The Career Center’s Fall Career Expo is coming up on September 29th, and in order to help you prepare, we’re running a series called “10 Days of Expo.” Each day until 9/29 we’ll discuss helpful tips and information, along with some featured employers that will be in attendance (check out the previous few days if you’ve missed them). Today we talk about what to wear.
“Remember, when you’re interviewing for a job, you don’t want the focus to be on your clothes. You want it to be on you, and your qualifications.”
-Jesse Thorn, Put This On
The Career Center’s Fall Career Expo may not be a job interview, but it is your first opportunity to meet a recruiter face-to-face. You want to make a good impression, and as Jesse explains so clearly in the quote above, that impression should be made by you, rather than by what you’re wearing. While a t-shirt and jeans at the Expo is almost always inappropriate, there’s a little more to it than simply putting on ‘nicer’ clothes than what you’d wear to class.
Your safest bet is to dress ‘business casual.’ For men, this means a tucked-in, collared shirt (dress or polo), dress slacks or khakis, dark socks, and a decent-looking pair of shoes (no sneakers). Ties are optional. For women, a blouse or sweater, skirt or dress slacks, and either flats or low heel shoes. Here’s a handy dress code guide. For either sex, try to stay away from clothes in particularly loud colors and patterns, and anything that’s too revealing.
You don’t need to be the best-dressed person in the Union on Wednesday, but it’s important that you don’t stand out for the wrong reasons. Here’s some of the more egregious things we’ve seen over the years:
T-shirts, particularly ones with sayings on them. It’s not the time for clever sayings. Also, “Welcome to the Gun Show” isn’t clever anyway.
Athletic clothing (jerseys, hoodies, etc.). This is Fall Career Expo, not a Football Saturday.
Low-cut blouse or shirt. It’s also not Friday night at Rick’s.
Six inch heels. See above.
WAY too much cologne or perfume. Apply it sparingly, not as a replacement for a shower.
If you don’t have time to head home after/between class, it’s best to wear your nicer clothes all day. However, if there’s no way of getting around wearing something less-appropriate (e.g. you play a sport and came right from practice) it’s better to show up in that, than to skip Expo all together.
The above info should suffice, but if you’d like to get a little more nuanced, it’s appropriate to try and dress toward the industry or companies you’re interested in. This means that for traditionally conservative/corporate industries like finance and banking, it’s not out of the question for you to wear a suit and, if you’re a man, a tie as well (here’s how to tie one, if you need help). If you’re applying to an organization in a less conservative field it may be more appropriate to show some personality with your attire — however, your clothing should never be more memorable than you are. For example, adding a pop of extra color with an accessory (necklace, bracelet) or your tie might help you feel slightly less “corporate,” and would be fine to wear at Expo. On the other hand, the t-shirt and blazer combo doesn’t make you look interesting, it just makes you look like you can’t decide whether you’d rather be looking for a job or working out at the IM building.
Lastly, in case you feel the need to grab something to wear before Expo, here’s a few somewhat cost-effective options right in Ann Arbor (I’m not endorsing any of these, simply offering up a few options):
- Express has some pretty ‘clubby’ clothes, but if you stick to their more dressy options like dress shirts, skirts, and dress pants, you’ll be fine. There’s an ‘up to 60% off’ sale going on right now. Express is located in Briarwood Mall.
- Gap is having a sale right now as well, and is a good option for shirts, sweaters, pants, and blouses. They are also located at Briarwood.
- Let’s not forget Expo participant, Target. They’re a nice, inexpensive option for just about any of the aforementioned items. Target has locations at Saline Rd. and at Carpenter Rd.