As fall comes to a close, finals and the delightfully destructive stress they bring with them are fast approaching. However, for those of us lucky enough to be upperclassmen, there remains a periphery stress nagging at the back of our minds as we set up group meetings, start the study guides for finals and get in that last weekend party. The stressor? Getting a job.
Fortunately, I’m not staring down the barrel of graduation this year, so I’m focusing on the internship route, but the process is much the same. It all begins with a trip to Career Services. For those of you who haven’t traveled over the bridge and through Western Campus, I would recommend making an appointment with the experts in Hoyt Hall immediately. They changed my entire plan for internship hunting, resume writing and particularly the art of interviewing. Though I left that meeting with an armload of pamphlets and the beginnings of an anxiety attack, I had a few questions I don’t think the staff would have been eager to answer.
While handing over helpful guide number 73, my adviser mentioned in passing the generally accepted rules of dress and deportment during the interview process. Casting a rather pointed look at my ensemble for the day, he remarked that my double-pierced ears were too glitzy, my black nail polish was too stark and my mauve and lavender dress was too bright. It wasn’t until I was running back to my car, praying to the campus gods I didn’t have a parking ticket, that I started thinking over his advice.
I went back though the pamphlet on interviewing later that day, and in particular the “What to Wear” section. The only colors socially permissible in the professional environment are black, brown and gray (and beige for women in the summertime). Muted patterns are acceptable, dark socks are a necessity, low heels are recommended, ties are required and frivolity is strictly forbidden. Though this is not surprising information, I was nonetheless irritated upon reflection of this highly gendered code of professionalism.
Taking a direct quote from the university’s interviewing guide, all are encouraged not to “be trendy. Distracting jewelry, nail polish, make-up or perfume/cologne should be avoided.” Now which of those professional faux pas are likely to be displayed by males? It’s rather elementary to point out that the professional world is dominated by men. That doesn’t mean women don’t make up a significant portion of the labor force. Though the gender gap in employment, promotion and salary still exists to a frightening degree, I don’t have the space to elaborate further than the first step into the job process: the interview.
The mold of the typical professional is undeniably masculine in origin. Should a suit be the best way to show you are serious about a job? Why not a fashionable outfit that showcases a certain style, a flair for creativity? The purpose of an interview is to persuade a potential employer in a very finite amount of time why you are the best for a job.
Shouldn’t your appearance allow you to make a statement about yourself instead of de-sexualizing you? I understand that a good impression means a well-kept and clean appearance, but I also believe standards ought to be evolving with the times. Who is to say what is considered professional and what isn’t?
I wouldn’t recommend anyone showing up to Spring ICE in shorts and flip-flops, but I encourage all female readers to bear in mind this added burden when joining the working world and not letting it stop them from expressing themselves as a woman entering the workforce. We will face many inequalities as working women, and I hope our generation can further disrupt the gender-appropriate norms firmly established in the professional world.