Dressing “Biz” Attire on a Budget

Business attire is NOT cheap! Purchasing suits, slacks and blouses can really hurt your pockets, especially if you’re still a student, interning or just starting out in your career. Don’t even get me started on all the accessories you need like bags and shoes.

But the truth is, you feel as good as you look. If you want to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company one day, the time to start dressing like one is NOW! And me personally? I prefer my business wear to have a bit of a flash about it (that’s why I call it Biz Attire). No one likes a stiff suit; you look as uncomfortable to people as you feel. 

If you’re looking to add more “biz” attire to your wardrobe on a tight budget, here are my top three places where I rack up:

  1. Thrift Stores and Consignment Boutiques: A lot of people turn up their noses at thrift stores. If you’re one of them… either take my advice or leave it. Me? I love them! My biggest tip when thrifting is to find a store in a ritzy and wealthy area. These stores have awesome, vintage and a lot of brand new items because many people donating them are really wealthy. Thrifting has become a hobby for me; I love the thrill of the bargain!
  2. Outlets: Outlets are stores that sell their merchandise directly to the public at significantly lower prices. Many stores actually have outlet versions, including Banana Republic Outlet, Talbots Outlet, Ann Taylor Outlet and BCBG Maxazria Outlet. If you know Talbots then you know they’re pretty expensive. However, one Talbots Outlet I went to had a sale where nothing was more than $19.99. Yeah, I’m still in disbelief!
  3. QVC Stores/Clothing and Such: QVC Stores sell everything that television shopping networks (QVC and HSN) can’t sell online, BUT since it couldn’t be sold online, it’s sold at an extremely discounted price. Clothing and Such (in North Carolina) is similar, just not ran by QVC. I’ve gone to three Clothing and Such where all shoes, REGARDLESS of brand, are a flat rate of $15.00. You can’t beat that.

For proof, check below for some of my favorite finds! (click photos to see larger images)

Susan Graver Blouse – $7.00 – QVC StoreTalbots Slacks – $13.70 – Talbots (Outlet)Blazer (My Splurge) – $38.00 – Express

Susan Graver Blouse – $7.00 – QVC Store
Talbots Slacks – $13.70 – Talbots (Outlet)
Blazer (My Splurge) – $38.00 – Express

Casual Corner Suit – $10.98 – Goodwill
Brooks Brothers Blouse – $5.00 – Consignment Boutique (Brand New!)
Banana Republic Pumps – $5.98 – Goodwill

Bonwit Teller Suit – $10.98 – Goodwill
Brooks Brothers Blouse – $5.00 – Consignment Boutique (Brand New!)

Rachel Zoe Coat – $20.00 – QVC Store

Michael Kors Sweater/Blazer – $18.00 – Consignment Boutique (Brand New!)

Vintage Briefcase – $19.98 – Goodwill

Talbots Business Dress – $19.99 – Talbots (Outlet)

Naturalizer Shoes – $14.98 – Goodwill (Brand New!)

Lord & Taylor Purse

Lord & Taylor Purse – $6.98 – Goodwill (Brand New!)

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My Blog… The Re-Up

If you haven’t noticed this already, my blog isn’t actually a blog. I mean it is, but then again it isn’t. I didn’t create it as a blog. It was created as a branding tool to market myself, an e-portfolio. I first created it in the fall of 2010 as a class assignment. My resume, bio and work samples were even posted on the site. I made sure to upkeep it over the years and have even given it a couple of face lifts since then. My ultimate goal was to use it to help lead me to a fantastic first career job, and I’m proud to say that day has come!

Since my career is officially launching in January, I have decided to give my e-portfolio another face life (sort of). Even though this post is called “The Re-Up”, the up part is still up and coming. This lift is going to be very gradual and ongoing, but this time around I’m actually turning http://www.ericahilton.com into a blog. I’m still using it as a branding tool, but this time I’m having a lot more fun with it. I know blogs are supposed to focus on one topic and one topic only, BUT aren’t rules meant to be broken sometimes? In any case, I am deciding to break the ultimate blog rule: I don’t have a blog topic.14723_4171562972741_212520903_n

This blog is going to be my outlet to share with you my experiences, stories and just my life period. Please don’t let that scare you away though! I’m pretty sure that this will end up being a captivating read. I mean think about: I’m a southern girl living in Washington, DC (so much to do, things I’ve never seen and so many new opportunities!); I have a brand new career in communications AND it’s a progressive one; This hair of mine is au naturale, so I’m still trying to work out all my kinks (all pun intended!); My friends are crazy, driven and gorgeous; My love life is only just a little less crazy. See what I mean? It can be pretty unpredictable, which always makes for a good story. I’ve also picked up some really great advice and learned some really hard lessons these past few years; I want to share those with you too.

