Dress for Success

5 Quick Steps for a Great First Impression

FirstImpression_Sept2011_web Like it or not first impressions carry some weight in your hunt for a new job. Whether you are heading to a job fair, attending a networking event, or going to a job interview you’ll want to make sure your first impression sends the right message.

1. Keep it simple.

When you’re networking or presenting work samples during an interview, chances are you’ll have a few belongings with you. While this is understandable, you don’t want to make it a nuisance. For example, if you’re at an association meeting make sure to have business cards in your shirt pocket or the outer pocket of a purse. You don’t want to have to dig through a backpack for them. In addition, try not to carry around a portfolio and a drink at a meeting, you won’t be able to shake hands or accept any handouts without awkwardly setting your other items down. Choose a simple glass or bottle of water at an interview over a cup of coffee that requires milk, cream, etc., it will help you stay focused on the meeting. Before you head out the door, take inventory of your belongings and see if you can leave anything behind that would reduce your personal clutter – remember less is more.

2. Check your scent.

Whether it’s heavy perfume or clothing scented with your favorite Thai restaurant, it’s best to be seen and not smelled. People can be sensitive to smells, and you wouldn’t want an interviewer distracted by your heavy cologne. Reduce scents by avoiding strong perfumes and scented lotions. Don’t eat at aromatic restaurants prior to meetings and make sure to combat bad breath after meals with mints or by brushing your teeth.

3. Match and mirror.

Take note of the mood and environment of any event and match your responses appropriately. You may typically be fairly informal in conversations, but if you’re being introduced as “Mr. Smith,” make sure to address others using their surname. If you’re at a company meal and no one orders an alcoholic drink, mirror their response and save your cocktail for another night. First impressions aren’t a time to make bold impressions. If your interviewer voices a strong opinion on upcoming legislation, it’s okay to share your understanding of the changes but avoid debating the issue at a first meeting. While it’s important to connect with others, it’s best to play it safe.

4. Step out.

The shoes make the man, right? Well not quite, but having clean and appropriate footwear does help set the right first impression. It’s not the time to break out your killer heels. Make sure your work boots have been cleaned from excessive dirt and repaired of any wear and tear. You don’t have to have new or expensive shoes, but consider taking your dress shoes for a professional shoe polish. You’ll be amazed what a difference this can make. Of course you can polish them yourself, but you need to do this sooner rather than later. When you’re heading to an interview, the last thing you want is to be late because you are cleaning your shoes.

5. Hats off.

Leave your baseball cap at home when you’re heading out to meet new people. Hats can make it hard for people to see your eyes, making conversation awkward. Also, fix your hair and avoid outrageous styles for first impressions. You don’t want people to remember your hair style, you want to be remembered for your thoughtful insights and engaging attitude. At the same time, make sure your hair is styled. Throwing it up in a ponytail may work for casual Friday, but when you want to look your best, put a little effort into fixing your hair.

While it may not be fair to judge a book by its cover, when it comes to first impressions, the best rule is to not do anything too extreme. While a conversational piece of jewelry is okay, wearing a tiara to stand out is taking it too far. Bringing a portfolio to show off your work samples is fine, requesting an easel for a flip chart and overhead projector for your PowerPoint is overboard. The less you have to handle, the more you can focus on connecting with your new contacts.


By Rachel Rudisill

Beat The Heat: Dressing Professionally Cool

Summercasual_webJust in case you might have missed the past few months, there is a heat wave hitting the United States. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, temperatures are shattering records in the South and Southwest, while average precipitation has been well below average.

With scorching temperatures setting daily record highs, the summer look might just be pool clothes. But work doesn’t stop in the summertime, and it’s important to remember to know where to draw the line for acceptable work attire. Whether you’re starting a new job, or you’re a workplace veteran, you should know that what you wear represents yourself as well as your organization.

Dress codes don’t go by the wayside just because of the temperature. We’ve shown you how to warm up in the wintertime, so here are some tips to help you keep cool and professional in the summertime.

