Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What to Wear: Academia Interviews

Ugg...Job interviews are so stressful. Picking out what to wear just adds another nuisance to the whole process. Here is Katherine's request:
I'm a newly married graduate student finishing up my last semester before it's time to get a big girl job. Being both newly married and a graduate student, clothing is not priority when it comes to spending money. I will, however, be going on many job interviews this spring until I find the "perfect" one. I want to find the perfect outfit that will help me get the job!

I'm finishing a Master's in Student Affairs in Higher Education (basically working with students at universities), but I want to work in the professional/ medical/ law/ business school arena. Most of the people who work with grad students are older, but I'm pretty confident that I'd make a quick learner. I'm also looking into jobs in just about every field relating to event planning, career counseling, career placement, and anything else that piques my interest. Looking for jobs is definitely a challenge! :)

I'm a little on the young side for my field of work and want to appear professional (and older) when I go for my job interviews. I'm tall (5'10") and usually wear a size 8. I have trouble finding pants that are long enough for me. I'd love your help!
Dressing for interviews is tough because you're not sure of what kind of person you'll need to impress. It is best to dress a little more conservatively than normal, especially in the post graduate academia sphere.

Jacket - Invest in a versatile and flattering jacket. J.Crew has a lot of options on sale right now. This $130 choice works with trousers, skirts, dresses and jeans.
Pants - It is easy to knock Express, but some of my best trousers are from there. BCBG and Club Monaco are also really good options for affordable suiting in tall styles.
Shirt - Subtle grey stripes from Gap.
Shoes - These grey suede pumps are so gorgeous. They would work with skirts or pants.
Belt - Skinny in platinum. Wear this over sweaters with jeans later.
Portfolio - Skip the traditional briefcase for something a little more modern.
Reading Glasses - From Anthropologie.
Earrings - Because you're a smarty pants who wears earrings from The Met designed in the 1st century AD.

Katherine should also get a pencil skirt and a nice sweater to help expand this outfit into a whole wardrobe.


michelle said...

I'd recommend wearing a matched suit - I'm a grad student too, and I'll be wearing a matched pantsuit for my on-campus interviews.

Catherine said...

I have to agree with Michelle ... There's a time and a place for the old Ann Taylor stand-by suit, and I think this occasion warrants. Good luck!

Stephanie said...

This is such a cute outfit! But I would wear a conservative (black, navy) suit with a short-sleeved sweater underneath for this occasion.

Lindsay said...

As for the previous comments that say you should wear a matched suit, let me just say that this is DEFINITELY something that is location-specific. I don't know where you live, but as someone in LA after working in San Francisco for years, if you wore a suit to an interview in either of these locations for the types of jobs you're mentioning, you would just look silly. But if you are interviewing in a more conservative location, then by all means take that into account (just please wear an interesting shirt underneath so no one dies of boredom while looking at you).

Two other things:
I'm 5'10 as well, and the best options I've found for nice slacks (that come in "tall", because anything else is just a waste of time) are Express and J Crew.

Also, I WANT those shoes. :)

Good luck!

Catherine said...

Good point, Lindsay ... I based my comment above on experience in a very conservative city on the East Coast.

Beulah Sorensen said...

After ten plus years in higher education and several national job searches, I have to agree with Michelle and Catherine. This is especially true if you're interviewing at NASPA this year. Even ACPA is going with matched suits now, and they used to be more fun! If you're interviewing in student affairs or any other field in higher ed, they're going to be looking for a matched suit.

MissEm said...

Great comments all around! I decided against a full suit for Katherine because they are often more expensive and less flexible to mix and match...also, I tend to see someone interviewing in a full suit as a Fresh Off Campus type.

love.boxes said...

Ooo. Love the green and yellow.

Jamie Z said...

I've gone through interviewing twice at ACPA/NASPA and while its good to stand out in someway--colorful shirt, classic jewelry, bag, a matching suit with some interest like pinstripes etc... interviewers see so many people they are LOOKING for ways to cut down their lists. That being said, If you're interviewing for jobs in the Southeast you could probably do a little bit more with your color choices and wearing a full suit since that seems to fly here.

Your confidence and the way YOU wear the suit will be your most important asset

algraham said...

I am almost 6'0 and buy almost all of my pants for work at Banana Republic. They have a lot of the styles in "tall" online. Everything there goes on sale so you can get some great deals.

G said...

Agree that a matched suit might be best for this position. But you can split the difference by wearing a colored sweater under the blazer to at least show a little more personality. Good luck!

Leesh said...

yeah-there is another student affairs professional joining the crew and looking for ideas of what to wear. me too everyday! thanks emily