Dressing to Impress

In the health profession, the way one dresses is just as important as anyone else in any business.

Anyone in corporate most likely will dress in suits and formal business wear. It’s just what is required, especially when they meet with clients.

The health profession is no different. A provider in a clinic will always be found dressed in formal wear, if not business casual. Rarely, will you see a provider come to work with jeans. If anything, you may see providers in a more common outfit — scrubs. Although, once, when I was starting work at a large California health organization, I did see a provider wear sandals and black jeans. How odd….

With interview season in full swing for PA schools nation wide, as well as other health professional schools, it is important to find the right wear for interviews. Having been through job interviews for the public health sector, what you wear is just as important as what you know. It shows professionalism and garners respect from those around you.

So, take the time to invest in a suit for both gals and men alike. My favorite go to’s for suits for the gals are Loft and Banana Republic. However, Macy’s and Nordstroms are good places to shop as well. Sometimes, I’ve found suits at other locations such as TJ Maxx and Ross. When I first graduated from college, when money was a bit tight, I bought two suits from Ross. To this day, I have one of these suits. I do know that other places such as H&M and Forever 21 have suits too, but….I don’t know..the quality of these suits are under par to me….which is why I rarely do buy professional clothing there. However, you never know…sometimes you’re able to find a few things to your liking. For professional wear, I rarely go. (HINT: President’s weekend is coming up; and while I often find these moments to be more so a holiday to reflect on what’s been done as opposed to consumerism, if you’re in need of a suit…these holidays are great times to go look for a suit with discounts at major stores such as Banana Republic and Loft. I’ve even seen some good ones at Ann Taylor).

Shoes — I always like pumps for the gals. Don’t try and impress with super high pumps, especially if you’re not use to wearing heels. You’re going to walk around, sometimes, you’ll even climb stairs. If you’re foreign to the world of heels and stilettos, please stick with a wedged heel or a flat so that you’re comfortable walking. Another tip: Bring band aids if you’re wearing shoes you’re not use to. One story that I have, is that at one conference where I was presenting on pre-diabetes, I wore this heel that I hadn’t worn before (stupid me…), and let’s just say, that I brought blood, sweat, and tears to that presentation..because literally, both feet, my heels were bleeding out. That presentation was for half a day, in front of providers and professors from some pretty well known universities and organizations, so not a good idea to wear shoes you’ve never worn before. In fact, if you’re going to wear a shoe in which you’ve worn a lot of, give it a clean. Shine those babies up !

Dressing to impress is a big deal in the health profession/world. Even in public health, we have a rule in our department to not wear jeans (although as of recent, casual Fridays have been popular, and we do sneak in jeans when there are days when we don’t have meetings).

One story I often hate to share, but it’s definitely cringe worthy, is how the way one dresses often can garner respect and a level of expertise that may not be perceived upon first impression. Being one of the youngest in my department, I’m sure when I first started off in the department, I probably seemed to be the newbie. Already quiet as I am, it’s hard to build relationships, trust, and partnerships, because I was that — young and inexperienced, despite my years of experience in research and clinics. My coworker having started way ahead of me, older, has way more public health experience than I do, the one whom I thought I’d look up to seemed to have all the experience in the world. Yet, the way we dress are worlds apart. Despite shopping at many high end stores (I.e. Nordstroms, Saks Fifth); jeans, low cut tops, and dresses worthy of the weekend are her go to’s. Me on the other hand, khakis, slacks, blouses, and business dresses are my go to, with the occasional jean pant on Fridays and when there are deadlines and no meetings. Somehow, there’s something with regards to the way various departments and partners interact with me than her. I can’t put my finger on it, except for the fact that we dress differently. I sadly inwardly cringed, when at one important regional meeting, she came dressed in a blue dress that looked better on a day out in the city rather than a regional meeting. It’s not worthy of sharing at times, because she has a lot of experience under her belt. She knows a lot. Yet, just by the way she dresses, opportunities are sometimes lost. Sad, but it happens.

With interview season, I know that my suits have been in my garment bag and I haven’t used them for a good year now. It’s time to bring them to the dry cleaners for cleaning and prep for the interviews. Besides knowledge, dressing up is just as important. Even after all that training, if one doesn’t dress the role as a provider (for instance, as a PA), would you really gain the respect and trust of your patient? You want to help the patient, but hey, if you’re not there to show that level of professionalism, it’s kind of hard to take you seriously. For my coworker, I believe that’s the case — many may not want to take her seriously, because of how she dresses. That is why we must dress to impress.

Do we need the super expensive items for dressing to impress ? Absolutely not. Do we need to be dressed like those on the red carpet? Absolutely not. All I’m saying is this — one must dress for profession’s sake, which means be put together and professional. That to me is dressing to impress in the world of healthcare and elsewhere.



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