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I never thought I’d have to write this post, but in the last few days several soon-to-be college graduates have asked for this information.
All of them know to wear a well-fitting, tailored suit, sensible shoes and to look polished. They know to bring extra copies of their resume and cover letter in a professional portfolio or at least a manila folder. Most of them know to bring a note card to write a thank you note immediately after the interview. But after that, they’re not sure.
In your briefcase or purse, you should have the following:
- stain stick (Tide makes a great one)
- breath freshener (gum, mint, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you’ve discarded of it BEFORE the interview begins.)
- two pens
- note pad (you might not bring it out during the interview, but as soon as you get to your car write down key fact and details. Hint: This is also good for penning a draft of the thank you note.)
- umbrella (I’ve personally been caught in a downpour before an interview. The umbrella saved my jacket and kept me from looking completely drenched)
- lip balm
- safety pins
- double-sided tape (great for rescuing a dropped hemline)
- extra pair of hose for the ladies (a run is never good)
- comb or brush in case the wind messes up your hair
- small bottle of hand sanitizer (but do not pull this out in front of the interviewer)
What else would you add?
In addition to the typical advice of pack an extra sweater and comfortable shoes, it is also important to remember the little things, like chapstick and moisturizer. Hotel rooms are notoriously dry and while the nicer places provide a tiny bottle of moisturizer, this is often not enough. Most exhibit halls create their own wind tunnels. While this isn’t so bad on the first day, by the third your face is slightly wind-burned and your eyes super dry.
As for the comfortable shoes, even the most comfortable shoes will torment your feet after 12 hours straight. This is why it is important to bring some sort of foot soak (epsom salts and peppermint oil are great, easy and cheap).
Don’t be afraid to pack some aspirin or ibuprofen. A small bottle from home will cost so much less than what is available in the hotel gift shop. You will also want a stain stick, a small bottle of hand sanitizer and some safety pins (hems, zippers and buttons often break at the least opportune times!).
Last, don’t forget some one dollar bills. If you tip the various hotel employees, you won’t feel bad about calling when your cell phone stripped your room key and you’re locked out.
I’m lucky to work in a true business casual environment. This pretty much means no jeans, gym clothes, t-shirts or tennis shoes. Basically what you would wear to church is ok. The exact outfits I am most comfortable in.
How each person defines business casual seems to keep our Office Manager pretty busy. We have an outdated description in the handbook, but it refers to panty hose and beard length, two items no one seems to care that much about anymore. Some people push the limits and wear skirts of an inappropriate length or shorts that are not work appropriate. Me, I try to err on the side of caution. I love twin sets and wear them regularly with dress pants.
Unlike in elementary school when it was super cool to wear the exact same thing as your best friend, it is not super cool to do that at the office. Even unintentional, I’ve found it makes for a bit of an awkward day.
My work bestie and I have a way around this. Since we tend to wear the same outfits, we let each other know when we plan to wear a particular paring (this week it is because I still have not caught up on laundry from our vacation). For instance, I mentioned I was planning on wearing grey pants and a black shirt on Thursday. At first everyone around us laughed, but now they know our discussions are to ensure we don’t wear the exact same thing on the exact same day.
Dress codes vary by office. What goes as business casual in one environment can be too dressy in another. My suggestion is to overdress for the first week or so until you have a good read on what is acceptable. No one ever got sent home to change because they were too formal!
p.s. Ladies, my favorite site for getting new ideas for work outfits is Work Chic. I highly recommend it!