May 14, 2018 Alyssa Pascarella

Career Planning: Dress for Success - Business Casual vs. Professional

If you are serious about landing a job, you need to dress the part. The way you present yourself is someone's very first impression of you, so show people you're serious about the work you are doing. According to Business Insider, a person's first impression of you is formed within 7 to 17 seconds of first meeting you, and those 7 to 17 seconds will account for 55% of that person's opinion of you.

Interviewers and candidates have been bickering with each other over “professionalism” for generations. Whether centered on haircuts, visible tattoos or piercings, or appropriate dress in the workplace, it’s been an evolving, but continuous, discussion. Today’s most prominent professional attire-related dispute seems to focus on a more core concept – whether anyone should really be "dressed up" to go to work at all.

Standards across industries

Certainly the type of job you land will affect the style of clothing you wear to work. Working in an accounting or law firm, for example, will require conservative suiting, while if you land a job as a professional trainer, you will likely wear gym clothes. But for interview purposes, none of that matters. Always err on the side of more professional.

Business professional

business professional

Industries like finance, accounting, consulting, and education are typically more formal, and their employers expect their staff to adhere to a professional dress code. Like anything, the term "business professional" can mean a variety of different things from one person to the next. Professional dress for men is almost always a suit and tie. Women should wear a pant suit or pencil skirt, blouse, and blazer. In these settings, it is important to look polished as you are likely working with people in and outside your office.

Business casual

business casual

People in engineering fields, smaller offices, and start-ups tend to fit into this category, and most offices tend to follow this dress code! Men typically wear a collared shirt (polo or button down) with nice dress pants, no tie required. Women, on the other hand, can wear business separates and compliment them with a cardigan or blazer. Be sure to look put together as you may have occasional meetings with outside vendors and partners.

Dress it up, not down, for just one day

One great tip: For your interview, step it up at least one level from what you know you’ll need to wear to work every day if you land the job. If you’ll be in an office where the staff are largely in business casual attire – a public school is a great example – you should anticipate wearing a suit to your interview. Your interviewer won’t expect you to dress similarly for work, but she’ll be impressed that you’ve taken the time to step it up. Working at a restaurant or brewery? A suit may not be necessary, but business casual for the interview is a bare minimum.

Business professional and casual is NOT



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Published by Alyssa Pascarella May 14, 2018