It’s that time of year; the air is getting warmer, the birds are singing in the trees and the school year is coming to an end. That can only mean one thing for a postbac; it’s time to find an interview suit.

As we reach the end of our program, our program director is trying to get us geared up for the next big step in the process; applying to medical school. This means applications, personal statements and, of course, medical school interviews. And one major part of the medical school interview is the impression of professionalism, hence the need for a suit.

I went suit shopping once before, shortly after I graduated from college. The idea was that I would be applying for “real” jobs (aka not waitressing) and I would need a suit for interviews. The attempt was a resounding failure; I ended up with one mediocre blazer and a “business casual” top that I wore to two interviews before monetary needs pushed me back toward the restaurant business. I was sort of vaguely aware that at some point I would need to acquire some professional attire on my way to becoming a physician, but it hadn’t been a major source of concern when I started the postbac.

At some point during the summer, a group of us were sitting around a table battling with chemistry problems, and two of the girls started chatting about their interview suits. The conversation was a friendly distraction from the homework assignment, sandwiched between a discussion of dream vacations and what activities were going on that weekend. I was mulling over a particularly troublesome bit of mathematics, only half listening. They debated the acceptable size of heels, pants versus skirts, appropriate types of suit materials; a whole host of details that I had never even realized people considered when buying clothes. Bit by bit I found myself worrying less about finishing the nights homework and more about how I was ever going to put together an outfit suitable of fooling an admissions committee into thinking I am a responsible adult.

At some point I think burst out laughing. The two girls turned to me questioningly.

“Do I really have to think about these things?” I blurted. They reassured me that I would certainly be able to find a decent interview outfit even if I didn’t measure out a precise heel size. I was not so sure.

Several months later we had our official class on interviewing dos and don’ts with the program director, who used to be on the admissions committee for our school. Afterward one of the girls asked me if I’d given any thought to my suit.

“Actually,” I said. “I was hoping maybe you could help me pick it out?”

And that was how it started. The suit-shopping extravaganza. The final count was four of us; myself and another fashion challenged girl from the program, and two shopping experts. It would have made a great teen movie has we not all been in our mid-20s. We had a plan of attack; an hour drive to the mall in a neighboring city, and straight to the Macy’s one day sale. We even had a suit rep on the ready to assist us. (I had never heard of a suit rep before. Mentally I pictured a honed expert, full of suggestions and an endless supply of styles to assist us. I was somewhat disappointed by the largely unhelpful, older woman who eventually helped us.)

After Macy’s, where we each put a suit on hold, the group went for lunch and mapped out our plan of attack. Express, Dillard’s, Anne Taylor, Banana, Anne Taylor Loft with short pauses for ice cream and a jewelry store. “Ah,” I thought to myself, “This is how most people must approach shopping.” My own approach had always been a solo excursion aimed for maximum efficiency. During the suit shopping extravaganza, we took our time. The mission was always in mind, but it didn’t stop our intrepid experts from looking our for other, more fun clothing requirements.

On the whole the expedition was a resounding success. By the time we left (to thunder and rain) all four of us had great suits and tops to go with them. Mine, a pin-striped pant suit over a light blue blouse, was the first suit I’ve ever worn that made me feel more like a professional that a kid playing dress up. I was so excited, I tried to schedule my mock interview right away. I’m at the back of the queue–the interview isn’t until next week–but I did get to wear it for my first job interview yesterday. If I don’t get the position, at least it won’t be my clothes that are to blame.

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