The International Students For Liberty Conference is coming up. It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet student leaders and professionals who are excited about the ideas of freedom, and discover opportunities to get involved in promoting a free society.
You could meet the internship coordinator for your favorite organization, your future employer, or even a professional mentor.
So don’t you want to make a good impression?
I’ve attended ISFLC several times over the years, as both a student and a representative of Learn Liberty, and I’ve learned quite a bit about making good impressions. Below are 7 key mistakes I’ve seen over the years, and how to avoid them.
1. Not adhering to the dress code.
The dress code for this year’s ISFLC is less strict than the business professional attire of previous conferences, but that doesn’t mean you should pull out your jeans and sneakers.
The old advice to “dress for the job you want” applies here. If you’re hoping to make connections with potential employers or professional mentors, you should dress accordingly.
Breaking the dress code can have repercussions, too. Like employers will throw out resumes and cover letters that don’t follow application instructions, organizations you might like to intern or even work for may disqualify you if they think you’re someone who can’t follow rules—even if those rules are just the dress code.
2. Not packing warm clothes.
Every year I see people shivering without coats when they leave the conference area to get food or go out in the evenings. I’m guessing that people from out of town might think that because D.C. is right next to Virginia, and Virginia is “in the South,” it won’t be cold in February.
It is very cold in D.C. in February. Average temperatures range in the 30s and 40s, and it has actually snowed during ISFLC before. While you don’t need to pack your snow boots, you’ll want to bring a good coat and some warm layers.
3. Not bringing appropriate footwear.
A common mistake attendees will make is wearing uncomfortable shoes, whether that means too-high heels or ill-fitting dress shoes. I made this mistake at ISFLC as a student, and actually left the conference briefly in order to buy myself a cheap pair of flats from a nearby H&M.
Remember that you’ll be standing and walking around for much of your time at the conference. You’ll be much more comfortable in professional, but sensible shoes.
4. Not ironing your clothes.
It’s not a secret that most college students are low on funds. While a perfectly tailored suit will make you look your best, it might not be in your budget. But you know what’s within everyone’s budget?
Taking 15 minutes to iron your clothes. Even if your suit (or blazer, or whatever you choose to wear) doesn’t fit perfectly, it’ll look much more professional if it’s tidily pressed. Likewise, the most well-fitting suit will still look sloppy if it’s wrinkled.
5. Failing to snip the threads on your new suit.
If you’ve purchased a new suit, you may not have noticed small, X-shaped white stitches holding together the vents on your jacket, or the slit on your skirt. Remove them.
These stitches help stores prevent creases and allow for easy pressing, but they’re meant to be cut before you wear your suit.
6. Wearing a hat.
Wearing a hat indoors is generally frowned upon, but the real problem with hats is that the cheap ones are “one size,” and that size is too small. If you absolutely insist on wearing a fedora or some other hat, invest in a high-quality one which fits your head well. (But keep in mind the impression you’re making; see #1.)
7. Not wearing your name tag.
This is the biggest mistake an attendee can make. Avoiding the six mistakes above can help you make a good impression, but if you forget your name tag, you may not make an impression at all.
You’ll meet a lot of people throughout the weekend. So will everyone else. By wearing your name tag, you’ll help people remember your name, and ensure you make a lasting impression on people who might one day become your colleagues or employers.