One of my favorite movies is the Devil Wears Prada, where Meryl Streep (one of my favorite actresses) plays the role of Miranda Priestly, the editor of a popular fashion magazine. Costarring with Meryl is Anne Hathaway as Andrea Sachs, a frumpy assistant who has no interest in fashion. I like the movie for many reasons, for instance, there is great fashion, a peek at Paris Fashion Week and cameos of fashions’ top designers. However, my love of the movie runs deeper with an appreciation of the career development themes that are evident in the professional image evolution of Anne Hathaway’s character throughout the film.
Initially, Anne Hathaway’s character was resistant to the style culture she found herself in, denying that anything was wrong with her frumpy image as long as she produced good work. However, once she allowed her image to be upgraded by a colleague she realized having a professional image is a part of putting your best foot forward and impacts how others view you in the workplace.
Many of our students are in a need of what I like to call The Devil Does Wear Prada talk. No, I am not implying that they need to purchase designer clothes and become obsessed with their wardrobe. But, I do encourage students to consider their professional image as a part of the career development process. This can be a sensitive issue to bring up with students, nevertheless, it is essential and sets them up for a competitive advantage in a tough labor market. In my career coaching experience with both traditional and non-traditional students, I have had many The Devil Does Wear Prada talks with students including discussions around how to style hair, skirt length, appropriate make-up, faith-based ornaments, tattoos, etc. Each discussion is different and every student must develop an authentic image that makes them feel self-assured and comfortable. Awareness is the first step and includes:
1. Investing in a professional wardrobe that is appropriate to your industry and company;
2. Developing an awareness of what looks good on you and makes you feel confident;
3. Paying attention to the little things: clean nails, shaven beards, polished shoes, etc;
4. Finding a go-to store for purchasing an affordable professional wardrobe whether it’s Target, Banana Republic, or Macys;
5. Wearing a hairstyle that brings out your facial features and frames your face in a complimentary manner.