• Dress for the right occasion! So you just wrapped up a racket ball game and you’re wearing a slightly sweaty gym ensemble? What the heck…why not make an unscheduled visit to the career fair? Before deciding to skip the shower and change into something more context-appropriate, consider the impression you’ll be making before you even open your mouth. If you don’t want to spend the first (and most important!) minute of your conversations explaining that despite the fashion choice you really are a prepared, professionally-aware student with big ambitions, then go home and change.

Here are examples of what to say no to..

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  • Choose classy shoes, not club or gym shoes. Ladies, are you thinking about Platform heels? Strappy heels? Sparkly, colorful, or embellished heels? Save those for when you go out to celebrate after you have the job. For now, choose flats or low heels in black, another dark color, or nude. Gentlemen, debating between the fancy new sneakers, cowboy boots, or the brightly colored Vans? How about dressing to match the culture of the organization you’re working in after you know where you’re going to land. For now, go with brown or black oxfords or dress shoes.

Say yes to these!

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  • Louie the lumberjack is our mascot, not our trendsetter. Show your school spirit by sporting plaid flannels and unkempt beards at bonfires and on chilly fall days, not at the career fair. Showing that you’ll be prepared to move on from college – by wearing a well-tailored professional attire and keeping any facial hair nicely maintained – is a great sign to employers about your maturity and focus.

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  • “Dress-up fleece” is still fleece. Yes, in Flagstaff we do have a high regard for all things Patagonia and North Face, and some of us will work in fields where this is actually what we wear on any given day (Hello, forestry.) However, showing that you can adapt to different environments and contexts is a professional skill, and many employers have noticed that recent grads don’t have it. Show that you can dress traditionally professional, when necessary, by forgoing the fleece and choosing a suit jacket instead.

Say no…

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Say yes!

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  • Unless you want to announce to the world that you’re returning your suit first thing tomorrow, remove the basting stitches. Basting stitches keep the folds of a garment wrinkle-free while it’s hanging on the rack, but they aren’t meant to be worn out. Check the vent of your jackets, the pleat of your skirts, and pockets for any visible basting stitches that should be removed.

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  • “Sort-of professional” isn’t professional. Sure, you get a point for effort, but be prepared to lose 10 of them for short and/or tight skirts (even when partnered with a conservative collared shirt), tights or tight pants (even when topped with a classy blazer), or cleavage (even when visible only while bending down to add your name to a mailing list). Gentlemen, points will be lost for white gym socks (even if they’re the only clean ones you have left), untucked dress shirts, and backpacks (check your bags at the entrance instead).

Try to avoid these…

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  • There’s a gulf – not a fine line – between professional and party make-up. What side of the gulf do lipstick in any bold shade, dark eyeliner, heavy mascara and colorful eyeshadows belong on? You’ve got it – the after 5pm side. For work hours, less is more. Select soft, light colors that enhance your natural beauty; make sure your make-up is low-maintenance so that getting the job done can be your first priority, rather than retouching your look

This is okay!

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This is a little too much…

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  • Tattoos aren’t bad, but distracting recruiters with them is. When you meet with a recruiter, you want to make sure they’re listening to your elevator speech and hearing why you’re interested in their organization….not wondering about the story behind the gigantic rattler snaking its way up to your shoulder or what the date on your ankle represents. Make sure tattoos are covered fully, since as one HR exec said recently, “all things being equal, they will hire the more clean-cut employee.”

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