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Your Go-To Guide to Professionalism in Words You Can Understand


Today, professionalism involves the difficult task of combining your immediate community you live in and the public issues of society as a whole. In a study of professionalism, Sally Powe wrote, What is needed is a perspective that encompasses both the immediate orbit and the transcending forces. Sounds like rocket science, right? Essentially she is saying that in order to succeed professionally, you have to balance your focus between your small everyday 2 environment and the structure of the professional world. Look at the bigger picture, even though its hard to do when youre young and you just cant figure out what to wear. As a 20 year old collegiate, Ive spent a few summers working my tail off at internships with less than satisfying payment and excessive grunt work, all for the treasured resume boost. However, 75% of my year is spent in a community where we are all 20somethings, eating Ramen noodles and trying to get our homework done before its time to go out on a random Monday night. The culture of a university is exclusive, and you often forget that there is a world outsidethe real one that youll be thrown into in just a few short semesters. But whether youre spending your transition period between years trying to get some experience or heading out into your career with your going-out tanks under blazers, youre going to need to know how to change your image from fun-going college kid to a young professional. Here are a few ways to attack the challenge. While you were getting dressed in the morning, you were thinking about that annoying intern next to you in the office. But that day, you got to meet your career idol. Im sure youre glad you dressed up now! Pictured, left to right: Natasha E., intern and Savannah Guthrie, broadcast journalist NBC News


When your dreams come true, make sure you know what to wear.

You never know when youll be on the jumbo-tron

Dont be afraid to accessorize.

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You Are What You Wear

Every tip, rule or code should always come second to remembering this statement: You are what you wear. Most likely youre not going to be working somewhere that you can change your outfit for every task that comes your way. And trust me, you wont know all of the tasks ahead of you when youre getting dressed in the morning. Your outfit has to work for whatever you are doing, whoever you are going to be that day. Functionality is very important. Being able to crawl through file cabinets or run across the office is necessary. However the core significance of what youre wearing is how you feel in it. If youre going to work in a pair of pants that feel like sweats and a shirt that you hate, youre going to want to go home and change all day. Being happy and comfortable in what you wear enlists confidence, which in turn leads to a better workday and a better reputation in the office. Now dont take comfortable as what you could lay in bed in. You need to be wearing an outfit that makes you feel like working, not like a Netflix binge. When I was working my first full time job, the summer after my freshman year, I had a hard time getting up in time for work. As in, Id roll out of bed with the intent to kill until I got a coffee. I often tried to stay in bed as long as physically possible before my 30 minute commute to work. One morning, after lying in bed 10 minutes past my alarm, I threw on my appropriate (read loose) black pants and a blazer that was sweatshirt material. Totally respectable and appropriate for work. But I realized, I felt like I was in my pajamasnormally a great quality in clothes, but not when you need to be on your A game for 9 hours. So I decided I would speed 5 mph over on my way to work (not recommended!) and use the extra time to put on my favorite black pencil skirt and a top that said, I just threw this on but look totally gorgeous and like a badass career woman. Definitely worth it. I put on heels, always a mood-booster, and took on the day with a smile. If I had worn my looser, comfier clothing I would have most likely done the bare minimum at work. Yes, I would've looked okay, but I would've felt like a schmuck all day. You are what you wear, so dress accordingly

A good fitting dress makes for an easy, gorgeous outfit on those sleep-in mornings.

What To Wear
Pant and top combinations can always be hard to come by. Buying staple pieces is your best bet. But dont be afraid to throw in a pop of color. Just because youre working, doesnt mean black and grey are the only colors acceptable. Electric blue can totally be made professional. And its definitely young. Have one or two working-girl bags, because switching your purse every day will definitely result in leaving the flash drive at home, or even more devastating, the lipstick. A pop of red can never be a bad thing, except of course if its with pink. Dont do the Cupids Love Arrow theme outfit, even on Valentines day. While variety is always a desire for any girls wardrobe, were 20 and have no money. Plain and simple. So having a go-to simple skirt you can wear any day, any way is a must. Investing in some look at her business tops is in your best interest, but dont be afraid to turn your going out tops that ride on the conservative side into a nice business combo with a blazer. For fall, burgundy, burnt orange and coral are colors that we gravtitate towards. But sleek neutrals arent always boring. Be sure to pair a neutral color with a more interesting cut or an interesting necklace that will shine through as the focal point of the outfit. Overall, find your favorite pieces and mix and match them. 4

How to Wear It
Like I said, happiness in your outfit is key. If you hate slacks with a passion, opt for skirts and dresses and add tights when its cold. If dresses arent your style, there are many a stylish pair of pants out there calling your name. Just make sure theyre hemmed correctly and youre wearing the right size heel. Seriously, floods are not professional. But lets break it down.


