For the final part in College Fashion's How To Dress Professionally series, we're going to talk about what you should wear to professional and casual networking events.
What's funny is that these events are almost trickier to dress for than a normal day at the office, because what you wear has a big impact on how people perceive you. As always, it's really important to make the right impression and to look the part!
Don't worry though, as long as you follow the tips below, getting dressed for networking events will be no trouble at all! Here are some guidelines on what to wear and what not to wear.
Networking Dress Basics
In general, you can expect to wear business casual to most networking events, unless your boss specifically tells you to wear a different dress code.
You can also expect to see people dressed slightly more fashion-forwardly than you would in the office. This is a time when you can have a little more fun with your clothes and put some more personality into your outfit. This is a time for you to showcase your fashion style and let your outfits do the talking for you.
Sample Networking Event Outfits:
Here are a few ideas for what to wear to a networking event. These are all fairly business casual, although you might want to skip the trendier touches if you work in a particularly conservative industry and want to be on the safe side.
Nothing can go wrong when you wear a button-up and blazer. You'll look the part while also looking fashion forward. The black-and-white color scheme used here is also timeless and foolproof.
It's important to wear professional yet comfortable shoes as well. After all, you don't want to go to a networking event and have people know your feet hurt by the way you walk! So it's important to know that if you opt for heels, make sure you can handle wearing them. If not, flats may be the better option.
A few accessories, like a sleek handbag and simple jewelry, are fine, but don't overdo it.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing dresses and skirts to a networking event as long as they are appropriate and not tight! Remember that your hemlines have to be knee-length.
Unlike the first look, this outfit explores more colors. You can definitely wear color to a networking event as long as you don't overdo it. Adding color shows personality, so it's fine to do so at a networking event.
Other Networking Event Tips:
Almost as important as what you wear to a networking event is how you act. Your attitude says so much about you when you first meet people, so make sure you're feeling good and exuding positive energy.
Here are a few tips to make the best impression possible on the new people you'll meet:
- Smile! This is so important, but so easy to forget! Sometimes when you're nervous it shows on your face, so minimize the nerves before you enter the event. Once you walk in the door, act like you're meeting a bunch of your best friends, and relax as much as you can. You will automatically make yourself look 10x more approachable, attractive, and friendly.
- Check your posture. Stand up straight and make sure you keep your body language open by keeping your arms to your sides and your shoulders back. I know it's tempting to fold your arms, but it makes you look closed off, which is exactly how you don't want to look when networking.
- Mingle. This is a networking event basic. Don't stay in one group all night talking to the same couple of people. The point is to get face time with as many people as you can, so make sure to work the room and get to know lots of different people throughout the night.
In case you missed the other articles in the How To Dress Professionally series, here they are: Business Dress Code Basics, How To Dress For A Job Interview, and What To Wear To Work (Or An Internship).
As always, let me know what you think of this! Would you wear these outfits to a networking event? If not, how would you dress? Hit the link below to post a comment!
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2008; it was completely updated and revamped in 2018 with new photos, outfit sets, and information.