Don’t chew gum, sport a Mohawk or wear jeans (and 51 other things you shouldn’t wear or bring to an interview)

Numerous books, blogs and websites offer tips on how to dress for a job interview. Career Services has many suggestions – you can find lots on our Pinterest boards. But at the end of the day, job seekers still show up to interviews wearing the wrong attire and carrying the wrong items.

Great look for a concert, not for an interview

You can be the most qualified candidate on paper and still not receive a job offer because you bomb the interview. Right or wrong, employers judge your interviewing skills and candidacy upon first glance.

So here are two laundry lists of things you shouldn’t wear or bring to an interview.

What not to wear to an interview

  1. Nose rings
  2. Tongue rings
  3. Large earrings
  4. Many earrings (Regardless of size)
  5. Bangles or other dangly distracting bracelets
  6. Necklaces with large pendants or multiple strands
  7. Large rings
  8. Unkempt hair
  9. Flamboyant hairstyles (Mohawks, feather extensions, rainbow stripes, etc.)
  10. Lots of facial hair (Keep it clean or shave it off)
  11. Low cut shirts
  12. High cut skirts (Follow the fingertip rule: If a skirt or dress is shorter than your fingertip when your arm hangs by your side, it’s too short for the workplace)
  13. Tight anything (Pants, tops)
  14. A suit that’s too big or too small
  15. Flip flops
  16. Sandals
  17. Tennis shoes
  18. Shoes meant for the nightclub
  19. Anything made from denim
  20. Tattoos (Cover as many as you can)
  21. White socks
  22. Religious symbols
  23. Novelty ties (Save the Snoopy tie for the office after you’re hired)
  24. Lapel pins
  25. Brightly colored clothes (Stick to black or blue)
  26. Too much makeup
  27. Heavy perfume or cologne (It’s best not to wear any)

What not to bring to an interview

  1. Yawns
  2. Your children, parents or friends
  3. Cell phone that isn’t turned off
  4. “Fingertips” or “wet fish” handshake
  5. Bone-crushing or knuckle-cracking handshake
  6. Backpack
  7. Tote/bag with a company’s logo on it
  8. Big purse filled with overflowing receipts, lipsticks and other “purse” items
  9. Bad attitude
  10. Lack of knowledge about the company or the position
  11. Illness (If you’re sick please reschedule!)
  12. Pictures of your pets or family
  13. A change of shoes (Wear your interview shoes to the interview!)
  14. Poor eye contact
  15. Lies (Tell the truth about everything)
  16. Jittery nonverbal skills (Bouncing leg, tapping fingers, waving arms)
  17. Bad breath
  18. Body odor
  19. Chewing gum
  20. Anecdotal stories that aren’t relevant to the interview
  21. Long, rambling answers to interview questions
  22. An iPod and headphones
  23. Lack of experience answering behavioral interview questions
  24. Blank list of questions to ask (Always ask questions!)
  25. Water bottle, coffee or any beverage
  26. Loose papers (Purchase a binder or portfolio to carry resumes, references lists and other documents)
  27. Apathy

Still not sure? Meet with a CPCC career counselor to discuss interviews. Schedule a mock interview where you can role play an interview and receive feedback about your performance – including your appearance.

Rule number one: Trust your gut. If you’re unsure whether or not you should wear it or bring it to the interview, you should probably leave it at home.








6 reminders for when career plans get iffy

The stay-at-home mom who’s trying to figure out her next career move after raising kids. The just-out-of-high school student who doesn’t know what he wants to be “when he grows up.” The downsized IT director who is contemplating life outside of the corporate world.

What do all three people have in common? They’re all iffy about their future career plans.

Iffy is a strange sounding word. But there’s nothing unusual about feeling iffy regarding career plans.

Career planning isn’t chemistry. Or is it?

In chemistry lab, you mix components together to create a reaction. But sometimes the lab experiment produces a different reaction than the anticipated one. Career planning is similar. When planning for a career, you mix items together (education, work experience, internships, etc.) to create a career path. But the path often differs from the one originally planned. You may choose an academic program with a career in mind but find yourself employed in a different profession. You might have a career focus but external circumstances (family, finances, etc.) steer you in another direction.

Bottom line, life gets in the way. While it’s important to research career options, it’s necessary to allow for uncertainty along the way. Here are six ideas to remember when career uncertainty starts creeping in – and it will.

1. Career uncertainty is normal. Not knowing what your professional future holds makes complete sense. If you don’t know what kind of life you’ll be leading 10, 20, or 30 years from now, how can you know what kind of career will fit?

2. A career decision isn’t forever. You’ve heard the statistics regarding how many jobs one person will have over a lifetime. If the stats cause discomfort, look at it this way: Will you be interested in the same type of music, books, people and activities 30 years from now? Why should career interests be any different?

3. Choosing the “wrong” career doesn’t equal failure. There’s no such thing as the wrong career, unless you choose to look at it that way. Think of the accountant who decides to become a teacher. As an accountant, she learned about herself, developed transferable skills and built a pattern of employment. There’s nothing wrong with that.

4. Career plans don’t solely determine happiness. Steve Jobs said “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Liking your job is important, because you’ll be spending a lot of time doing it. But don’t abandoned or ignore other areas of your life where happiness is just as critical.

 5. More information isn’t always the solution.  Research helps solidify career decisions. For example, looking at online resources and talking to people can move certain career options to the top of the list and eliminate others. But eventually you’ll have to make a decision. If you’re having trouble doing so after thorough research, it’s time to dig deeper and find out why.

