The Career Services Profession Is for Artists, Too

Tamara ClarksonTamara Clarkson, Career Services Consultant, Purdue University
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tamaraclarkson
Twitter: @tamcatcam

In the four years I’ve worked in career services, I’ve consistently heard we must recruit staff with diverse backgrounds and from various fields. I wholeheartedly agree, but that might just be my degree in art talking.

I began college, like many first-generation students, surprised I’d even gotten in. Now I was expected to pick a lifelong career? My freshman year, I studied studio art at a private university, but soon realized I didn’t know what I wanted to do and transferred to a community college closer to home. After a year of community college, I transferred to Texas State University, and when they wouldn’t take “undecided” as my choice for a major—as a junior—I hastily stuck with art. With that decision, I had seemingly selected my path for life. I focused on art education,n but found that the teaching profession did not suit my INFJ-ness. Then I thought, maybe art history could be a fulfilling career.

How many students have you seen that make life-altering decisions like these almost at random? If you’re keeping track, that’s three majors in as many schools and I was completely lost. I didn’t know how to evaluate what I loved or what I needed to feel satisfied in a career.

So I saw a career counselor.

Just kidding!

Like many first generation college students, I had no idea how to navigate the college system or find the resources that could provide direction. When I finally reflected, as a super senior, on what would give me true fulfillment and satisfaction in the workplace, I realized for the first time that what I was skilled at (creating art) did not align with what would bring me professional satisfaction (helping others).

The best professional decision I ever made was applying to the counseling program at Texas State after receiving my B.A. in art history. Luckily, the faculty saw my unique background as an asset. The program made me become who I am today and I’m so thankful to the professors and colleagues who helped shape me. It was there that I learned I needed a career that involved counseling, but also offered opportunities to work on projects and meet deadlines. I conducted several informational interviews with Texas State’s career services professionals and realized career services could provide the balance I was looking for. Four years later, I am a career services consultant at Purdue’s Center for Career Opportunities (CCO). If getting an M.A. in counseling was the best professional decision of my life, joining the CCO is my second.

When I see students struggling to stick with a career path that they have the skillset but not the passion for, or they simply don’t know what they’d be interested in pursuing outside of college, I enjoy telling them that so many others have struggled with the same dilemma. We are all unique, and as we change, so may our professional goals and interests. They don’t have to choose what they want to do for the rest of their lives, all they have to figure out is their first few steps. And I can tell them that diverse interests and a curiosity that exceeds a narrow career path are assets, not liabilities, because I am a career services professional, but I wouldn’t be here if I was not also an artist.

Helping Students Find Expertise

KKathryn Douglasathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskathy
Twitter: @fescdo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Yale-FES-Career-Development-Office/134339426609741
Website: environment.yale.edu/cdo

Words that rhyme with expertise:
Appease, Bhutanese, breeze, cerise, cheese, éminence grise, freeze, journalese, marquise, overseas, Portuguese, seize, sneeze, squeeze, Stockton-on-Tees,
trapeze, valise, vocalese, wheeze – selections from Oxford Dictionary.com

Part of my job is to encourage students going on the job market to think about their areas of expertise. My goal is for them to confidently position themselves as candidates with specialized knowledge—not only as doers with hands-on experience to quantify on their resume with start and end dates, and not only as technical, language, or soft skill wizards with long lists of certifications and skills. Although these elements are important too.

I have read drafts of resumes where I can barely tell that a student has just spent two to six years taking courses, conducting complicated research, and learning broadly and deeply.

And so I ask them about coursework, concepts, areas of expertise.

  • Student: “But I can’t include x on my resume, I don’t have any experience doing it!”
  • Me: “Do you know anything about x?”
  • Student: “Well, yes, [insert impromptu dissertation on x].”

During these impromptu dissertations, I jot down some of the specific, interesting keywords that roll off a student’s tongue—COP21, LCA, renewables, EPI, deforestation free, paw paw, NRDC, camera trap, biophilic, Hotshot, CEQ, ecosystem services, bioswale, carbon neutral, Clean Air Act, systems thinking, Peace Corps, biochar. I might ask for clarification of a few terms, and suddenly there are more keywords. In a career counseling session, students do not have to worry about impressing me. And if I ask the right questions, they reveal that they do know something. And usually it is a lot of something.

