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Think Strategically When Deciding What to Wear to Class

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The weather was hot and humid a few weeks ago, so I took a shortcut through the ATEC building on my way to get my staff Comet Card. Having spent my first day on campus entirely in JSOM, I experienced a bit of culture shock after I left the building. I have yet to see any students in JSOM practicing their b-boy moves in the middle of the hallway, but the young man in ATEC wearing that hip-hop outfit was doing his own thing without a care for who might be watching. As someone with a tendency toward self-consciousness, I respect that attitude.

But it got me thinking: Could a JSOM student get away with a nonchalant session of break dancing in our building? Probably, but that student might get a few more double takes and backward glances than in ATEC. Different social groups have their own unwritten rules and expectations. A business suit and power tie with a briefcase in the ATEC building might get the same askance looks (unless they were being worn ironically, of course).

The point I’m driving at is not that everyone should become a conformist; far from it. The college years might be the only time a future CPA or mid-level manager can get away with experiments in self-expression. If you’re hearing the call of the wild, then — by all means — follow it to your heart’s content. Just remember that your future employer might be meeting with one of your professors about some recommendations for candidates for a new internship at your dream company on the same day you decide to strut down the hallway in your new Hello Kitty ensemble, replete with the orange hair and the bow shaved into the side of your head. If your peers are dressed in their business-casual attire, then who do you think is going to make the more favorable impression?

The old cliché, the one admonishing us that we don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, has become one for good reason — it’s true. Keep that in mind when you make decisions about what sort of college experience you seek. Think strategically in the way you present and conduct yourself in class and in the hallways. Is it more important for you to express your individuality than it is to be ready jump on an opportunity that may present itself at any moment — one for which you’ve been working so hard every semester?

Having some clearly defined goals about not only the type of career you want but also what the prevailing corporate cultures happen to be in those industries might be well worth thinking about. Then dress accordingly. Then again, if you’re set working your way up the ladder at Sanrio (the company behind the Hello Kitty brand), and its CEO was the one meeting with your professor, then maybe your outfit wasn’t such a poor choice after all.

Jimmie Markham

Jimmie Markham brings a widely-ranging life and professional experience to his job as a communications manager at JSOM.  As an infantryman in the U.S. Army, he learned to “improvise, adapt and overcome” and that “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  He’s been dealing with the unexpected ever since and, in doing so, has become a skilled and dedicated communications/marketing/customer-service and sales-support professional with nearly 20 years of experience using improvisational, critical-thinking, technical and people skills to advance the interests of external and internal clients. A BA in Art & Performance (creative writing emphasis) from UT Dallas helped polish his natural predilection and passion for the written word. Read more articles

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