Professional Dress – In a casual world, does it still matter?

March 22, 2017

Professional Dress – In a casual world, does it still matter?

The short answer is – “YES”.  The long answer is first impressions still matter.  In many of the activities we suggest in the Competitive Edge Program many of them ask you to interact with other professionals in your field to network, do informational interviews or to inquire about opportunities on your college campus.  Even meeting with our clients is a professional interaction.  People do make judgements based on your appearance.  Should they? I can’t really answer that but, I can tell you that your appearance is something you ultimately have a choice about and is within your control.

Many of the students working for us at Student Experience may not envision themselves working in a corporate setting.  But, we don’t want you to equate professional dress only to organizations in that context.  If you are applying for internships or jobs in education or within the healthcare field, you will never be disqualified for being overdressed.  Even graduate school interviews require you to dress professionally.  However, assumptions can be made about you that may not help your case if you do not appear in a professional manner.

What do I recommend?  Balance your personal style and your emerging professional self.  Reach out to friends, ask your parents, mentors or even stop in the Student Experience office to ask our staff or visit your Career Center if you need help.  Plan ahead and think about what you might own that would be considered professional.  You only need one outfit and make sure you keep it ready to wear.  Most of the time, you will be meeting new and different people anyway.  Your “look” may depend on your cultural background and those differences should be respected and considered professional.

The University of Minnesota recently held a job fair and Student Experience was there recruiting.  This website has great advice for both men and women.  Go to the “UMN Job Fair” Pinterest page (visit and click on the “Professional Attire” link for ideas.

The goal of the Competitive Edge program is to do just that…give you a competitive edge.  And, while we don’t have a specific activity about professional dress it is an important topic to talk about openly.  If Student Experience can’t tell you, then who will.  Professional attire does matter!


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About Gregg Saunders

Gregg Saunders is passionate about helping others grow and reach their future success.  He has been President of Student Experience since 1993.  He has brought a unique combination of student development and business together, effectively challenging and supporting students to accomplish more than they thought they could.

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