It doesn’t matter if I’m working with a career-changing masters candidate with 10 years of work experience or an international student straight out of an undergraduate program—transitioning from student to expert is intimidating. Most students balk when I ask them to tell me about their expertise.

Afterall, students are students. They are learners. Faculty are the experts.

Surrounded by faculty experts and by peers who know a lot of the same things, students tend to think of themselves as:

  • knowing significantly less than others, and
  • not knowing anything special.

While I ask questions to tease out specific knowledge and reflect it back, I suggest the following knowledge scale to help students frame and think more objectively about their expertise:

  • For the past two years I have focused on…
  • I have expertise in…
  • I have thorough knowledge of…
  • I have knowledge of…
  • I am thoroughly familiar with…
  • I am familiar with…
  • I have heard of it.

When an advisee finishes describing the statewide coastal resiliency planning, renewable energy finance mechanisms, or conflict resolution strategies in small rural communities in a developing country they have been focusing on for two years (but failed to mention on their resume because it wasn’t part of their work experience), I hand them a Post-It note (or three) with keywords and concepts I have gleaned.

And then I prompt them with these questions:

  • Are there any areas included here in which you can confidently claim expertise?
  • Can you use some of this language to summarize a two-year academic or professional focus?
  • Can you identify two or three topics from this list in which you have thorough knowledge?
  • Do you have anything to add to knowledge and expertise you haven’t included in your cover letter and resume?

Unpacking knowledge, focus, and expertise is a key process for accurately and strongly presenting oneself.  Once these elements are thought out and well articulated, they can be emphasized on a resume (in a variety of ways including a bullet or bullets under degree of Selected Coursework, Projects, or Focus, or with a separate, brief “Research Interest” or “Special Focus” section), highlighted in a cover letter, and included when answering a range of interview questions.

 

 

 

Calling for a Return to Relationships

Irene Hillman

Irene Hillman, Manager of Career Development, College of Business, Decosimo Success Center, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/irenehillman

When I was first introduced to the world of student services as an educational psychology student, what intrigued me was the coaching aspect. I was taught that the key to successful coaching was to recognize your student as resourceful and whole, and to “meet them where they are.” That phrase, a decade and a half later, still floats into my brain when I talk with a client.

It takes a good deal of curiosity to really find out where a student is in her path of life and where she wants that journey to lead. Probing questions are called for, along with the ability to offer real encouragement and very often a sense of humor plus a sympathetic ear. In short, challenging a student to head toward his or her individual goals requires an authentic connection—an honest-to-goodness old fashioned relationship where you know the other person and where she’s been, where she is, and where she is going.

But I see this art of coaching frequently dwindling in career development departments. As colleges and parents focus on the ROI of the ever-increasing tuition payment, the focus has tipped, in my opinion, towards “checking the box” of offering services.

As we struggle to serve a large population, automating processes has become the norm. Resumes are dropped off by students, checked for typos by career services associates, and picked up the next morning again with rarely a discussion of what type of job the resume is trying to target or transferable skills a student might have left uncovered. Students are given access to a myriad of career assessment tests but may never have a conversation with an adviser about how results should be interpreted or how the results might affect their college experience. Pamphlets about the importance of job shadows, professional associations, networking—you name it—are developed and distributed without follow up to see if students understood the advice, are ready to get their feet wet, or have the support they need to make real progress.

In this stunted model, the responsibility is placed on the student to build their own career development program using the bits and pieces we provide. Have you ever heard of a baseball coach putting bats, gloves, and balls on the field and then sitting in the dugout? Our intentions are good and the resources are solid, but our efforts are in danger of falling flat in terms of providing support that actually moves a student toward career success.

I propose that the way to help a student is to know a student. Have all these resources and tools ready to use and share, but at the right moment—when your client is ready to take that particular step in her journey.

