photodune-426100-professional-woman-mHow do You Look?

The process of constructing a professional identity through clothing is complicated by the flexible standards of workplace attire for teachers and education professionals.

Professionalism in education requires the demonstration of knowledge and competency in a variety of domains.

In addition to the competencies outlined by education organizations, unwritten standards for professionalism exist within the field. Learning to comply with these covert expectations plays a role in the development of teachers’ professional identities and may pose a unique challenge for new teachers who may be transitioning between schools and acclimating to a new building culture. Such unwritten standards vary by school and functional area.

Appropriate dress should:

• be professional, yet not so formal as to create barriers between educators and students;

• not emphasize economic differences between the educators and students; allow educators to complete all practical aspects of their position;

• demonstrate core professional values; and

• not draw attention to the individual as a sexual object.

Professional dress influences student perception of, satisfaction with, and respect for teachers.

The flexibility of workplace attire in student affairs allows for individuals to use clothing to express personal and professional identity, so it is essential that professionals engage in thoughtful consideration of what their clothing communicates to those with whom they interact.

As you head out the door for that next important interview, don’t forget to pack one of the most powerful business tools available – professionalism. Your professional identity and your people skills can make the difference between an adequate performance and one that will launch you to the next level of the hiring process.

Your attitude and behavior toward others are as important as your resume, experience, training and technical abilities. Too many job candidates spend more time worrying about the margins on their resume than their manners, and they fail to realize that employers are selecting indivduals who have not only job-related experience, but who they believe will be a good fit in their business family.

5 Quick Tips on Etiquette and the Interview

  1.  No do-overs in first impressions.
  2. Avoid wardrobe malfunctions.
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of a smile.
  4. Be aware of your body language.
  5. Master the art of meet-and-greet.


WAFA HOZIEN, PH.D. has served in numerous roles for over 20 years in PK12 education. Presently she teaches graduate students in the Educational Leadership Department at Central Michigan University. She researches on issues affecting educational equity, practices and opportunity, including curriculum and assessment with a focus on minority student experiences in public schools. Dr. Hozien can be reached at: