Sweater Blazer: J.Crew I’ve tried styling this jacket a number of ways, and this is my favorite outfit to wear it with. Top: Loft (Similar) Jeans: Good American Loafers: Sam Edelman Necklace: Anthropologie (available in another color)
If you’ve got a case of the Mondays, I’ve got JUST the thing to kick you out of your funk and deliver you a heavy dose of inspiration–another edition of What I Wore to Work! If you missed our first post of the series, make sure to read Paisleigh’s interview from a couple weeks back!
What I Wore to Work is a series designed to be one part workwear style inspo, one part career inspo–stories of YOU GUYS–driven, incredible women from all walks of life, shapes and sizes, ages, backgrounds and all careers–living their lives to the fullest and going after their dreams.
Thank you thank you to everyone who has applied thus far. I’ve barely made a dent reading through the applications because we have so many great ones flowing in! I have a whole bunch of inspiring interviews lined up so far, and today, I can’t wait for you to meet my new friend and fellow reader, Molly!
Here’s just a taste of what Molly covers in her interview:
- How she took the leap from an unfulfilling finance career and quit during a performance review.
- How following her developing interests lead to a fulfilling, rewarding career change she loves.
- Her favorite comfy work shoes and a *very* smart work shoe strategy.
- How she pulls off her fun, eclectic style in a modest and professional work environment.
- How she curates her wardrobe like a book collection.
- The best life philosophy when it comes to pursuing your dreams!
Let’s jump in, yes?
Name: Molly Wetta
Where do you live? Santa Barbara, CA
Job title + company: Library Services Manager
Tell us a bit about yourself, Molly!
Typically I introduce myself as a feminist Gemini vegetarian Slytherin librarian—that pretty much sums up how I identify. I’m a midwest transplant living in southern California (or California’s central coast, depending on who you ask). When I’m not working, I’m into wine and studying to be a sommelier (part of the appeal of moving to wine country!) and am also into plant-based cooking. I also review books professionally and learning to read tarot cards for myself, friends, and family.
What you do professionally?
I’m a librarian! Currently my title is Library Services Manager. I oversee youth services, information technology, collection development, and marketing for a mid-size public library. While I work in local government (the library is a city department) my job is also similar to work in nonprofits or education. I supervise several teams, so a lot of my work involves meeting with my direct reports to help facilitate their work, but I also manage grants, budgets, do some design work, cultivate relationships with community partnerships, and work on strategic initiatives.
What has your career path looked like thus far? Tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are.
My “librarian origin story” involves a phone call from an actual librarian superhero, Nancy Pearl (she has her own action figure).
Initially, I pursued a career in academia, but didn’t like the elitist attitude of my colleagues in grad school or the insular nature of the work. I ended up working in a soul-sucking job in finance that was stable and lucrative, but I was very unfulfilled. I quit that job in a performance evaluation with no back up plan other than to get a part-time job and go back for a second master’s degree in social welfare, because I found my volunteer work at a local domestic violence shelter so much more rewarding than my day job.
The job I got ended up being at my local library. They were hiring for a teen services assistant, and I got the job because I knew the answer to the question of the day: what book would you give to someone who loved The Hunger Games? (My answer was Legend by Marie Lu). A lot of people are actively looking for careers in libraries and what I didn’t know at the time was how lucky I was or how life-changing the opportunity would be. I immediately fell in love with the job, and learned I had a natural talent for readers’ advisory—the art and science of matching readers with their next favorite book.
My design work of “what should I read next?” flowcharts went viral and I ended up getting a call from Nancy Pearl for an interview for her Publisher’s Weekly column.
She told me I was “born to be a librarian” so I ended up ditching my plans to get a master’s in social welfare and applied for a program to pursue a master’s in library science. I worked as a teen librarian for a while, and then moved to collection development (buying books, digital content, music, movies, and TV for the library, and analyzing the performance of those collections). I loved my job, but wanted to grow. My brother and sister were both living in California, and kept asking when I was going to make the move because we are really close.