And, I should mention, only in a real relationship can you expect accountability from a student. In any other scenario, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope students are listening to the advice out there—on your department’s website, in the pamphlets, in your class visit—but they are more likely listening to whatever is streaming through their headphones. I have heard many career services professionals complain that students are unresponsive and lackadaisical. I am positive that those same students would be attentive and engaged if a relationship was in place with their career adviser.

Another thing to consider is the impact not having relationships with your students will have on employers. How would I identify which job opportunity or company I would recommend to a student without understanding his/her objectives and strengths? I would be failing my employers as a result of not knowing my students.
If I’m worth my salt as a career development professional, I want to be able to push a student toward progress—and progress is a highly subjective term. I need to be keenly aware of what progress would mean to the individual in front of me. There is no standard or bulk option. Does this stretch me thin? Heck yeah. Is it worth it? Heck yeah. Relationships are what make me love being a career development professional. Seeing my students transform into flourishing professionals is the best feeling in the world. And if I was busy checking the box, I would miss it.

A Week in the Life of a Career Services Leader

board-christiangarcia

Christian Garcia, Associate Dean and Executive Director, Toppel Career Center, University of Miami LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christiangarcia     Twitter: @christiangarcia

“What the heck do you do all week?” Yeah, I’ve been asked that question here and there (insert eye roll emoji), so here are some highlights from a recent week on the grind. I didn’t include everything because a guy’s gotta have some mystery, right? Oh, and head on over to HireACane.com to learn more about the programs and initiatives I reference below.

MONDAY

8:00 a.m. Doctor’s appointment to get test results from annual physical (aside from a Vitamin D deficiency, all is good).

8:45 a.m. Quick stop at Starbucks on the way into the office: Trenta Iced Coffee with cream and six Equals, oatmeal with nuts and brown sugar. Repeat Tues. – Fri.

9:00 a.m. Toppel huddle, which happens every Monday, is a quick lightning round where each staff member shares what is on their plate for the week. The huddle occurs in the career center lobby (regardless of visitors present) and lasts no longer than 10 minutes. 

10:00 a.m. Strategic planning meeting with my leadership team to discuss where we are currently and next steps. For the past year, the entire Toppel staff has been immersed in the strategic planning process, which kicked off with a visit from career center innovators: Amjad Ayoubi (Tulane), Christine Cruzvergara (Wellesley/previously George Mason), and Joe Testani (U. of Rochester). During Meeting of the Minds, which we dubbed a “modern day external review,” each team within the center presented a pitch of their vision for Toppel in 2025. A number of brilliant ideas were presented and have been molded and shaped since last March, culminating in the soon-to-be-unveiled Toppel 2025: Career Services is Everybody’s Business. That’s all I can share at this point…stay tuned!

Afternoon set aside for planning a presentation to the Parents Council later in the week. The Parents Council, a group of about 80 influential parents, meets a few times a year and I have been invited to share with them my vision for the future of career services. Little do they know that they’re getting one of the first glimpses into Toppel 2025…

TUESDAY

9:00 a.m. Strengthening teams meeting. For the sake of brevity, check out my previous post All Play and No Work?

11:30 a.m. Lunch planning meeting for the 2nd Annual Lavender Celebration. Toppel was a proud sponsor of the inaugural graduation celebration for LGBTQ graduates last year and will continue to support this important event for years to come.

2:00 p.m. One-on-one with my boss, Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education. Discuss recent accomplishments, update on strategic plan, brainstorm topics for his speech to a group of 21 career center directors visiting U.M. next month, and I’m quickly outta there.

3:00 p.m. One-on-one with my Associate Director of Assessment and Communication. This meeting basically consisted of me gushing over all the extraordinary work he and his student intern team have been producing!

WEDNESDAY

11:00 a.m. Skype call with one of my NACE mentees. Jeffrey (College of Brockport-SUNY) knows about my undying love for Madonna and today, he created an agenda that used a different Madonna song for each agenda item. #hegetsme. This year, I hit the jackpot with not just one, but TWO, pretty amazing mentees who I know will be future leaders of our profession! The other one is Ryan from Muhlenberg College. I’m planning a future post all about our experiences in the NACE Mentor Program which is going to be cool!

