Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success
Multicultural News & Events
About CMASS
News and Events
Programs and Services
Locations and Hours
Frequently Asked Questions
Contact Us

Questions? We're here to help.cmass@stuaf.umass.edu

(413) 545-2517

Dress for Success

by Stephen Margelony-Lajoie, posted 02/13/2012


On February 7, 2012 I found myself standing in Calvin Klein clothes discussing my future aspirations in front of TJX Companies representatives at Wilder Hall. Modeling clothes was definitely not something I thought I would be doing on a usually boring Wednesday night but what’s life without a few surprises? I was modeling clothes with four other models for the Dress for Success Workshop, hosted by TJX Companies (the company that owns TJ Maxx) and CMASS. The workshop was designed to show students what to wear to an important interview for future career or internship opportunities and we also discussed what you definitely shouldn’t wear to make a good first impression.

Something that was stressed throughout the entire presentation was the fact that you can only make your first impression once. Sure, it sounds simple but it’s one of the most important things to remember when searching for career and internship opportunities, especially with the world’s current economic recession. For instance, I’m sure that any broke, college graduate would rather have a future employer remember him or her as the one who looked great, brought in a top-notch resume and had charisma rather than be remembered for how many colors of the rainbow that person’s hair had. Jokes aside, no matter how impressive your resume is, you’re going to want to be taken seriously by an employer and the way you dress plays a major role in accomplishing this.

During the presentation, I learned that men have it much easier than women when playing with different styles. Still, that doesn’t mean that something can’t go wrong. For instance, I learned that khaki pants aren’t appropriate for a job interview. Who would have known? The sponsors from TJX stressed that you can never go wrong with investing in just one fitted black suit. Now, a black suit may be a bit conservative but playing with dress shirt colors and ties can add a touch of your personality and flair to your outfit. Another important tip for men is to make sure your shoes match the rest of your outfit. For instance, if you follow the tip about investing in a black suit, you’re going to get black shoes and match them with black socks. It might be simple for men, but TJX had more than enough horror stories about when things just don’t work out stylistically for some men who come into their doors for interviews.

Women have way more options than men but this unfortunately leaves more opportunity for fashion faux pas. Even if a woman keeps her clothes conservative with a suit or a skirt and jacket, a lot of things can go wrong when adding accessories and hairstyles. Do you like to wear twenty bangles or bracelets around your arms at a time, gigantic chains or necklaces and maybe even gigantic rings with enough “bling” to reflect the sun’s light onto another planet? You also can’t forget about hair and makeup. Is there more than three colors found in the rainbow in your hair? Do you think that it’s appropriate to wear Gothic-inspired, black lipstick to an interview? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I have just one word for you: stop! Expressing your individuality is important but pulling out all the stops on the day of your Fortune 500 interview is only going to hurt you. Company employers are looking for someone to represent their company, not someone who can only represent themselves. There are subtle stylistic choices that you can make to show who you are but you don’t have to bathe in a bathtub full of glitter and fake eyelashes to do so.

Everyone who attended the Dress for Success workshop had a blast. The crowd was modest but it made for a more intimate learning experience and there was constant interaction between participants and the sponsors from TJX. The workshop was definitely a success and it was not just an informational presentation but also a really fun time with plenty of food and jokes to last hours. It’s strange how something so simple like how to dress can have such an impact on your professional life but it can be what makes or breaks you. Just ask one girl who decided to wear a colorful, feathered headpiece to her interview with one of the TJX sponsors. I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not she was hired.