I’m sorry, but I will never understand why college students seem to never even try and dress for success.
I was in class the other day and looked around at my classmates. I’m in my final year, which means that most of us will need letters of reference from our professors about our professionalism, academic abilities, and suitability for graduate school. But when I looked around, I noticed that about 50% of the students were wearing sweat pants in class.
So I decided that I wanted to start an on-going series on this blog called “The Professional Collegiate,” since I really think that professionalism is something that we are missing as students more often than not. It’s something that I learned last year, and definitely didn’t take seriously my first year in college.
The truth is, though, with it being so hard to find a job right out of college, we collegiates need to do all that we can to start off our work life on the right foot!
So, today I am starting this new series by talking about how and why to dress for success.
Now, before I start with my reasons and tips, I want to make a few things clear:
YES, you can dress professionally on a budget.
NO, you don’t only have to wear suits.
YES, you should be concerned about how your professors and fellow students see you.
NO, you should not obsess over always looking perfect.
Ok, now that those are cleared up, here are the reasons why I don’t wear sweats in class!
How you dress gives off an impression
This is just the reality of the world we live in, and for a good reason. If someone doesn’t know how to dress appropriately for a job interview, can you really trust them to wear appropriate clothes if you ask them to present something? If someone doesn’t know how to dress professionally, can an employer really trust that her or his appearance will give a good first impression to new potential clients who check out the company for the first time?
How we dress is 100% our choice, so it naturally leads others to assume things about us because we chose to present ourselves that way. If you go to class in a t-shirt and sweats, that says something completely different than if you’re in a pair of good-fitting jeans, tank top and a blazer. Just look at the difference:
The first one says “I’m cute and comfy” the second one says “I take myself seriously.” (Aside from the bright pink socks, of course.)
It may be frustrating, since I agree, we shouldn’t judge by first appearances, but you need others to see your potential, and this is such an easy way to do that. So why not take that opportunity? Since you’re a student, you don’t need to wear dress pants or a suit all the time, but a pair of dark-wash jeans and a blazer goes a long way!
When you dress for success, your profs take you seriously
I don’t know what it’s like in other programs, but I know in psychology you want your professors to know who you are, because you need excellent letters of recommendation for grad school. Not only that, but professors work in the field that you want to be a part of, and they’re the ones who know about job opportunities! There are a few professors at my school who have Facebook pages where they post job opportunities and then will give personal recommendations for the students they think are capable. And those students are usually the ones who are professional in class and out.
Your professors are also more likely to listen to your opinions and re-mark exams and papers if they think you take your education seriously. Someone who shows up to class in sweats and a stained t-shirt doesn’t look nearly as invested in their education as the girl in a cute dress and cardigan.
Something else to take into consideration, rather than just what your profs can do for you, is that this is their job. They get up every morning, make themselves look presentable, and then come to teach the next generation of academics. They want to see you succeed, to inspire you with knowledge. I can imagine that it would be a little frustrating and disheartening to see a bunch of kids just drag themselves out of bed rather than students who were equally as invested as they are. So do your professor a favour, and let him or her know you appreciate what they do by putting on some real clothes.
When I’m dressed professionally, I’m ready for any opportunity
When you’re at school you have to be ready for anything that could come. There are constantly career fairs, research fairs, and often just individual businessmen or -women wandering around campus. I’ve met quite a few psychologists on campus simply because I said hello in a coffee line, and have made some connections at fairs that I wasn’t even planning on attending. However, since I dress professionally every day at school, I wasn’t self-conscious or worried about ruining a possible connection since I knew that I looked the part.
This world is competitive–it’s our reality. Be a part of that competition!
Dressing professionally helps with motivation
When I want real down-time I throw on a pair of Connor’s sweat pants and one of his old t-shirts and cuddle up under a blanket to watch Netflix. When I need to get work done, though, even if it’s just readings for school, I find that I’m more productive when I’m wearing real clothes.
Even now, for instance, as I’m writing this blog post, I’m wearing jeans, a tank top, and a cardigan. Not pyjamas. It makes me feel like I’m a grown-up, and there’s something about structured items of clothing that just make you more focused. I have a very hard time with distractions (my mind runs at a mile a minute), and this has been something that really helps me get everything I need to done.
When you dress for success you prepare yourself for the workforce
So many people I know do not have a business-appropriate wardrobe and as soon as they find their first office job they have to scramble to even have enough clothes for the first week! They don’t have time to try and find things second-hand or from friends, so it ends up being an expensive shopping trip. Then, on top of that, I’ve seen friends feel so awkward in the business clothes they bought that they go out and repeat the whole shopping experience again.
Since I do make an effort to dress professionally, when I have my first “grown up” job I won’t have any problems fitting into that scene. I already know what my style is, and already have some great core pieces that are super versatile and professional. Save yourself the stress and the money later by figuring out now what it means to dress professionally! Then, when you work in an office setting, you might have to buy a few pieces you don’t need in college–dress pants, a suit–but you’ll be much closer than you would have been.