When putting together a work outfit for the summertime, think of breathable cotton fabrics. Wrinkle resistant linen-cotton blends can make a nice replacement for wool suits and lightweight fabrics will give a welcomed relief in unbearable temperatures.

Keep the Sleeves
Even though you might have incredibly shaped arms, resist the temptation to go sleeveless. It’s widely considered that tops with sleeves are deemed more appropriate for the workplace. If you were to go sleeveless, keep it covered with a thin cardigan or jacket.

Don’t wear sandals. Not only can flip-flops look unprofessional, they can be distracting and noisy. Open toed shoes are usually considered inappropriate in a business setting. For a little more breathing room, consider peep-toe shoes as an alternative.

Long hair can make you feel hot, especially in this scorching heat. Men, try getting a trim to cool off and cut down on maintenance. Women, try tying up your hair to keep your neck cool. Quick updos can help you achieve a simple yet professional style.

Summer Colors
When picking out summer work clothes, be sure to think about colors. Keep in mind that while some lighter colors are cooler than darks, extremely bright colors can be distracting. Stay with lighter more natural shades like neutrals or whites, which will direct fewer rays from the sun and keep you chill.

Men may consider changing to bamboo socks in the summer, they are more breathable than cotton and are said to keep you two to three degrees cooler. Ladies may try thigh-high and knee-high styles of hosiery to provide a slightly more comfortable alternative in the summertime.

Keep it Covered
Remember that just because some companies allow shorter sleeves during the hotter months, you still need to keep your tattoos covered up.

Maintain your reputable image by dressing appropriately year round. A consistent look will help project reliability and credibility.

Even though tuning into the morning news just to hear the weatherman say, “It’s going to be another scorcher” has become all too normal, you’ll know how to stay chill and dress appropriately. And don’t forget to check your company handbook on dress codes before contemplating any changes to your wardrobe this season.

Office Party Don’ts You Do Need to Know

The Christmas season is in full swing and office holiday parties are rocking. After a long, stressful year with heavier workloads, you may be planning to release some steam and have a grand-old-time at the office party. Go ahead and have a ball and enjoy time with your co-workers, remember to keep the fun workplace-appropriate. So, here are three important tips you should know before you head to your company’s shindig.

Don’t vent about work. Even though being at a holiday party after traditional work  hours can make you feel more comfortable and free to speak your mind, be sure you leave work at work. Don’t bring ill feelings to the holiday party because doing so could put a damper on the evening for you and your fellow co-workers. And, if a co-worker starts sounding like the office Grinch, try to change the subject to a more positive subject, such as family, friends, or plans for the holidays. Use this time to learn more about what your co-workers enjoy beyond the workplace, and you’ll be sure to leave the party feeling a little jollier.

Keep it professional. Human resource policies are still in effect at after-hour work events, so be cautious about what you say and do. Be on your best behavior. It takes time to build up a good reputation in the workplace, and you don’t want to ruin it in a matter of seconds by doing something inappropriate. To keep regret from following you like the Ghost of Christmas Past, be sure you maintain a professional demeanor at the holiday office party. 

Be aware of the dress attire. Even though a party may be happening at a local restaurant or facility, it’s important to know what’s acceptable and not acceptable to wear for the occasion. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. Since co-workers and probably their guests will be present, keep your dress more conservative and professional, but more casual than everyday office attire. For example, a nice pair of dress slacks or a skirt with a nice dress shirt. But some Christmas parties are more formal. To be sure of what to wear, check with management and your co-workers to determine what is appropriate.

It’s important to attend your holiday work parties, and they are intended to be a time of enjoyment. Network, mingle, laugh, and have fun, but just keep in mind that it’s still a work function, with managers and co-workers present. 

You Wore What to Work? Worst Winter Wardrobe Choices Around the Office


Rain or shine, snow or sleet, business continues.  And so does corporate culture.

Dressing for a day at the office can be complicated by the seasons, but bad weather is no excuse for dressing inappropriately: with few exceptions, you’re still expected to follow the dress code.

