Join Lida Citroën for an in-depth discussion in this video Your image, part of Translating Your Military Skills to Civilian Workplace.
- In all the years I've been teaching this class, image is one of the most fun conversations that I have with military transitioning out of active duty into the civilian sector, and one of the questions that I tend to get asked is 'What do I wear to an interview?' I try to provide a safe place for veterans like yourself to ask me any question, and if I don't know the answer, I'll look it up. In one of my early classes, I remember teaching about different interview styles, and what's appropriate in certain areas, and a gentleman in the back of the room stopped me mid-sentence and said 'Now, wait a minute, Lita, you keep talking about wearing a suit.
Is that where the jacket and the pants are the same fabric?' And I looked at him and he said, 'I've been wearing green and blue for thirty years. You need to explain this.' So if you're struggling with what to wear to interviews, you're not alone. Your goal in positioning yourself, in presenting yourself, is to be appropriate for the position. If you're interviewing with a dot com or a tech company in Southern California, you're going to wear clothes that's more appropriate to that environment. If you walked in in a business suit, you might look a little bit detached from the reality they live in.
If you're interviewing for a Wall Street job in New York, you're going to want to dress up and look the part, because anything less shows that maybe you don't quite understand the environment. Even if the position and the environment is casual, I would always say dress a little bit above that, show respect for the situation. When you're interviewing, it is a formal process, and you want to look like you take that process seriously. It's also very respectful to the interviewer that you took the time to put yourself together.
Watch for distractions. Avoid wearing things that are noisy, like, if you're a woman, and you're wearing big earrings, sometimes they move around a lot, or a heavy necklace that could make a lot of noise. Gentlemen, watch the amount of keys that you put in your pocket, because sometimes they're bulky and they make noise. Turn the cell phone off, leave it in the car, leave it in your bag, it should not be a distraction. And watch how people there dress, you can park outside the building and watch people as they come and go and see how they dress to know how you might consider dressing for the interview.
Watch what they do online, do they have company videos that show how people in that company dress when they're working or they're socializing, that'll give you an idea of how to dress. The most important thing I would like you to remember is to be approachable and be appropriate, but also dress like yourself. What are you most comfortable in? I know many people that would hate to have to go to work everyday in a business suit. They are comfortable in jeans and flip flops. I know a lot of people that feel like when they go to work, they want to dress the part, and so they do dress up, and they wear a suit, and they do have more professional wardrobe.
What makes you feel most confident and most happy in your career? You get to choose this now, there's no uniform for this next chapter in your life.