“Pumps: own them, wear them, work them.” -Donna Reed, Epsilon Zeta Chapter
No one would believe a diver who walked up to the edge in jeans and a t-shirt was ready to plunge gracefully into the pool below. I heard a very wise Harvard professor once say, “Don’t fake it until you make it; fake it until you become it.” Part of making a smooth transition into the career world is about acting like you already belong. No one questions the person who enters the office in a nice suit and heels.
The world is changing, and more relaxed officewear can be appropriate in some situations after you have achieved the job offer and learned the corporate culture, but don’t let a pair of uncomfortable shoes stand between you and your dream job.
There are three things everyone says when I tell them to, in the words of Barney from How I Met Your Mother, ‘Suit up!’
- That is not who I am.
- Nobody else in my industry wears a suit.
- I don’t know what is appropriate.
Breaking Down the Excuses
First, let’s look at the ‘that’s not who I am’ excuse. That may not be who you are, but it can be who you want to be. Right now you are not working at your dream job, and you are a recent college graduate. Those clothes are defining you, and you have to flip the script.
You may not be the type of person who wants to wear a suit and heels every day, and that is completely understandable. For the interview process though, it is crucial that you become the best version of you, the version that succeeds. National data has confirmed across disciplines that people who present well during the interview process, are those who appear prepared, confident, and well-dressed.
Next, let’s look at the ‘no one else in my industry wears a suit’ excuse. This might be true, but they already have the job. The CEO of your company may wear jeans to work every day. The head of the IT department may wear yoga pants, but they have earned those rights. You are more than welcome to dress like them when you become them. However, for now, be cautious, and wear the suit.
Lastly, let’s look at the, ‘I don’t know what is appropriate,’ excuse. This one is my favorite because this one is easy to solve. I am a firm believer that everyone on a job search should invest in a power outfit. This outfit can be different for every person, but it should be some kind of coordinating pant, skirt, or dress suit that makes you feel invincible.
The colors should be coordinating, flattering, and not too loud. You should minimize the amount of cleavage shown, and the hemline should fall at about the knee. We want people focusing on your gorgeous brains. You should limit yourself to no more than three pieces of tasteful jewelry, and your nails should be neatly manicured. Your hair should be neatly styled, and for those of us that tend to touch it when we are nervous (like me), consider pulling it back out of your face. Shoes should be less then 6 inches and closed toes (flats can be appropriate if professional).
So, step up to the diving board. You are finished with college, but the marathon has just begun! Plan, position, and put on your pumps. You are ready to dive in, and the professional world can’t wait to have you!