Kathleen Powell, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs, Executive Director of Career Development, Cohen Career Center, William & Mary
President-Elect, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Can you show up to an interview in a tank top—with much exposed—“statement” jewelry as an accessory, three-inch heels, and a skirt so short that one could describe your choice of undergarments? Or, argyle socks, wingtip shoes, shorts, and a dress shirt? It was hot the day of the interview!
How does one transition from being a student or graduate student to a professional?
There are so many choices available today to complement your wardrobe. You’ve see leggings with a dress, heels without hose, popped collars with a suit jacket. Skinny pants and jeggings. How does one decide, really?
I’m sure you’ve heard, “I just want to stand out,” or “I’m my own person,” or “I’ve got my own style of dress,” or “I don’t want to be put in a box and be mandated a wardrobe.” I started to think about all the styles and clothing choices available. Interview season is upon us and there seems to be a need for individuality on the part of the interviewee and the need for professional attire on the part of the interviewer. I’m certain there is a happy medium. I’ve seen it.
Do we give new college hires a bit of a pass—understanding they don’t have a large budget for their professional wardrobe?
But, at some point, do we sit that young professional down and explain the expectations of professional attire? Do we assume they’ll figure out what is appropriate—or note—by observing those around them? It seems there is a need to set expectations for all professionals in the work force.
Where one works and what they do will dictate the wardrobe, but being transparent about expectations and appropriate attire will win the day.
Do you have a no jeans or leggings policy at work? If it is your preference/policy that your team not wear jeans? Make it clear to them, up front, that jeans are not a part of office attire.
You’ve heard something like, “IT wears jeans all the time, why can’t we wear jeans?”
Ask the questions: Who is our customer? Is our work outward facing? How do our clients want to see us? How do you want to see yourself?
Do a Google search for professional and business casual and you’ll find varying degrees of what that means. First and foremost, set the standard you want for your team. However, be open minded to the work at hand on any given day to help your team, and especially young professionals, to determine whether they should continue to invest in buying shorts that match their argyle socks or skirts and tops that reveal too much. New professionals need support and guidance and helping them “dress for success” will win the day, every time!
Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers