Spend Smart to Look the Part

Vol. 42 No. 8

By

erin binns is director of career planning at Marquette University Law School.

Grab your wallet . . . it’s time to invest in your career. Qualifications and academic accomplishments alone don’t generate offers. You need to look the part, too. Legal employers value appearance and will judge you for it. If you opt not to wear a business suit to an interview, there’s a good chance that the interviewer may pass on you. What if the quality and fit of your suit looks cheap and unflattering, hair and nails aren’t groomed, and shoes and socks don’t convey a professional demeanor?

Adages like, “You’ll never get a second chance to make a great first impression” are tossed about so commonly in the context of interviewing it’s easy to dismiss the message’s importance. Research has established that first impressions are formed quickly and with indelibility, and that after we form impressions, we work to affirm them. How you present yourself and your documents during job searches and early employment matters. Invest accordingly.

I spoke with several students to get input on needs and experiences in obtaining interview essentials. The amount you ultimately spend will be contingent on personal circumstances such as whether you already own a professional wardrobe, the location of your job search, etc., but the average student should budget for wardrobe expenses. The expenses will vary depending on your location’s cost of living, access to various retailers, and definition of professional attire. Be prepared to spend several hundred dollars on the basics. Look for opportunities to save money and be a cost-conscious consumer.

There are five expense categories for which you’ll need to budget: attire, accessories, personal grooming, travel, and application materials.

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