By Cristina Tenaglia
Anna Soh only has one problem when it comes to her new job.
“They told me to dress ‘business casual’ but I’m not quite sure what that is,” the fourthyear arts and contemporary studies student said. Like a lot of other students working for the first time this summer, Soh has no idea how casual business casual should be.
“Business casual generally suggests that you still always wear a jacket,” said Daniela Mastragostino, Canadian president of the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI).
Unlike tuxedos and ball gowns for dinner formals, there aren’t specific rules in business casual because it can vary between offices.
Some places require you to wear a full-blown business suit without the tie, while other businesses will be fine with a dress shirt and jeans.
The ever-sporty jacket or blazer is still a must, though. “[Even] if you’re working in a … company that promotes their employees as being young and hip, if you want to wear jeans to the workplace I would still say throw a jacket over it. It’s still work at the end of the day,” she said.
And most businesses will appreciate it if you put an effort into looking professional, even if you can’t afford Armani.
“A potential employer understands that you are coming out of school and that the money may not be trickling in at the moment,” Mastragostino said.
Mandating a jacket also keeps employees in line. “It keeps the business idea in mind whenever you put that jacket on,” she said. “I couldn’t see anyone wearing a business jacket with flip flops.”
So what should the average student aim for? Mastragostino says investing in a business suit is still worth it for both sexes, even if it’s not top-of- the-line.
For women, a knee-length skirt is appropriate. A nice pair of leather shoes is also a good idea.
“Make sure the jacket and pants are the same colour, and the jacket and skirt are the same colour [and fabric],” she said.
Shop around, and you can easily find a decent suit or simliar outfi t for less than $100 to get you started, Mastragostino said.
Josh Granata, a second-year mechanical engineering student, works as a salesperson and often makes presentations in customers’ homes.
“Your fi rst impression is a lot different if you show up at someone’s door in dress clothes as opposed to wearing a T-shirt and jeans,” he said. “You only get one shot at a fi rst impression.”
Ultimately, if you’re just not sure either pay attention to what other people are wearing during your job interview or ask your boss before you start.
When in doubt, dress up, not down. “Dress with intention. Think of the type of messages you’re sending out,” Mastragostino said.