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Hang Diploma, Attend Parties, Learn to Knot Tie, Launch Career

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The class of 2014 has just framed their diplomas. That expensive piece of paper certifies completion of their traditional academic curriculum. In between weekend graduation parties, most members of the 2014 class will enter the real-world where there is no text book, syllabus or “rate my professor” website.

Related: Professional Dress Doesn't Have to Mean Boring

If there was a real-world curriculum for post-grads, then a class centered around professionalism would be the pre-requisite to all others. Anything less than an "A'' in Professionalism 101 can slow down a career launch. Even the valedictorian or the hardest worker at the new nine-to-five can find their career stunted, before they even say a word, if their professionalism is a little bit off key.

Whether it’s right or wrong, people will judge you on your appearance. It might seem a small slice of the overall professionalism pie but it is often the first judgment made about you when meeting someone face-to-face. It can be a factor when company leaders are choosing between two equally qualified individuals jockeying for a promotion, to lead on a critical presentation or meet with a prospective client. A tie-breaker might come down to who has the better look. 

Make sure you fit into the office environment with your dress code. If your office is casual, then dress casual. Default to the more formal side of the casual line if you are in question. 

Many new professionals, particularly men, make mistakes about business or professional attire that are easy to fix or avoid. Many times the newer professional isn’t aware of basic fashion errors they are making until someone tells them. If business attire is required, use this list to ensure you don’t make any rookie mistakes that could, sadly, discount your perceived worth to the organization. 

Mistakes that scream rookie:

  • Don’t leave the tag on your suit jacket (which also shows you didn’t have it tailored).
  • Stop hanging your lanyard key chain out of your pocket.
  • Never fasten the bottom button on the suit jacket.
  • Do not wear athletic socks with your dress shoes. Even if the socks are black.
  • Wear a white undershirt under your dress shirt.
  • Always wear a belt (or suspenders).

Related: How to Dress the Part As an Entrepreneur

Buttoning up:

  • Match your shoe color to your belt color.
  • Make sure you don’t miss a belt loop.
  • The tip of your tie should fall to your belt buckle.
  • Make sure your tie knot covers your top button. 
  • Button the top button when wearing a tie. Leave undone if no tie.
  • Do not wear striped ties with striped shirts. You will look like an optical illusion.
  • Shoes should be in good condition.

Your old-school boss would prefer you to:

  • Hide your tattoos, especially if you did during the interview process.
  • Be clean shaven or, at least, keep facial hair neat and well maintained.
  • Men, take out the earrings.
  • Leave your hemp bracelet and necklaces at home.
  • Wear white based dress shirts or “business” blue versus colorful shirts.

With the fashion basics in check, new graduates can concentrate on what they say and what they do versus being worried about how they look.

Related: Richard Branson on Office Ties and the Company Dress Code

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