Freshman Sophie Eng dresses up her pastel sweater with an embroidered skirt and dress shoes, making her ready for the next career fair. Photo by Christina Casillo.

With job and internship searches and career fairs in full swing at Elon University, students are trading in sweats for suits for interviews and expos.

According to the “About Elon” page on Elon’s website, 92 percent of students complete an internship during their time at college. 

When meeting potential employers at career fairs, Ross Wade, director of career development at the Student Professional Development Center (SPDC), recommends coming prepared wearing business formal or business casual attire. 

“Whenever you’re putting yourself in a professional situation like a job interview or an expo or networking event, we want to put our best self forward — our best authentic self forward,” Wade said. “Normally that entails, of course, your attire. You want to make sure you’re putting your best self out there as well as meeting the professional requirements of the industry.”

The SPDC website suggests wearing a conservative, two-piece matching business suit in colors such as black, dark gray or navy for business formal. Wade also recommends male students wear a dress shirt, tie and nice shoes.

Female students can wear a pantsuit or a skirt as well.

“If you’re genderqueer or don’t identify as male or female, those individuals typically wear pieces of both,” Wade said. “They might wear a blazer, but then a skirt and a tie as well. So it’s really important to be your authentic self and consider the type of organization you’re applying to.”

Business casual is more relaxed, but still professional. For example, men should wear a nice button-down and slacks and women can wear a clean styled dress with a cardigan.

Wade suggests everyone should own at least one nice pair of slacks in a neutral color that can match  with multiple colored shirts as well as one stock white shirt that can be dressed up.

“It’s important because it shows you respect yourself, you respect the employer and you want to put your best self forward,” Wade said.

But it’s also important to consider the industry being applied for. For example, a company such as Google prefers jeans and a T-shirt, whereas a law firm would want a full suit.

“You have to be able to know what the culture is,” Wade said. “If a fashion designer comes or a big brand comes that does clothing, it probably makes sense to wear their clothing and try to embody what their customer looks like. So there are caveats all the time.”

Senior John Henry Ward is a music theatre major, so for his job search — which consists of mostly auditions — he typically wears a chambray shirt with dark wash jeans and darker shoes. 

But, for his internship at the Young Actors Theatre in London, he would wear corduroys or dark wash jeans with a collared shirt and a sweater.

“I think dressing professionally shows you’re committed to the job and looks like you put in effort,” Ward said. “It’s easier to take you seriously when you look put together.”

When in doubt, Wade said to stick with a suit or business casual for a clean, professional look while showing respect for the company.

“It’s important to consider your industry, and if you’re unsure you should talk to people in that industry,” he said. “We connect with Elon alums all over the world in every industry, and at the SPDC we can connect you with them with a phone call and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this interview at your organization. What should I wear?’”


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