1:00 p.m. One-on-one with my Associate Director for Career Readiness, who is one of the most genuine and positive individuals I have ever met. And by the way, she’s been talking about career readiness before career readiness was a thing!

2:00 p.m. Run all over the building to make sure it’s clean and tidy. See next entry.

2:15 p.m. Visit from Patricia Toppel. Yes, our namesake dropped by with her son and two granddaughters who wanted a tour of our beautiful building, which would not have been possible without the generosity of the Toppel family. Mrs. Toppel is a class act and I always love when I have the opportunity to see her.

6:00 p.m. Happy hour with our Associate Director, Employer Development, Washington, D.C. Hilary lives and works for us in D.C., but spends two weeks in Miami each semester. As always, the staff gathers for a happy hour in her honor before she leaves. Miss her already!

THURSDAY

9:00 a.m. One-on-one with my Director of Career Education, who is doing a phenomenal job managing his area and empowering his team of career advisers. He led our recent transition to Chaos Theory as our department’s theoretical framework and it’s already transforming the work!

11:00 a.m. Meeting with Gapingvoid, the organization responsible for the amazing artwork at Toppel. Discussed ways to continue our partnership and some exciting upcoming collaborations. Check out our building and artwork here and an article and video about how art has transformed culture at our center here.

3:30 p.m. Retirement party for one of U.M.’s most iconic and longstanding faculty members and administrator (more than 40 years of service).

FRIDAY

9:00 a.m. One-on-one with our Assistant Director of Graduate Student and Alumni Career Programs. We discussed a program she co-leads, Professional Development Academy, which is for juniors and students, and uses NACE’s Career Readiness competencies as its guiding framework. It’s an excellent initiative!

12:00 p.m. Phew…my presentation to the Parents Council was a big hit! They loved the five pillars that encompass the vision for our future of career services at U.M. I also garnered a lot of interest in launching Career Crawls across the country and our first international Crawl to London. Cheerio!

2:00 p.m. Meeting to discuss progress on pilot program to integrate academic and career advising. This has been and will continue to be lots of work but we will get there!

3:00 p.m. Meeting with a vendor regarding a potential partnership on a pretty cool and innovative assessment tool app. That’s all I can say right now…!

4:00 p.m. Video shoot to welcome parents and family to the Toppel Insider: Family Edition e-newsletter. After over 20 takes, I finally nailed it but we have decided to include some bloopers in the final video. Should be interesting!

7:00 p.m. A nice bottle of red wine (Cabernet) is removed from my wine fridge and cracked open to enjoy and ease into the weekend! That’s it. You’re not following me into the weekend!

 

 

Saying Yes to the Global Career Services Summit

Kelli Smith Director of University Career Services at the Fleish

Kelli K. Smith, Director of University Career Services, Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, Binghamton University
Twitter: https://twitter.com/drkelliksmith
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellikapustkasmith/

A few weeks ago I returned from the inaugural Global Career Services Summit held at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom (U.K.). It was the brainchild of Bob Athwal, Director of Student Experience and Careers at the University of Leicester, and Tom Devlin, Executive Director of the University of California Berkeley Career Center.

The program was the first of its kind and included a group of 68 career professionals invited to participate and some select sponsors from eight countries. The primary focus of the summit was to share best practices, discuss accountability within our profession, examine the global work force of tomorrow, explore new career center models, and provide opportunities for cultural exchange among practitioners. Since it was, perhaps, the most beneficial professional development experience of my life thus far, I wanted to share a few reflections. I was struck most by the fact that we were all dealing with very similar issues. Yes, we have some different terminology. We use the terms “placement” or “career outcomes” where our U.K. friends use “employability.” But I left intrigued by how the challenges we face and the innovations we are attempting are quite comparable. For example, we all face the challenge of our institutions recruiting more and more international students, but our governments restricting their ability to work in our country. In fact, by percentage, our friends abroad face this challenge even more than we do in the United States.

