Key First Impressions

First Impressions remain important even after graduation. The most noticeable way to present ourselves is through the way we dress.

This past weekend, I went to visit a friend at the Philadelphia Union League. It was a simple Saturday evening, so I was dressed in a casual blouse with jeans and sandals. I always felt that people will get to know me and wait to judge after we have a conversation and that my clothes don’t matter. Oh, but it does matter. The gentleman in charge of reception told me that I was violating several rules of the League and escorted me out!

As I look back, I realize that I should have reconsidered the whole operation because I know that the Union League has events for top officials and affluent business professionals. I think that the casual, easy going American culture has created generations of people (mainly students), who aren’t bothered by the need to wear a suit to every event. However, when it comes to networking, career fairs, or just looking for jobs and internships, we want people to see our best selves.

Dressing for Interview: Always research the company or organization that you are applying to and see how the people in the pictures are dressed. Depending on the industry that you are applying to, follow suit. Do they prefer formal suits or business casual? Everyone seems to know how to dress formally; two piece suits with a nice shirt and shoes will do. But business casual is hard to clearly define; mainly men and women can get away with anything as long as they wear long sleeved tops, no jeans, and no sneakers. Basically nothing that you would wear to a family get together, but maybe something you’d wear to impress friends you haven’t seen in a long time.  And the same advice goes for career fairs and conferences.

What Not to Do: Even though there are some blurry lines for what we should do, there are definite don’ts for the job search process. Here are some things that could really make a difference: don’t chew gum, try to cover all piercings and tattoos, and try to minimize things that can be considered a distraction, like cell phones, iPods etc. Also make sure that you minimize the items in your hands, just carry a portfolio or a pad folio that has your resume, pen, and paper.

Of course we love those companies and organizations which are casual and relaxed, but I think it’s always safe to put your best foot forward. So don’t make the mistake that I did and be sure to keep in mind the culture of the region and the organization that you may be applying to and continue to practice these rituals in all settings even after you earn the internship or job. This is just one important step to having a successful job search process, other things include showing up early, following up with emails etc. Call Career Services for an appointment if you’d like to learn about other secrets to the trade or come to workshops and events that Career Services conducts each week.

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