It was actually while visiting my brother that I first went on a day trip to visit the beaches and wineries in Santa Barbara and on the way back to his house I said, “I want to retire here, it’s so beautiful and relaxing.” He was like, “why don’t you move here NOW?” but I couldn’t believe they would have an opening. Libraries are a specific and competitive field. But lo and behold, he pulled up their website and said, “look at this job, it sounds perfect for you.”
A year after that day trip, to the day, I started my new job, and I’ve been promoted three time since, so it has definitely been a great move for my career. The work has been challenging, but a lot of fun.
I seriously have worn this dress so much and got it on super sale from LOFT last fall.
(This year’s version of the dress is SUPER similar!) I can wear it with my blush cardigan, or a long cream sweater, with my black Dansko Mary Janes, fun black sandals or blush mules. It’s something I can wear year round in Santa Barbara and change the look of it so much depending on layers and accessories. Not many of my dresses are so easy to style in different ways. This was perfect for transitioning to my wine club night. A wine bar with the best vegan food is right across the street from my library and they do blind tastings on Tuesdays so I usually try to make those.
Talk to us about what else you do––studying to be a sommelier?! Professional book critic? That’s so cool! How did you get into that? Can you share a bit more?
Studying to be a sommelier is code for “drinking as much good wine as you can afford.” I found I can recognize the flavors in wine like I can the appeal factors in books, so I always think of sommelier studies as similar to my work reviewing books. Both interests stem from my relentless curiosity. I like to analyze, categorize, and organize information, whether it’s how soil and weather bring out different elements in wine, or how character, setting, and language bring out different feelings in readers.
Describe your style at work–how do you strike a balance between dressing stylish while work appropriate per your workplace dress code?
My style has evolved quite a bit in the last couple years. When I first started working in libraries, I was living in a casual college town where my everyday uniform was jeans, t-shirts, and cardigans paired with slip-on Vans and Birkenstocks. Now not only do I live in southern California (a much different climate!) but my workplace is much more formal even though it’s a beach town. Since the move I’ve been rebuilding a wardrobe that fits my current job and environment.
Even though I’ve been filling my new closet intentionally, my style is still a bit eclectic. I’m not afraid of color, and am as interested in classic and simple outfits as I am punk rock or feminine ensembles. What I wear to work depends on the day. My workplace is technically business casual, but that doesn’t mean I have to cover my tattoos and I still wear a silver hoop in my nose. Because of my body type it can be challenging to find dressier pants that fit properly, so I mostly wear dresses. I only occasionally wear jeans on Fridays but typically pair them with a blazer. Because I was conducting interviews this week, I wore a pleated midi skirt and a jean jacket.
Favorite places to shop for work clothes?
My go-to stapes are dresses and blazers or cardigans. There are virtually no options for shopping in local stores, so I shop exclusively online. My favorites are Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack, JCrew, LOFT, Lands’ End and Universal Standard. When I was younger and before I moved I would find a lot of great deals in Marshalls or TJ Maxx, but perhaps the stores out in California are more picked over or I have less patience because I don’t shop there as much. I sometimes buy basic tees or camis at Old Navy.
This white blazer is my favorite. I feel like suits that are all one color are a bit boring and make me feel like a lawyer, so mixing and matching feels more fun and playful but still professional. Blazer: Nordstrom Rack (similar) Top: LOFT (similar) Skirt: J Crew Factory Shoes: J Crew Factory (similar)
Go-to work outfit:
My favorite outfit is a black sheath dress with an Eileen Fisher sweater blazer and black pumps for days when I’m meeting with partners or doing a presentation. For more causal days when I’ll mostly be in my office or just in meeting in the library, I have a lot of wrap dresses. I rock a lot of polka dots and I don’t wear a lot of jewelry so my signature accessory is a scarf or bandana.
What’s your biggest challenge in shopping for a work wardrobe? Any tips for those experiencing the same?
I’m curvy and plus-sized, but my lifelong style challenge is my large bust, which has been a challenge since puberty. I seriously woke up a size 34 DD in 6th grade and it was kind of traumatic. When I was younger and thinner, it wasn’t any easier.
