Networking at a business school is incredibly important. Some students even go so far as to admit that the sole reason they go to business school in the first place is to network. After all, you’re going to be rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s future top leaders and CEO’s. B-schools represent massive opportunities for you to broaden your A-list of contacts so that you graduate with a super-connected network that will stand you in good stead.
Networking is not just about how you talk – it’s also about how you present yourself, and how you dress. When it comes to making that crucial first impression, clothes really do make the student. If you’re preparing to take off to business school, here are some fashion tips that will help you get noticed for all the right reasons.
Lose The Slouch
When older people think of students, they have a tendency to subscribe to the stereotypical image of the placard-waving, lazy, long-haired young person who slouches in class and grunts their way through conversations with their parents.
If this was you during your undergrad years, it’s now time to make a transformation.
The vast majority of students in B-school lose both the slouch and their indifference. In B-school, you’ve got a lot more to lose. It’s important that you present yourself as a young professional who wants to make a connection with fellow professionals and move up the business ladder.
If this means getting a new haircut, buying some new clothes, shining your shoes, or even paying more attention to your grooming, so be it. It’s well worth investing in yourself with a new look if it’s going to pay off.
Cultivate Your Style
When we’re young, many of us haven’t yet found our own unique style. Sometimes we’ll follow the crowds, such as the gothic scene, or we’ll experiment with colors or patterns or even cuts.
When you think of the business school crowd, they usually have had a lot of time to cultivate their style. By the time they arrive in their late-twenties, they know exactly what works for them.
Knowing what works for you is important. When you know something is working, you feel a lot more confident. You work the room better, and you’re comfortable in your own skin – and your own clothes.
Know Your Arena
You might have dressed comfortably around your friends all these years, and they might dig your style. Perhaps you’ve been very much on-trend since your college days. But you’re going to business school now, and it’s important to know what the other cats are wearing – and whether or not your style is going to be redundant.
For example, if you’re going abroad to study it’s a good idea to learn more about the fashion over there. What do students studying in Paris, London or Berlin wear?
At West coast American business schools, it’s typical to see students wearing t-shirts with sandals. Harvard Business School students, meanwhile, like to flick through a Brooks Brothers catalogue before buying their clothes.
Students at Singapore’s INSEAD campus, conversely, cope with the hot climate with polo shirts, sun dresses and shorts.
Although you might have your own individual style, you don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb. Find out what everyone else is wearing, and adopt it – but with your own twist if you like. The devil really is in the details.
Always Be Business Casual
You should aim for a non-sloppy, yet comfy personal take on business casual.
But what does business casual mean?
For men, it usually means ditching the jeans and replacing them with a good pair of smart trousers. Pair them up with a collared shirt, and you’re onto a winner.
Women prefer to match a tailored dress or skirt with a smart shirt that isn’t brash or loud, but looks the part. Street-wear is a big no-no. Avoid.
Always Remember To Iron
You’re going to be a student again. This means no more ironing for another two years, right? Yay!
Actually. No. It does not mean that at all!
MBA students who get the best contacts are those who look grown-up. Their attire is always clean, fresh – and crease free.
You might have got away with more than the odd wrinkle at college, but it’s important that you look as professional as possible at all times while studying for an MBA.
Know Your Niche
Just like an aspiring banker wouldn’t favor the NYC hipster aesthetic, an innovative Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur probably wouldn’t walk around in bespoke Armani suits.
It’s all about knowing your niche and dressing accordingly. At business school, you will notice a connection between students’ clothing choices and the clubs they join, as well as the people they most associate with.
Whatever crowd you fall into – or want to enter – it’s important that you know and respect the aesthetic. Have fun, but don’t forget to dress the part!
This post was written by Gretchen Shaw. Gretchen is an author, blogger and entrepreneur with a penchant for baking. She is passionate about communication, continued learning and connecting people. You can follow her on Twitter: @shawgret