How to Dress for Success

So you’ve just received that much coveted email that states you have been invited to interview for a PA program. The email contains some basic information about the format of the interview day and at the bottom it reads, “dress is business professional.” I don’t know about you, and maybe its because I’m a girl, but I freaked out. What am I supposed to wear? Do I have to wear a pant suit? Do I have to wear heels? All of these questions flooded my mind. It took me back to 8th grade when you’d go out to the mall with your friends and you’d all text each other to coordinate what to wear because you didn’t want to be the over or undressed person in the group. So I’m going to be your girlfriend for the day and let you know exactly what everyone else will be wearing so you can feel comfortable and confident come interview day.

Guys, you’re easy. Business professional dress for men is pretty standard. Collared button up shirt, dress slack, and a suit jacket. Fellas just make sure you invest in a pair of dress socks as well. Nothing screams unprofessional like your white Hanes ankle socks showing when you sit down and your pant legs ride up. Also don’t forget a belt. I don’t know why, but men that wear a suit without a belt just rubs me the wrong way. It screams “my mom wasn’t there to help me get ready this morning.” Also, while we are on the topic of feet, do not, I repeat, do NOT wear Vans. There is nothing about Vans that strike me as business or professional. What a nice pair of dress shoes. You don’t want to look like you’re going to prom in 1999, back when wearing suits and chucks was cool. The only debatable point in my opinion about men’s dress for interviews comes down to the tie. Some men choose to forego a tie, and while I don’t think that will keep you from getting into PA school, it definitely doesn’t hurt to wear one. Just keep it simple, a plain, solid colored tie that blends well with your suit jacket color. A tie just says you are willing to go the extra mile in professionalism and that’s huge. Also its a little way to show some of your personality with a pop of color in a sea of navy and black suits. And for bonus points, match your tie to your dress socks!

So ladies, we’re the ones who get fashion anxiety and we also have a myriad of options when it comes to professional dress. So I’m going to tell you about my attire for my first interview f0r  PA school and how I adjusted my ensemble going forward.

The school I was interviewing at stressed the importance of individuality in your interview attire. Don’t feel like you have to wear a navy or black suit to impress us, they said. Don’t try to be something you’re not, they said. So of course, I listened, and I felt so uncomfortable and on edge the entire day. I wore a charcoal gray and grayish blue geometric pencil dress with a black blazer. It was professional, but also slightly edgy and feminine which is “my style”, as they asked for. Every other girl at the interview however was dressed in a navy or black suit, so of course I stood out. I felt embarrassed and underdressed and that I wasn’t as qualified as the other women there. The rest of the day I was so focused on how I should’ve worn something different, and I wasn’t devoting myself to my interview.

I was not dressed inappropriately by any means, but I was not dressed the same as my peers which made me feel like I was the odd man out. For my next interviews, I determined to blend in and dress just like everyone else.

I still couldn’t wear a pant suit though, that seemed too Hillary Clinton for me, so I opted for a skirt suit instead. Pants are totally fine if that is what you feel more comfortable in. Just be sure that your pants are not ill fitting. You don’t want them to be too tight in the butt or that will look inappropriate. You also want to be sure that they are hemmed so you aren’t dragging a few inches of pant along the floor all day. I wore a navy pencil skirt with a matching navy suit jacket. Finding a suit jacket that flatters a women’s body is almost impossible, and for me it was important to find something that didn’t totally diminish who I was. I ended up with a jacket that wasn’t fitted, but it had a feminine cut to it that looked sharp and feminine at the same time. I opted for a simple off white blouse since my suit jacket was a little edgier. I paired it with a pair of nude, closed toe kitten heels. Heels are not required, many women wore flats but I feel more comfortable in heels. Whether you wear heels or flats, your shoes must be closed toe. Peep toe shoes, while cute and fashion forward, are not particularly business professional and should be avoided. And do not wear heels unless you really are comfortable in them. Almost all schools give you a tour of the school as part of your interview day and you don’t want to be hobbling around in heels that hurt your feet or that make you look like a newborn deer walking for the first time. One important thing to remember that adds a classy touch if you’re going to wear a skirt suit is that you NEED to wear panty hose. I know they are outdated, but panty hose are professional so suck it up. Another thing to be aware of is your nails. Make sure your nails are trimmed and even. If you do decide to paint your nails, keep it simple. Either use a light pink/nude color, or a classic french tip. You will want to keep jewelry to a minimum as well. I suggest only wearing a simple pair of stud earrings, if anything I at all. I opted for a pair of small pearl earrings to complete my look.

Ladies you also want to keep makeup to a tasteful minimum. Interview day is not the day to try out the new red lipstick you just bought from Sephora or to try contouring for the first time. Be authentic to who you are, but if you like to experiment with makeup, then maybe be a little more tame. There’s no need for a smokey eye, but a little eyeshadow and mascara will show that you are put together. This goes for perfume also; you don’t want to overwhelm your interviewer with 30 pumps of your Chanel #5. Just a light dab on your wrists or neck is more than enough.