Casual vs. cozy

It’s tempting to dress solely for warmth and comfort in winter, as the days grow shorter and chilly temperatures have you reaching for mittens and scarves. But, depending on your industry, there’s a definite limit to how cozy you can be around the office.

Your company may have a business casual policy or allow for bending the rules in particularly treacherous conditions, but neither is likely to last all season long.

What not to wear this winter

Avoid turning heads for all the wrong reasons by steering clear of these winter wardrobe snafus:

Sweatpants and shirts: These ultra-casual hybrids between day clothes and pajamas are purposely devoid of all professional qualities. Nothing says, “My alarm didn’t go off,” like a rumpled pair of cotton sweats at the office. Even with holiday prints and whimsical graphics, they’re better left to weekends and sick days spent at home.

Jogging suits: If your outfit is more suited to the locker room than the board room, it’s probably not appropriate. Velour, spandex, polyester – the variety of synthetic fabrics available in coordinating colors still doesn’t bring them up to business casual status. Bottom line: your co-workers shouldn’t see you in yoga pants and a hoodie, at least not at your desk.

Outdated holiday sweaters: You remember them: red and green panels, kissing reindeer, candy cane stripes. They may still be kitschy cute, but in case you haven’t heard, these once-popular knits are now passé. Argyle or solid cardigans that coordinate with a tailored look are in style again this year and can help pull any outfit together.   

Snow boots: Hefty boots and galoshes are great for crossing the parking lot. However, they’re not a substitute for loafers or heels once you’re safely inside. Check your company’s dress code for its policy on dress boots; they’re not always considered appropriate either.   

Parkas: Oversized winter coats aren’t meant to be worn indoors all day. Even the fur-trimmed variety are no substitute for business jackets.  If you’re cold at your desk, chances are you’re not the only one; speak to maintenance about adjusting the building’s temperature. Meanwhile, a pashmina, scarf, or discreet lap blanket can help you relieve the chill without making you look as though you were just leaving.

In general, a good rule of thumb is that if a piece of clothing is more casual than business, it’s probably not suitable for work. Ask your employer if you have doubts about what’s appropriate at your office. Classic styles, after all, trump cozy any business day of the year.

3 Risky Job Search Tactics

With the national unemployment rate reaching 9.8% in September, competition in the job market feels fiercer than high school cheerleading tryouts. With all that opposition, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. But, standing too far out can be risky business. So, before you resort to a showy song and dance routine (unless of course your next interview is on Broadway, in which case, break a leg) or any of these three job search tactics, make sure you weigh the risks so you don’t set yourself too far apart in your next interview and risk losing the job.

1. The unconventional résumé. Non-traditional résumés like website portfolios, podcasts and video résumés might be the wave of the future, but not every business or industry is suited for them. So, whatever résumé form you choose to submit, make sure it’s smart, relevant, and effective with your industry and audience when you interview. If you do use an unconventional résumé, consider pairing it with a traditional one for more conservative fields.

2. The statement wardrobe choice. First impressions are made within three to five seconds, so what you wear says a lot about who you are. A Lady Gaga-sense of style may win you rave reviews at fashion week, but professional dress is more appropriate for most interviews (unless you’re applying for a job as a stylist). While you should always be yourself, be a toned-down version of you in the interview, especially if you’re the type to rock fuchsia pumps or a yellow bow tie. Before your interview, learn about the company culture and atmosphere to determine how you should dress.

3. The overly confident boaster. Confidence allows potential employers to see your ability, enthusiasm, and drive. It’s important to present your past experiences and accomplishments with assurance. But, when you discuss your successes and achievements, be sure to give specific and quantifiable examples. And, back your examples with solid references who will do the talking for you. You run the risk of seeming pretentious and arrogant if you give only vague statements of your triumphs.

When you’re looking for a job, consider each risk carefully. Of course you need to stand out, but in the right way. Be brave by being you in a way that demonstrates your skills, attitude, and character. A sincere job applicant can be the diamond in the rough that employers are looking for.

