I am very happy to report that I have found a great new job, still in science, but away from the bench - it is an office job. I am starting in three weeks and am super excited.
The position is starting at one level below the one at which I would like to end up eventually, and most of the people I will be working with are at that level above, all science PhDs. Therefore, it is extremely important to me to leave good impression, especially the first one, and present myself well. I will be the most junior person among all the other PhDs in that office, and among the youngest ones, as well. The office has pretty even gender distribution, perhaps 60% men and 40 women; and about three age groups: the youngest (mid-to-late 30s to mid 40s), the middle (50s - 60s) and a couple of people that are about to retire soon. The official dress code is business casual, but the exact interpretation is unclear at this point. Business casual can mean many different things in different settings.
In a couple of in-person interactions I have had so far with my future office most women wore an outfit combo of blazer+blouse+dress pants + dressier shoes; and at an important high-level council meeting a lot of women were in (sheath) dresses plus a topper and men in suits. At a house party of my future boss that I attended last night, a woman from the department mentioned that nice jeans should probably be OK, but I am quite determined to avoid them for the time being other than on casual Fridays till I have a better feel of the office culture. I have not seen any of the women wear jeans so far to work.
So, it is almost fitting that a few months before my 40th birthday I need to seriously change the way I dress to no jeans anymore, which is going to be a huge change for me. My mother said that I finally start dressing like a grownup I am lucky that I have large wardrobe and enough non-jeans bottoms to get me by for a couple of first weeks, but my wardrobe was definitely build on jeans and things that go well with jeans. So, there will be a lot of shopping for dressier clothes in a near future and building of nice business casual wardrobe. I am pretty certain that I want to focus on nice high quality blazers and shoes. I'd like to dress in a mix of modern classic and trendy pieces, and the best description I have found so far is "quietly trendy" - people who follow fashion would notice some current fashionable elements, but people who don't wouldn't notice anything out of the norm. I will dress conservatively and safely in my first few weeks till I observe how the office interprets business casual: are jeans really worn and how often, how often do the women wear skirts&dresses, are items such as peep-toed footwear and sleeveless considered acceptable etc.
I will be posting a lot in the near future on various aspects of this switch to business casual and analyze various aspects of it ( from figuring out the best lengths of blazers and skirts on me to figuring out what exactly I want to say with my clothes and which type of clothes would convey that message the best). NAS will start a couple of weeks after I start my new job and that will be a perfect opportunity to jump-start my new business casual wardrobe.