Style 101: Workplace attire for young professionals

Andrea Chevalier, Social Media Coordinator

Calling all soon-to-be college graduates entering the workforce! Yes, leggings, yoga pants, or even jeans are the most comfortable pieces of clothing out there – but before landing that new job, it might be time to rethink your wardrobe.

Going into a new job can be stressful enough without having to add to that the worry of what to wear, but how you portray yourself throughout the interview process, and even after you land the job, is extremely important.

The interview is the first step toward getting a new job. It is important to dress for the occasion and not skimp out on presentation. This is the first impression a potential employer will get from the applicant. Before any words are spoken, an employer will have an idea of the person and an opinion before they even speak to each other.

The Career Development Center has a couple of pointers for students entering the professional workplace for the first time.

The first pointer was, “Suit up.” CDC director Stephanie Zuckerman-Aviles refers to it as “putting your costume on.” This means not dresses, not blazers, but a full-on suit. Although the person may never have to wear it again, it is crucial to dress to impress on the first encounter.

“I look for a person who is dressed professionally,” Zuckerman-Aviles said. “I look for total business attire, which would be a suit all the way. When you are interviewing, in some ways it doesn’t matter what the office environment is. You have to put on your professional costume.”

As young people getting ready to enter the real world, we have to be aware of what is expected from us. Sierra Sears is a 20-year-old PPA debt councilor at Conserve, a company that assists in helping clients resolve debt problems. She is a young professional who knew how to portray herself when it came time for the interview, and it paid off for her when she landed the job.

“I kept it conservative,” Sears said. “I felt that it was important to dress maturely to portray a professional image, especially due to the fact that I am so young. I wanted to send the message that I had a clear understanding of what is expected of an adult. That means clean-cut, conservative and well put together.”

Students need to figure out what the office culture is. When it’s the first time through, you go business casual. You stay professional but then find out what’s acceptable.

— Stephanie Zuckerman-Aviles, CDC director

Once given the job, a new set of standards appears. There may be a little more flexibility once in the workplace environment, but it is still important to hold your appearance to a certain standard. Different employers have different standards, but there is one thing that they all have in common, and that would be to look nice.

Now, what “nice” is will not be the same everywhere, but let’s just say that leggings and yoga pants are never going to make it into that category.

“In terms of management, my biggest thing is making sure your clothes aren’t wrinkled,” said Shameka Jackson, a manager at BJ’s Wholesale Club. “It’s worth putting in the effort and doesn’t take long to do.

“I know my young ladies on the cash register would rather wear yoga pants, but I expect them to look nice too. They are the first thing that our members see when they come up to the front line so appearance is important. We want them to feel welcomed.”

Workplace parties and events are yet another occasion where employees must decide what look would be the best. This is where students “do their homework,” as Zuckerman-Aviles puts it. This means getting a feel of what others are wearing and dress accordingly. Generally, this is going to be business casual. Examples would be a dress that is no shorter than knee-length, closed-toe shoes, and possibly a blazer.

“Students need to figure out what the office culture is,” Zuckerman-Aviles said. “When it’s the first time through, you go business casual. You stay professional but then find out what’s acceptable.

“Once you find out what the office culture is, you dress accordingly but you have to do your homework.”

Dressing for the workplace doesn’t have to be something to dread. It’s something that must be done and is a part of growing up so learn early to cope with the changes and put that college degree to work!


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