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Taken for Granted: Dressing for success

June 23, 2010|By Pat Grant

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.

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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."

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