How to Dress for the Job Title You Want

By: Kimberly

When you’re up against many other applicants, immediately your goal is to stand out from the rest. How do you attain that goal? First Impressions. The way you dress for an interview is going to play a big part in your first impression. Whether you’re going to a job interview or not, your appearance will tell recruiters if you are suitable for the job. Therefore, you should dress appropriately and present yourself professionally.

Step 1: Company Culture
Deciding what to wear for an interview can feel nerve-racking because you don’t know if the outfit will make it or break it for you. I learned that you should take into consideration the culture of the company. Do the company employees dress up in a suit every day or do they dress strictly for a dress code? Gaining insight of attire that is appropriate can save you from the stress in deciding what to wear. A suit may not always be the best choice for an interview. For example, going in for an interview for a personal trainer position will require you to be dressed appropriately. If you show up wearing a suit and tie and all the employees are wearing athletic gear, you will feel uncomfortable and be unable to fully participate in the interview. The same is true if you show up in shorts and a t-shirt while everyone else is in business casual. Your first impression is then telling the company you might not a fit the position. Do your research and learn about the company’s culture.

How to dress for the job title you want

Step 2: Big No’s
Although bright colors may look like the best way to get someone’s attention, it is a big no when it comes to your interview. Choose more neutral colors for your outfit like gray, black, brown, or white for a clean and professional look. Another thing you want to avoid is revealing clothing. The last thing that you want to worry about is second-guessing the length of your skirt. The same applies to men as well. You don’t want to worry about having to tuck in your shirt constantly. Next, we’ve all heard the saying, “less is more.” This rule applies when you’re adding on details with jewelry or other accessories. These details are meant to enhance your appearance, not the opposite. With shoes, avoid wearing uncomfortable and dirty shoes. Again, we are aiming for comfort because you’re focus should be on the interview, not what you’re wearing. And I think we all also know why your shoes should be clean.

Step 3: Accessorizing
Accessorizing your outfit can enhance your overall appearance and add a little personality. When accessorizing you should still play it safe and be smart about the details you’re adding. There is no limit to how much you can accessorize your outfit, but remember that simple is good. For example, sometimes all you need to complete the look is a watch and a belt to match your shoes or matching stud earrings and a necklace. Finally, one of my tricks is to dress up a bit more than your interviewer. It’ll be impressive and lets the interviewer know you are there to get the position. For example, if the normal work attire is business casual, aim for a business formal look. And of course, this knowledge is obtained by doing your research.

Step 4: Presentation
Having your outfit selected is half the battle. The other half is the presentation. Always make sure your clothes are clean and ironed if necessary. Wrinkled and dirty clothes will take away from the effort you put into dressing the part. It will speak louder than the matching top and bottom you have on or the details you added with a belt or necklace. Your clothes should also fit true to your size and not look like you borrowed the outfit or outgrew it. You’re already nervous about the interview you shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable too.

In addition to your outfit, the other part of your presentation also lies in grooming yourself and hygiene. Make sure you don’t look like you just woke up and threw on the outfit. Clean yourself up by brushing your teeth for good breath, deodorant, and anything else to make you feel confident.

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Rodion Kutsaev

Professional Clothes on a Budget

By: McKenzie

Shopping for professional attire can be daunting when you can count how much money is in your bank account using the digits on your hands. When it comes to being job fair season it can become an even bigger stress because this is your first impression to your prospective employers. Luckily there is a cheaper way to find clothing.

Professional Dress on a Budget

Champ’s Closet
Champ’s Closet is for UMD students who need professional clothing. It was created so students in any situation could have access to clothing for jobs and internships. Students are able to make up to one outfit per semester from clothing donated by staff/faculty, maurices, and Main Stream Fashions for Men.

Thrift Stores
Duluth houses many thrift stores such as Goodwill and Savers. These stores provide shoppers with gently used clothing, which was donated by those who no longer had a need for it. Stores like these often feel like you are digging through piles, however, it is like a mini treasure hunt. You never know what you will find.

