Entering your first graduate job can be daunting, but what’s more daunting is figuring out what to wear. You don’t want to turn up looking too casual, but you also don’t want to turn up looking like you’re going to a wedding!
Dressing well can make a good impression on your employer, colleagues and clients, and show that you are professional, confident and respectful. However, dressing well does not mean dressing expensively or extravagantly. It means dressing according to the culture, norms and expectations of your workplace. There are many ways to prepare for your first graduate job, but firstly, a good outfit gives you the confidence to tackle the rest.
Know the Dress Code
The first step to dressing appropriately for work is to know the dress code of your first graduate job. Different workplaces have different dress codes, ranging from formal to casual. For example, a law firm might require you to wear formal suits or dresses, while a tech startup might allow you to wear jeans and t-shirts. You can find out the dress code of your workplace by:
- Reading the employee handbook or contract, if there is one
- Asking your employer, supervisor or human resources manager before your start date
- Observing what your colleagues and managers wear once you’ve started the role
- Visiting the workplace before your first day, if possible
Once you know the dress code of your graduate workplace, you can plan your wardrobe accordingly. You should also keep in mind that some workplaces might have different dress codes for different occasions, such as meetings, presentations or events or casual Fridays. You should always dress for the occasion and follow the cues of your colleagues and managers.
Choose Quality over Quantity
When buying clothes for your graduate job, you should choose quality over quantity. Quality clothes are more durable, comfortable and flattering than cheap clothes. They also show that you care about your appearance and take pride in your first month of your graduate job. Quality clothes do not have to be expensive. You can find quality clothes at affordable prices by:
- Shopping at discount stores, outlets or online
- Buying clothes that are versatile and can be mixed and matched
- Buying clothes that are in season and on sale
- Buying clothes that fit well and suit your body type
- Taking care of your clothes by washing, ironing and storing them properly
- Borrowing from a well-dressed friend or relative helps too
You do not need to have a large wardrobe for work. You can create a capsule wardrobe that consists of a few essential pieces that can be worn in different ways. For example, a capsule wardrobe for a formal workplace might include:
- A navy or charcoal suit/dress
- A white or light blue shirt
- A dark tie
- A pair of black or brown shoes
- A watch
- A coat or jacket for cold weather
A capsule wardrobe for a casual workplace might include:
- A pair of dark jeans or khakis that
- A polo shirt or button-down shirt
- A plain sweater or cardigan
- A pair of white or black sneakers or loafers
- A backpack, messenger bag or tote bag
- A hat or scarf for cold weather
Keeping a neutral base for your professional wardrobe will really help your ability to mix and match each week, then you can add in some flare as time goes on…
Add Some Personality
While dressing appropriately for your first graduate job is important, it does not mean that you have to sacrifice your personality or style. You can add some personality to your outfit by choosing:
- Colours that suit your skin tone and hair colour
- Patterns that are subtle and tasteful, try and stay away from animal prints
- Accessories that are simple and elegant
- Items/accessories that make you feel happy and confident
However, you should also be careful not to overdo it or offend anyone with your choices. You should avoid wearing anything that is:
- Too revealing, tight or sloppy
- Flashy, loud or distracting
- Wearing anything that is inappropriate, offensive or controversial (For example, slogan or band t-shirts)
- Dirty, stained or wrinkled
- Wearing anything that is damaged, torn or worn out
This is all based on your first month of your first graduate job, depending on the company and their dress code, it might not matter if you want to wear your favourite band t-shirt! But keep in mind that some people can be offended by certain slogans and how much skin you’re revealing, so it’s suggested to keep it smart and minimal in your first few weeks.
Finally, you should ask for feedback on your outfit from someone you trust and respect. This could be a friend that’s already started their first graduate job and knows the ropes, a family member, a mentor or a colleague that’s already working there. Feedback can help you improve your style, avoid mistakes and learn from others.
Seek a Mentor
One way to learn how to dress appropriately for your first graduate job is to seek a mentor in your chosen industry who can guide you and advise you on this topic. They will know the dos and don’ts of how people can react to a certain dress sense within that specific field.