Free your wardrobe and the rest will follow!

by Lauren Arnsman, Head Editor, INALJ Puerto Rico
previously published 4/4/13

Free your wardrobe and the rest will follow!

laurena1I have a confession: I hate wearing suits. This is one of the things that makes me most anxious about interviews (well, that list is pretty long, truthfully). Anytime I have an interview I go back and forth about wearing my (only) suit. It’s a nice suit, don’t get me wrong. I have a skirt and pants to go with the jacket so it can be versatile when it comes to the crazy weather changes happening in Michigan. Other reasons I’ve caved to buying and wearing a suit is that most of my colleagues say to wear one to every interview. Since I’ve interviewed at academic libraries, public libraries, and special libraries, it did take the guesswork out of the wardrobe equation for a while and even made sense for a while. I still never felt completely comfortable in it though. One of my biggest worries about interviewing is appearing confident, something that wearing my suit never truly let me do.

Recently, something happened that made me rethink the whole “always wear a suit” thought. I no longer could wear my suit jacket or the pants. They were too big! Which is awesome but then my whole “great, NOW what do I wear?!” anxieties came back.

This is where I decided to throw caution into the wind and become anti-suit. I should also mention that I’m not a huge fan of button-down shirts, either. They just aren’t my style. So after looking at sites like Librarian Wardrobe: http://librarianwardrobe.com/ and Librarian Hire Fashion: http://librarianhirefashion.tumblr.com/, I felt more secure in my decision to not wear a suit. I even asked a friend who is also interviewing for library jobs what she suggested. So my new interviewing outfit would be… *drum roll*… a sensible shirt and cardigan over my (still-fitting) suit skirt! I know, I know, so basic, right? For me, it felt like freedom. The freedom to no longer worry about whether I looked confident or not, the freedom to show off my personality a little more, and, most importantly, the freedom to be comfortable yet presentable at interviews. Since the interview happened recently, I can’t say for certain if my plan worked (I’m now in the “waiting to hear back” phase) or not. I can say that I FELT better. I didn’t feel as though I was play-acting at a different, suit-wearing Lauren that only existed for certain occasions. I was my actual, professional self.

So while many people may recommend you wear a suit to the interview, know that you don’t have to if you don’t feel comfortable (and if you to, hey, great! Suit up!). There is no specific interview uniform; something I thought existed for a long time. I have decided it’s more important to be truer to you than look some kind of part.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ.com. INALJ has had over 18.5 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 & 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro. She presents whenever she can, most recently thrice at the American Library Association's Annual Conference as well as breakout talk presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa and as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting, at the National Press Club, McGill University, the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has relocated to being nomadic. She runs her husband’s moving labor website, KhanMoving.com, fixes and sells old houses and assists her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food as well. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 

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  3 comments for “Free your wardrobe and the rest will follow!

  1. May 27, 2014 at 11:41 am

    I hate suits and always feel uncomfortable in them. Maybe I’d feel differently if suits were actually flattering on me, but they never are. The next time I interview, I shall wear a skirt and blouse ensemble instead.

  2. INALJ Canada
    May 26, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Lauren, you and I are on the exact same wavelength (fellow Lauren here :)). I am incredibly uncomfortable in suits, jackets or any kind really, and I am not a big fan of button downs either. That level of uncomfortableness always came out in my interviews! Unlike you though I am also incredibly uncomfortable in skirts, the one skirt I own is a floor length one and I have worn it to interviews (in fact that was what I was wearing when I got my last job!).

    Like you I veer towards sensible shirt and a very nice, fancy/dressy black cardigan that I found. You know what’s a good substitute for a cardi in the warmer months?! A really nice looking vest. I want more vests, I like vests. Since moving away from the suit look I am much more comfortable in interviews and that shows!

    Lauren, INALJ Ontario Head Editor

  3. Keelay
    August 6, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I, too, feel uncomfortable in a suit. I feel like a kid playing dress up in my mom’s clothes. Probably not the best feeling to have when going into an interview, so I think I will take your advice and wear something sensible and comfortable and professional that’s not a suit to my next interview! Thanks for the post =)

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