Consignment Shops
Consignment shops are a great place to get clothing. Shops like these tend to be for those who are either very fashionable or have a unique taste. While some shops can be expensive there are still plenty of them that are affordable. Be sure to not disregard the more expensive ones right away either. There can be hidden gems (especially in the clearance sections).

Secondhand Shops
Secondhand shops like Plato’s Closet are a bit different from thrift stores because instead of donations people sell their clothes to these shops. If you are short on money it might be a good idea to sell your clothing here. Secondhand shops also only accept brand name clothing so if you are stuck on a certain brand then this is your best bet.

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What to Wear for Different Career Events

By: Zach

When it comes to dressing for success, what does it mean to look the part? If you are meeting with a professional to do an informational interview, going to a job shadow, or are doing a Skype video interview, what is the best dress? In this brief blog post, I am going to break down the appropriate dress code for a variety of professional settings with the exception of normal job interviews. You can check out Ashlee’s post from yesterday for a break down of how to dress for interviews.

What to Wear Career Events

Job Shadow

Picking the right clothes for a job shadow should be pretty straightforward. Who are you meeting with? What industry are they in? What is their job? Answering these simple questions will give you an answer. If you joining Donald Trump and Co. for a board meeting at 3:00pm, you may want your suit to be designer made and custom fit to you. However, if you are instead meeting your Uncle Ned at the local insurance agency he owns, simple slacks or khakis with a button-down shirt will most likely suffice. Ultimately, know the person and know the day. If you are meeting with an executive and can assume you will be following them to some meetings, you will want to be in professional attire, whereas, a casual day at the office may allow for business casual attire. If you still don’t know for sure. Just ask. The nice thing about most job shadows is that you are supposed to ask questions! Let the first question be to your host… “What is the best business attire to wear?”

Informational Interview

Most often we can think of informational interviews as being a formal event. Just like a normal interview, it is important to dress to impress. Though the format of the interview is for you to ask questions and learn more about their job, they will be taking note of you as well. In most instances, it is best to dress as if you were going for a normal job interview. Gentleman should be wearing suits and ties, and the ladies have a little bit more variety with blouses, blazers, skirts, and pants. Remember to be genuine and sincere in your questions! Show that you have interest in their career and that you appreciate their time. When they see your professional dress and energetic personality, you should be a shoe-in for that open intern position this summer!

Job Fair

What to wear to the job fair, that is the question! And the answer is easy, as you should always plan to dress business professional. By the time you reach your junior and senior year and you are seeking internships and full-time employment, it is important to look your best as you chat with prospective employers. Job fairs are the first interaction you have with many of the people within an organization you may be interested at, and remember that first impressions are very important. Suit and tie for gentleman, and blazer and blouse work best for ladies. Now, if you are a freshman or sophomore and attending a job fair, you may have more interest in just meeting different professionals, learning more about industry, or even getting a feel for different companies that are out there. For you, it may be appropriate to be wearing a button down shirt and tie as a male, or a button down shirt or blouse for females. Ultimately, remember to put your best foot forward at job fairs, and I promise that looking the part is a big key to succeeding.

Video Interview

There may be a variety of reasons your are asked to do a Skype or video interview via your computer, but no matter the context of how you are meeting the interviewer, it is still important to look the part. Video interviews are the same professional dress code as any other in person interview, with the exception that pants are optional… I’m kidding, I’m kidding! Please wear nice pants even though the camera will only show waist up. It may be funny to tell you friends that you have been to an interview in your briefs before, but I just can’t imagine anything good happening from that! Anyway, not only remember to dress professionally, but take note of your background. What is behind you? Is it a window, a plant, a television, a wall, your childhood bunk beds? No matter the location of where you are at, make sure you are in a private room with no other people to distract you. Public places like coffee shops and malls will not do. Find a good neutral background like a wall, and make sure to test lighting and sound before the interview begins. Once your computer is set up, you look as sharp as a tack, and you are ready to meet, you are on your way to success and hopefully a second, in-person interview.

