This is part 1 of my 3 part civilian wardrobe series. Part 1 gives you 4 basic tips when thinking about your first civilian wardrobe. Part 2 will focus on specific items men should consider when selecting a wardrobe. Part 3 will give women tips on styling and makeup when starting their shopping for a civilian career!
As a service member, your wardrobe has been pretty simple for your career thus far - you have BDUs and service dress. As you go through your workday in the military, there’s no fear that you’re not dressed up enough (or too much) or which shoes go with which outfit. Thinking about your wardrobe was probably on the bottom of your priority list when transitioning from a military to civilian career. Perhaps you purchased a nice business suit and starched shirt (or high heels - for the women out there!) for the interview and made an amazing first impression—and maybe you got the job!
Related: For the latest veteran jobs postings around the country, visit the Military.com Job Search section.
But now that you have the job, what are you going to wear 5 days a week? You have one business suit from the interview—but do you even wear that on a daily basis? As always, the answer is…it depends. It depends on what type of job you have and the work culture and environment of the company in which you work. It also depends on who YOU are as a person and what message you are trying to deliver with your personal brand.
Before we get into specific wardrobe suggestions for both men (Part 2) and women (Part 3), here are 4 basic wardrobe tips everyone should follow when selecting outfits for their civilian career.
- Get familiar with the dress code of the company. Many companies have moved away from business professional dress (business suits and ties) to business casual (khakis and button up shirts). It’s important that you research your company to find out the norm so that you understand the dress code of the company. Ask people who work there about the dress code. Or, look online at the company's website – what photos do they show of people at work? Look at the manager's profiles online: Do they all dress similarly? Are they wearing heels or t-shirts?
- Be comfortable. You should wear clothes that are appropriate but also comfortable. Dressing in something comfortable means you'll avoid pulling at your collar or pants because they are too tight or riding up. Look for fabrics that have a bit of stretch if this is your first experience wearing business clothes. Keep in mind what type of job you’ll have. Sitting all day at a computer? Try to stay away from fabric that wrinkles easily. Bending over a lot? Avoid tight bottoms or short dresses or skirts. Working outside in a hot environment? Dress in light colors and clothes made of breathable materials to avoid being even hotter!
- Invest in quality. Choose fabrics and styles that are classic and will give you years of wear. Trendy clothing or items made from lower-quality materials will show their wear sooner and can impact your credibility. Just because you can get five or six of something, doesn’t mean it’s a good investment! You might go through them that much faster.
- Be true to yourself. Above all else, be sure you feel like yourself in what you're wearing. If you hate the idea of wearing a business suit to work every day, be careful interviewing for a job where that will be protocol. To feel like yourself means you are comfortable, confident, expressive and genuine in your style. Wardrobe is a big part of how satisfied we are in our work.
Selecting your wardrobe can be fun…it’s a mixture of letting your personality and personal brand shine, while still fitting into the company culture. Remember, you can stand out while still fitting in. Embrace the fact that now you can have more than 2 different uniforms as your clothing options!
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Lida Citroën is an international reputation management and branding specialist and CEO of LIDA360. Lida serves her corporate clients with personal branding, reputation management, online positioning and reputation repair strategies and implementation programs. Lida is passionate about helping our nation's Veterans navigate the military-to-civilian career transition and is a popular speaker at military installations and events on Veteran hiring. Her best-selling book, Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition, offers veterans the tools to successfully move to meaningful civilian careers.
Lida also leverages her 20+ years in corporate branding to help private employers recruit, onboard and grow veteran employees. Her book, Engaging with Veteran Talent: A quick and practical guide to sourcing, hiring, onboarding and developing Veteran employees, provides companies seeking to start or build on their Veteran Hiring Initiatives with the tools and insights to be successful.