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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Dress to succeed

Published: January 17, 2015
Section: Opinions

Imagine yourself in a professional outfit: collared shirt, slacks and blazer. Now imagine you’re at a room full of other college students dressed like that, say at a career and internship fair. Employers stand behind a table, and they know exactly why all these young adults are dressed so well. They know what they have come for, a job or an internship. On the other side, young hopefuls, like you or me, intend to walk up to these people, make a good impression and then proceed to hand them a resume. Ideally, for these efforts, we are offered a position.

However, it is a little difficult to make a friendly connection or impress these potential employers because they know exactly what we’re doing. Not to mention that everyone else in the room is trying to do the same exact thing. It’s intimidating. Everyone is dressed so nicely and, of course, they act so confident. Truthfully, most of them are just as nervous as the next person. The world of job hunting is competitive enough without us obsessing over the others’ qualifications. The key is to put our best foot forward, and act like we’re the right person for the job.

The job fair is only one source of anxiety for people this age, however. Walking into the fair itself, we are suddenly immersed in a room of the professionally dressed. But for many, this environment will become a norm once we are employed. The days of wearing jeans will be behind us as more suits take up room in our closets. Every morning, we will put on a collared shirt, slacks or a blazer. It won’t be an outfit we wear to make a good impression, but what we wear because it’s the dress code at work.

That single concept of going to work every day is one that frightens more than a fair share of college students. Up to this point in life, all we have known is school. School is all that we have ever known for the 20-odd years we have existed. A career, what hopefully comes after college, is a scary thing because it is an unknown thing.

Nevertheless, the majority of our lives will be spent in the workforce. We go to school for all these years so that we have found something that will keep us content for the next 40 years. Hopefully. A number of people know exactly what they want to do and they have since a young age, but a much larger number of people struggle to find themselves, hoping their four years at institutions like Brandeis will help them figure it out.

College is a place and time in an individual’s life where they transition from teen into an adult. That’s what society expects, at least. Even so, college does give us an opportunity to explore our interests. We take classes in a variety of fields and get exposed to new ideas. Life plans aren’t spoon-fed, but a place like Brandeis gives us the experiences we need to figure it out or at least start to figure it out.

Career fairs may awaken usually latent fears of what will we do after college. However, these thoughts of “what will I be when I grow up” have always been there. The genuinely scary part is that now, we are reaching a point in our lives where it is all real and not a possibility in the distant future. The most we can hope for is that the suits we may eventually wear are comfortable and the ties around our necks don’t start to feel like nooses, and that we find something that not only provides a paycheck but makes us happy. Career and internship fairs are great opportunities for anyone. They are venues where any individual can possibly make contact with a potential employer. So yes, it may be nerve-wracking, out of the way and, for all we know, a catastrophic experience. But we should always try. We don’t know what can happen from attending a career or internship fair.