Networking Event

Networking events, though similar to job fairs with large populations of people, are not always the same for dress code. Depending on the status of the networking event, it may be okay to throw on a blazer and slacks with no tie, or possibly a collared shirt with a sweater. Overall, a networking event may prove to be a bit more casual as many of them happen outside of business hours. They could be over the weekend, or over happy hour, but most often you will want to balance being comfortable and looking professional. My suggestion for these events is to be classy, but be you. Add a bit of personality with your clothes by wearing fun seasonal colors, patterns, and textures. As a gentleman myself, I am a fan of a textured grey sports coat with colored stripped shirt, and comfortable slacks. If you stick with these rules, you are guaranteed a mission success!

Hopefully this quick talk on professional dress answered some of your questions! If you want to get any more information on any of these types of professional settings, remember to skip on down to Career & Internship Services where a Peer Educator or Career Counselor is ready to help! Thanks again for tuning in, and talk you soon.

Cheers, Zach

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Dressing for an Interview

By: Ashlee FB

Have you ever wondered whether or not something is appropriate for an interview? As many of us are approaching graduation, we begin the job search, which leads to the interview process. It is important to understand just how crucial attire is during these interviews. The first thing a potential employer will notice is a person’s physical appearance.

Dressing for Interview

Although it does depend on the industry and the position you will be applying for, generally speaking, these are some basic guidelines for both male and female attire in the interview process:

Men have the luxury of being able to wear a simple suit and tie and it does not take much time to pick out what outfit they will be wearing. With that being said, it is important that you wear the suit appropriately and you’ve taken the time to make yourself look nice. This means no wet hair, no scuffed shoes, no un-tucked shirts, etc. Your attire should be noticed as being appropriate and well fitting, however, it should not take center stage. It is also important to clean up a little before an interview. There is no need for the five o’clock shadow or greasy hair.

Dress for Success-Men

Women have it a little more challenging. A dress, skirt, or pantsuit is usually the safest route to go when dressing for an interview. If you are wearing a skirt or suit, make sure the bottom hem is still at an appropriate length when sitting down. There are also a wide variety of options of colors – all of which portray something different. Generally, navy, dark gray and black for women are considered “safe” colors. It is also important to keep nails, hair, and makeup as simple and as natural looking as possible. With busy hairstyles and jewelry, it is possible they might take away from the most important part of the interview – you and your qualifications. As far as shoes go, make sure all shoes are closed toe, freshly polished, and low enough where you are able to walk comfortably.

Dress for Success-Women

Confidence goes a long way in an interview and it all starts with feeling comfortable in your skin and with what you are wearing. As a basic rule, it is essential to look professional and polished. Employers will be much more impressed with a person that has dressed professionally and can sell themselves as an asset. Happy interviewing!

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Photo via Source

Building a Wardrobe for Your Career

By: Hayley

If you are like me and you struggle to determine what you should wear to an interview or are convinced that your current wardrobe is lacking in sophistication then here are a few steps you can use to build a basic career wardrobe.

