Is that even a question? Of course, you should dress for the job you want (and deserve!) Perhaps even more important, you need to consider what your clothes say about you during an interview.
Anyone who’s spent any small amount of time with me has heard me say at least once that your appearance is a backdrop for your words. Your outfit should take a professional, demure backseat to the brilliance and wisdom that spews forth from your mouth.
If we’re staring at the candy-apple-red cocktail dress or ripped jeans you’ve dragged out of your closet, we aren’t giving your ideas the respect and attention they deserve.
So, how do you dress for success? What do you wear to that interview? That presentation? That super-important meeting tomorrow?
When in doubt:
- Cover up. Better conservative than sorry. Ladies, the only “B” we need to see is your brain.
- Dress up. Strive to be the best-dressed person in the room. Even when business casual is an option, you gain respect points when you choose to embrace your true “professional” wear.
- Straighten up. We can’t all afford a well-stocked closet with all the latest cuts and variety. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be neat and clean. Ironing your trousers is one small way to suggest to your boss you care about attention to detail.
While it’s a pain to admit, we do live in a society that places value in appearances. If you want to be taken seriously, the safest route for daily professionalism is often that misunderstood classic: business casual.
What is business casual? Who knows. It’s a weird hybrid between professional wear (suits, ties and uncomfortable shoes for all) and casual (jeans and a polo).
For men, it’s pretty easy to pull off by mixing and matching dark slacks with various button-ups and ties – the more fashion-forward can, of course, shake this up with sweaters, sport coats and dynamic layering.
However, ladies, it can be a little more difficult to blend personal style and still adhere to the pesky traditions of business casual, office-appropriate style.
Give this quick guide to business casual a try next time you need to dress to impress:
- Remove unusual piercings (face, especially) and cover large tattoos (for example, consider wearing long sleeves during an interview so the focus is you, not the tattoo on your arm).
- Select low-heeled, close-toed pumps. The rules are more flexible than they used to be, but even peep-toes are pushing it.
- Skirts and dresses should reach your knees, and if you choose to show leg, it better be encased in pantyhose (sorry).
- No jersey material (t-shirts), even if paired with dress pants. Discover the other fabrics fashion has to offer.
- A well-fitting blazer solves all ills. Find one where the seam hits the outside edge of your shoulder, and does not gap when you button it.
- Make-up and hair should be natural and flattering. The “fresh and clean” look helps you appear more honest and trustworthy. Don’t forget to trim your nails.
- Tuck your shirt in. Not only is this flattering, especially with high-waisted dress pants, it’s classier and sleeker.
- Almost everyone will need their dress pants hemmed. Buy pants with an eye for the fit of the waist; fixing the length is a $10 investment that will leave you with a perfect, comfortable pair of interview-ready pants.
- Avoid khakis in most settings. Your job might be less formal, or your uniform might even require khakis, but try to wear something fancier for that first interview or training period.
- Save all statement jewelry and trendy outfits for later in your job experience. Selecting neutral, well-fitting and neat attire will send a message that you understand the importance of professionalism, respect and are willing to adapt to a boss’ needs.
Your clothing choices are an easy way to emphasize the skills and traits you list on your resume. The world of “business casual” is, indeed, a little boring. However, I urge you to embrace it, because the style allows you to shine through.
I’ll put together a shopping list for business casual basics soon. Cheers!