The first few weeks back at school in January can be a kind of extended “internship hell week” for students, especially juniors. Having gotten a taste of the internship hunt last year as a sophomore, I am back this year with my game face on.
Last week was full of information sessions, interview preparation (BC’s Career Center is a fantastic tool, use it!), and a two-day career fair. I had to dress up every day, navigating my way through dress codes such as “business formal,” “business casual,” or “casual.” Every time one of these events came up in conversation, the question naturally arose: “What are you going to wear?!”
Interview hell week didn’t end with this weekend, however. More information sessions and plenty of interviews await us juniors this week (not to mention seniors looking for full-time work and sophomores getting an early start). Here’s my guide for how to dress and where to buy it, so you can spend your time preparing for the interview instead of stressing about your appearance.
When a company specifies “business formal” for an information session or interview, they mean a skirt- or pant-suit, button-up shirt, and heels. Honestly, this is probably the easiest dress code to master. Buy one great outfit that you feel really confident in, and keep it on hand.
Express Pant Suit
Express Skirt Suit
Express Button-up Shirt
J. Crew Pant Suit
Ann Taylor Button-up Shirt
Macy's Skirt Suit
Banana Republic Skirt Suit
Just make sure that you have one suit where you bought both the blazer and skirt/pants together, as the resident CSOM career adviser warned. Don’t worry about wearing the same outfit over and over. Most likely, the employers won’t notice; and if they do, they know many of us are broke college students trying to land a first “real” job.
“Business casual” is where things start getting tricky. Generally, you can’t go wrong with suit pants or a suit skirt and a nice top. I usually stick to a more basic button-up, but I have also seen dressy tanks and sweaters. Including the pair from your “business formal” outfit, have 2-3 bottoms in neutral tones (black, grey, brown) that you can mix and match with a few button-ups.
Gap Dress Pants
Banana Republic Top
Banana Republic Top
Last week, I was surprised to see one bank specify “casual” for the dress code at their information sessions. I stuck with one of my trusty button-ups, and paired it with skinny black pants and riding boots. When I arrived, I saw a mixture of outfits, from guys in complete suits with ties to a couple of girls in jeans and a button-up. I think the lesson I learned on this day is that when it comes to potential employers, over-dressing is always better than under-dressing.
At 5’8″, I rarely wear heels. But as a general rule I wear them every time I meet with a potential employer. They will never hurt your cause, rather improve your posture; and, we’ve all heard about studies that have suggested people in leadership positions tend to be a few inches taller than average. As girls we are lucky that we can artificially add a few inches to our height and look the better for it.
All of that said, make sure your heels are appropriate. Keep them at 2″-3″, neutral toned pumps.
Steve Madden Unityy Pumps
Stuart Weitzman Easily Pump
Kate Spade New York Madia
Look Alike for Less: Top, Jimmy Choo Logan d'Orsay Pump; Bottom, Payless Pump
Hair and Make-up
Just like your go-to business formal outfit, have a go-to beauty routine for days that you are meeting with potential employers. Ponytails are perfect, but you don’t have to be afraid to leave your hair down either. Just make sure to pin the front of it back so you aren’t tempted to fix or play with it (I am guilty of this). If you’re going to be tempted, pull it back.
Your approach to make-up should be similar to your approach to heels on the day of an interview. Definitely wear some to put your best foot forward and show that you care about your appearance. But keep it basic–it shouldn’t draw attention away from your scintillating personality and resume. Cover-up, blush, a pale eye shadow and mascara should do it.
Well, there you have it! Take an hour now to put together a few outfits and plan your beauty routine. Then when you have ten minutes to get changed between class and an information session, you won’t break a sweat! Good luck…