How To Dress For The Summer Heat

This summer, let’s hope our careers heat up and our armpits do not.

And let’s look our professional best, no matter how high the temperatures get. This may take some effort, especially if you are heading to a job interview in mid-afternoon or a professional mixer outside by the pool or at a picnic area.

Forget the swimming suit and take along your business cards.

“Professionalism extends to how you look too,” said Dana Leavy, a career coach in Brooklyn who has worked as a recruiter. “You’re supposed to be wooing and wowing people” and you want a fine first impression.

Three-quarters of human resources managers in an OfficeTeam survey say their dress codes don’t relax in the summer months, and this means job candidates – whether active searchers or passive ones – need to stick with the most professional attire.

One key: Dress appropriately for the place you’re going. “Know your audience,” Leavy said. Before you go,  check photos on the company website, on Glassdoor or on Flikr to see how they dress. Or ask someone who’s worked there. It’s important to show you’ll be “a good cultural fit,”she said, and that starts with your clothes.

“Every company is not going to be impressed when you walk in with a suit and a tie,” she said. Some creative sectors would rather see more personality and funkier patterns or accessories.  The key is that it’s appropriate to the setting, and doesn’t detract from your message of competence and expertise.

Whatever you wear also must stand up to heat and humidity, so you don’t arrive with huge sweat circles under your arms and around your forehead. Here’s some pointers:

  1. Blazers or sports jackets work well almost anywhere, Leavy said. They can make an everyday outfit look better and more professional. So keep one handy in a hanger in your car or in the closet at work, just in case you decide to pop into that association event after work.
  2. If you wear a suit, make it a lightweight and light-colored one. Cotton and light-weight wool breathe, and some other fabrics are intended for summer wear.
  3. Walk into the interview with the jacket over your arm or slung over your shoulder. This looks sensible for the weather, yet shows your respect and professionalism, said Leavy.
  4. Arrive early – and chill out. Head to a coffee shop and collect your thoughts. Or go to the interview but request a restroom stop before you head to the interview. Touch up your make-up or put on your tie and make sure you’re fresh and tucked in.
  5. Women, don’t show cleavage or too much leg. Skirts should be just a little above the knee, the same for the sleeveless sheath dress, she said.  Men, don’t go too casual on shirts. A button-down dress shirt, without a tie, can look professional and clean, said Michael Steinitz, Robert Half International‘s district manager. where a golf shirt may not give the same seriousness.
  6. Bring along a comb, cologne and deodorant along with the breath mints and your resume. All of them are worthwhile for the summertime interview. And ladies, pack everything in just one bag or briefcase so it’s simpler and easier to manage, Leavy suggests.
  7. Outdoor networking events – a ballgame, barbecue, an outdoor fundraiser- can be tricky. Check with the organizer on what attire is likely.  If you wear a T-shirt – and many would advise against it – make sure the message is not one that will brand you a rebel or a troublemaker, unless of course that fits with the brand you’re cultivating. You don’t want to look like you’re heading out to a nightclub or a date, even if you expect to dance at the fundraiser with your peers nearby.

Strike a happy medium and be prepared to sound like an accounting manager or a research director even if you’re wearing shorts and a nice Polo shirt. For summertime presents some great opportunities to network and  those connections at the corporate picnic or the business group’s night at the ball game could turn into job talk and offer if you look the part.