Although it can be difficult to remain professional and still look stylish, it isn’t impossible. “It just comes down to making an effort,” business administration senior Melanie Ulrich said.
While the career fair may be serious business, one of the first questions running through your head is probably a bit more superficial: “What am I going to wear?”
Before you panic, keep in mind that brains — not beauty — should shine to land you a job or internship. However, the way you present yourself has an impact on the way prospective employers see you.
When meeting with recruiters at the career fair, the go-to dress code has traditionally been professional. But that brings up even more questions. What exactly constitutes “professional?” How can you keep a sense of style in the meantime?
Do: Keep it simple
Depending on the formality of the interview, “professional” can mean a few things.
Some interviews are more casual, the degree of which can be determined by looking at what type of company you are interviewing with.
Casual wear can simply mean dressing up a nice pair of jeans. City and regional planning senior Thomas Vogt said he likes to pair a polo or long-sleeved button-down shirt with jeans.
“It’s something that puts you up against the rest, something that makes you look and feel smart while still being casual,” Vogt said.
Some interviews abide by a business-casual dress code, which is a slight step up from casual. Slacks and dress shoes are more appropriate for business casual, but you don’t need a full suit.
“Usually, I would go with a khaki or chino and a button-up,” Vogt said. “You can dress it up by wearing a solid color or make it more casual by wearing a pattern. It’s really versatile and it’s comfortable, but gives off a look of responsibility.”
Many students choose to play it safe by sticking to a professional dress code for the career fair — this means toning down personal flair. Vogt said he tries to stick to basic colors such as navy or gray and let the suit speak for itself.
“You can show off your own personal flair with your tie, but it’s a good idea to keep within normal conservative means and colors, especially if you aren’t used to business wear,” Vogt said. “It will show that you pay attention to details and are generally put-together, plus it never fails to make you feel confident and in control.”
Don’t: Be afraid to stand out
Business administration senior Melanie Ulrich has some experience in dressing for an internship — she spent the summer as an intern for Union Bank in San Francisco. The key to maintaining a sense of style while dressing professionally, Ulrich said, is to keep a balance.
“You can wear what you want, really,” Ulrich said. “It’s still fashion and it’s still a sense of style, so you can play around with it.”
Vogt said one way to do this is to play with colors and patterns, but keep a classic silhouette.
“Once you have a base, you can add flairs of color that make you stand out, but you can still be formal enough to fit in,” Vogt said.
Do: Pay attention to how things fit
Even if your outfit is the height of professionalism, nothing will work if it doesn’t fit correctly. Vogt emphasized that fit is the most important aspect of dressing well.
“It’s very easy, especially with professional clothing, to wear something that looks professional but doesn’t fit right,” Vogt said. “And that just cancels out the professional look you were going for.”
Dress appropriately, but remember you’re trying to get hired based off your skills, not your looks. Going in with confidence and knowledge can get you further than any outfit.
“It’s really just about being clean-cut,” Ulrich said. “It just comes down to making an effort.”