Let’s get real: As much as we hate to submit to traditional corporate rules, “dressing the part,” can play a huge role in our success at a company or firm. It can determine if you get another interview. If your superior puts you up for a special project or promotion. If a client will trust you to get the job done. And, it can indicate if you’re trustworthy or not. The majority of communication between people is nonverbal, so it is important that your appearance speaks to the role that you’re trying to obtain.
I personally subscribe to the old adage that “If you look good then you’ll feel good.” So, I think that our generation, the much loved and hated millennials, have immense potential, but the fact remains that we need to showcase it. We have to showcase it in our work ethic, our passion, and in our willingness to play the career game by dressing for the part. There are many individuals in hiring positions that come from a generation of conservative leanings and so, in order to bridge that gap we must dress the part.
Here are the top 5 clothing items you should own as a young professional
- Black blazer
This item is a staple and should be in your wardrobe if it already isn’t. Black is always classic and acceptably stylish. And, you can get so much value and use out of this item. For example, you can dress it up with a skirt or pants and turn it into a suit for business professional settings. Pair it with a dress, with denim, or with a skirt for business casual and other everyday looks. You can find this piece in any store and at a variety of price points. But a word of advice: Spend the money on a nice quality one because you’ll certainly get your money’s worth.
- Dress or suit
Buy a dress or pants/skirt to create an outfit that makes you feel confident and mature. It can’t hurt your chances to look completely poised and polished despite the fact that you may be sweating bullets or nervously fidgeting while trying to emphasize how you’re a qualified candidate.
- Professional and comfortable shoes
Invest in some durable, comfortable, closed toed shoes. Style-wise, closed toed is a great option for all seasons and once again suitable for a conservative workplace or industry. In terms of comfort, quality does matter because you will hate yourself and cause unnecessary pain and suffering if you go the cheap route. So, really consider how much mobility or walking your position requires and adjust accordingly. Also, no one can freaking tell (or will care really) if you’re re-wearing a pair of shoes.
- Dress shirts in short or long sleeve (depending on climate or season)
You definitely need to wear something underneath that black blazer or suit you’ve purchased. For greatest versatility, stick to neutral colors or business colors so you can mix and match with ease. Often they’re on-sale in several options and shades, but learn your workplace dress code before you splurge on a bright color or bold pattern. My suggestion for sizing is something that is fitted, i.e. snug enough so that it has a shape without looking sloppy, but may also look good not tucked into pants or a skirt. You should also be able to gesture and move as if you were presenting, so you’re physically most comfortable and thus projecting that comfort into confidence.
- Professional bag or briefcase
It’s 2016, so this means women and men can carry anything from a briefcase to a satchel. If you’re like me and manage to have too much stuff for a typical purse or bag, do yourself a favor and invest in a nice large tote. There are so many stylish and affordable options that is if you’re willing to research, budget, and spring when the price is right. Also, nothing looks more unprofessional and frankly immature than not having a place to keep papers (i.e. resume or portfolio), your phone, keys, tablet, laptop, snack, wallet or anything else tidy. Stick to a neutral, simple two tone, or a solid color to avoid looking busy and drawing the eye in a distracting manner. I would also recommend purchasing a bag that has metal grommets to increase the bag’s longevity.
Stay tuned for a list of places to purchase quality professional clothing on a budget!