For some, this newsletter may not apply, but I bet you know of someone graduating, looking for a job or hoping to get promoted. The message is simple and timeless: Dress for the job you aspire to in the future, not just the job you are interviewing for now.
The job market is still very competitive, and as a stylist, I meet with clients who are recent college graduates, employees with many years of experience who have been downsized, and women who are interested in returning to the workforce after raising their children. In some cases, these clients are desperate to find employment, and I listen to their stories with a heavy heart and want to help them put their best foot forward for that all-important interview process.
A job candidate’s appearance is like an open canvas for a hiring manager. How you paint that canvas is part of putting your best foot forward and is one of several deciding factors for whether you are a good fit for the position.
More than two decades ago, my first client was a woman who held all the credentials and experience to be named vice president of foreign products within her company. It was clear to me that her appearance was limiting her career progression. I felt certain, in fact, that it was most likely the only thing holding her back.
Give thought to the image you want to portray. Have you done everything you can to project a polished, professional appearance? Is your hair neatly styled and your makeup tasteful? You may be your own harshest critic, but a realistic assessment will help you plan for any updates that need to take place so you can look your best and feel confident under pressure.
Now think in terms of needing a minimum of three outfits for the interview process. Women have a few options for a corporate or business casual interview. Think quality or over quantity. Shop sales, consignment or friends’ closets. Ask for help from others to put outfits together that will present you in the best light. Depending on the position you’re applying for, you will likely have several interviews. Plan for at least three looks, and opt for separates that you can easily mix and match.
For A Corporate Setting:
- Two dark suits in black, brown, gray or navy. Choose your preference between pants and skirts.
- Shell or blouse in white, cream, black, soft blue or mint. (No vibrant colors please.)
- Closed-toe heels no higher than two-and-a-half inches.
- A solid-color dress in black, navy, gray or small pinstripe. Pair with a suit jacket or dark, solid-color cardigan.
- Simple, understated jewelry: pearls, shorter gold or silver chain, and hoop earrings, if worn, should be no larger than a quarter.
- Don’t forget a portfolio.
- Remember, in a corporate environment, dressing conservatively will serve you well!
For A Business Casual Setting:
- Two skirts or pants in black, brown or navy.
- A sweater set and unstructured jacket. (Always choose a modest neckline over a revealing scoop neck.)
- Two blouses and shells in white or cream, also with a conservative neckline.
- A simple pump or ballerina in black, navy or brown.
- Keep your look simple but coordinated.
- Jewelry is needed but understated; less is always more.
- A simple leather or pleather-bound pad and pen.
Pay attention to the simple things when it comes to your appearance. Clothing should be tailored for the best fit. Hems should not drag on the ground. Clothing should not be picked, piled or stained. Blouses should not pull around the bust. Nails should be trimmed and polished in nude or clear. Regardless of your hairstyle, ponytails are too casual and should be avoided.
Hair should be worn down or pulled up with hair combs for the cleanest look. Makeup should be minimal, and perfume is best avoided. Here are a few final thoughts for new college graduates and women looking to re-enter or advance in the workforce. We know that people tend to make judgments in the first few minutes of meeting someone new. Heck, I know people judge my appearance as a stylist on a daily basis because I’ve been told just that. I have the qualifications for what I do, and I am still judged. I realize my appearance is my calling card and lends credibility to who I am and what I do. You, too, may have all the qualifications and more for the job, but your appearance needs to match your skill set. Offer a firm handshake during introductions, sit up straight and don’t slouch. You have earned this moment just as I have, so smile and go get the job you aspire to.
From my closet to yours-