We have all heard the advice to dress to impress. In the job hunt process, this lesser considered step in preparation can have a big impact on your professional perception.
It takes only a tenth of a second to form an impression of a complete stranger from just the appearance of their face and cues from their nonverbal behaviors. The majority of people form an opinion on others within the first minute of their introduction. In the face of a job interview this makes the process even more competitive.
Office culture and employer dress codes can often feel as though you are navigating the battlefield trenches. Have you ever stared deeply into your closet with no certainty or confidence for what you should be wearing? In many cases we wonder what actually defines business formal from business casual? For past generations of workforces this subject was not as complex, professionalism once had a uniformed appearance. Today, there are many more creative jobs, digital start-ups, internet companies, shared work spaces, and a rise of on-trend offices. All complicating the question of what attire fits most appropriately for my place of employment. Of course, dress codes will vary across locations, positions, lines of work and company cultures. Eventually you go from interviewee to proud employee and decoding the dress code comes more natural with ease. As a prospect or candidate for a desired position, crafting the perfect professional image can feel daunting. Beyond receiving an employee handbook (which often comes once we accept an offer), defining professional dress code and company culture is ambiguous. Imagine if we wasted less time worrying about what to wear and focused more of our energy on preparing to sell ourselves for a position.
The Five Most Common Office Dress Codes in Job Listings
Always dress Business Formal for interviews. Use your best judgement when including subtle pops of personality. Men should wear a two or three-piece suit in a neutral or dark color along with a plain (white) formal shirt, solid tie, cufflinks (or watch) and black/brown shoes (your belt should match your shoes). For the ladies, A pantsuit or skirt-suit is suggested, complimented with a button-down blouse, modest accessories (small, fine jewelry), dark tights and a closed-toe heel.
When dressing for any position you want to avoid dressing more than one tier above your respective office dress code, this will avoid an overdressed feeling. Dark colored suits, formal shirts and conservatively-patterned ties are acceptable options for men in a Business Professional setting. For women, conservative length skirts with solid colored blouses and neutral-tone accessories are most common.
Business Casual is the most commonly misconstrued dress code. Casual does not mean leggings, denim nor athleisure wear. This business setting is more versatile in terms of color, prints and pops of personality. Men can be comfortable in formal shirts in any color/pattern. Sweaters and cardigans are comfortable alternatives to a dress shirt. Ties are optional and chinos are a nice substitute for dress slacks. For women, a Business Casual environment is more inviting of statement jewelry, flat footwear and loafers.
Small Business Casual
Small Business Casual is very similar to Business Casual with a more creative flair. Differences include, the ability to wear denim (dark colored), open toe footwear (nice sandals), well-kept sneakers, as well as polo shirts or collarless shirting. Small Business Casual allows room for aspects of personal style and individual personality. Although as professionals we must remain conscious of becoming too relaxed with our image.
Creative Dress Codes are the most undefined. Specific niche dress codes will depend on the specific culture and field of the company. Trendy fashion items including layers and stylish accessories are acceptable. Although sneakers and T-shirts are also acceptable, your clothing should always be wrinkle free, appropriate in size/fit, and of course, clean.
Even the most prepared candidates who research the prospective role as well as the company background, will commonly forget to consider the office dress code. While at an office, either for a tour, to drop off a resume or for your interview rounds, be sure to get a sense for what others are wearing. That said, no matter how formal or informal, you should prioritize comfort, fit and confidence, first impressions are powerful. Your potential employer is not only looking for candidates who fit a skill set but also seek individuals who embody a positive energy (a well-tailored outfit and a sharp pair of shoes might be the dignified suit of armor to empower you on interview day).
Quick ways to gain the insights on company dress codes prior to your interview
- Be Observant. If you know someone already employed, use them as a resource. Take note of what others in the company are wearing on a daily basis.
- Explore the company’s social accounts. Here you can gain a perspective for the culture and day-to-day office life. Employee headshots are often formal and don’t depict the true standards of dress for that business.
- Visit the surroundings of the office. Watching people pass through the lobby or an employee parking lot will give you a better sense for what people are wearing.
T.M.Lewin, London-based tailors established in 1898, have been historically recognized for their invention of the “coat shirt,” the first shirt to feature buttons down the entire front of the garment. Fashions have surely changed since then; the dress shirt has cemented itself as a true staple in professionalism. The T.M.Lewin have embraced this connection and are seen to be experts in office-ready work-wear. T.M.Lewin a helpful guide to help us Crack The Office Dress Codes allowing aspiring professionals to navigate the working world with style and ease. If you happen to be in need of an impressive look for your upcoming interview or first day on the job; T.M.Lewin has a premier selection of men’s shirts and timeless blouses for the ladies.
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Six months ago, I started a new adventure into full-time business ownership. The first two, I spent thoughtfully contemplating who I am, who I am not and what I want for this next stage in my career. For as confident as I was about the decision to leave my full-time position in higher education and career development, I was afraid of the change that needed to be made. So how did I get here?