When I went to my remaining interviews dressed in this manner, I felt a wave of relief. I know this sounds ridiculous but it made me feel like we were on the same playing field now. Like before, they were all superior to me and had a leg up on the competition because they were wearing the “cookie cutter” interview attire. I spent hours and hours preparing for my interview, yet walking in and seeing everyone dressed the same, and me dressed nothing like them, made me forget all my preparations and I was once again that little 8th grader walking around the mall in yoga pants and flip flops when my gal pals were dressed to the nines. There is something about the way we dress that really makes us feel at ease in a situation, or completely bewildered. I hope that this blog post can help some of you pre-PAs, and really anyone venturing out into the professional world, feel that much more confident and prepared when you walk into an interview and that you can command the room, and not let the room command you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling for PA School Interviews on a Budget

Interview season is one of the most exciting and stressful parts to the application process! You’ve spent months, if not years, preparing yourself and putting together a competitive application and a school has decided they want to know more about you. As exciting as it is when you get that email or phone call inviting you to interview, that excitement can quickly dissipate when you start to look up the cost of flights! The application process is very expensive, adding in travel expenses can add up quickly. In this post, I’ll share with you a few of my travel secrets to traveling on a budget!

Everyone knows that last minute flights can get pretty pricey, and most schools only give between 2-4 weeks notice for an interview, which means last minute flights are your only option. I started my flight search on a search engine (usually Kayak, but that’s just my preference). From there, I get an approximation of what a round trip ticket costs to that particular location. Then, I widened the search parameters to other airports nearby. For example, I had an interview in West Palm Beach, Florida. The West Palm Beach airport is a smaller, regional airport which is fairly expensive to fly into. Whereas, the Fort Lauderdale Airport is a larger, international airport. Fort Lauderdale is only a 45 minute drive away and it was approximately $200 cheaper of a plane ticket than West Palm.

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Once I found my desired location, I looked to see where most airlines were stopping and having connections. A common layover between Phoenix and Fort Lauderdale was Dallas, Texas. The average roundtrip ticket from Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale was $400. I looked to see the price of a round trip ticket from Phoenix to Dallas (a common layover location) and it was $98. I then looked the price of a round trip ticket from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale and it was $108. So by booking the two flights separately, I was able to save about $200 which is like HALF the cost of booking the same flights, Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale with a layover in Dallas. So by cheating the system a little bit you can save a lot! One thing I would caution you about doing this, is that if you book 2 separate flights like I did, and if one is delayed, and you miss the next one, the airline will NOT be as forgiving with helping you get on another flight. Whereas if you book a flight to your final destination and your connecting flight causes delays, they will do everything in their power to assist you to getting to your final destination. So its a gamble; you can potentially save a lot of money by booking 2 separate flights, but keep in mind you may be out of luck if delays occur.

So you’ve got your flight booked, now where will you stay? Airbnb is a great option when traveling for interviews. Not only will staying at an Airbnb save you money on the room, but it also offers certain amenities that are appealing to a solo traveler. Many Airbnbs have ensuite style kitchens or kitchenettes. The Airbnb I stayed at in Florida had a fridge and oven which was very useful for saving money on meals. I was able to cook all my meals myself, except for one lunch I stopped at a sandwich shop on the beach. The Airbnb I stayed in was near a grocery store so I was able to walk to get groceries and did not have to take a cab or an Uber.

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Hotels that are near the school can be very tempting because they are so close and you can just walk there or take a few dollar Uber ride. But, be aware! Hotels that are in close proximity to schools know when interview season is! They bump up their prices making it more expensive for the lowly college student just trying to make it into grad school. I’m not saying that Airbnbs could not do this as well, but I have more noticed the trend in hotels. Also, hotels close to the campus tend to generally be more expensive than hotels a few miles out.

Another advantage to Airbnb is that most have later check out times than hotels, and some even offer the option to check out at any time. Most hotels require check out by 11 AM, or you can pay for delayed check out till around 2pm. I loved this late check out option for a few reasons. One, I didn’t have to bring my luggage with me to my interview. Most interview days last anywhere from 8 AM to 2PM (some earlier, some later). But, more than likely, your hotel checkout time will be during your interview. Some hotels offer to hold your luggage even after check out, but not all. I enjoyed my late check out because it allowed me to unwind and explore the city I would potentially moving to for the next 2 years after my interview. My interview was over around noon; I went back to my Airbnb and grabbed my swimsuit and hit the beach! I lounged around the beach and explored downtown for a few hours before returning to my Airbnb where I was able to shower and wash all the sand off from the beach, and then change into my comfy clothes for my flight.

One aspect of traveling under the age of 25 is the whole rental car debacle. Technically, you can rent a car at 21 but who wants to pay the ridiculous fees associated with that! So I Ubered everywhere, unless it was close enough for me to walk. During your planning, figure out exactly how many miles you are going to be traveling from the airport, around town, and to and from your interview. Determine for yourself, whether it would be smarter to pay the fee and rent a car, or just Uber everywhere. Even with my 45 minute drive to and from the Fort Lauderdale airport into West Palm, it was still less expensive for me to use Uber and Lyft to get around, rather than rent a car. Also, use any coupon code for these driving services you can! I used Lyft for the first time during this trip because they offered a $20 coupon code for first time riders. Send you Uber code to friends in the weeks proceeding your trip so you can get more free rides yourself while you’re traveling. Every dollar counts man!

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Hopefully, by utilizing some of these secrets to traveling cheaper, you will be financially able to travel to all the interview invites you receive, and you will not have to pick and choose which to accept!