I’m always hesitant to get anything in a v-neckline because in can easily be a little indecent, or I look for wrap dresses where a camisole underneath won’t ruin the look. But I’m always most comfortable in something that comes up to just under my collar bone.
I also stay away from anything flowy or peasant blouse style—more volume on my top half is not flattering and I end up feeling frumpy. Button-up shirts are a nightmare, and I only have one. It’s Land’s End, which carries plus sizes in petites, which is pretty rare, and I had it tailored a bit in the shoulders and sides.
For more structured garments, I often have to have them nipped in at the waist and hips, or adjusted in the shoulders. That’s why I love Nordstrom—free alterations in store with any full-price purchase! Anyone who has a body type that isn’t a standard hourglass or straight and thin can benefit from some good tailoring.
I wish I had better suggestions for bras—I’ve tried everything, including custom-made, and nothing I’ve bought thrills me or is comfortable for all day.
What is your attitude toward investing in workwear? Splurge vs. Save? What’s worth investing in, what isn’t–in your perspective?
I invest in pieces that I think I’ll wear forever and will never go out of style or staples I wear regularly. When I was a collection development librarian, I often thought of books in a “cost per circ—(circulation or checkout)” and so it was natural to start applying that view to my wardrobe and thinking about cost per wear.
When I tried and loved Gekks socks (perfect for flats and heels, and the best for sneakers when you want that no-show look) I didn’t hesitate to order them in bulk when on sale so I have them for every new shoe.
Blazers, sweaters, shoes, and jeans are what I typically spend the most on. Fast fashion is awful for the environment, and when possible I buy from ethical brands. I wish there were more options for sustainable plus-size clothes, but as I’m replacing items like shoes and handbags, I am buying ethically.
Comfiest pair of work shoes?
Before they were cool, I was wearing Birkenstocks. They’re still my favorite, though I can’t wear them at work. I actually keep almost all my work shoes in my office because I walk to work (it’s only a few blocks) and wear Birkenstocks or tennis shoes on the trip. Not only is it easier on my feet, my nice shoes don’t get as much wear and tear when I’m only wearing them indoors.
I like shoes with a lot of support, have slightly wider than average feet, and definitely don’t want to get killer bunions like my mom had (you can tell I’m genetically pre-dispositioned to them on my right foot outside my toe, and I do not want to aggravate that!) so I’m pretty selective about footwear. I’m glad block heels have been more in fashion lately, because the few times I wore stilettos in college or my first corporate job I definitely regretted it. I have a pair of black leather pumps that are Tory Burch, fun coral suede block heels from J Crew and the Everlane Day Heels with the elastic back. I also love my Sam Edelman loafers and J.Crew leopard loafers, and mules from Nisolo and Madewell.
What does work/life balance look like for you?
Anyone that knows me would say that I don’t have any?! It’s something I’m actively working on. I think anyone who has a job they love (and feel like it makes a real different in people’s lives) can easily suffer from a tendency to overwork. My personality doesn’t help—”achiever” is my #1 strength according to Clifton’s Strengthsfinder. I am best at finding balance when I actually schedule leisure time, whether that’s a date night with my partner, a weekend getaway to do some wine tasting, or a trip to see my brother or sister.
Committing to myself the way I would any other obligation is the strategy that I’ve found most successful in preventing me into slipping into all work and no play. Blogging, even though it is just a hobby, has also helped! I used to blog only about work-related things, and creating my own lifestyle focused blog instead forces me to have an actual life.
Most proud career accomplishment:
In my 7 years in libraries, I’ve had some pretty amazing opportunities, like presenting at several national conferences or interviewing Pulitzer Prize winning and New York Times bestselling authors. But my most proud moments have been working in the Joint Information Center at the Emergency Operations Center during California wildfires in my town (talk about other duties as assigned!) or any occasion where someone tells me a book I suggested to them changed their life.
Best piece of advice you received that has shaped your life (personally or professionally):
Various people throughout my life have said this to me in varying ways, including my dad, my high school debate coach, my academic advisor, an author friend, my current mentor. It is very simple. Don’t be afraid to go after what you want, because it’s the only way you’ll ever get it.