While pants seem like they are pretty by the book, easy-peasy pieces to pick out, in this day and age it gets complicated. As a 20 year old, I know the style of the time. I love the style of the time. But sometimes, you have to be objective about your own style. For example, I have black pants from a cheap store aimed for women exactly our age. I like how they look on me, they come in close on the thighs and knees and flare out towards the lower calves. They make my butt look like a butt of a 20 year old, maybe even a 16 year old. However, showing of my 20-year-old butt doesnt really elicit respect and professionalism from my not-20-year-old coworkers. So I opt for my less slimfitting, but still goodlooking business pants in determination to be 20 and respected. Logistically, your pants need to hit you in all the right placesnot in a seductive way. It is practically impossible to find a girl in college that doesnt wear lowrider pants, unless shes wearing high-waisted shorts, hemmed in the same place as her underwear.

The biggest issue with low waist pants is that when you bend down to pick up the box your boss demands of you, they fall far below your underwear line. If youre wearing a thong, which lets face it, we all do, and the 50 year old man at the desk next to you sees it, say goodbye to his respect and hello to little giggles under his breath. Ew. Either way, thong or not, underwear is for the eyes of no one in the office, in full view or in panty-line form. As said before, ensure that the length of your pants is right on point. Long enough that they hover right about the ground in your business-girl heels. Dont be afraid to tailor. Cheap tailors exist, and often they can leave the fabric in which allows for the growth of those long, beautiful legs of yours. Don!t forget to have fun in wear! whatever you

Skirts are tricky because they come in every size, shape, material, pattern and length possible. And trends make it even more of a fuzzy line. The best go-to rule when wearing a skirt is to go with your gut. If you feel like pulling your skirt down every five minutes because it feels too short, dont wear it. If youd wear it to the bar, please DO NOT wear it. If you dont want to pick up the pen that you dropped in the office, the skirt doesnt fit, dont wear it. Pencil skirts are always a staple in the office, but you have to make sure they fit correctly. Theyre meant to be slim but not a second layer of skin.

Tops are one of the most wideranging items in girls clothing. I will touch on all of the tops I can think of. Firstly, short sleeve polos are a NO. Golfers wear polos, men can sometimes wear polos, middle aged women playing tennis wear polos. While Im sure yours is very cute (I trust your style) save it for jeans and pick something a little fancier. Oxford, long sleeve polos are totally acceptable. Silk blouses, chiffon button downs, nice tanks under blazersall perfect choices. Now, I am not going to tell you to cover up the girls. Those things are nice. Boys dont cover up their biceps. However, they dont shove them in your face either (if theyre gentlemen.) Make them look good, presentable and such. Do not wear the same bra/top you wear to the bar. Youre not looking at the office. But dont wear a high-necked shirt that is ill fitting. Youve got boobs and you cant ignore it, covering up just makes you look like you cant find a shirt that fits. If youd wear it in front of your dad, go for it.

Dresses combine the advice from many categories. The main objective is: not too short, not too tight. Dresses are more difficult to work with than skirts for length. Skirts can at least be pulled down or lowered on your hips. Dresses just pop back up because theres a top attached. Make sure the hem is low enough for some flexibility and wont lead to any embarrassing Marilyn Monroe moments. The top generally follows the same advice for regular tops. Watch the girls, watch showing the bra (especially on the sides). With dresses, make sure if you pull down the skirt or if youre sitting on it, it doesnt pull your top down past the point of appropriateness.

Some Advice from the Professionals Themselves

Dress not to unimpress
Being impressive isnt that hard. Avoiding unimpressing someone is much more difficult. For example, if you have a lot of piercings, you like them and think they look good. Even if you are an amazing worker, some people wont give you the time of day because they dont like piercings. Its hard to know what will set peoples opinions off. Its all about finding a balance between being yourself in your clothes and not distracting from yourself with your clothes. -David M., CEO of Lake Huron Credit Union Both quotes are from professionals that I have worked with in Saginaw, MI. Each have experienced the working world for years and want to give their advice to the younger generation.

Build a Good Reputation.

A true professional doesn't need to talk about their accomplishments. They do what they say they will do, are respectful of their co-workers regardless of rank, and bit by bit, have built a reputation that can speak for itself. -Margaret M., Manager of Finance at Covenant Healthcare Hospital 6

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How to Beautify
While its unfortunate, we all know appearance plays a big factor in someones first impression of you. While you can certainly overcome your first impression (like the time I spit on my interviewers face when saying, Pleased to meet you) that takes time and effort. Why not start off right?

