Knowing How to Dress After Landing the Job: New Graduates Edition

You’ve got the brains, the talent, and the skill. You finally got your degree with all that time you put into school, you nailed the interview for the job you were hoping for, and now, you’re walking on Cloud 9. But there’s just one thing left: You need to dress the part—a part perhaps you’ve never dressed before.

In college, you were used to the laid back environment and probably stuck to shorts and a t-shirt in the warmer months, and a jacket and jeans in the cooler months. But now that you’ve landed your first official office gig, you have to dress for the part. No jeans or shorts (or jean shorts) anymore. The wardrobe is one of the first places new graduates get lost right, and in so doing, blowing their savings on pricey outfits that they probably won’t be able wear. Creating a work-friendly wardrobe doesn’t have to be that hard or expensive.

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Begin by making sure you have all the clothing items and accessories that will make up a great office ensemble. Guys, be sure that you have slacks with a belt, a dress shirt, nice shoes, and socks that look the part (the white cotton tube socks you wear on the court will not do the job when you’re on the job.) The tie and jacket can be added if your workplace calls for it. Ladies, you can opt for a professional dress and heels, or slacks, a button-down, and a blazer. It’s important that you look well put together and not like you just grabbed something from your closet when dressing for the job—especially those first few weeks when making a positive lasting impression is so critical.

In terms of accessories, women can carry a stylish tote bag, but one that isn’t too big—just large enough to carry the essentials. That said, many women have packed their bags to the brim suggesting everything inside is an “essential”—get realistic and narrow down what you really need—wallet, phone, planner, a few personal care products. For jewelry, don’t go overboard. Dangly earrings, chunky necklaces, and an arm of bracelets are out. Small studs, subtle necklaces, and only one bracelet are in.

Heels are an important parts of a woman’s outfit and can make a great statement if they match your personal style, but if they don’t, skip them and go for flats. Whatever you choose, make sure the shoes are close-toed. Nothing is worse than walking into work with open-toed shoes and realizing that you still have that crazy pink nail art on your toenails from last weekend… no one at work is going to find it impressive. Your best bet is to keep the polish on, but hide it with close-toed shoes.

For men, be prepared to spend some money on shoes. If you want to stand out in a refined way and have good quality shoes, invest in a pair of leather shoes in brown or black, depending on the outfits you usually wear. Dress shirts are important to keep in mind as well. White is a safe color to stick with, but other colors like blue or green can add a little bit of pop and show off your character. Just don’t go too nuts and get a neon dress shirt—the basic rule of thumb is to keep it inside the margins without looking too generic.