Congratulations! You have completed the rigorous academic curriculum, licensing requirements, and internship responsibilities to seize a career in radiology. You joined a professional association such as the American Society of Radiologic Technologists1 (ASRT) and created a top-notch resume. Highly developed interpersonal skills carried you through a job interview with aplomb. As a new employee, it is now time to prepare for orientation. The right apparel can make a big difference in your comfort level and your future.
Why what you wear to orientation matters
"I've already got the job." "I am new – no one expects me to be perfect." "I am here to listen and learn – nobody is going to be looking at me." "It will be a long day, so I want to be comfortable." When you contemplate what to wear for your first official day on the job, these types of justifications may compete for space in your mind. Fight it.
Your first day of orientation is precisely that – your debut in a new role. Yes, being reasonably comfortable will allow you to focus on learning; and yes, most people you meet will be helpful and understanding. Yet a poor impression at this stage can influence the course of your career, so take time to give some thought to why your appearance will matter.
It matters to you. Regardless of how technically proficient you are, orientation is an onslaught of new ideas, rules, places, and faces. Feeling confident about how you look is one less distraction in a potentially stressful day.
It matters to fellow newbies. Depending on the size of the organization, you may be part of a group of new hires proceeding through orientation. In your future of working together, you will look to one another for support and guidance. A professional appearance at this early stage frames you as someone to look up to. That may create opportunities for leadership and advancement in your career.
It matters to the organization. Your supervisor may not pay specific attention to those who blend in by dressing appropriately, but he or she will certainly notice those who stand out with an inappropriate dress. Your group may be introduced to heads of other departments or members of the management team. Your supervisor should feel proud of new additions to the team. Other people from patients to governing boards may also observe portions of your orientation, so your appearance affects the reputation of the facility.
Consider your choices
Your three general options are casual, scrubs, or business casual.
Casual – jeans, shorts, tee-shirt, hoodie, or sneakers – is by far the most dangerous possibility. You are considered a medical professional now, with a persona meant to inspire trust in patients and confidence in coworkers. Unless your orientation materials specifically recommend casual, don't do it. Even if you are told to dress casually by someone such as the Human Resources Director or the recruiter, do so with caution. Consider only neatly pressed jeans, avoiding anything ripped, frayed, distressed, or tight. Skip logo or slogan shirts, and sandals.
Scrubs can be a safe selection but pay heed to the standard (color and style) in your department. Personal grooming, hair, and jewelry should also meet day-to-day dress code. If you go this route, you are essentially saying, “I am now on the job.”
Though not specific to the field of radiology, a 2014 discussion in the AllNurses.com2 forum brought some interesting perspective to the scrubs aspect of dressing for orientation in a medical setting:
- “Scrubs/uniforms are acceptable for those that will be wearing them in their role.”
- “Should there be a need I can go on the floor as an orientee which you cannot do if you're in anything but scrubs. Until told otherwise on exact dress code, no one can fault you for wearing whites."2
- I would say wear scrubs if you are allowed and will be working in a clinical setting. This is what you will most likely have your picture taken with your ID badge, so it is always nice to have a professional picture with your medical uniform on in my opinion.”2
- "You'll be wearing scrubs day in, and day out once orientation is over, so why not have HR and others see that you are a professional capable of dressing appropriately OFF the floor?"2
- “Our instructor told us we could take a break from the hideous all white scrubs since we wouldn't be on the floor at all.”2
It is hard to go wrong with business casual unless (1) you are specifically instructed to dress otherwise, or (2) you do not understand the meaning of the term – and many people do not. A good rule of thumb is that it is better to be overdressed for any business situation than underdressed. According to The Balance Careers, another no-fail rule is "clean, pressed, and fit properly."3
Business casual is subject to many interpretations. It can vary somewhat depending on the field and by gender. However, in the medical arena, you can usually rely on these guidelines:
- Shirt with a collar, tucked in
- Sweater as an extra layer since rooms may be air-conditioned
- Neutral color twill or corduroy slacks/trousers (not cargo pants) – and if they have loops, put a belt in them
- Alternatively, a modest length skirt and tights for women (no bare legs)
- Low-heeled shoes (you may be doing some walking) and socks or hosiery; no open toes3
- Simple accessories
Add to your degree of professionalism with a classy binder or organizer for paperwork and remember to bring an extra pen. Turn your phone ringer off, put the device out of sight, and resist the temptation to check it.
Notice what others are wearing on day one. Keep an open mind and make adjustments for the remainder of orientation, if needed.
Orientation is the first step in many opportunities to advance your career as a radiologic technologist. Don’t waste the opportunity to make the best possible first impression.
- ASRT Mission, Vision, Core Values, Value Propositions, and Commitment to Human Rights American. Society of Radiologic Technologists. https://www.asrt.org/main/about-asrt/mission-vision October 7, 2019.
- What to wear for orientation? AllNurses. https://allnurses.com/what-wear-orientation-t533227/ October 7, 2019.
- What Does Business Casual Attire Mean? The Balance Careers. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-business-casual-attire-2061168 October 7, 2019.