Secondly, we are all acutely aware of federal—and in many cases more so state—pressure on institutions for positive career outcomes. At the same time, our Take the National Student Survey Todaycolleagues in the United Kingdom are dealing with the “DHLE” (Destination of Leavers). We now have NACE standards providing our institutions much needed structure to create an “apples to apples” comparison for parents (as noted in this recent article by Billie Streufert), they have the National Student Survey which was prominently promoted all over the University of Leicester student union area, including large promotions along their walkways.

There are striking similarities in how we are challenged with a barrage of reports about the skills gap our college graduates have. As we know here in the U.S., a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) task force comprised of representatives from both the higher education and corporate world developed a definition and identified seven competencies associated with career readiness for the new college graduate in 2015.

After being inspired to research a bit more what, for example, the U.K. is facing in this regard, I found an interesting blog from the London School of Economics and Political Science by Steven Ward. This helped me rethink the way I view this perceived gap and how we can add to the conversation in a different way. Without the conference, I would not have discovered this article and had my thinking challenged in that way.

The skills gap holds some new graduates back.It was also striking how we are sometimes responding in similar ways to external challenges. For example, during the tour of our host institution and career center at the University of Leicester, which has approximately 21 thousand students, we examined the efficiency of their appointment model and how they moved from hour-long appointments to 20 minute appointments with significant pre-work assigned to students in advance.

We needed to make similar changes at Binghamton University and moved to a structured amount of time for our walk-in appointments and to 30-minute individual appointments, allowing for us to grow our individual appointment number by 130 percent the following year with the same staffing. However, while we did have “pre-work” assigned to our practice interview appointment students, we have not done what Leicester has with our other appointments So, I plan for our department to examine that concept further.

And while we have dipped our toe into a program to assist in sophomore’s professional and leadership development skills, I liked seeing how Leicester partnered with an external vendor, The SmartyTrain, to create an innovative skills development program called “The Leicester Award.” I predict that we will, over time, see more career centers developing innovative ways to help students develop the key skills we know employers are seeking, rather than only educate students about what the skills are and how to best articulate their skills and strengths.

Marilyn Mackes leading a session

Marilyn Mackes leading a session

Naturally the networking and new friendships made with leaders in our field that I admire was, personally, my favorite part of the conference. It was also noted as being one of the best benefits for others; 66 percent of the participants stressed the importance of networking as being a primary conference benefit. It set the stage for professionals in our field from Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Italy, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. to engage in meaningful relationships, thus opening up opportunities and potential collaborations that may otherwise not occur.

One of my biggest professional takeaways was around an idea that Paul Blackmore from the University of Exeter brought up one night at dinner. We often do not realize how we can get stuck in a systems thinking mindset within our own countries. When we expose ourselves to others outside of our regular connections and cultures, our thinking is challenged and we may take different—and better—approaches to solving challenges that we might not have otherwise even considered. We begin to question our own stereotypes and traditional ways of thinking, as well as aspects of our own culture that were previously unexamined. It all sounds quite similar to what we say our students gain when they study abroad, right?

I also left with some questions…

  • How much do economic conditions affect our profession’s current state of being and initiatives?
  • What would our experience have been with a mix of different countries? It was a great start, but we all agreed there were other countries that would be helpful in the future.
  • How can we continue the momentum and build partnerships with similar institutions as ours around the globe in order to better our service to students and employers?

I arrived home before heading to NASPA with a feeling of being so grateful for the initial invitation to participate. There was never any hesitation on my part since I have never been in a position to travel to Europe and have dreamed of going for years. Plus, the list of attendees was too great to miss. When I received the invitation I knew it would mean being out of the office for nearly three consecutive weeks in March for work and family reasons, plus it would mean flying my in-laws in to assist with our children since my partner would be traveling at the same time.

Reunion of former Indiana University colleagues

Reunion of former Indiana University colleagues

I would be remiss to not add how thankful I also am that Tim Luzader and Marianna Savoca, colleagues from our days at Indiana University, reached to out see if I would like to travel with them a couple days early to see London. Traveling with them was most certainly a highlight I will always treasure, too. The entire experience was, most certainly, one of the best professional experiences I have ever had. Saying “yes” to this invitation was a decision I’ll never regret, and I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity and those that made the summit happen.