Build wardrobe

  1. Evaluate what you already have: There is no sense in buying a bunch of nice shirts if what you really need is pants. So take the time to go through what you have. Ask yourself if a certain top would look nice under a cardigan or if that dress is long enough to be appropriate for the office.
  2. Make Potential Outfits: Lay everything out and then evaluate what outfits you could make with what you have and what potential outfits you could do if you had this or that. Establish what you are lacking before you go on a shopping spree.
  3. Focus on the Basics: Now think about a few staples that you may be missing. Things that you could wear with a number of outfits but seem to be missing. You should have some sort of blazer; most go for a basic black that can be paired with almost everything. Comfortable and appropriate footwear is necessary; simple black heels or dress shoes. Along that line you also need the appropriate socks or nylons to go with those shoes. That last one may seem unimportant but it can go along way in ensuring that you look as professional as possible.
  4. Get what you NEED: Now that you know what you need it is time to go get them. Focus only on the items that you know you need and try to avoid piling your cart with things that aren’t on your list; so you don’t go broke building a wardrobe for a job you don’t have yet.
  5. Try it on: Take the time to make sure that what you buy fits you well. Avoid tops that are too tight or that the neckline falls too low on. Make sure your pants are the right length. It might be helpful to wear those basic heels or dress shoes that you may end up wearing all the time so that you can really see how your pant length looks; it seems silly but it makes a difference.

Hopefully you can use these steps to help you create a basic wardrobe for your interviews and your future career!

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Your Professional Wish List

By: Ashlee

By now, most seniors have probably started the great search for that first job after graduation. A handful of you may even have full-time jobs lined up already before you’ve even graduated! To you, I say congratulations! But the rest of you are probably on the opposite side of the spectrum. You’re still searching, or only beginning your search, and that’s okay!

The unfortunate news is that in this tight economy, your search may be a struggle and budgets can be tight. So instead of putting a couple more Wii remotes and that Harry Potter boxed set on your wish list this holiday season, why not make a wish list of things for a great professional appearance?

Prof Wish List

1.) A Leather Portfolio

A nice leather portfolio is a great gift because as you know, presentation matters. You will enhance your professional brand with little additions like this one.

2.) Dress shoes

The last thing you want to do before an interview is get dressed up in a real nice professional outfit only to be humbled by a pair of scraggly, old shoes you’ve had since middle school. Make your shoe size known and point out a few styles you really like.

3.) Briefcase or Handbag

Confession time: Bringing a backpack to a job interview isn’t going to look super professional. If you, a new job seeker, show up looking like you just literally got off the bus, the interviewer is probably going to have a tough time taking you seriously. A nice briefcase or handbag is a great gift to receive. Plus, they make you look sharp!

4.) Watch

The right accessories can take almost any professional outfit to the next level. Watches are a classic addition to any look for men and women.

5.) Suit

No, not the TV show! Consider putting a suit on your wish list this year. Whether you’re a construction worker or a lawyer, it’s essential that everyone own at least one suit for special occasions. You never know when you will need one — especially when it comes to interviews, company events, or special family occasions.

6.) Shirts or Blouses

Although they sound boring, appropriate tops are a necessary need for job hunters. A recent grad might not think of adding this basic need to their professional wardrobe at first.

7.) Ties or Scarves

Ties and scarves add a fashionable splash of color to many professional looks. Again, accessories to the rescue!

8.) Gift Cards

If all else fails or if you’re pretty particular about the type/style of clothes you wear, it’s always better to let the job seeker decide. Gift cards are an easy and quick way to help you out with your shopping needs.

But what is the most important gift of all? The gift of love and support, and your family will have an abundance of that on hand! Job searching is tough — especially these days. Their encouragement and support will go a long way.

Need more ideas? Check out our Pinterest boards for dress ideas: Women and Men.

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Accessorizing for the Career Fair

By: Annie

We have discussed the basics of what to wear (ladies & gents), and we have thought about the best shoes for job fairs. Now, it is time to figure out what accessories and materials you will need while you are there.

I will break it down into three sections: ladies, gents, and the stuff applicable to both.

When it comes to accessorizing an outfit for a job fair, keep it simple. The rule of 7 most definitely applies:

No more than 7 pieces of jewelry, each earring counts as 1.

Jewelry should be understated. When speaking with employers, you want them focused on you and your elevator pitch, not distracted by the sparkle of your dangling earrings in the light. For this reason, make sure you remove any facial piercing as well.

