BreakThru Learning: Professionalism with Attire and Online Meetings

Learner Series

Professional Attire & Online Meetings

Table of Contents

Why is Professional Attire So Important?

Sometimes you only have ONE shot to make an impression, and you need to make that shot count. If you mess it up it could be hard to come back, it'll be especially hard if you mess it up because you were careless!

First Impressions Matter. Make sure you take the time to make them as perfect as possible. You may be an absolutely wonderful person, but if you mess up your chance to make that first impression - you won’t get a chance to make a second one.

Business Casual to Stroller Suit is Appropriate
Unless you're trying to look like a lunatic...

Clothing and Perception

A lot of what you’re about to embark on is all about perception. You should always be mindful of the question "Do people perceive me as a serious candidate?"

Think of how a patient envisions what a physician looks like. Is it put together or disheveled? Does the physician's appearance inspire confidence in the patient? Also keep in mind that good looking clothing is not always the same thing as appropriate and professional clothing.

Sure, we're taught not to judge a book by its cover and that's true. Yet, it's second nature for people to make judgements about you from the first moment they see you. That includes your future patients.

Research on First Impressions: A recent study showed that people start making first impressions within 33ms (milliseconds!) of seeing a person! Now consider your first meeting with admissions or faculty. Within a fraction of a second they've already made a judgement about YOU the premedical student! Now this research was looking at facial expressions, but you should consider this a lesson for everything else too!

Don't set yourself up to be a position where instead of working to reinforce a good first impression, you're instead working to reverse a poor one.

What is Professional Attire?: This graphic illustrates the components of your standard business professional vs business casual attire. For a great article on professional attire check out The Balance link below! Just keep in mind, with any interactions with medical schools play it safe and go business formal - unless they explicitly say otherwise!!

The Professional Clothing Perception Test

There is a simple way to test your clothing choice:

If you said YES to all three, congrats you should have a professional outfit.

Professionalism & Online Meetings

Due to COVID-19 we’ve seen a necessary shift from in-person meetings to online meetings. A lot of people let their guards down when doing online meetings, but they do this to their own detriment. Don't be that person!

So how do you present yourself professionally when in an online meeting? We’ll go over some key tips.

Pro-Tip For Life: Always wear pants

Some Dress and Online tips you Need to know

02. DO

Organize Your Space Behind You

Be strategic and showcase your particular talents, character, and interests. Display awards, books, trophies, photos that will impress the other people on the meeting.

Bonus Tip: Make sure your ‘video off’ button has a good, professional, picture of yourself!

05. DON'T

Dress Causally

Online does not mean informal. All of the rules we just reviewed for professional clothing apply 100% to online meetings.

It may be tempting to not dress up as much, because you’re at home - but resist that temptation! Wear a tie, wear a dress shirt, wear your suit jacket. Put in the full effort.

Also! While it wasn’t mentioned in the professional dress section above, but no sunglasses, hats, extreme jewelry, etc. should be worn during online meetings.

06. DO

Use Appropriate Settings

For instance, Zoom has a nice filter that very subtly touches up your appearance on the video. It’s a nice option especially if you have a fuzzy picture due to a poor connection.​

01. Avoid

Virtual Backgrounds

Especially avoid unrealistic, distasteful, or bizarre backgrounds. No one believes you are on the beach in Boca... and you just look kind of dopey with it on. While such backgrounds may be ok for a work or a casual meeting, it’s not good for more serious meetings. If you absolutely have to use a virtual background, use one that looks realistic.

Bonus Tip: Make sure your ‘video off’ screen has a good, professional, picture of yourself!


Using Your Phone or a Cheap Camera!

Unless your plan is to make everyone sea sick try not to use your phone for formal meetings.

While the person interviewing you might be on their phone, remember they may be an incredibly busy physician, between patients in their office, or responding to a medical emergency. You however, should always be on a steady camera, with a well-centered shot, and not broadcasting via your phone, unless you absolutely have no other choice!

Also: Don't wait until the last minute to buy a webcam! They're sold out in lots of locations due to COVID. Make sure you get yours well in advance.

04. DO

Get a Good Reliable Camera

Like we said above, if you use a cheap built-in camera or wait until the last minute to buy a camera you may put yourself in a bad position where you need to use you phone. Instead get a good reliable camera to make your meeting a success! We like the one linked below!

07. DON'T

Go Overboard with Filters

Be careful with those filters. It’s not the time to get creative or goofy with your filter settings. If you look like a sparkly-eyed pixie person on zoom, you're going to leave a bad impression.

In Conclusion

We saw a big shift in how the world conducts meetings with COVID-19. It’s a safe bet that you can plan for many future online meetings, open houses, interviews etc. 

Even when things get back to normal, all this investment and development into video conferencing infrastructure and training will still be used. 

Then, on the other side of the tunnel, hospitals are expecting and developing more telemedical options for patients.

It’s important that you know how to present yourself appropriately and with confidence during both in person and online meetings.

The Path to Medical school can feel long and unclear

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