I knew I had taken a chance on myself. I recalled that gut feeling inside of me that wouldn’t quiet down; the one I could no longer ignore. So instead of reporting every day at a specific time to an office full of colleagues, I now spend my days with my parents and Pyrador rescue, Oliver, working on my deck or in various rooms in the house to secure and prepare speaking engagements for local companies and non-profit organizations, partner with men and women on navigating their career choices and taking on projects with large companies to serve the professional growth needs of their clients.
About a month ago, I visited a non-profit organization called the Perfect Fit for Working Women, a program of the ALLENTOWN YMCA & YWCA that supports low-income women entering the workforce by providing professional clothing for job interviews and their first week of work. The two women running the program mentioned that they were going to speak to the Women Can networking group, a diversity and inclusion initiative at Olympus, which is a medical devices and surgical products, scientific solutions, and cameras and audio products company, in the area.
I simply asked if I could go to listen to the manager tell her and the organization’s story at the event.
Fast forward to November 15…I arrived at Olympus, the building was fresh, white, and open with plenty of windows and natural light. I was stopped at the front desk to be checked in and escorted back to the event room. As I walked through the halls, employees were smiling, some were grabbing lunch at the bustling cafeteria, while others were playing ping pong or sitting in the large lounge space connecting with coworkers. It felt wonderful to be back in a space where action was happening; where it wasn’t just me thinking about my next move or if I was “doing this whole business thing right.” I noticed individual reactions to my presence.
At first, I thought it was the big visitors’ badge on my suit jacket but then I realized…I’m wearing a suit and for the first time in months!
I forgot how a suit made me feel or how much I had denied the power that it gave me from within. Since March, I have mostly been wearing yoga pants and other such athletic wear just in my home office. I noticed how differently I was treated by the employees moving out of my way in the hall to let me pass or how they allowed me to go first if we met at crossroads in the building. Not only that, but I was attending this event as a guest of the women from the Perfect Fit so the event organizers even treated me as a…confident woman in a suit.
I truly had forgotten about the polished businesswoman in me. The one others reminded me existed when I decided to make this change to business ownership and the one that I now know will come out to “play” when she is called upon as a speaker, trainer, panelist or partner at companies in the future. The one who will freely share her experience and emotional reactions to such moments for these are the ones that shape our identities, affirm the changes we make in life and remind us to stick up for those gut feelings we have about what we need most.
What’s more is that the accumulation of these experiences led me to believe that we must first give ourselves permission to change from within to grow beyond what we know we are capable of accomplishing. In order to find the “perfect fit” in just one facet of our lives, a deep dive into another may be required. Similarly, the Women Can networking group believes in the power of connecting internally, across divisions to explore and grow professionally.
I needed to uproot some of the comforts of my personal life to address my professional dissatisfaction. This shifted the dynamics of my personal life, allowing me to focus on the gains I could make professionally.
Isn’t it poignant that the exact organization to which I reached out to as a potential volunteer, whose mission is to provide women with the clothes and personal support that will set them up for professional success, also delivered me the opportunity to personally feel the emotional effect that clothing, and others’ reactions to it, can have on your confidence, professional growth and reflective practices?
So I ask you now, in what ways are you pursuing or denying yourself a “perfect fit”?
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You’re in luck! This is going to be a December to remember for those who want to build a career that lasts. I love freebies and want to offer you that same excitement before the year’s end.
If you are already one of my newsletter subscribers, refer 2 friends to sign-up for my newsletter before December 31st and earn a free LinkedIn or resume review. Get another two people to sign up for my newsletter and you’ll earn a steeply discounted ($47) 30-minute phone or Skype career strategy session. This is a total savings for you of $150!! We can talk about whatever you want for your 30-minutes: my resume or LinkedIn profile comments, your dream career and how to get there, where you might be able to look for resources for a particular industry, how to leverage social media in your search and many more topics!
For anyone not already on my newsletter list who signs up before December 31st, they too will receive a free LinkedIn or resume review.
Bonus! And for every four more people anyone refers to sign up for my newsletter, they will qualify for that same discounted 30-minute session ($47) I mentioned above.
This is a serious win-win for everyone! I want to help anyone who simply needs a boost to get started, the confidence to navigate a new career path or a combination of tools and strategies to make sense of what might be next for them professionally.
So you’re wondering, how will she know whom I referred? I have your answer. Here is the link to the google document where you can list the names of the individuals you’ve encouraged to sign-up for my newsletter. I will cross-check my list of subscribers with this document and email you directly notifying you of your win(s).
So visit my website’s homepage today, opt-in yourself and then tell your friends. Let’s get the ball rolling!
Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!
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A funny question you might be thinking. I thought the same just a few weeks ago when a senior sat down in my office to have her resume reviewed and then with a concerned and a bit hesitant expression on her face asked me, how do I adult? She followed that with a full sigh, hands over her face, looking like the definition of exhaustion. I smiled at her, admiring her phrasing, and paused.
