Trade your sweat pants for a pants suit

JaLynn Hardy

Office outfits should be simple, professional

After graduation, your appearance makes all the difference when finding a job.

Credit: Andrew popik

“Wake up sleepy head,” I tell myself as I fumble around looking for the snooze button on my alarm clock. Later, I finally get up, and I have a whole 10 minutes to walk out the door before I’m late. 

I pull my hair back into a pony tail, brush my teeth, throw on my comfy cotton T-shirt and sweat pants, grab my coffee and head out to my car.

Yes, finally I’m almost free of school. Just one week left. I’m graduating, and I can head off to the real world now.  I’m glad this one phase of my life is ending, but it just means that another is beginning.

Soon I’ll have to look for a “real job.” That means I need to present myself in the best way I know how. I take a quick look into my closet, and I do have a few nice interviewing pieces.

One of the most important things you can do while looking for job is focus on your appearance and what it says about you. Granted, we’re not all applying for the same job. I wouldn’t recommend that everyone wears the same thing. But, there are some things that definitely can turn an employer off. 

For instance, I was working at a top 10 restaurant in Columbus, which was a very difficult place to get a job. Everyone wanted to work there because you made a lot of money, and it had a prestigious reputation. It always amazed me how unprepared and poorly dressed people were when they would come in and ask to fill out an application.

When I say poorly dressed, I mean wearing jeans, wrinkled shirts, no makeup, ’80s hair, tennis shoes or excessive piercings. It just looks bad from the employer’s point of view.

One day, when I was working, a nice looking young man walked through the door. He was dressed like he was applying for a job as a CEO for a big company. Yet, he was applying for a serving position. My boss told me he hired him because he looked the part even though there weren’t any positions open.

It’s important even once you have the job to consistently look professional. It says that you care about your appearance when you’re representing the company. Looking as if you just rolled out of bed every day makes you look like a slob. It only adds to your list of areas that you need to improve upon when you ask for a raise. 

Just because you have to tone yourself down to get a job doesn’t mean you can’t be who you are and dress the way you want to. Being in the workplace requires a more professional you, and what you do outside of it is your business.

My top 10 checklist before you talk to an employer:

1. Start with the clothes you plan on wearing. Button down shirts and pants are ideal for men and women.  Make sure there aren’t any hanging threads. If they are black pants, try to look for a cotton/polyester blend so they won’t fade as fast. Don’t wear faded pants or faded clothes.

2. Avoid wearing risqué clothing. It makes you look trashy, not professional.  Avoid low-cut shirts and skirts way above the knee. (Save that for the second day on the job!)

3. Make sure your clothes are pressed. Press them if they’re not.

4. Minimize your accessories. Girls: a necklace, watch, one or two rings and one pair of earrings. Make sure that they are not gaudy or tacky. The smaller and less obvious they are, the better. If you do have multiple piercings, take out anything that is in excess — they will definitely count against you.  Guys: Wear a watch, a belt and only one ring. 

5. Next, take a look at your shoes. Black or brown leather or polishable shoes are preferred. Don’t wear old, faded out shoes that are dirty. If you can’t afford new ones, polish the ones you have. Shoe polish is only $1.50. 

6. I know this sounds silly, but make sure you take a shower and wear deodorant before an interview. A lot of complaints I’ve heard from employers and employees are about people who don’t have good hygiene practices. 

7. Keep hair simple. Make it look well-kept and put in place. This is not the time to experiment with being a red-head if you’re a brunette. Wait until you get the job, then mess with your hair.

8. Check your teeth in the rear-view mirror. The worst thing is having food caught somewhere when you’re talking to someone. 

9. Check your nails. Long nails in bold dark colors should be avoided. Keep the nails clean, plain and simple. I like French manicures — they look awesome and very professional too. 

10. Now, take a look in the mirror and smile. You should feel like a million dollars.

JaLynn Hardy is a senior broadcast major who studied fashion. Contact her at [email protected].