I hope you stick around. I can’t even describe to you how excited I am to turn http://www.ericahilton.com into exactly what I want it to be; something just for me. The fact that I’m sharing this wild ride with you makes me even more excited.

Much love, peace and happiness

Erica

Taking Advantage of Your Personal Network

I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything, but I have some pretty incredible friends.

There’s the branding and marketing expert, Maya J. There’s Brooke, the genius of knowing how to get guaranteed call backs for job interviews. Barbara has her own public relations company. Bianca has her own nail business. The crazy thing is that they’re not even half the amount of brilliant people that I have in my personal network.

Last week I called up one of my friends about 5 different times. I picked her brain about how to perfect a document I was working on. This weekend I helped the same friend with a website. We traded our skills and talents. We learned from each other.

I know we each have our own professional network, but a lot of times we forget to take a good hard look at what our own personal networks have to offer us. So ask yourself: Who are the people in your personal life you’d like to like to learn from? 

Failure Doesn’t Always Mean Failure

Things don’t always go as planned, but I’m sure you’ve experienced that at least once already. If you would have asked me this time last year where did I see myself in a year and a half down the road I would have told you that I’d be living in Miami, going to the beach at least once a week, earning a MA in Public Relations and chasing a really cool career in entertainment public relations. Now is that what I’m doing? Absolutely not! Why? Because that isn’t where I was supposed to be.

Sometimes what you think you want isn’t what you’re supposed to have for yourself. When I’m talking with friends or just people in general and topics come up such as not getting certain positions, not receiving an acceptance letter or even just accidentally missing an application deadline, there’s that little sting of rejection at first. Then the conversation turns into what does the mishap mean? Are you not supposed to attend that school? Is there a bigger position somewhere else waiting for you? Is this just not for you now because it’s not the right time? Would this actually make you unhappy? See, failure doesn’t always mean failure. I like to say that ‘failure is not an option,’ but I realized that sometimes failures hold the best lessons in life for us. Therefore, they aren’t failures, just redirections.

I remember applying for graduate schools, and the school that I was dying to go to originally didn’t offer the money that I needed. What did I do? I went with the school that did. And the outcome? One of the best decisions that I could have made for myself, which back then I had no idea I was doing. Now I just graduated from graduate school. I have a paid summer internship with a government department that actually incorporates everything that I enjoy doing and not just the communication aspect of things. Also, I didn’t have to take out any loans to get my master’s degree. What seemed like a failure at first from not receiving a large scholarship from another institution ended up leading me to one of the biggest blessings of my life.

I look at my life now and even though it’s not what I would have pictured it to be, I am thoroughly proud of myself and happy. For that reason is why I am so thankful for all of my mishaps and redirections that I’ve had thus far.

What I’m trying to say is don’t get discouraged by mishaps and redirections. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and whatever happens is meant to happen. Follow that yellow brick road forever. If you come to a road block sign, go the other way! Don’t give up. God (or whomever or whatever you believe in) will always lead or redirect you in the right direction.

It’s Okay to Take a Brain Break Every Now and Then

For many students it’s either the last week of classes or it’s approaching quickly. Just before you get to take a relaxing exhale because the last week of classes is over, you realize that you still have to deal with finals week! You’re feeling overwhelmed! You’re swamped with last minute work and papers, and some of you still have jobs and internships that you have to balance.

Well if you’re like me then your brain is starting to feel like mush! 24 hours in the day is not enough time to complete everything you have to do. And sleep? You can’t even remember what it feels like to have a complete eight hours in your grasp.

What you need is a brain break! A brain break is when you take a few minutes out of your day to do something that relaxes you. You completely take your thoughts off of the work you have to do and put a little of your time into something else that’s enjoyable for you. Whether it’s watching a 30-minute sitcom, reading a quick book chapter on your daily bus ride, taking a quick walk around the block or even just sitting outside for small period of time.