Before moving into a laundry list of ways, resources and ideas about how she could “adult,” I asked her what she meant by that phrase. Clearly it meant something to her from her own experience and vantage point.
She said that she wanted to know what her next step should be, how she could determine what she should do for the rest of her life and how to manage the upcoming transition away from college. Pretty heavy questions even when they stand alone and, together, quite the burden for a twenty-year old who hasn’t had the chance yet to experience adulthood in the context of the workplace. These questions still arise for mid-career professionals, graduate students and other career-changers.
I proceeded to answer her question, allay her fears and help her de-stress by offering one strategy for each of her questions and to get her moving in the right (and most manageable) direction. Below, I share those same recommendations for all of you.
1. Identify what you need first/now. A resume review? Space and time to reflect on your experiences? Conversations with people in your field? We often associate being an adult with choosing one career that you will do for a lifetime after you graduate. College prepares us to think, sets us up with at least a baseline set of skills and a place to grow as social individuals. To “adult” you’ll need to prioritize, prepare and plan for what is to come in whatever way you see fit. There are so many entry points to the job search process. Do you know all of the ways? If not, take advantage of these options by talking with a career coach, trusted mentor, family member and/or your college’s Career Center staff to help you determine what next step makes the most sense for you.
2. Really look at your resume. So many times we get caught up in the minutiae of our resumes. What is the best format? What should my bullet point descriptions say? What types of bullet points should I use? What font do employers like the most? All of this is important but the details do not or should not matter until you’ve really looked at your resume. Ask yourself, what are the themes of my experiences? When I talk about my work with others, are those same reflections included in my resume? Am I missing a critical experience or skills that I’ve developed that weren’t important to me until I wanted “to adult?” Perhaps you need to throw your resume out the window altogether and instead focus on” target=”_blank”>building your LinkedIn or Twitter profiles, using these sites as primary tools for your search and connecting with potential decision-makers (company or individuals) in the hiring process.
3. Join digital communities, professionally. Once you’ve built your profile Your digital imprint is now just as important as the impression you leave in person. Learn how to use LinkedIn, build your profile and consult with a career coach on how to connect effectively with professionals in your areas of interest. Converse with industry leaders on Twitter, follow and engage others on Instagram. Building credibility in these spaces will take some thought and time over time but it will pay off, giving you national and even global connections that will last a lifetime. Which groups you join and on which platforms depend on your industry’s preferences. Pay attention to those trends for greater success.
4. Take time away from your search. Give yourself a break. Honor how much you’ve accomplished up to this point in the search process by building in celebratory moments. Take yourself out for a treat (mine would be ice cream as many of you know), go to the movies with friends, watch your favorite Netflix show or go for a walk. In the “adult” race, you are better off being the tortoise than the hare to begin with. As you gain momentum and clarity, your confidence builds and the question no longer feels like one. You’ll have the answers.
As you move further into your adult life, you will face similar challenges when navigating transition. Building good reflection, branding and celebration habits now will help you hear what you need and begin to hone strategies that you will always have in your toolbox. Make it your professional mission to not let them rust.
Meghan is an advocate, blogger, speaker and educator for women who want to build a career that lasts. She coaches groups and individuals on how to navigate their professional goals, negotiate transitions, and engage in both local and national leadership opportunities. She is also the Associate Director for Alumnae and Community Engagement at Mount Holyoke College where she supports alumnae and students in building a community around career through on-campus and virtual programming and individual advising. Her advice has appeared in the Huffington Post, several higher education blogs for job seekers, NerdScholar, CardHub, Good.co and LinkedIn.
For a free LinkedIn profile or resume review, sign up for her newsletter at http://www.meghangodorov.com.
Follow Meghan on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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1. Browse the Alumni Tool.
You can do this for your own alma mater(s) or even your friends and those with which you do not have any association or affiliation. Perhaps you want to learn more about the alumni at a graduate program to which you want to apply and where they typically go after they graduate. Maybe you are scoping out a company and want to see if you know anyone in your network who works there and with whom you could have an informational interview.
2. Respond to a professional group discussion.
Perhaps you have been observing discussions about a topic that really interests you and you are feeling ready to jump in. Or, share an article or resource you found that might be of interest to the group and pose question that arose for you when you read the article. Statistics show that engaging in discussions boosts your profile page views on the site by 425%!!
3. Reconsider your headline.
As Lindsey Pollak says, it is your most prime piece of real estate online. You must take care to craft it and not just restate your position title (i.e. Student at XYZ College, Associate Director, Alumnae and Community Engagement). We are more than our title and we want employers to know what we are passionate about and the intersections of our interests. This is a place to indicate to employers that we are seeking an opportunity in specific industries. It can also encourage others to connect with us on other social media sites; I have my Twitter handle listed first. My headline reads:@MeghanGodorov I Speaker | Career Advocate and Educator for Women | Blogger | Community Builder
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