Dress for Success – Or, What Not To Wear At Work!

The university student is an interesting subject from a fashion viewpoint . . . I’ve been one and I see them daily here in my office and around the hallways at school. Basically, when you’re in school, anything goes. Some people are stylin’, wearing the latest trends and making you wonder “How are they paying for that?” Others are never to be seen in anything other than jeans and a hoodie. Still others just waltz out of rez to their first class in their pyjamas each morning. It’s all good.

When the first job comes around, though, it’s time to invest in the wardrobe a little bit. Unfortunately, that can be tricky, because typically the first paycheque isn’t all that huge. There are a couple of good reasons to be willing to spend some cash on professional attire, though.

Why Bother Thinking About This?

First of all, starting in the workforce can be tough when you’re a new grad. You’re probably going to be younger than a lot of people you work with, and/or a wee bit less experienced. You want to be taken seriously by co-workers (not to mention bosses!) and, well, people are shallow. They’ll take you more seriously if you look the part and aren’t schlepping around in a glorified take on jeans and hoodies.

Another reason is that if you want to stand out in a crowd and get noticed, the right clothes can help you accomplish this. Looking good could set you apart from a bunch of decently-dressed-but-boring wallflowers. And being set apart in somebody’s mind could mean they are more likely to remember you when they want to have somebody to head up a new project or possibly promote. Who knows!

Last but not least, first impressions count, each time. Whether you are dealing with customers, clients, or your co-workers, if they see you are sloppily clad, with mismatched socks and frayed hems, stained shirts, or just ancient-looking or super out-of-style clothing, they aren’t going to feel like they can trust you as much to know what you’re doing on the job. It’s not necessarily a fair judgment, and it may seem like a small thing, but it could make a big difference in how they respond to you and work with you.

Get Clothes. Don’t Get Poor.

So. If you want to start a new wardrobe without breaking the budget, how do you go about that? What’s the best practice here? Where are Stacy and Clinton from What Not To Wear when you need them? (And the $5000 credit card they provide?)

Here are a few expert tips:
– Choose pieces of clothing that will last. It may be tempting to buy a lot of cheap clothing, but a better investment for items that are classic like dress pants, shoes, or blazers, is to find fewer pieces that are high quality and are going to last you for years. It may mean paying a little more up front, so make sure to pick things that will stay in style for a long time and are not going to get stretched out of shape or fade quickly.

– Go with professional-looking comfort. There is nothing worse than being at work in a meeting or up front while giving a presentation when your clothing just doesn’t feel right. You don’t want to be having to constantly adjust the length of your skirt hem or wishing that your sweater wasn’t so itchy or your shoes so pinchy. There are lots of clothes available that are stylish but still comfortable, and remember that the eight-hour day can feel pretty much eternal when you have to keep telling yourself “that’s the price you pay for beauty!” as your feet start to blister in your super-fancy heels. Make sure you think about how the clothes will feel over the workday as you try them on in the store.

-If you want to look trendy or in style, then accessorize that way. So bottom line – the clothes are classic, but the accessories (like scarves, jewellry, glasses frames, colour of shirt or tie) are a nod to the latest trends. The good news is the accessories are the inexpensive items . . . so you can change them up every time the trends change. Sweet deal!

One Size Fits All?

Now, remember that jobs are different – different industries, companies and company attitudes, geographic region, and job requirements. So a suit and tie might not be the best choice when working with young kids, or your company may be cool with employees wearing whatever the heck they want. When in doubt, dress like the boss!

Here are a few things you should ALWAYS avoid:

– Workout gear
-Clothing that is too revealing
-Too much cologne  or perfume
-Athletic socks

What About My Personality?

Can you show off your tattoos and body piercings? Can you get crazy acrylic nails? Can you grow a totally ragged beard? Can you dye your hair however the heck you want to? If that’s your style . . . why not?

Because your boss can come down on you. Yes, it’s true. According to lawyers, it’s perfectly legal (in most cases) for an employer to regulate how an employee looks. And even if nobody says anything, studies show that you are less likely to be hired or get promoted if you’ve got a ton of tattoos and piercings showing. It may not be fair. It may not be that way forever. But that’s the way it is currently.

AND, a final note.

I’m no fashion expert. (Though I work with plenty of them!) It’s pretty easy to find this kind of information online or in magazines if you’re looking for it. So if you want some more specific suggestions . . . have a look at these websites:





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Filed under Random Stuff, Where to go with a BA

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