If you’ve ever been to a college campus career fair – whether as a recruiter, adviser or self-aware student – you’d be excused for thinking that in addition to a legal drinking age, there should also be a legal suit-wearing age.
Male students run from booth to booth in suits three sizes too big, square-toe shoes that could kick a door down, and ties louder than the student section on football Saturdays.
I remember my own campus career fair (long, long ago). It was April of my senior year, and walking into the hotel ballroom where the event was being held, I gazed at my peers and thought, “We all look like children playing dress-up.”
The girls were decked out in boxy Ann Taylor suits set off by varying shades of pastel dress shirts, while the guys wore suits that looked as though they’d been designed using a potato sack as a fit model.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
College students, you can step up your business style without breaking the bank. You should even have most of the elements in your closet already. Because it’s entirely possible to look appropriate for an internship or job hunt, and still look and feel your own age – even if you don’t own a suit. Here’s how:
• For an informal, informational session with a company recruiter, aim for a casual-yet-pulled-together look. Think about what you’d wear in high school on game days – khaki pants, a dress shirt. Shoes that match your belt.
• For a career fair, set the style bar a little higher. Upgrade from khakis to dress pants and a sport coat. Guys, strongly consider wearing a tie. If you want to inject more style into the outfit, add a V-neck sweater or buttoned-up cardigan.
• Once you make it to an interview (and congrats when you do!), it’s time to get out the suit. If you don’t have a suit that fits – and don’t have the time or money to spend on a tailor – pair that sport coat from your career fair with a dark-colored dress pant. Take the free time not spent suit shopping to 1) polish your resume, 2) memorize the accomplishments from previous jobs and internships and 3) practice a firm handshake.