Grease Rag friend Melody H. writes about biking to a professional interview. Great tips, and a helpful checklist at the end. Thank you, Melody!
Last week, I biked to a professional interview. I chose this method of transportation over driving or taking mass transit. Despite some wardrobe challenges, the predictability of biking to my destination was worth the trade-off of not arriving in my interview outfit. On my bike I did not have to worry about traffic, finding parking, or being stressed out about a potentially slow and behind-schedule light rail. I chose not to bike in my interview outfit because it was a tight-fitted dress and a bit too warm for the lovely sunny summer day. In the end, I am happy with my decision to bike and even with some unique logistics, I arrived with plenty of time to change and relax before my interview. Here is how I did it.
I planned to leave my house 5 minutes earlier than I normally would to bike to my destination (about 4 miles away). Planning to arrive 30 minutes before my interview I knew that even if my bike broke down it would leave me plenty of time to hop a bus or walk the remaining way to the location. I had no problems riding over and arrived, as planned, 30 minutes early. Before I left for the interview, I went online and scouted out the building the interview was in and found a near-by building to change and relax. I chose not to change in the building my interview was in because I did not want to, on the off-chance, run into the interviewers. If there was not a near-by building I would have opted to change on a different floor than the interview.
My biking outfit and “changing room”
What to Bring
To bike over, I wore a baggy t-shirt, padded capri pants, and canvas shoes. I tied my hair back to minimize sweating. I knew cooling down after the ride would be my biggest challenge and dressed for that challenge. I brought a pannier bag filled with the following:
My interview “purse” (I had to buy this a year ago because all my bags are meant for biking. Whoops!)
Interview clothes (I packed the dress last, folding it loosely and carefully over all the other items and in a thick plastic bag)
Small water bottle (to fit in my purse)
Trail mix (I get hungry after I ride and did not want to feel drained from a lack of calories!)
The bandana proved to be the best thing I brought. After biking in the sun I went into a stuffy bathroom to change. I had to cover up my tattoos (my choice) so I had a hard time cooling down in tights and a dress. I used the bandana to wipe off sweat and put cold water on it in a continued effort cool me down after I changed. Next time I think I will sit and cool down before I put on my interview outfit. I was so anxious about being ready in time that I wanted to just get the change over with. I was able to shower right before I left for the interview which made me feel fresh and clean despite some sweating. You are not supposed to wear perfumes to interviews, so I put trust in my soap and deodorant to carry me through. After I changed, I sat in that building’s lobby and drank water, patted off sweat, and chewed on some cashews. I was changed in less than 10 minutes and took 15 minutes to center myself. I do not wear make-up, but if I did, a few minutes before the interview would be when I’d apply it. Sweat + make-up = no bueno.
Tada! Interview time! (cardigan left off to cool down)
Ditching My Bike Stuff
The other logistical question I pondered was what to do with my pannier bag and bike clothes during the interview. I chose to leave the bag, with my clothes and helmet inside, on my bike. I did not want to be lugging two bags, especially because I had my fancy interview purse. It did not seem entirely professional to be dragging my bike gear into an interview. So I had to put trust in my fellow humans to not mess with my bag or its contents during my hour-long interview. With that said, biking is seen as “cool” in many professional circles around here and I doubt the interviewers would have looked down upon me for bringing my bike gear in. In fact, it probably would have been an interesting ice breaker. I am extra lucky because a lot of my professional work is based in bicycling so I would not be surprised if people assumed I would be biking and bringing in my helmet. But, this was not a “bike job” so I tried to be as professional as possible. Which meant leaving the sweaty clothes and bag on my bike.
The interview went well. By the time the interview started I was cooled-off and no one would have guessed I had biked over in padded pants and a baggy shirt. After the interview I went back to the near-by building and quickly changed into my comfy bike outfit. I was slightly concerned an interviewer would see me biking away in my casual attire, but perhaps my Superman-esque disguise made me blend in with the rest of the people in the area as I biked home.
If your interview or professional meeting is in biking distance I highly recommend biking. This is mostly because it is a low-stress mode of transportation. People are rarely late from biking but often late due to traffic, parking headaches, or a missed bus. Depending on what you want to wear and the weather, you may need to plan some time to change. But it is worth calmly changing in a bathroom stall rather than frantically staring at the clock watching the minutes tick by and the rows of cars not moving or the parking lot flash its “Full” sign.
Biking to an Interview Check List
1. Find the location of your interview and map a bike-friendly route. If you are unfamiliar with the location, ride to the location at least once before you interview. Scope out near-by buildings to change (perhaps a café?) and a place to lock up your bike. Make sure the building will be open at the time of your interview.
2. Figure out if you can ride in your outfit. Can you wear half the outfit there to minimize changing? Some people like to change their top when they arrive. If you need to do a full change, make sure you remember all parts of your outfit and wear something comfortable for your ride.
3. What are you going to do with your bike related gear when you get to your interview? Can you leave it on your bike? Is it in a location with lockers? Do you feel comfortable bringing it with you? Perhaps you can leave it with the office assistant. Remember, people are often impressed with bike commuters so do not feel ashamed of your transportation choice! The interviewers may be impressed with such a “daring” choice (although we know it isn’t all that daring).
4. Give yourself PLENTY of time to change, regulate your body temperature, and relax. This is good advice no matter what form of transit you take, but you are already choosing the low-stress mode of biking so no need to add stress by being late. You may also want to see if there are bus routes along your route in case you get a flat. Bring the interviewer’s phone number in the rare case of a bike malfunction or accident.
5. Feel proud and happy that you rode to your interview! How lucky are you that you get to enjoy a ride before and after a pretty stressful event?! Reward yourself with an iced tea or coffee when you are done. You deserve it!