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It is important to realize that maintaining workplace professionalism is of utmost importance in any job setting, especially as a co-operative education student because we as students not only represent ourselves, but we also represent SFU.

Some individuals prefer throwing on a pair of pants and a shirt, running their hands through their hair, and running out the door in the morning. This “no effort” type of look can be flawless for some, but what about women who are trendy and enjoy staying up to date with all the styles in the latest magazines? Trying to copy clothing suggestions from Cosmopolitan and People magazine can be a bit risky if you work in a professional setting as there is a fine line between what is appropriate and what is not, when it comes to workplace attire.

Some people may ask, “Well, why is being trendy important? Just wear conservative, simple, safe clothing and you lessen the chance of accidently dressing inappropriately.” This is true indeed, but I have two counter questions.

What if I do not feel comfortable and/or confident when I cannot showcase my sense of style?

In my personal experience, dressing in a way that makes me happy helps to boost my confidence and looking my best and loving what I wear helps me feel more comfortable with myself. When I feel more comfortable and confident about my appearance, I take more pride in what I do and this results in me completing tasks, duties, and responsibilities to my fullest capacity.

What if by dressing simple and conservatively, I miss my chance of standing out? 

At larger companies where there are many employees, it may be difficult for a supervisor, manager, and/or employer to remember everyone. If I can be is smart about how I highlight my style in a professional setting, by adding something as simple as a funky printed scarf or a signature necklace piece to my outfit, I might increase the chance of getting noticed and potentially remembered more easily by a superior.  

So how can you maintain professionalism, without compromising your style? Below you will find some simple DO’s and DON’Ts that are based on my opinion of how one can incorporate their sense of style into a more professional look. Disclaimer – there are variations depending on different work places. Some workplaces may be more accepting of the items that I listed as “don’ts”; however, it is always best to proceed with caution. Better safe than sorry, right?


DO: Try to maintain a clean and fresh day time look by using neutral colored eye shadows, blushes, and lipsticks.

DON’T: Avoid going overboard by using bright colors and trying to highlight multiple features of the face in one look.

Here is a video that distinguishes a day time office look from a night time party look. For the day time look, notice how she kept her lip and blush color neutral. This is because the only feature that she was trying to highlight was her eyes and she did so by applying thick winged eyeliner. 


DO: Sick of the same solid hair color? If dying your hair, choose a neutral color that blends in with your natural hair color. Tired of the same bun and ponytail you wear every day? Be creative by using hair accessories such as headbands and clips. Also try implementing different types of braids into your usual hair styles to change it up. Follow this link for a video on how to incorporate simple braids into your hair style.

DON’T: I suggest avoiding the colors of the rainbow when dying your hair.


DO: Use signature pieces to liven up your outfit. If you prefer simple outfits, then jewelry may be a great way for you to take the outfit from boring to brilliant. How To Wear Jewelry To Work Without Causing A Stir goes into more detail and provides some more advice on how to pair jewelry with outfits for a workplace setting.

DON’T: Try to avoid wearing multiple thick and bulky jewelry pieces at the same time.  


DO: Use colors, patterns, and prints to make yourself stand out. Have a look at the links below for more advice on how to stay trendy when dressing yourself for work. 

DON’T: Do not reveal too much skin and avoid extremely form fitting clothing.


DO: Experimenting with different shoe prints, colors, and designs may be a great way to add some spunk to an outfit.  

DON’T: Check your workplace policy because wearing open-toed shoes (i.e. gladiator shoes sandals, flip flips, etc.) may be frowned upon in some workplaces. Also take note that the noises that high heels make when walking can be disruptive for some colleagues.


DO: Maintain clean, short nails. Use neutral nail polish colors. 

DON’T: Stay away from long nails with florescent nail polish. Also avoid gems and stones on your fingernails.

It is important to realize that maintaining workplace professionalism is of utmost importance in any job setting, especially as a co-operative education student because we as students not only represent ourselves, but we also represent SFU.  However, that does not mean one has to compromise their style. With that being said, by considering the above DO’s and DON’Ts guidelines, one may be able to maintain their sense of style in a professional manner.

SFU Student
Amy (Amandeep) Gill is a fourth year Biomedical Physiology student who is passionate about volunteering and community engagement. Through SFU’s Career and Volunteer Services blogs, Amy provides insights and shares knowledge regarding her many interests, with the overall goal of persuading her fellow SFU peers to get more involved, both on and off of SFU’s campuses.
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Nov 12, 2015

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