Taken for Granted: Dressing for success

As the school year ends, many teenagers seeking summer employment will face a brutally tough job market. What follows is addressed to young male job seekers and may seem a bit harsh, but will hopefully prove helpful to some.

Let's start with the basics: All job opportunities require a face-to-face interview. Despite living on the mobile phone a good part of your student life, you won't be able to call this one in! Old(er) guys and gals still rule the job market, so your appearance will be a big consideration, especially if your prospective boss is a generation or two older.

The dire pitfalls of how some young men dress was vividly brought home to me by a recent incident involving a teenager who, while attempting to flee the NYPD at a murder scene, had his hip-hugging pants slide down, trip him and send him off a fire escape to his death. Not a pretty story, but one cannot avoid the irony of his unfortunate ending.

What resulted was a billboard campaign, initiated by a local New York state senator, which displays the saggy pants look at its worst, accompanied by the tag line: "Stop the Sag — Raise Your Pants, Raise Your Image." While fashionable with your generation, the saggy pants-look will not impress a prospective employer; nor will untied laces on your athletic shoes. An employer will see those laces as a work comp suit waiting to happen.

An excess of tattoos, while appealing to your friends, may look to an interviewer like the amateur art work of your bunk mate at juvenile hall. A long-sleeve shirt might be advisable. An earring should not be a problem, but excessive facial jewelry may result in a very short interview. If the job involves contact with the public, the likelihood that your face will set off a metal detector can be a turn-off unless your employer's customers are your age.

Another sensitive area for some employers will be the close-cropped-hair look. Rightly or wrongly, it prompts the image of a gangbanger or militia skinhead. Not much you can do about it at this point other than a wig or super-fast-acting Rogaine.

Hollywood producer and screenwriter Antwone Fisher's troubled early life was the subject of a Denzel Washington movie. The film portrayed Fisher's harrowing start in life, moving in and out of foster homes and living on the street before he joined the Navy and straightened himself out. Fisher has written a book titled: "A Boy Should Know How to Tie a Tie and Other Lessons for Succeeding in Life."

It's a collection of tips for young men, particularly those who may not have had a strong or caring male influence in their early life. He provides basic guidance on everything from shaving to ironing a shirt. Most young men, regardless of their upbringing, would benefit greatly from the step-by-step approach he takes to dress and appearance.

Most summer jobs involve getting dirty and will likely require wearing casual clothes or coveralls. But for the interview, a dress shirt, a tie and heaven forbid a sport jacket might just seal the deal. A clean-cut, somewhat formal appearance sends a strong message that you are willing to make the extra effort to stand out from your competition.

That first impression is critical. You don't have to dress like a nerd, but let's face it, the closer you come to that look the more likely you are to get the job.

Invest the time to learn some basic facts about your potential employer's business and be prepared to ask an informed question or two. A firm handshake (preferably not the double tap fist bump), good eye contact, listening carefully, answering honestly and displaying enthusiasm are all pluses. The rest is up to you. Best of luck!

Pat Grant has lived in Glendale for more than 30 years and was formerly a marketing manager for an insurance company. He may be reached at tfgranted@gmail.com.

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