Blush had definitely been a color I’ve been gravitating to lately. I’m really picky about patterns, but love this windowpane dress I picked up from LOFT last fall. Dress: LOFT (similar) Cardigan: Lands’ End Shoes: Madewell (similar)
Biggest misconception people have about your job:
Well, this is certainly easy. “Oh, you’re a librarian? It must be great to get to sit around and read all day.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
But I’d say that a LOT of people are completely off the mark about my profession and don’t understand the concept of a modern librarian. The other day I was in a meeting with a colleague from another organization in arts and culture who asked about our programming plans for summer.
I mentioned we had a focus on science and technology, specifically space, and one of my teams was organizing a panel discussion with NASA scientists and engineers, another teaching a robotics coding camp, and another was building telescopes and radio towers with kids in order to make direct contact with the international space station, just to name a few of our events.
They were floored that I had staff who were knowledgeable in STEM disciplines, specifically coding. When I mentioned that the majority of my staff, including myself, were proficient in several coding languages, they were floored.
Libraries are the first and foremost centers for community and places for learning—with equal emphasis on books and technology, literature and science. They’re critical to the foundation of democracy—access to information, social connection, and intellectual freedom.
How do you see your career continuing to evolve in the future? (If at all–maintaining the current position you love also counts!)
Generally I’d say that as long as my job is fulfilling and challenging, I’ll stick with it. So I can easily see myself in my current position for several more years. But, I know I’ll eventually be ready to move onto something else, whether a position in a bigger system or something related to my current field, like consulting, training, or more freelance writing.
This is one of my favorite outfits that I feel so “me” in. The color combo is one of my favorites, and I love how my new purse ties in with the bandana. Dress: Leota (similar) Cardigan: Lands’ End Supima Cotton Cardigan I have several in pretty much every color, they’re my standard for layering overdresses. Scarf: Anthropologie (similar) Bag: Anthropologie (similar) Shoes: Nordstrom
Any advice to those looking to break into your field?
I tell everyone who’s interested in public libraries to actually work in a public library in a paraprofessional position before committing to getting an MLIS (the master’s degree generally required for librarian positions). If you want to work in public libraries, make sure you are as excited to work with people as you are to work with books or technology, because most jobs will require all three. There is no escape from the public. It’s not coincidence that I came her via social work—it’s basically that, but with books and computers. Public libraries are open to all members of the community, which means that in many cities we are one of the few places where people experiencing homelessness can spend their days, and working with that population means also working with those suffering from mental illness or substance abuse.
My first piece of advice to young professionals is always to get involved in professional organizations. They’re great for networking, building your resume, and learning on the job (because there is SO MUCH they don’t teach you in library school, because there are so many specializations within the field.
How do you define success? What does that look like to you?
Success for me is maintaining integrity, making a difference, feeling challenged and fulfilled by my work.
You mentioned really hating your job in finance. What did you learn from that experience?
I learned that working for corporate interests instead of advocating for the disenfranchised was what was making me miserable, and that I needed a mix of creativity and purpose to be fulfilled in my work. Some of my best friends have jobs that are just “jobs” and aren’t anything they feel passionate about—and I was glad that I realized sooner rather than later that path would never work for me. There’s no shame in being more focused on life outside of work, but I wanted more, even if it meant less money.
Do you have any advice for those who are contemplating a drastic career change?
Just do it. This comes from a position of relative privilege, I admit. When I quit my stable, more lucrative career with no back up plan, I didn’t have a lot of obligations (we don’t have kids, so it was only my lifestyle that was impacted), and the transition was not without sacrifice. In order to advance in my career, I left a position and community I loved, and it was scary. But it has definitely been worth it.
Anything else you’d like to add?
This has been so much fun, and thanks for the opportunity! I look forward to reading other profiles.
Molly, thank you SO MUCH for being part of What I Wore to Work. We are all so thankful to have been able to hear about your inspiring career journey and your awesome tips for curating a professional wardrobe that lets your personality shine! Stay tuned for more WIWTW profiles on more inspirational women coming soon! If you’d like to apply, you can do so on this page!