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When interacting with people who have the power to potentially employ you, you can’t help but ask the age-old question: What do I wear?? You want to dress to impress, but you also don’t want to be the person who wanders into a room full of casually dressed people in full Western business attire.

To avoid sticking out like a sore thumb, learn how to dress for specific career-related occasions. If the event you’re attending doesn’t give a specific dress code, here are some guidelines on how to dress.

On-campus information session

Alison Li

Don’t stress about dressing up for a company info session. If it’s on campus, chances are it’s being held in the middle of the day and you’re already squeezing in time between your schoolwork and classes to attend it. The aesthetic you want to go for is “what you’d wear to a lecture class where your crush might see you.” You don’t want to be over-the-top formal, but you shouldn’t roll up in dirty sweats.

Career fair (or other networking event)

Alison Li

Here is where you want to pay attention to what you’re wearing. Usually, you’ll be told to dress “business casual,” which doesn’t really say anything. What it means is that it’s a bit more casual than full-on suit and tie (though you won’t be jarringly out of place if you wear a suit and tie).

For gals, wearing a professional-style dress and blazer or pantsuit is your best option. For guys, anything from a button-down shirt and khakis to a suit is “acceptable,” but your best option is to go with a suit jacket, slacks, and no tie (that way you can dress down if necessary!).

The most important thing to be “dressed” with at a networking event is a ton of résumés, so that you can hand them out to recruiters.

Job interview

Alison Li

Unless told otherwise, you should dress professionally for a job interview. This means a dress and blazer or suit for girls, and a suit for guys. You always want to be as dressed up as (or more dressed up than) your interviewer. It’s definitely better to be overdressed for an interview because it shows that you’re taking it seriously.

In any of these situations, remember that you want whoever you’re interacting with to like you so that they can focus on what’s really important—your achievements. You don’t want whatever you’re wearing to distract them or leave a negative impression, because once you’ve made your first impression, it’s pretty hard to undo.

Don’t worry if you lack professional clothes. Barnumbians can borrow suits from Career Development and Columbians can do the same from the Center for Career Education.

Have some tips on how to dress? Have a good fashion faux pas story? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Victoria Yang is a SEAS first-year and Spectrum staff writer. She has yet to attend a career fair because she is too lazy to dress up. Reach her at

All illustrations by Alison Li / Staff Illustrator

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