College Graduates - Professionalism Matters

As college graduates continue the job search, there is good news coming from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, Job Outlook 2016, which states that, “employers expect to hire 5.2 percent more new graduates from the Class of 2016 than they hired from the Class of 2015.”  These employers are looking for essential skills among job candidates, including “critical thinking/problem solving, professionalism/work ethic, teamwork, and communications skills.”  

As more and more companies allow business casual dress, and successful Silicon Valley execs are shown wearing hoodies and t-shirts to work, one might think that professional appearance no longer matters.  However, professionalism/work ethic is rated among the top competencies for successful employment.  Professionalism includes, “understanding the impact of non-verbal communication on professional work image.”

Well-dressed, well-groomed and polished individuals are routinely awarded better salaries, win top jobs, are promoted and win the approval of their peers. Your professional appearance is an important part of your personal brand, which also includes your behavior (work ethic) and communication skills (body language, online reputation).  You will have a strong professional presence if you represent yourself consistently with an excellent image appropriate for your brand, your industry, your talents and your skills.

So what does that mean for your wardrobe.  And should all students look alike, wearing boring suits, sensible shoes and white shirts?  No!  It is important to think about who you are, what your goals are, your experiences, talents, skills and personality - this will help you achieve an authentic image which will increase your confidence and success.

Think about the industry you are looking at.  Is it formal (bankers, financiers, lawyers, insurance), semi-formal (public relations, retail, IT) or casual (creative, some IT).  For interviews in all industries, I recommend a suit for men and a skirt suit or pant suit for women.  This should be a modern, well-fitting suit.  Depending on industry, you can add your personality and flair in the accessories, dress shirt pattern, tie and color.  Generally speaking, big purchase items (suit, blazer, briefcase, shoes) should tend towards classic and neutral.  Classic pieces should make up about 80% of your wardrobe.  Use trendy or colorful pieces to show your personality.  

When heading out the door to a job interview, first job, internship or long-time place of work, always think “business” first, “casual” second.  After all, you are getting a paycheck, so show respect to your employers, clients and co-workers.