But dont wear the messy bun that stayed in from washing your face last night. Speaking of faces, wash it. We all know acne is like that highschool friend that was more of a frenemy and keeps messaging you on Facebook even though you have so moved on. Keep it at bay the best you can.

and while bags under your eyes were a stamp of pride in college, theyre frowned upon in the office. Theres great cover up now-a-days. Please, feel free to bat those beautiful lashes, as long as theyre real. Keep the bar makeup thats almost costume-y for more extravagant events. You dont want to look like you care more about your make up than your job. Keep it natural, have some fun, but dont be distracting. Do your own thing, but please, please no lids covered in blue shadow, thats so clich.

After that, make up is your Being presentable is key. If it friend. Everyone has a different must be said, be hygienic. No style of make up, and I lean one wants any hygiene tension more on the natural style. For in the office or a presentation everyone, naturalists or beauty about showers that we all queens, the foundation/coverknow is happening for only up side of things is most one person. important. At the very minimum, put some effort into your hair; wash it, brush it, blow dry it if it will still be wet. Seriously, dont go into work with wet hair, you look like youre having trouble with timemanagement before you even sit down at your desk. As we know women have much more troubles in life than men, hair is one of them. It can be your best asset or your worst enemy. It all depends on the day, or the hour, to be truthful. Be sure you have an extra clip in your purse if your hair gets unruly or in your face. While looks are always the goal, functionality is key. Dont wear a style that contains a million bobby pins youll have to reposition every five minutes. Were still in the stage where we stay up until 3 am on various occasions (maybe every night)

Braided buns couldnt be more perfect for work. Hair our of the face and fly-aways in check.

No point in taking the glamour out of eye makeup for work. Copper is a great color for shadow that will spice up your look without going overboard.

How to Act
Im sure you all know how to act in your specific office environments. However, there are a few tips that can apply to every 20-something in their position as a young professional. 1. ALWAYS do what your boss says. Unless they're telling you to do something immoral, do it. Impressing your boss is something most lower level workers don't get a chance to do very often, so I would take the chance whenever you get it. The other day, my boss suggested I buy this book called Strength Finder 2.0 in a candid conversation when we weren't working. I left work, bought the book and gave her the results within the hour. I didn't think anything would come of this, but she was really impressed with my dedication to things that weren't under my job description. 2. NEVER talk back when you're told to do a job. EVER. This is one of the many things that my dad taught me while growing up (I'm half bitter about it and half thankful for it). Whenever you are told to do something, no matter how it's said, what it is, or what kind of mood you are in, you say, "Yes sir/ma'am, anything else? You say "Thank you" to any advice or extra helpful 8

information they give you. As an overall rule, the word "but" should never be used at work unless it's followed by "I'd really like to do more work" after your boss tells you to go home. Maybe not even then. 3. Offer to help out people other than your boss. This depends on your job/career field, but being a team player is valued in any work environment. Especially as a lower-level employee, it is important to impress your elder coworkers as well as your boss. It is impossible to know who could have connections and give you an opportunity in the future. So, do whatever you can, whenever you can, for anyone at work...not just your boss. 4. For hourly wage workers: work as much as you can until you get told to stop. My job that I began this summer was originally a 40 hours a week, full-time job. However, my boss hired me a week before I was needed to start and there was three weeks of paper works she wanted to avoid. So, to get around this rule, my boss made me 35-hours and part-time. So I usually worked 39.5 hours, but I hit 40.1 one week. I was nicely told Id have to stay at 35 hours, like Im supposed to, and

take my full hour for lunch. It's impressive to show that you are willing to work more than what is absolutely necessary, but also to follow directions immediately when they are told to you. 5. Ask the right questions: especially in your first few weeks on the job, asking questions is important. No current employee is going to be able to think of every single detail that needs to be taught to you. However, its also important that in applicable situations, you try to find the answer on your own first. If you get stuck, ask someone for help. Also, after a while of working there, you will learn who is the right person to ask. Instead of going straight to your boss ask your cubicle neighbor first. 6. Create your elevator speech: I recently met for an interview and was asked to give my elevator speech. I had no idea what it was. An elevator speech is about a 30-second pitch about why you want to work at a company, what your company is, or more accurate for our age-group: what do you want to do with your degree? 7. Work Hard. Youre going to be tired, youre going to wish you were in college and youll probably be hungover a couple of times. But no matter what, you work as hard as ever.

While it may seem silly to focus so much on your appearance and to create little rules for how to act in the office, these elements will affect your career more than youd expect. By dressing in a manner that does not distract from your work, acting in a way that makes your coworkers a little less crazy that day, delivering above and beyond what youre boss asked for, your career will benefit, as well as your mood. It is said (by John Cullen) that professionalism affect[s] two basic elements of occupation stratification income and prestige. While were at the level of just trying to keep a steady paycheck, its important to remember that your reputation will affect your career in the long run, so keep it young but keep it professional.

Hannah Maine is a freelance writer for Lola. She is currently a junior at the University of Michigan where she studies English and minors in Writing.