Transitioning from college to a career after graduating brings a lot of firsts. Your first job out of college is a major deal and can mean that you’ll need to invest in business-appropriate wardrobe.
“The key to dressing professionally and feeling that your wardrobe actually enhances your career is clothes that make you feel confident, professional, and competent,” said Susan Heathfield, a human resources expert and contributor for The Balance Careers.
Unfortunately, the cost of business attire doesn’t always jive with your fresh-out-of-college budget. Here’s how to plan and build your work wardrobe without breaking the bank.
1. Know the dress code
The most important thing to consider before you start building a work wardrobe is the dress code of your industry and new employer.
“For example, the dress code for most positions in a technology company is business casual to casual,” Heathfield said. “If you’re looking for a position in industries where you need to look very formally professional because people are judging your competence by your appearance, then it’s a very different approach to building a wardrobe.”
Generally, you’ll need one or two outfits to attend interviews, and it’s smart to ask questions ahead of the interview about dress expectations. Most recruiters and managers would prefer a candidate who asks about the dress code and shows up in appropriate attire to one that’s underdressed or overdressed.
Wait until you have a job offer in hand to expand your office wear beyond that. Request a copy of the company dress code from your new employer so you can be sure that anything you purchase will be in line with its standards.
2. Start with what’s already in your closet
Before setting foot in a store, take a second look at what you already own. Casual dress codes are becoming more commonplace, Heathfield said, which could make it easier to transition college classroom styles to the workplace.
“Most people have a couple of basic pieces in their wardrobe that would properly transfer to a workplace environment,” Heathfield said. A nice cardigan, sweater, button-up, or blouse can all become office-ready with the right slacks, for instance.
“I think if you look at the individual pieces of clothing that you have and dress them up one notch, they’re going to work well,” she added.
3. Set your office wardrobe budget
As you get a better idea of what clothes you have to work with, you might start seeing gaps in your wardrobe that need to be filled.
Make a list of the items you need to purchase, along with a few that would be nice to have. Decide how much is reasonable to spend on each item. Then, tally up what you can expect to spend overall and compare that to the cash you have on hand.
If your funds fall short, go back to the drawing board and decide on which items you’ll buy first. You could also review your budget to see where you could cut back for a week or a month to free up funds for your new office duds. Make sure that any money you plan to spend on office clothes won’t leave you short on bills, student loan payments, or other expenses.
4. Purchase high-quality, versatile classics
Budget for high-quality, classic styles that can act as the core of your office wardrobe.
“If you are building a basic wardrobe, you want to start with the best pieces you can afford,” Heathfield said. These would be basic-yet-classic pieces such as a suit, blazer, dress slacks, or office shoes.
For these items, aim for high quality. You don’t have to upgrade to designer-label work wear, but you should end up with clothes that can last you for a while.
Be sure to choose builder pieces that are classic, neutral, and versatile, too. “The more ways a piece of clothing will look good on you, the more ways you will use it,” Heathfield said.
5. Never pay full price for work wear
Just because you’re aiming for quality doesn’t mean you have to pay a premium to get it. Here are some tips to spend less when shopping for your work wardrobe:
Shop at outlets for quality at a discount. TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, J. Crew Factory, and other stores offer name brands at big discounts.
Hit the clearance rack. Before wandering around a store, check out the clearance rack. And look for advertisements on sales, especially those that offer an additional percentage off clearance items.
Sell old clothes to pay for your new attire. If you have outdated pieces in your closet, you can sell your clothes for cash or store credit. That could make buying more appropriate attire affordable.
Take advantage of coupons and codes. Check coupon code sites if you’re shopping online. Consider signing up for a store’s email list to get coupons sent to your inbox. You can even install shopping browser extensions that’ll alert you to deals for the site you’re on.
Shop through cash-back sites. Visit Ebates, Swagbucks, and others to find deals and earn rewards for shopping.
How you pay for your work wardrobe matters, too. Any credit card balance you carry will incur steep interest charges that’ll add to the costs of completing your wardrobe. Consider paying with debit or cash. If you pay with credit, only charge what you can pay off in full each month — that way, you’ll avoid credit card interest.
Making the switch from college student to career builder isn’t always easy or smooth. These steps can help you build your office wardrobe while sticking to your budget. That could set you up to succeed financially — and in the workplace.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.54% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of March 18, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 0318/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.5% effective February 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.54% – 7.12%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.54% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.67% – 8.96%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.23% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.69% – 7.43%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.98% – 9.72%6||Undergrad & Graduate|