I go through every couple of months and update answers if I feel like they need updating. This keeps things fresh in my mind and reading through before an interview means I should never be stuck for something to say!


You want to make sure your answer has a good structure. What you did. Why you did it. How you did it. How you demonstrated the skill in question. What was the outcome and how did you influence it. How would you improve next time.

Above all, make sure you answer the question. If you are asked one about teamwork, don’t talk about an individual project. Teamwork questions can be tricky as you want to make it all about your skills, whilst demonstrating how you worked as a team. A good answer might be something like ‘we worked on X, I suggested we split the work up and look the lead on Y, this meant we were on time and working in manageable chunks.’

Also ensure you use examples from your own experience – there’s nothing more awkward than being asked further details and not being able to provide them!

And my top tip?

Make sure you have examples for each of the skills you mention in your CV. Interviewers are bound to pick up on these, so if you have said you are skilled in a particular programming language, have an example of a project using it ready to wow!

Do you have any tips for dealing with these types of questions? What part of the job application process do you find the most difficult?

Careers: Tips for The Application Process

When I think back to second-year, when I was frantically applying for every single actuarial placement I could find (which, let’s face it, isn’t very many…so was supplemented with analyst jobs too), I know I’d have loved honest, down-to-earth advice about applications from a student perspective. So that’s exactly what I’m doing!

 photo Application Process_zps39xhw2wd.pngHave Your CV Ready

Yes, you are probably going to want to make a few small changes to your CV for each job you apply for, but having the majority of it done, up-to-date and ready puts away a big chunk of work.

Pre-Prepare Responses

Certain questions come up in most applications, often worded slightly differently, often banded under ‘competency questions.’ Getting these right is crucial to doing well in job applications (I’ll be doing a dedicated post in a few weeks). Whilst the questions always cover the same skills, you’ll probably need to tailor response specifically – but having base answers can save so much time. What you did, how you handled it, the result.
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Don’t Rush & Check Through

Obviously there are occasions where you might be up against a tight timeline (I remember once forgetting to apply for a job until the closing date – though I did end up being offered it!). For the most part, however, try and complete applications slowly and thoroughly. Rushing can mean silly mistakes.

Spell check even simple things like your address. I would advise never using auto-fill for a job application as it can occasionally fill the information into the wrong box – now is not the time for that kind of mistake!

Research & Make Notes

Make sure you do your research on the company, it’s values and (most importantly) the role. You’ll want to tailor your CV to the job so this is crucial – and I’m pretty sure this is the main reason why I’ve had success in job applications so far.

When I apply for any job I make notes on the company and the role. I also document the application date, details about the process and closing date – then I’ll have a rough idea when I might expect to hear back.
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Personalise It

No two job applications should be the same, you need to hint at the company, at its values, drop subtle notifications that you meet that specific job specification. This is especially important if you’re applying for a whole host of slightly different jobs (i.e marketing vs advertising roles) as your application won’t seem generic.

What are your tips for job applications?