It may seem like you cannot show any creativity to be professional. That is not true. There are ways of making your outfit “you” without losing its professionalism. Adding a belt or scarf to your outfit can be a subtle way to add color or pattern without being a distraction in conversations. Below are examples of pieces you could use to put together a stylish professional outfit. In the case of a job fair, replace no. 5 with a padfolio (discussed further in the Common section below).

Lauren Conrad accessories

Guys may have more accessory options than they realize. Cufflinks, neckties, belts, watches, earrings, rings, and any facial piercings can all be considered accessories. As I told the ladies, keep it simple. Remove any earrings, gaudy rings, or facial piercings. Cufflinks tend to be a little formal for jobs fairs. If you do wear them, try to keep them understated. Neckties, belts, and watches are all standard accessories for professionally dressed men. As long as they look appropriate with your suit, you shouldn’t have to think too much about these accessories.

Here is a handy chart summarizing this info:

Men's accessories

One last note, get your hair cut 1-2 weeks before the fair. A fresh haircut is noticeable, so make sure it has some time to settle in before the fair. Also, come to the fair with a clean-shaven face.

Accessories for everyone should include a padfolio with paper and a pen for taking notes.

TIP: When researching employers before the fair, jot down some notes on the back pages as well as potential questions for each employer you plan to speak with at the fair. In-between employers go into the student lounge and refresh your memory on company facts and the questions you want to ask. Also, make some notes about the employer you just spoke with (e.g., the representatives’ names, the hiring process, etc.). This will be very helpful when sending thank you emails after the fair.

Cell phones are necessary accessories for almost everyone. The important thing here is to keep them out of sight and silent (not just vibrate) when speaking with employers. Remember, even once you’re walking away from a booth, the employer can still be watching you. So, don’t whip out your phone until you are back in the student lounge. Even if you’re using the mobile guide for the job fair, keep your phone usage in the employer booth area to a minimum.

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Be a SHOE-in at the Job Fair

By Annie

If you are not aware already, February is a popular month for job fairs. It is important to prepare for job fairs in a number of ways, including what you will wear. For the basics on what is appropriate for clothing, look at our other dress for success posts.

Some key things to consider when choosing your outfit include:

  • How long will you be at the fair?
  • Is there a student lounge or place to sit?
  • Is there a coat and bag check?
  • How will the weather be on that day?

These details can make a difference when trying to decide between more or less comfortable outfits, how many layers to bring, and what kind of shoes to wear. Even if you are not very picky about how your clothes fit, items such as your shoes can start out feeling fine but turn painful by the day’s end.

Below are some tips for picking out the best pair of shoes.

Shoes for Women:
Women have seemingly endless options when it comes to shoes, but when it comes to finding professional, comfortable shoes the options tend to narrow quickly. That does not mean you can only be professional in some old, ugly pair of shoes. Nonetheless, it is important to be conscious of what may not be appropriate or practical to wear all day at a job fair.

As I mentioned in my last post on women’s wear, shoe styles can change depending on your geographical location. Closed toed shoes are typical for the Midwest.

The height of the heel is a main concern. Even if you are comfortable walking in 5-inch heels, they will look out of place in a professional setting, such as a job fair. This is especially true if you can no longer walk comfortably after a few hours on your feet. Check out Corporette’s Guide to Comfortable Heels for more information on finding the ideal heel. If you would rather avoid heels altogether, flats are always a valid option!

Shoes for Men:
Guys are lucky in the sense they do not have to worry about high heels. However, the challenge for some guys may be determining what color shoes to pair with their suit. Below is a little guide to help you decide.

Shoe to Suit guide

Many times, shoes are the last piece to be added to an outfit. If you are going shoe shopping, consider how the shoes will look with your current professional wardrobe before you buy. Finally, remember if you have a brand new pair of shoes they may pinch your feet or leave you with horrible blisters at the end of the day. To avoid this, make sure you break them in prior to attending a job fair.

