When starting out your career or employment journey, you are starting typically at the bottom. In most cases, you are attempting to get your foot in the door and your first opportunity toward your long-term career goal. As I was graduating from East Carolina University, where I studied Communications, I was on the 4+ year plan due to some mistakes made early on when I started looking at internships. We had a presentation in one of my classes where someone from the Co-op office explained we could get college credits for an internship or work. This caught my interest, as I realized I could complete my degree with an internship that could possibly lead to employment. I learned that I could be paid while getting credit as well, and I thought that was amazing.
I reached out to an array of professional teams, public relations firms and other prominent businesses. I may have contacted around 125 businesses. I heard back from many, and I landed four interviews. I was excited. All four businesses were in the New York City / New Jersey area. I landed interviews with pro hockey and basketball teams and a sports marketing / public relations firm.
My twin brother helped me pick out some clothing to wear: a sport coat, slacks, a shirt and tie. I had very long hair at the time, like six inches past my shoulders, so I was thinking it might be time for a haircut. Many friends told me I didn’t needed to cut my hair; that I could wear it in a pony tail for interviews. I thought the hair cut was a good idea because I was just getting started. I wanted to look the part. I went to a salon where they cut my hair: it was long enough I was able to donate it.
Confident I looked every inch the part of a successful young intern, I set out for my interviews. At one particular interview, one that went very well, we got to the end of the interview and the executive speaking with me reached out and handed me a big thick book. I bent forward from my chair, and I took the book from him. I heard him say something like, “I see a beaded necklace under your collar.” So, it might be time to mention that this was a conservative organization. Both the owner and the president served in the military. I saw this as a great fit because I had served as well. The executive took the time to give me some important advice “I see that necklace under your collar, and if I’d seen it in the beginning, this interview would have ended quickly. If you had come into this interview with long hair, I would have met with you for 30 minutes and put your resume in the garbage. We are a conservative organization, and you are just starting out. You never know what will turn someone off on hiring you. Luckily, I didn’t see it, and we spent all of this time together. We connected in many areas, and I would like to offer you the opportunity to work for us. I would suggest that you walk out, and you cut that necklace off.”
Well, I walked out the door after goodbyes and a thank you, and I cut the necklace off. I also didn’t take that position. But I learned a lot from that interview. I learned that making a good first impression really does matter during a job search. You never know what little thing could be the difference between being offered a job and your resume going in the trash. This experience also taught me about the importance of investigating a business’ mission, culture, and values before interviewing.
Over the years, I have grown my hair out many times, and I have trimmed it from time to time to fit a business’ culture. I have also worked my way up in my field, and my hair has become part of my brand. Coming out of college I chose to cut my hair because at that point in my life landing a job was more important to me than my hair. I have made numerous other sacrifices and compromises for different positions along the way. When planning your job search you have to decide what is important to you and then learn how that fits with a potential employer’s goals, values, and mission. This early experience taught me to do that research before my interviews.
APH CareerConnect offers resources about the employment process for individuals who are blind or low vision. You can explore the APH Connect Center blogs and articles for more information about preparing for your job interview including dressing for success.