At some point, every young person entering the business world will be faced with the question: “What should I wear today?” Whether going to an interview, a career fair, or any other event where the dress code is “business casual,” choosing an outfit can create an extra layer of stress.
Recent graduates in particular tend to have this problem, as their closets are usually on the more casual side. If you are amongst the group that already owns dress pants, button down shirts and heels with appropriately conservative heel height, you’re ready to go. But for those of you with a more casual wardrobe, here are a few must-haves and tricks that will help alleviate stress on important days without putting a hole in your wallet.
- If you are going through the interview process, call ahead and ask about the dress code. The atmospheres of a start-up will be different from Goldman Sachs, and dressing appropriately will help you feel more comfortable during your interview. The key is to dress one step above what employees wear. For example, if interviewing at a start-up, they may tell you the office is casual and people often wear jeans and t-shirts. Dress this up by wearing dark dress jeans and a nice top with a blazer. Doing so will help you fit in with the company while still appearing professional.
- Buy a blazer. Blazers are a simple way to make your casual closet more professional. They can almost always be worn in the place of a sweater, and they add a sharp, edgy feel to your outfit. If your wardrobe is more on the California casual side, blazers help pull flowing outfits together so that they go from California-cool to New York chic.
- Be wary of what jewelry you choose. Too much jewelry, even if nice pieces, can make you appear less professional. Although layering jewelry is currently fashionable, use this rule of thumb: before walking out the door, take off one piece of jewelry. This should help minimize what you chose to wear so that you flaunt a more mature style. It’s also a hilarious way to describe your styling process.
- Make sure you wear an appropriate shoe. Although the gladiator inspired sandal may be your shoe of choice with a particular outfit, a simple ballerina flat or office-appropriate (read: mid-) heel will help make your outfit dressier with out appearing too fancy.
- Never forget to be yourself. Clothes help us express who we are, and ultimately you want to work in an environment where you feel the most comfortable. If you’re the kind of girl who loves color but you need a more conservative outfit, don’t be afraid to wear bright flats with more neutral clothing. Adding a few pieces to your closet, such as a pair of dress pants and a blazer, can help you dress up your already favorite articles of clothing. Ultimately, your skills, personality, and smile will be your most important tools to impress those around you. But before that “ultimately” thing happens, there’s going to be a whole lot of snap judgments about your competence based purely on your appearance and body language (For more advice on posturing, click here).
Lila Barton is currently a senior at Stanford University where she has been a member of the Stanford Women’s Golf Team for the past four years. She is majoring in International Relations and is originally from Dallas, Texas.