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Photo source: Men’s shoes

Modern Menswear

By: Annie

When it comes to dressing professionally for men, it can be much easier to distinguish what is, and what is not, appropriate as compared to women’s wear (see Professional vs. Casual: Dress for Ladies).  To make this easier, I’ll keep my words brief. Scroll down for a summary of menswear basics, a diagram, an infographic, and some pictures to help you find your professional style!

For the college student or recent graduate whose main concern is to look professional and land that job or internship, the most important things to know include the following two key points.

1. Invest in the basics of a professional wardrobe:

  • 2-3 ties
  • Lose the backpack
  • A pair of slacks – that fit!
  • Dress shoes
  • 1 white spread-collar shirt and 1 solid white button-down
  • 1 blue spread-collar shirt and 1 solid blue button-down

2. Present a well-groomed appearance:

  • Iron your clothes
  • Get a haircut – at least 1 week before a job fair or an interview
  • Clean hands and nails
  • Shave (even during November!)

Source: The Art of Manliness (or found on our Pinterest board)

Source: (or found on our Pinterest board)

Source: Gallant-Thame

Any Neal Caffrey fans? He is an excellent example of dressing professionally!

Source: fanpop

Some of the resources in this post, and many more, can be found on Career & Internship Services’ Pinterest board, Dress for Success. This board is a great resource for more knowledgeable sources on modern menswear!

Also, check out these websites for more:

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Professional vs. Casual: Dress for Ladies

By: Annie

Dressing for the professional world may seem like a daunting task to some, and may not be daunting enough for others. It is important to know what type of attire is appropriate for different professional settings. Employers, co-workers, and clients will make their first impressions within seconds of seeing you—it is in our human nature.

There are two main styles in the professional world, business professional and business casual. In general, job fairs, interviews, and some professions always require business professional. Business casual is appropriate in most workplace settings, at many networking events, and at certain other career-related events. Nevertheless, when it comes to a job fair or an interview, it is always appropriate to dress business professional. Dress for the interview, not the job.

Business professional is more formal. It is a suit, consisting of a tailored jacket and blouse paired with trousers or skirt.

Business casual is more informal. This style may include sweaters, blouses, more casual jackets, and various accessories.

The line between the two styles can get blurry. Depending on your industry, your company, or even your schedule for the day, different attire may be appropriate. Also, the guidelines can change depending on where you are working geographically. For example, nylons and close-toed shoes are common in the Mid-West. However, this is not always true in Los Angeles and other warmer climates.

Here are some examples of business professional versus business casual.

Business Professional:


Business Causal:


Hints to Help You Dress:

  • Look to your boss, or whoever is currently in the position you would like to have someday. How do they dress? Use these people for inspiration, not only in your work but also in your dress!
  • Be cautious of armpits! Add a cardigan or blazer to avoid this problem.
  • No more than seven pieces of jewelry. (Yes, each earring counts as one!)
  • You can wear color and be professional! Just make sure it is right for the setting.

Business casual can allow for a little more creativity, but certain things can never be ignored. I like to remember these things in terms of two-inches.

Two Inch Hints

Note on the skirt rule: This rule can differ depending on body-type. If you can see thigh, or if you have to ask the question, your skirt is most likely too short.

On a final note, dressing professionally does not have to break the bank. Young professionals are not expected to be wearing top-of-the-line designer suits. It is more important that clothes fit properly than carry a fancy label. It may sound shallow to get so hung up on looks, but we all do it to some degree. Judgment is part of being human, so make it work in your favor! You only get to make one first impression!

Most of the dress ideas out there are based on traditional gender roles. Transgender job seekers can dress professionally for the gender they would choose to present in or gender-neutral attire. We have this great infographic on our Pinterest boards that goes through business professional and business casual dress guidelines without assigning gender to specific wardrobe options.

For more on dressing professionally:

And guys, don’t worry, a post for you is coming soon!

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