Clothes Make The Man

For the last two weeks I was fortunate to work with some people who gave themselves over to me and accepted my support to aid them in finding employment.

Among the job seekers was a gentleman who told me that his career objective was to work with the elderly in capacity of a Recreation Leader in a Senior’s facility. Like every other person who had accepted the invitation to attend, he also accepted the expectations that accompanied the invitation to attend; one of which was arriving each day in business / casual clothing.

Business casual clothing I told each participant, meant no jeans, no t-shirts; and while the ladies didn’t have to wear fancy ballroom gowns and the men didn’t have to wear three-piece suits, I did want them ready for interviews on a moments notice. Each person I spoke with told me not to worry, their clothing wouldn’t be an issue.

So back to my Recreation Aide and his quest to gain employment working in a seniors’ facility. On the second day of our gathering, in he walked with cargo shorts and a polo shirt; his definition apparently of business casual.”You said no jeans or t-shirts, but you didn’t say anything about shorts.” I had to see if he was being smart or sincere. In this case he was actually being sincere and thought his choice of clothing was acceptable for the job he was going for.

Well, we had a chat about clothing and he said he didn’t own any button up shirts; everything in his collection was a polo, t-shirt or sweater. When it came to pants, he had jeans and one pair of pants to a suit that didn’t fit him properly anymore. Now fortunately, one of the benefits I can provide for those I assist is some financial assistance. Armed with some funds I send him shopping, hoping he would take my advice and go for a button up shirt or two and a proper fitting couple of pants and belt – perhaps a reversible one that he could then wear black or brown as needed.

He did return with a change in clothing and the choices he made were excellent ones that spruced him up and which he still felt comfortable wearing. He was concerned that tucking in his shirt would expose a small belly roll over his belt line, but this wasn’t the case; and tucking his shirt in was a must.

You see from an employer or interviewers point of view, you can always dress down from how you present yourself, but they assume the way they see you is you at your best, so you can’t dress up beyond what they see. While yes you can take cues from the employees who work where you want to work, you have to also realize you’re going for a job interview and they are not. Dressing properly for an interview is essential; and having a shared understanding of what, ‘proper’ means is critical.

When you work with someone like an Employment Coach, Employment Counsellor or Job Coach, you get (hopefully) some good sound advice on how to dress for success in job interview situations. If you find you’re not getting advice on this subject, go ahead and ask.

One thing that everyone agrees on is that your first impression is essential to setting up the rest of the interview. The last thing you’d want to do is make a poor first impression and then count on your savvy interviewing style to rescue the rest of the interview. Why wouldn’t you want to start of making a strong first impression and then make it your goal to keep the interview going at that high level of professionalism?

Now as to the shopping experience; you may be one of the many who instinctively go into a store and mutter, “No thanks, I’m just looking”, when the Salesperson asks if they can be of help. If shopping isn’t your thing and coordinating an outfit or two isn’t your strength, stop denying the help offered.Instead, consider replying, “Actually yes I could use some help. I need an outfit or two for job interviews and my budget is (insert your figure here).”

By putting yourself in the hands of the Salesperson, you get the advice of someone who works in the fashion industry on a full-time basis. This doesn’t mean they are automatically an expert, but you ease off the stress of having to pick out your clothing when you don’t know what you’re doing. By giving them a budget, it tells them whether to head for the clearance rack with the 2 for 1’s, or the just arrived, full price section.

If money is a problem, look at flyers in advance of your shopping trip or look at websites of stores and see what specials they have on. You can ask for help from people you trust too in terms of where deals are to be had based on what you can spend and what you need.

When this gentleman came into class the day after his shopping excursion, I had him stand while we all looked him over. He got a round of applause and was told by others how good he looked. That did wonders for his confidence and I never saw those shorts again.

It’s true, clothes do make the man.


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