6. The career decision process is repetitive. Guess what? You’ll likely visit this uncertainty again. Rather than trying to avoid it, what can you do to make the career decision process go as smoothly as possible?

The next time someone asks about your career plans, own up to the “iffiness” you’re feeling. It’s the first step toward making a decision about your professional future. The second step is writing the plans in pencil rather than pen, allowing room for the inevitable changes along the way.


Professional associations are for students, too!

 What exactly is a professional association and how can it benefit your career exploration and development?

In two words: networking and knowledge!

A professional association – also called a society or institute – is a group of people who work in a particular profession. Most industries, from accounting to zoology and everything in between have professional associations. Their primary role is to act as an information resource for the particular industry, as well as maintain professional standards and keep people informed about trends in the field.

Below are some questions you may be asking yourself.

How can a professional association help me?

  • Meet people in the field: One of the biggest reasons professional associations exist is to provide networking opportunities for people in the profession. A professional association can be a great avenue for finding people to meet for information interviews or job search/networking meetings.
  • Learn about the profession: What are the profession’s current trends? What laws and regulations are currently being considered that may impact the field? Answers to these questions increase your knowledge about the industry. You’ll be better prepared for job interviews and employment.
  • Find job and internship openings: Many associations maintain job and internship databases for members.
  • Keep up-to-date on continuing education, certificates and licenses: If your profession requires continuing education, professional associations provide information about exams or other avenues necessary to keep your qualifications current.

How do I participate in a professional association as a student?

  • Become a student member: Professional associations require memberships for access to all resources. Student memberships are often available for a fee that is significantly reduced. Check the association’s membership links for applications and information.
  • Attend meetings, conferences and events: In addition to yearly conferences, professional associations hold seminars, meetings and networking events throughout the year.
  • Look for local, regional or student chapters: A national association likely has a regional or local chapter that gives you the opportunity to meet with other professionals working in the same geographic region. Check campuses and departments for student chapter information.
  • Volunteer for committees: This is a great chance to work closely with others in the field on association-related projects. It’s a great resume builder, too!
  • Take advantage of student mentor programs or scholarships

Where can I find lists of professional associations?

  • Google: Use search terms such as “graphic design professional associations,” or “civil engineering associations or societies.”
  • Quintessential Careers: This comprehensive career information website maintains a list of professional association search sites.
  • Career Exploration sites: Check out industries and job titles in the Occupational Outlook Handbook which lists professional associations affiliated with each job (and the association’s website).
  • LinkedIn: Many professional associations now have LinkedIn groups. Some groups are open for anyone to join while others require you to submit a membership request. Do a search for established groups.
  • People: Ask faculty, advisors, friends and family connected to your professional area of interest. They may be able to recommend associations.

The biggest mistake students make is assuming a professional association can’t help them because they aren’t yet professionals in the field. Take advantage of the resources professional associations can offer you now as a student and you’ll be a better prepared professional later!

There’s no such thing as an entry level CEO

When daydreaming about your career goals, shoot for the moon. Just know that you’re not going to hit your mark right away. Even the 1969 landing on the moon took eight years of planning, successes and failures to achieve.

Remember that your first job after college will be entry-level, with entry-level duties, expectations and salary. Some job applicants have a negative view of this reality. Millennials often expect to stay in a job less than three years. Adult learners are disappointed when their earning potential after graduating is often lower than the paycheck they earned in their last job.

But there’s a lot to glean from your first job after earning a degree. Here are seven tips for making the most of your entry-level role.

Know this job isn’t forever: Entry-level is the beginning, not the end. If you talk to seasoned employees, you’ll be shocked where their career began. Your career path is going to change, just not immediately.

Keep your attitude in check: Employers like initiative. They dislike arrogance and unreasonable expectations. Your background and education make you qualified to contribute to the organization, not run it after one year. You’ll be given more responsibility once you earn your stripes and your supervisor’s and colleagues’ trust. Prove yourself. And treat support staff with the same respect you would the director.

Learn the work culture: Applying classroom knowledge to work duties is one thing. Navigating office culture is another. Both are equally important. If the company values collaboration, are you a team player? What makes people succeed in the office? During your first year on the job, how you treat coworkers and respond to your supervisor’s management style is just as relevant as your day-to-day responsibilities.

Develop your skills: Look for opportunities to hone the skills you were hired for as well as develop other skills sets. Take responsibility for the employee you want to become. Most of these skills will carry throughout any career changes you make later in life.

Figure out who you are: The crystal ball that answers questions about yourself doesn’t exist, but this entry-level job does. Pay attention to tasks you really enjoy and ones you dislike. What types of people energize or drain you? What types of management styles motivate you the most? How do others interact with you? This is a great opportunity to figure out your preferences with regard to people, tasks and work settings.

Ask for feedback: A professional development plan or performance review is commonplace; but, if it’s not protocol in your workplace, ask for one. Meet regularly with your manager to keep him or her up-to-date on your progress. Seek out feedback – both good and bad- from supervisors and peers and develop a plan for responding to it. Keep track of compliments and work evaluations; you can use them in future job applications and interviews.

Find a mentor: Some organizations have formal mentor programs. If yours doesn’t, strike up a conversation with a peer or manager with years of work experience. Invite him or her to meet for coffee or lunch on a monthly basis. Ask questions about their professional background and seek out relevant career advice.