You only get one chance to make a first impression. Cliché? Perhaps, but there is truth to this statement. And with the national unemployment rate stubbornly high for the last several years–and still lingering around 8.3%–job seekers especially know how important it is to make the right first impression!
Dressing for success may sound intimidating, expensive and a bit vain, but your presentation creates credibility. According to the Career Center at North Dakota State University, “Whether you like it or not, people size you up in a very short time, actually only about 3-5 seconds. Your apparel, demeanor, and mannerisms are all factors in influencing what someone else thinks of you and whether you inspire them.”
And with phrases like black tie, business formal and dressy casual, even the most fashion forward can become easily confused about what to wear to work, a party or an event. To help you navigate those tricky dress codes, etiquette guru Emily Post® created an attire guide which lists appropriate attire from casual to white tie.
Even colleges across the country are making conscious efforts to educate their soon-to-be graduates by hosting seminars and posting online guides that include a list of what to wear–and what not to wear–for a job interview. Schools like Boston College even offer their students the opportunity to meet with an advisor to further discuss this underestimated topic.
Here are a few practical tips to help you make the right impression the first time.
When in doubt, choose to stand out. If you’re iffy or unsure of what the dress code is–or if there is even a dress code–then play it safe by taking the dressier approach. It is always more appropriate and respectable to be overdressed than it is to be underdressed. If nothing else, people will likely compliment you on your jazzed-up look.
Less is more. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on an entire new wardrobe. Invest in a few classic pieces–such as a blazer, a white collared shirt, or a black knee-length skirt–and then mix and match a few simple accessories from there.
Dress to impress–even on “casual Friday.” Just because it’s casual Friday at your corporate office doesn’t mean you can stroll into work with clothes that mirror your pajamas. If you wear jeans, consider tucking in your shirt and wearing a belt for a casual, yet crisp and clean look.
Step up your wardrobe even when you’re on a tighter budget. You don’t have to shop high-end stores for a high-end look. Shop the clearance rack at your favorite retail store, visit garage sales and thrift stores or even check out eBay® for some gently used or never worn pieces. You’re sure to get your return on investment when shopping smart.
Pass on the perfume or cologne. Especially if you’re heading out to a job interview, as some people have sensitivity and/or allergic reactions to various scents.
Oral hygiene counts! Don’t let bad breathe be the elephant in the room. Even though you’re well groomed and visibly presentable, having bad breathe can leave a lasting impression on someone–and not a good one at that!
Visit Polyvore for some inspiration. Become a registered user of Polyvore and have fun mixing and matching your own virtual outfits. This may help you gain some ideas and inspirations for some color schemes and prints.
Next time you get an invitation for a cocktail party or you’ve finally nailed down that job interview, be sure you’re dressed appropriately–and dressed for success. Not only do you get one–and only one chance–to make that first impression; it’s typically cemented in someone’s mind for a lifetime.
This article was taken from my September 2012 issue of YOU Magazine. Click here to view the full newsletter.