‘Employers, what do you want from us?’

Sue Miller advises students to dress conservatively for job interviews. Photo by Mia Albaugh / The Jambar

By Mia Albaugh

The goal for almost every student after graduation is to enter their field — but the landscape of professionalism is changing.

Jake Protivnak, the graduate program director of the counseling masters program at Youngstown State University, said there are different kinds of expectations in the workplace today compared to when he entered the workforce after college.

“I’ve seen different businesses or work environments relax some of those informal expectations,” Protivnak said. “I don’t necessarily say it’s less professional — it’s just a different type of expectation.”

Respect, inclusiveness and consideration for the perspectives of others are traits Protivnak said are important to have as an employee.

​​Clinical assistant professor of Family and Community Medicine of Northeast Ohio Medical University, Dr. David Bitonte said there are many things that can describe professionalism today.

“Being a professional certainly entails being competent, reliable, compassionate, having a proper demeanor, having a very positive attitude [and] being self-motivated,” Bitonte said.

He has seen a change in what is accepted as a professional appearance throughout his years in the medical field. From medical school into his career, a white coat, collar shirt and tie were a daily must. Today, he said he sees a a mix of casual style elements, even saying ties are phasing out.

When it comes to a professional look, Protivnak said it’s not always best to dress up.

“Someone may think they’re being professional by how they’re dressing themselves, but they’re separating themselves from their customers, their clients or their students,” Protivnak said. “It hinders them from being effective employees because they’re not connecting with their clients, students or customers.”

Sue Miller, a senior academic advisor at YSU, has also noticed a difference in the physical appearance in the workplace.

“Whether you agree with it or not, tattoos. You just did not have a tattoo, and if you did, you were going to cover it up. Now it’s more acceptable in the workplace,” Miller said. “Sometimes it depends on how many tattoos you have, and facial tattoos, it might be off-putting if you are going to be in a professional environment.”

Miller spent 18 years in the business world working in marketing, advertising and communications. She also spent six years working for the English Journal at YSU.

“When you look in on an environment like folks working in California at high tech places, anything goes. I don’t know that that’s true in middle America, here,” Miller said.

His advice for students seeking employment is to dress conservatively during a job interview.

“You only have one time to make a first impression, and I think a lot of folks forget that,” Miller said.

Jeffery Allen, dean of the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services, also said the first impression made in an interview is important.

“Don’t assume that you’re going to be interviewing for a job with someone that is a same-age peer to you,” Allen said. “In many cases, those individuals making the hiring decisions are going to be as much as a generation older than you are.”

Allen also said unprofessional posts on social media can come back to haunt a job-seeker during a job interview.

Bitonte said everyone should be respectful and courteous online, reminding students that anyone can read what you post.

“Some unfortunate folks have gotten themselves in trouble or lost their jobs,” Bitonte said.

Carla Mattiussi, coordinator for career development at YSU, said the major change in the workplace she’s noticed is remote working. She said employees are now working where they are productive.

When seeking a job, Mattiussi said Handshake is a resource for students and recent graduates looking for jobs or internships. She said Handshake levels the playing field as students will compete with peers for entry-level jobs.

Other sites, such as Indeed, have students compete for jobs with people who’ve already been working in that field for years, making it more difficult for them, Mattiussi said.

Advice from Sue Miller, senior academic advisor at YSU, is to dress conservatively for a job interview.