Your Professional Image
- Your clothes should add to your image, not distract from your qualifications and skills.
- Be conscientious of how much perfume, cologne, or aftershave you wear. It’s best to use these sparingly or not at all because some people have allergies or sensitivities.
- A two-piece matched suit is always the best and safest choice. Conservative colors like navy, dark gray, black, or dark brown are preferable.
- If you think the industry in which you're interviewing would frown on a suit, or the interview will involve going to a work site where a suit would be inappropriate, look for advice through professional organizations, your professors who have been employed in that industry, and/or by asking the employer directly and politely. One alternative is to wear pressed pants (like khakis) and a dark jacket; less formal than a suit, but still business-appropriate for both men and women.
- Everything should be clean and wrinkle free. Don't forget to remove external tags and tacking stitches from new clothes.
- Keep your nails clean and trimmed.
- Cover body piercings and tattoos if possible.
- Bring a padfolio, business tote, or briefcase to hold documents and be able to take notes.
- Backpacks are not appropriate, so find a place to stow your backpack during interviews or Career Fairs.
For more ideas and visuals, see our Pinterest board on attire.Back to the top
The following clothing suggestions provide a basic, versatile wardrobe for your first year on the job.
Have you Googled yourself, lately? Every webpage that appears with your name collectively creates your online presence. What does your presence say about you? Social media (like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) is a part of that presence. If websites are appearing in your Google search that you no longer want featured, then contact the webmaster to have the information removed or updated.
If used correctly, social media can portray a positive, professional image and can be used to your advantage!
Keep your profiles up to date. Continually update and manage your profile as a way to stay active. Show employers that you are not dormant by keeping your profiles active.
Status Updates and Pictures
Radiate positivity! Show professional connections and potential employers that you have a good attitude. Complaining about day-to-day stresses creates a negative image. Pictures say a thousand words. What are your pictures saying about you? Go through your pictures and untag or delete any pictures that may be considered unprofessional.
Even if you consider your privacy setting to be air tight, get into the mindset that anyone could see your profile. Before posting anything online, think to yourself, “Would I want a recruiter to see this?” or “Could this affect my job search?” Be cautious with your posts, even if you feel like your privacy settings are as secure as possible. Always take a better safe than sorry approach.
In addition to utilizing the tips for improving your professional image through social media above, creating a LinkedIn profile provides a great professional option to enhance your online presence. LinkedIn can serve are your online resume to market yourself to recruiter, and showcase your recommendations, connections, and skills. You can also use LinkedIn to network with people in your field and find opportunities! If you'd like to get started on LinkedIn, check out their wide range of videos and guides for college students.Back to the top
Communication, in all forms, should have a professional tone. Attitude is a critical component of communication. Always represent yourself in a positive light. This means having a positive attitude about challenges that may come along with a job. For instance, you will want to show recruiters that you have an optimistic outlook on finding solutions for problems, both personally and professionally.
When you begin to provide your phone number to recruiters, including having it listed on your resume, you want to make sure you have the following:
- Standard ringback tone (e.g. no songs)
- Brief, clear, and professional voicemail greeting that states your name
If you include your cell phone number, it’s best to only answer the phone from an unfamiliar number when you are in a quiet, appropriate environment to receive a business call.
When leaving a recruiter a voicemail, keep your message short and within the context of the job. Be sure to include your name and phone number as well as when you can be reached. Always speak clearly and be in a location that minimizes that background noise so that your message can easily be understood. It is professional to repeat your name and number in case the recruiter cannot hear your statement the first time around.Back to the top
While email has become the primary means of communication during the job application process, some situations require more formal correspondence. Email may not be appropriate when a company specifies that printed materials need to be mailed or electronically submitted via the organization’s website. Use discretion discussing job offers, salary, and benefits through email. A phone conversation regarding these topics is the best means of communication to eliminate any misunderstanding.
If you use an email address other than your JMU address, make sure your email address sounds professional and reflects your name (e.g. email@example.com).
Like you would with printed correspondence, keep copies of all job search emails you send and receive. Create an organization within your email account to store these emails.
Composing Your Email
Despite the informal nature of email, it is still important to maintain a level of professionalism that mirrors any other formal letter. When composing an email, you want to follow the guidelines for writing a cover letter or business letter. However, you do not want to include the date in your message, since an email is automatically stamped with the date. Since you treat an email as a cover letter, there is no need to attach a separate cover letter to the email. Choose a descriptive subject line for your email (e.g. Application for Position #112).
An email is not a text message, so be sure it is professional. Like a cover letter, you need to start with a salutation (e.g. “Dear Mr. Smith:”) and end with a formal closing (e.g. “Sincerely, James Madison”). Under your signature, you should include your full name and contact information (i.e. address and phone number).
Attach resumes and other attachments as a .pdf file, if possible. It is also wise to label attachments with your first and last name. Try not to send large attachments, and keep your file size to a minimum.Back to the top