Grads Dress for Success-Tips on Professional Appearance

Once you've graduated and enter into your career of choice, the rules for success are not as straightforward as they were in college.

Deciding what to wear will be the first of many important decisions you'll make each day. Why is what you wear so important? Because your clothes are your packaging. The way you look creates the first impression that people will have when they interact with you face-to-face. This is the image they'll keep in their minds when they have subsequent contact with you on the phone or through e-mail.

What you wear shows how you rate the events of the day. When you choose to wear fun or trendy clothes to work, you may be perceived as someone who considers what you do just a job, not part of your career. When you dress in clothes that show you mean business, you have a better chance of being thought of as a serious-minded individual.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers has compiled a list that can help you dress for success.

  • Wear shoes that are well maintained. Keep your shoes shined, and replace old worn out shoes regularly.

  • Schedule haircuts at regular intervals. Maintain an overall well groomed appearance always.

  • Press your clothing. Don’t show up for work or a job interview in wrinkled clothing.
  • Keep emergency replacement clothing items at the office. In case of an accident, make sure you are prepared. Keep a clean shirt on hand just in case there is a spill at lunch. Women, keep an extra pair of hosiery for those unexpected runs.

  • Your real taste in clothes comes out on business-casual days. Putting together a business-casual wardrobe is just as important -- and costly -- as investing in a business-professional one. Your business-casual wardrobe should consist of the type of clothes and accessories described in your organization's business-casual dress code.

  • Dress for the position you want, not the position you have. I've heard decision makers say many times that even if people have the knowledge it takes to assume a position, they'll be passed over if they don't look the part.

  • For men: Wear socks that cover your calves. Wear an undershirt under your dress shirt. Wear a belt with slacks. Button your suit jacket when you stand up to greet visitors or clients.

  • For women: Don't wear more than 13 accessories. Count each of your earrings, necklace, rings, watch, bracelet, belt and any ornate buttons on your outfit. A business-casual environment doesn't give you license to wear short skirts. While being fashionable is important, looking like you mean business is even more important, and will help you grow within your organization. Don't wear slacks to work if you have never seen top-level women at your organization wearing them. Don't wear hosiery and shoes that are darker than your hem. Choose hosiery and shoes that either match the color of your hemline or are lighter. Don’t wear sleeveless shirts.

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