College Graduate Tips: What to Wear and When to Wear It

Posted by on in Life Transitions

Congratulations, college graduate, it’s time to transition into the workforce. You have a stack of resumes hot off the printer and maybe you have even purchased some short-term medical insurance to make sure you are covered until you find that dream job. But have you looked in your closet lately?

Many people, especially recent college graduates, frequently have no idea how to dress in a professional situation. Casual Fridays, nebulous company dress codes and the prevalence of telecommuting and freelancing have created mass confusion about how open to interpretation business-casual really is.

Luckily, “dress for success” can, in most work environments, be interpreted simply as “dress to avoid embarrassment.” Pay attention to this simple guide of college graduate tips and you’ll never get caught wearing a sarong in a roomful of suits.

1) Dress for the interview like you would dress for the job.

This applies whether you are interviewing for a position at a bookstore or an investment bank. Neatness counts, as do grooming and hygiene, but most important, be appropriate. Don’t wear a suit to your bartending interview (although a tie may be fitting, depending on the venue), and don’t wear a sundress while trying to score a job at Microsoft.

2) If you have to think twice, don’t do it.

Not sure if the pink miniskirt is too “mini?” Put it away. Anytime you have doubts about whether something is appropriate for the office, it likely isn’t. Keep your clothes classic; your makeup, perfume, cologne, and jewelry minimal; and you will be fine.

3) Think about how you reflect on your superiors.

Like it or not, you need to make your boss look good. No matter how competent your work is, often all that clients and top management see is how you present yourself. Make impressing the brass easier on your boss, and you’ll likely find a good working relationship develops.

Follow these three rules, and you can avoid many major dress code problems in the workplace. A few particular examples are, however, worth going into. If you are male and you borrow a suit from a friend for the interview, make sure it fits reasonably well. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but aim for very close. Also, polish your shoes. Polish them weekly if you actually get the job.

Ladies, lots of offices can be a little persnickety about shoes and pantyhose. Avoid open-toed shoes until you know for certain that they are okay, and wear pantyhose, even in July, unless you know it’s alright to go without.

Save your weekend clothing for the weekend, invest in a few classic pieces of business attire, and get out there and conquer the professional world.


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