I’ve had the opportunity to connect with such amazing and inspiring women since launching Do Well Dress Well. Social media never fails to bring people together, especially those with similar interests, helping to form some great new relationships. From the time I launched my Instagram account, I can remember seeing ‘sixfootstyle’ like my photos. I continue to be so touched by how supportive she has been on social media and we’ve never even met in-person! When I decided it was time to start an interview series, I knew that it was the perfect opportunity to get to know Lauren better. Not only does she have a great sense of style which she shares over at Six Foot Style, she has such an inspirational career journey. I hope you all will be as inspired by her personal style and career success as I am!
Name: Lauren Candela
City: New York
Current title: Vice President of Marketing
You graduated from college and immediately landed a full-time marketing position with Bed, Bath and Beyond. Tell us a bit about this job. Did you always know that you wanted to work in marketing?
Wow, well I’ll start by saying that I was incredibly thankful to have this job. I moved to New York from Colorado for college, and the economy wasn’t in the best shape in 2008 when I graduated. I was really torn about staying in New York or moving home, and once I was offered this position, I felt like fate was telling me to stay here. I’ve never looked back since.
My first professional position was as a Marketing Assistant at Bed Bath & Beyond, and my primary responsibilities were in helping to establish BBB’s social media sites, and assist in public relations efforts. It was an incredible learning experience for me, and gave me the opportunity to see what working for a very large company looked like.
As I received my Bachelors in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing, I was able to put my studies to use in a business setting, and this position also allowed me to make the transition from being a full-time student for almost my entire life, into a full-time employee.
After a year of working post-graduation, you decided to pursue your MBA through night classes. What encouraged you to go back to school and did you find it difficult to balance work and classes?
While the decision to go back to school in order to obtain an MBA was a tough one, I am so incredibly thankful today that I went through with it. I knew that in order to advance myself professionally I needed an MBA. If I wanted to continue to develop my marketing skills, better my chances of advancing in my career, and so forth, a big part of that would start from obtaining an advanced degree.
Balancing everything was a huge challenge. Working all day and attending classes until 10pm at night was certainly no small feat, but I think what made it tolerable was that my classes were filled with students living a similar lifestyle. While I loved my undergrad experience, my graduate experience was vastly different. Classes were filled with discussions and opinions from students that worked in all different types of businesses, with incredibly diverse positions and career paths. Hearing their stories, and how our class lessons actually played out in different firms was really an “outside of the book” learning experience.
The best advice I can give to women looking to move their way up the corporate ladder is to put in the work.
You’ve managed to work your way up the ladder from Marketing Representative to Vice President in a male-dominated industry. Did you actively seek out your promotions? What tips do you have for other women who are looking to move their way up the corporate ladder?
After leaving Bed Bath & Beyond, I moved to a family-operated, commercial real estate development company as a Marketing Representative. I am about to celebrate my five year anniversary with the firm, and I have been promoted twice since starting. My promotions have honestly been the result of hard work, as is the case with anything in my life. I never actively said I wanted to be promoted, but I finished my MBA, I came in early/stayed late, really sunk my teeth into this position, company, and the commercial real estate industry as a whole, and I have been rewarded for this.
The best advice I can give to women looking to move their way up the corporate ladder is to put in the work. Of course, you need to be able to actually do the work, but go the extra mile, ask your boss to bring you to their next meeting, express a desire to learn more … and do these things face to face. Do as much as you can face to face. We are becoming a workplace of emails, and I find incredible value in getting up to go ask questions face to face, disagreeing face to face, even having casual water-cooler conversations with someone in person. It might take a little more time than sending an email, but this goes a long way.
So, tell us a bit about your current role as VP of Marketing. Can you describe a typical work day for us?
Every day is different. It has been interesting for me to transition from being someone who actively works each day to complete a series of tasks, to someone who manages people and the work that they are doing … and someone who is thinking on a larger and more broad spectrum, planning for future initiatives/goals, and so forth.
