'Let someone tell you [not] to wear a jacket and a tie. Always go formal first.'
DRESSING THE PART: Sheri Ispir, JWU director of experiential education and career services, tells students to “go formal first.” She's pictured above, center, with office assistant Marquis Cooper and education coordinator Ashley Evans.
There’s an old adage that professionals should dress for the job they want, not the job they have.
If that holds true, it could be assumed that a young professional who showed up for an internship wearing a T-shirt, shorts and flip flops might be looking to spend his career at the beach. Recently, however, that very thing happened with a college student looking to break into the news business.
“I address it immediately, but always think that someone must have failed them along the way if they think it’s OK to show up in the work world dressed like they were going to a cookout,” said Craig Borges, managing editor of The Sun Chronicle, a daily newspaper in Attleboro. Borges said he’s had more than one intern, and paid staff members, arrive for a first day in the newsroom in inappropriate work attire.
But determining appropriate work attire can be difficult for workers and easy to slip up on because office dress codes, formal and informal, are often left to interpretation. It can be especially problematic during summer months, when a desire to be comfortable and stay cool can outweigh that of dressing for success.
Eighty-one percent of respondents to a recent Providence Business News executive poll, a weekly survey of 70 business leaders representing small and large businesses across the state, said that their employees tend to dress more casually in hotter weather.
More than 92 percent said their office has a formal dress code. Slightly fewer than 58 percent said that dress code is business casual, while 11.5 percent said business dress is required at their office.
Approximately 23 percent said the code calls for “casual but neat.”
“I have a lot of employers talk about a problem with ‘business casual,’ ” said Judith Clare, director of the Amica Center for Career Education at Bryant University in Smithfield. “And that [involves] students not understanding what [the term] means. They forget the word ‘business’ is in there.”
That may be because the term is up for debate even among those trying to monitor and enforce office dress codes.