What’s my brain break? I actually have a whole handful that I rotate back and forth between. It can be leisurely reading on the way to my internship in the morning, washing a load of clothes, writing about something that has absolutely nothing to do with school or internship or if I’m really, really overwhelmed I’ll watch a movie on television.

The truth is that no matter how much work that I have to complete, if I start to feel overwhelmed then I can’t get anything accomplished. Taking a brain break is what gets me back on track. It’s okay to take a brain break every now and then! It’s the best way to keep your head from exploding from end of the semester activities.

Never JUST Network!

Networking is a strategy. Treat it like one.

Introducing yourself and exchanging business cards won’t always give you the desired outcome that you’re looking for. It’s important to establish your plan of networking before attending  an event. Never just assume networking for every event is the same.

I love networking; so many opportunities come out of meeting new people! Anytime I’m getting ready to head to an event that I know has the opportunity for some great networking, I always keep three things in mind:

1. Always network with a purpose.

What’s your reason for wanting to network? Is it that you’re hoping for a job offer? Maybe an internship offer? Did you just move into a new area and are looking for things to do and people to hang out with? Are you looking for people in your field of interest to perhaps give you recommendations one day? Once you determine the purpose of your networking you’ll be able to craft a networking plan to help you achieve your goal.

2. Research THEN network.

What type of event is it that you’re going to? Who’s going to be there? What type of career do the people attending have? Is the topic of discussion something you have experience or an interest in? Once you know background information about the event and the people who are attending you’ll be able to prescript conversation topics, look up related current events, bring hard copy information, and know in advance what information you want to share.

3. Make sure your net-worth is actually worth networking.

There’s so much more to networking than who you know and who knows you. It’s more important what people know about you. From past experiences, I refuse to vouch for people unless I know about their work ethics, and I know a lot people who follow the same guideline. It’s great if a lot of people know you, but if the information they know about you isn’t good it’s irrelevant. Always work hard. Don’t just work hard when you think it benefits you. Whether it be a job, internship, school organization, committee, or even your online presence, make sure the information that you’re outputting about yourself is worth knowing.

The next time you know of a networking opportunity approaching, try these three tips. They have definitely come in handy for me!

I’m Black, But I’m Also an American

For four years I attended a historically black university in Charlotte, North Carolina. Looking back I realize that it was the best decision that I could have made. The education and experiences that I received at Johnson C. Smith University completely immersed me within African American culture. It was revitalizing. After graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C. to attend graduate school. The experience is different, but still just as liberating.

At the beginning of the semester, Emily, a classmate of mine, pointed out how diverse all of the students were in our Public Communication Practicum course at American University. At that moment I fully noticed how different we all were. Emily was right. There were so many different shades of skin color, eye color, textures of hair, and accents. It’s clear that we all don’t have the same heritage, but never until now have I wondered how my heritage connected with everyone else’s. It was in that same class that I learned about the coalition of the National Museum of the American People (NMAP). NMAP is a museum that would collectively tell our story as one, the American people. It would represent everyone’s heritage and the journey their ancestors took to arrive to America.

When I learned about NMAP, I thought back to what Emily said about our classroom’s diversity. There we were sitting in one room, working together, and we had no idea of the connection of all of our different ancestors’ journeys here. My appreciation for NMAP goes deeper than learning the stories’ of my classmates and friends’ ancestors’ journeys to America.

In order for NMAP to become established, we as Americans must encourage the men and women of Congress to cosponsor the House Congressional Resolution 63. Their support of Resolution 63 will help with the formation of a bipartisan Presidential Commission to study the establishment of the National Museum of the American People. We need to convince the leadership and members of the Natural Resources Committee to approve this resolution. Once we encourage these men and women to support the Commission, the development stages of NMAP can begin. This museum will show the world not only how we all connect, but how we’re all Americans.

Show your support and sign the petition for the National Museum of the American People!

Also, check out NMAP’s website at www.nmap2015.com. It also has an amazing WordPress that shares pictures of people’s ancestors and stories of heroic journeys to America. You can also check it out on Facebook and follow it on Twitter (@nmap2015).