My typical day is spent planning our short-term and long-term marketing projects. So whether that’s working with the sales team to develop content for emails, exploring future trade show opportunities, writing our social media and blog posts, investigating new markets we haven’t tapped into yet, how we can get greater value from our various marketing initiatives, etc. it truly does vary from day to day, but that it something I love with this position.
For many of us, it’s very difficult to figure out what our passion is. We’re told to “find our passion” but yet it seems to be easier said than done. How were you able to find a career path that you are passionate about?
So often, I believe people leave their career decisions up to intuition, rather than taking a hard look at themselves and what their strengths/weaknesses are, and what types of jobs would actually fuse well with their personality and what they excel at.
I always knew I wanted to do something in business, and after taking some introductory business classes in college, I quickly learned that finance, accounting, HR and so forth weren’t for me. My marketing class was the course that I loved attending, enjoyed reading the text book, and eventually started to develop a passion for. Once choosing that area of study as my specialization in college, I was enrolled in many types of marketing classes, and my love grew and grew.
Another passion of mine has always been fashion. I am incredibly discerning when it comes to my wardrobe (if you’ve read my blog I speak about this often), so I have frequently faced difficulty sourcing clothing that I truly love. Especially as a taller woman, the challenge of finding clothing, and more specifically work clothing, has been tough. I now truly enjoy sharing my tips and tricks on the blog, so that other tall women will hopefully use the site as a resource and can avoid facing the same issues I’ve faced in acquiring clothing.
You also volunteer for various charitable organizations in addition to your current position and blogging – how do you balance your time? What tools help you stay organized?
Balancing my time today is a huge challenge, but I’ve been able to get everything done by saying “No”. As much as I would love to, I cannot do everything and be everywhere at once. So my New Year’s Resolution in 2016 was to start saying “No” to things. It has been a tremendous help in freeing up time for me to spend with my husband, relaxing, traveling, and so forth … “me time”. Taking in and enjoying some quality “me time” affords me the ability to perform so much more efficiently in all of the other aspects of my life.
Learn as much as you can. Make yourself irreplaceable. You create your fortunes and your destiny. Get to work.
Looking back at your career journey, what’s one thing you’ve learned that has made a significant impact on you?
The companies we work for are not in the business of employing people. That sounds incredibly harsh, and when I heard it said in my workplace, I had to consciously not allow my jaw to drop to the floor. But it’s the cold, hard truth though. Everyone is replaceable. Companies close, they move to different states, jobs are excessed, and the list goes on and on. The business world can be incredibly tough at times, and there have been moments in my career of complete and utter frustration and rejection. But those are the moments when you lace up your boots and work. Ingrain yourself so deeply in your workplace that it feels like it’s your company. Learn as much as you can. Make yourself irreplaceable. You create your fortunes and your destiny. Get to work.
Of course, in addition to working and volunteering, you also run the blog Six Foot Style. What inspired you to start blogging and how has the experience been?
I have truly found a passion of mine in creating Six Foot Style, and it has been rewarding beyond anything that I can put into words. I started the blog earlier this year to provide a fashion and style resource for working women. At various points in my career, I have seen so many women eager to climb the corporate ladder but unwilling or unsure of how to look the part. It is my hope that Six Foot Style can become a place where working women can visit to find outfit inspiration for their workplace.
As you describe in your About Me page, when we think about the most important attributes for succeeding in the workplace, most people often think of aptitude, education, intelligence and work ethic. Appearance at work seems to be undervalued – why is that and how important do you think your appearance has played a role in your professional success?