 

Assessment Tools and Career Decision Making

KKathryn Douglasathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskathy
Twitter: @fescdo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Yale-FES-Career-Development-Office/134339426609741
Website: environment.yale.edu/cdo

I regularly get questions about the value of assessment tools from the graduate student populations I work with. The follow question came to me via e-mail:

Q. What do you think about aptitude, personality, and interests tests in helping to guide career decision making? (Examples: Johnson O’ Connor Research Foundation’s aptitude testing program, Myers Briggs, Strong Interest Inventory, etc.). How do I align my interests and background with the results of such tests? And does following these test results really lead to a more satisfying career?

A. In general, a higher degree of self-awareness is always a good thing in terms of career development. Aptitude, personality, and interests tests, or assessments, can help define aspects of yourself that you may not already have a good sense of, and may save years of making less than ideal choices about career direction and focus, i.e. from learning the hard way. Many of us are strongly influenced by supposed-to-be’s, cultural ideals and other external forces. Having a better understanding of one’s proclivities and making career choices accordingly, you are likely to be more directed, satisfied and productive.

In an interview with The New York Times career columnist Marci Alboher, Peggy Klaus, author of The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They’d Learned Sooner, groups self-awareness with other “soft” skills: “The hard skills are the technical expertise you need to get the job done. The soft skills are really everything else—competencies that go from self-awareness to one’s attitude to managing one’s career to handling critics, not taking things personally, taking risks, getting along with people, and many, many more.” Self-assessment tests are a good way to boost your self-awareness as well as to identify areas you might want to work on.

Different assessment tools measure different qualities and leanings, and can be useful in helping to discover strengths, weaknesses, and preferences that you may not be fully aware of or perhaps assume that everyone possesses, i.e., they can help you take a more objective view of yourself. They are part of self-assessment that can help you define and articulate career goals, but are not necessarily going to give you hard and fast answers regarding direction. You are the final interpreter and arbiter of any such tests, but going through the process will likely lead to some personally resonant and new information that can inform your career planning, areas for personal and professional development and goal setting.

To illustrate the application of self-assessment tools to career development, let’s look briefly at the Myers-Briggs personality test, which is based on Jungian psychology and which identifies 16 personality types. In addition to discovering your own type, knowledge of personality types can be extremely useful for navigating interpersonal relationships when you are working on teams, collaborating with colleagues, and interacting on all levels with individuals and groups.

Here is some basic information on the INTJ (Introvert, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging), a rare personality type:

“Hallmark features of the INTJ personality type include independence of thought, strong individualism and creativity. Persons with this personality type work best given large amounts of autonomy and creative freedom. They harbor an innate desire to express themselves; that is to be creative by conceptualizing their own intellectual designs. Analyzing and formulating complex theories are among their greatest strengths. INTJs tend to be well-suited for occupations within academia, research, management, engineering, and law. Differentiating the INTJ personality type from the related INTP type is their confidence. They tend to be acutely aware of their knowledge and abilities. Thus, they develop a strong confidence in their ability and talents, making them “natural leaders.” It is this confidence that makes this personality type extremely rare. According to David Keirsey it is found in no more than 1 percent of the population.” Source: http://www.wikidoc.org/index.php/INTJ

How can this understanding be applied to career choices and personal development?

If you are an INTJ, you might want to be looking for positions where you have a high degree of autonomy and can work creatively on long-term strategic planning, rather than one where you are doing highly energetic short-term management as part of an interdependent team. You might want to focus on organizations that have a reputation for being extremely well-managed, as opposed to one where your role will be to efficiently create order and be a mentor to young people. INTJ’s are often “surprised when others don’t see things the same way.” If this is something you newly understand about yourself, you might spend some time developing the ability to build consensus around your ideas, an area that might not come naturally to you.

This kind of introspective work can certainly help in career development and in other areas of your life, can bring a depth to understandings you may already have about your personality, interests and aptitudes, and can be especially helpful if you find it difficult to accurately assess yourself.

Professional and Business Attire…It Can be Confusing!

Kathleen Powell

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
Twitter: @powellka
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kathleenipowell/

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!

First impressions count. Dressing conservatively for your interview or your first day on the job is always the right choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers