I have to buy a suit. I’ve attempted to buy a suit numerous times before. When I say attempted, I mean I have walked into the store, browsed the price tags and winced in pain before walking back out.
Up to this point I haven’t had to buy a suit. Any compulsion to buy a suit has been more because, as a professional adult, I felt I should own one. Being, thus far, a “creative professional,” however, I have been able to get away with not needing a suit. Even for a job interview, a graphic designer can pretty easily get away with wearing something well-put-together but more artistic and trendy than formal. Wearing a suit to a graphic design interview might even be a strike against you at some companies.
Now, however, after seeing the halls of the engineering building packed with suit-wearing students on job fair days, I know the time has come. I will go to the store, wince at the price tag, and buy anyway. It has to be done. Just like ripping off a band aid.
I should get a few wearings out of my suit. A few job fairs and subsequent interviews for both internship and permanent positions. It will be a worthy purchase. I don’t, however, expect to wear a suit to my next job.
Professional attire is an interesting thing. I’ve never really understood why what you’re wearing has any bearing on how well you can perform a job. Why is an accountant that wears jeans and a tee-shirt worse at his or her job than an accountant that wears a suit? They’re not, obviously. But somehow our society has decided otherwise.
Way back in the day when I was contemplating a career change, on my list of options, along with engineering, was accounting or finance. While my decision not to pursue either of those fields goes far beyond clothing preferences, I remember realizing that many accounting and finance people have to dress very formally for their jobs. That realization nudged those careers much closer to the “nope” column.
Some people love getting dressed up. They thrive in a business professional environment. I am not one of those people. My mom can tell you stories of trying to wrestle me into skirts and tights as a child. She can tell you about my refusal to wear anything except sweatpants and tennis shoes in elementary school. I used to tell people that if I ever got married, I’d be wearing jeans and a tee shirt and would insist that all my guests wear the same (it’s my wedding, I can do what I want…those are the rules, right?).
For me, dressing professionally is a chore. I find no joy in it. At my first graphic design job, the dress code was hyper casual. I wore jeans and tennis shoes in the winter, jeans and flip flops in the summer. They drew the line at sweatpants (my elementary-school-self would have been disgusted). My current job is a mixed bag. Some of us dress business-casual, others wear jeans most days. Can you guess which one I am? This job draws the line at flip flops, so those stay at home. But I can deal with that.
But anyway, engineering. Engineering has a range of appropriate dress codes. Some engineers work primarily in offices and have a business casual dress code. Others work in factories or plants or on-site and wear either jeans or specialized work site clothes. Very few engineers wear suits or have business professional dress codes. I grew up watching my dad (a chemical engineer) wear jeans and work boots to work every day.
Jeans and work boots? I can see the look of horror on some of your faces (especially the ladies). I can see it right through the internet! But, you guessed it, I’d be totally fine wearing jeans and work boots. I’m willing to accept that I’ll probably never get to wear flip flops to my job ever again. But I’m glad I picked a career where I can clench my teeth, “get through” the suit-wearing, and then lovingly hang the suit back in my closet until the next job interview.