While aptitude, education, intelligence and work ethic are certainly contributors to success in the workplace, I believe many women would be surprised to find that their appearance is also incredibly critical to their success. Dressing professionally for work signals to your employer that you value your own appearance and you’re willing to spend the time required to look put-together. It illustrates that you value their company and your position within the firm, and projects an image that you are here to be taken seriously. As I said earlier, one of my best pieces of advice for women looking to advance their career is to actively tell your superiors that you would love to attend their next meeting, learn more about this or that, assist on their next big project so you can learn a little more about x, y or z. Your boss isn’t going to take you into their next c-level meeting if you’re not dressed appropriately. This could damage their career, and yours.
I too have mornings when I wake up and don’t want to put on a suit, curl my hair, and do my makeup … so I totally know what that feels like. But, taking the time to look professional each work day will help get your mind in the space it needs to be when you walk in the door for work. Personally, I believe my professional attire at work has certainly contributed towards my career growth. It has helped me feel more confident, and helped me project an image that I am a professional who should be taken seriously (which was especially important as I started my career).
How has your personal style evolved since starting your career? Where do you turn for work wear inspiration?
Since starting my career, my personal style has continued to grow into more business formal attire. My first position was in a business casual environment, but when I transitioned to commercial real estate, I was surrounded by men in suits at every event I attended. This prompted me to step up my game and begin sourcing suits and work wear pieces that still incorporate a feminine feel to them.
I find work wear inspiration from other bloggers since I don’t have time to visit malls and see the latest work fashions. Bloggers like Olivia from The Corporate Catwalk, Holly from Work Wear Snapshot, Two Corporate Girls, and your website at Do Well Dress Well.
Dressing professionally for work signals to your employer that you value your own appearance and you’re willing to spend the time required to look put-together.
Many people believe that working in a corporate environment prevents you from looking stylish at work. Of course – we know that’s not the case! What are 3 tips you can share for looking chic yet professional in the workplace, especially as a tall woman?
You are 100% right, just because you work in a corporate environment, you don’t have to sacrifice style. Here are my tips:
- Use accessories to incorporate your personal style. Whether it’s a statement necklace, silk scarf, or a beautiful watch, using accessories to display your personal style can help give personality to a black business suit, solid colored sheath dress, etc.
- Invest in quality pieces (this is especially true for taller women). Early on in my career, I was purchasing a larger quantity of work wear pieces, but from retailers that did not specifically sell work wear, or from retailers that did not make clothing specifically for tall women. While I had a closet full of clothing, most of it was ill-fitting and I didn’t realize how this was damaging my overall appearance. Purchase fewer pieces, and invest in them … chose quality over quantity.
- Observe what your boss and your superiors are wearing at work. Emulate them. I’ve always been told to dress for the job that I want, not the job that I have, and this old adage is incredibly true. If your managers and executives are wearing sharp suits every day, wearing a similar style will give you confidence and signal that you’re ready to be on their level.
What’s your go-to outfit?
Since it’s the summer, I have been gravitating towards a sheath dress almost every day for work. I love the versatility of this style of dress as it can easily be dressed up with a blazer, or dressed down for happy hours/after-work activities.
What are 5 staple items in your closet that you can’t live without?
Here are my tried-and-true work wear essentials that I absolutely cannot live without:
- A work-appropriate, classic-looking (and warm) winter coat. We have some cold days in the winter here in New York, and I am often commuting to and from meetings, so a stylish and functional winter coat is a must for me. I’m currently on the hunt for a new coat this winter and have my eye on the Lisbet from MARGE clothing.
- My MM.LaFleur silk scarf. I only recently started wearing more scarves, and I love how they add an element of sophistication to almost any outfit.
- A classic black sheath dress (or LBD). It’s incredibly functional and is my go-to when I’m unsure of how I should dress for a certain occasion. I’ve been wearing one from Asos Tall for years.
- My tweed skirt suit from The Limited. This is my go-to suit when I’m looking for something to make a little more of a splash that a traditional black or navy suit.
- Spanx! While I don’t wear them every day, if I’m wearing something that is a bit more form-fitting, feeling a little heavier than usual, etc. they’re a perfect solution.
Check out Six Foot Style and follow Lauren on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!