No matter how qualified you are for a position, when you go in for an interview or start a new job, it helps to look the part. Your interviewers are only human, after all, and they’re looking for cues (consciously and subconsciously) that show you’re one of them.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should wear clothes that are uncomfortable or not your style. It just means don’t wear your dad’s formal suit to an interview at a casual start-up or shorts and sandals to a law office.
The number one rule is to look professional, but feel comfortable and effortlessly put together. Here are some ideas for building a wardrobe that can be adapted to any situation.
Start with a Strong Foundation
Life will be a whole lot easier if you have a versatile wardrobe. This begins with strong basic pieces in dark or neutral colors, including blazers, well-fitting trousers and skirts, stylish but comfortable shoes and yes, a nice pair of jeans. From there you can adapt your wardrobe in an infinite number of ways –from conservative and traditional to quirky and stylish to smart and casual. Your personality or style comes through in the shirts, accessories, patterns or bright colors you chose.
Know The Company Culture
Some areas of town, including certain restaurants and bars, are hubs for certain industries such as entertainment, advertising or technology. Do some reconnaissance by hanging around these places during the lunch rush or happy hour to get a feel for what people are wearing. You could also go online to peruse the social media pages of people working in companies or industries of interest.
Once you have an idea of a company’s culture and dress code, decide how you can adapt it to your tastes. Just remember that it always pays to dress nicely for the interview regardless of how you’ll dress once you have the job.
Office Dress Codes – Decoded
The casual dress code is basically the non-dress code, which means you can wear whatever feels comfortable. That said, you’re still in a place of business so you want to look presentable. T-shirts, polo shirts, jeans, khakis and sneakers are fine as long as they aren’t dirty, faded or falling apart. This is an environment in which you’re free to express yourself, as long as your clothes aren’t offensive or inappropriate. Make sure they’re suitable to the environment and your personality. For instance, if you’re working for a record label, it might be okay to dress in trendy clothes. But don’t go out and get a nose ring or dye your hair black just to fit in.
These days, business or smart casual attire is what most people typically wear to the office. This includes clean, pressed khakis, trousers and skirts; collared shirts and dressy blouses; cardigans and blazers; dress shoes and in some cases dark jeans.
You should look sharp, stylish and neatly put together with minimal makeup and tidy hair. This look is extremely versatile and can be adapted to most non-corporate jobs (as well as many corporate jobs).
Jobs in finance, law and other major corporations usually require a formal business dress code. This includes dark colored business suits and ties for men, and business style suits or dresses for women. In some cases, men can opt for nice pants with a sports jacket and tie. Think sophisticated and well tailored rather than stuffy. And pay close attention that your dress shoes are scuff free and closed-toe.
No matter what dress code the company culture calls for, it helps to be prepared with an arsenal of versatile pieces that can be adapted to any situation. A few nice pairs of pants, a couple of great blazers and a diverse selection of shirts will ensure that you’ll always be ready for your next great career adventure.