Putting Together a Work Wardrobe

Work WardrobeAn investment in a professional wardrobe is an investment in your career and your future. A well put-together wardrobe not only helps garner respect and credibility in the workplace, but it also boosts your confidence. When you dress professionally, you’ll be viewed in a more positive light, feel more professional, and be more productive.

While a nice wardrobe isn’t always cheap to put together, keeping these few tips in mind can help you strategically build a stylish, yet professional, wardrobe while spending your dollars wisely.

Keep it Classic. While you may be tempted to purchase the latest fashion trends, these items generally cost more and go out of style quicker. Stick to classic styles that will last season after season, such as a simple black suit. With classics, you can always update your look by adding an accessory, such as a new tie or scarf, or mixing and matching with other pieces.

Stick to Neutral Colors. When purchasing foundation pieces – slacks, skirts, and suits for example – avoid loud colors and patterns. Neutral colors, such as blacks, browns, and tans, mix and match much easier, and allows you to wear the item over and over again.

Make Quality Purchases. The pieces in your wardrobe will be worn many times, so don’t skimp on quality. If you opt for less expensive clothes, you might end up spending more in the long run by replacing worn-out clothing. Determine if the item’s fabric will stand up to the wear of repeated use. This doesn’t mean you have to spend $1,200 on a designer suit, but choosing a stronger fabric will allow you to wear it longer. Even if you pay a few more dollars for a suit, the price per wear will be less expensive as you wear it over time.

Know What You Want.  Before you head to the store, figure out what you want or need to complete your wardrobe. This will help you avoid impulsive purchases. Having your clothes organized at home can help you identify the missing pieces in your wardrobe and help you buy items that will complement or complete an outfit. This will also help you avoid buying something you don’t need or something that won’t go with what you currently own.

Unless you have an unlimited budget, a work wardrobe isn’t something you can put together overnight. However, by making good choices, you can gradually build a professional, yet cost effective, wardrobe you can wear long term.

Shake off the Cobwebs: How to Look and Feel Younger by Updating Your Image

Image UpdateGrowing older has its perks – more wisdom, life experience and job expertise. But, with age also comes a few things most people don’t appreciate as much such as wrinkles, weight gain and thinning hair. Typically, people don’t want to look any older than they have to – especially at work, where many generations come together in one place. The tips below can increase your workplace confidence by helping you look your best and keep your style up-to-date.

Update your ’do. Your hair is one of the first things people notice about your appearance, so ensure your style isn’t doing you a disservice by making you look older than you’d like.

Tips for men: If your hair’s thinning out, don’t try to camouflage it by sporting a comb-over. Instead, keep your look modern by having a stylist trim or shave your hair closer to the scalp. Also, long beards or mustaches tend to make men look older and less professional, so tidy up facial hair, including unruly eyebrows.

Tips for women: What’s popular for women’s hair changes more quickly than for men’s, so ask your stylist for tips on what’s in fashion. Additionally, hair that’s too dark washes out the skin and adds unnecessary years to the face. If you color your hair, consider going a shade or two lighter than usual to give your skin extra vibrancy.

Try out some fresh frames. Wearing wire-framed, square, rimless or other dated styles of glasses age you. If you’ve been wearing the same glasses for many years, it’s time to invest in a new set of frames. Tortoise-shell, rectangular, and plastic frames are trendier options for glasses. Another possibility to freshen up your specs is to try out contacts.

Let those pearly whites sparkle. As people age, so do their teeth. To turn back the clock on yellow or gray-tinged teeth, invest in professional whitening from the dentist or purchase over-the-counter whitening trays. To avoid continually staining your teeth, it’s a good idea to limit coffee drinking, use a straw when drinking dark beverages and quit smoking. A brighter, whiter smile can take years off your appearance and give you more confidence about your looks.

Following the tips above can help keep your image fresh and improve the way you feel about your looks. Confidence and an up-to-date appearance will help you make a positive impression in the workplace.