Kaitlyn Lamb, a dual-major in Public Relations and Psychology, is currently a junior at California Baptist University and a member of the Alpha Chi National Honors Society. She has served as a student leader at Cal Baptist for two years, mentoring first-semester freshmen through a one-unit class. In addition, she has worked with the CBU Marketing Department as a Student Ambassador, representing her university at local elementary schools and community events. Kaitlyn loves public speaking, reading dystopian novels, soaking in the sun, and building relationships with those around her. Above all, she is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. After graduation, she hopes to work in higher education student development.
College is full of opportunities—full of fresh starts, exciting prospects, and new endeavors. It is also a time of decision, during which we must choose what we will do and who we will be. We fortify our personalities and values, our beliefs and our identities. We make our debut into the “real” world, growing into the leaders and decision-makers we may have previously admired from afar.
In doing so, we enter the public eye. Our lives suddenly become subject to outside opinions—to approval or disproval, admiration or disdain. It can be painful or exhilarating; we influence which it will be. As a third-year college student, I have learned an important lesson: image matters. The way in which you present yourself determines how you will be perceived and, consequently, the manner in which you will be treated. Your image shapes your reputation—something that can either help or harm future prospects.
Let’s talk about the role of fashion in determining your image. First, though, a disclaimer is necessary. Your appearance—clothes, hair, makeup, etc.—does not determine your value as a person. It is both unhealthy and dangerous to find your worth in superficial characteristics, for those things fade and change with time. Your values and character remain constant; refine those above all else.
With that said, it is wise to present yourself in a respectable and appealing manner! The majority of universities offer career counseling—perhaps in the form of mock interviews, resume assistance, or job boards—and also host internship and career fairs. Because of this, future professional realms often collide with your current college life. It is incredibly important, therefore, to dress in a manner worthy of respect and dignity. I have made it my goal to embrace a style that, if I were to meet a potential employer, would increase my chances of making a positive first impression.
So what does this look like? In my own wardrobe, I have begun to collect a variety of more classic pieces. By gradually buying slightly professional blouses from stores such as Express and New York & Company (waiting for storewide sales makes this easier on a college budget!), I have accumulated transitional pieces that can be worn for both classes and interviews. Jeans, boots, and funky accessories make them youthful and trendy; trading those for slacks and a blazer prepares me for interviews.
Within my closet can be found a variety of additional items. Sweaters keep me warm on casual winter days, while a wool pea coat replaces those when more professional tops are called for. Jeans are still a staple, but I make sure to buy dark washes that can still carry off a classy look; distressed, dirty, or bleached pants don’t exactly scream “hire me”. During my southern California summers, dresses and skirts keep me cool while still maintaining a refined look. Simple collections can be accessorized and patterns add variety; aim for fashionable class rather than casual convenience.
As hopefully evidenced, I still incorporate my own sense of style; I did not trade my individuality for some sort of corporate tedium. However, in laying aside yoga pants, torn jeans, and overly trendy tops, I opened a new set of doors for myself. I have served in multiple student leadership positions, spoken on student panels addressing an assortment of audiences, and been hired to represent my school as a Student Ambassador. My wardrobe elicits respect and professional admiration rather than leering approval.
Keep your personality. Keep your fun. But add an element of professionalism—dress for the job you want, the reputation you desire. Let your style carry you forward into young adulthood and into success.