You’ve earned the degree, nailed the interview and scored that first job. Now, it’s time to look the part. Navigating out of the casual college wardrobe and into workplace-appropriate outfits can be a pricey puzzle, but it doesn’t have to be.
Every workplace has its own style – from buttoned-up banks to the colorful creative environments. The trick is to quickly figure out what’s appropriate and practical for your line of work.
Some rules always apply: People who look put-together and take care in their appearance will make a better first impression than those who dress sloppily. And new hires should try to draw attention to their work ethic and skills – not to what they’re wearing.
“If you have to ask somebody if what you’re wearing is work appropriate, it’s probably not,” said Jessica Hensen, a corporate recruiter for the fast-growing marketing company Red Ventures, based in Fort Mill, S.C.
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Red Ventures has a relaxed approach to dress; even CEO Ric Elias wears jeans and a polo to work most days. But Hensen stresses that although company leaders believe “you don’t have to be dressed in a suit to be professional and successful,” certain things are no-nos: short skirts, ripped jeans and tank tops.
At MetLife’s Charlotte, N.C., office, there’s a more formal approach. Workers in sales who interact with customers wear suits and ties, while those who don’t see customers follow business-casual style with a collared shirt and dress pants. Some departments allow jeans on Fridays, but not the ripped or casual kind; structured jeans in darker denim are the norm.
“We know everyone wants to be an original and stand out, but from a corporate standpoint, a little bit more conservative is better,” said Jason Moore, sales desk manager in MetLife’s office in Charlotte’s Ballantyne neighborhood.
Women are advised to wear closed-toe shoes instead of sandals, and men to wear lace-up shoes “that don’t resemble anything like a sneaker.”
“If you run into (a high-level manager) in the elevator, think about how you want to look in front of that person,” Moore said, “so think of it as an interview every day.”