Dress for Success
There’s an old saying that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. But even though this saying has been around for a while, that doesn’t make it stale. In fact, it’s highly relevant wisdom for leaders and other professionals who are looking to take their careers to the next level. Why? Like it or not, people make judgments about you based on your brand or image, which includes how you dress. Don’t avoid this issue, saying it’s shallow or doesn’t apply today because to those in the hiring seat, it matters. Learn how others perceive you, specifically how you might be standing out from the crowd for the better—or the worse. Is how you’re dressing supporting or undermining your goals? Dress like your boss’s boss, and you will communicate that you are serious about your career. Overlook this aspect of your branding, and it could become a barrier to your professional development.
Here are three tips tied to dressing for success:
1. Size up your work environment. Next time you’re in the office, visiting a company you want to work for, or attending a meeting with other leaders you admire, check out what they are wearing. Specifically, note what those who are successful do to support their professional brand in a personalized way, or a fashion that communicates their unique personality. Who are the office or industry stars? Chances are, they don’t show up to work in their weekend grubs.
2. Take business casual seriously. Somehow, casual Friday has taken a turn for the worse in many offices nationwide. True, the entire professional culture today has gotten more laid back in many industries, but that’s never been an excuse for looking sloppy. Particularly for leaders, who should be modeling the behavior expected in their organization, casual Friday still needs to uphold certain levels of professionalism. Flip-flops bearing someone’s rotting toenails just don’t go over well no matter how relaxed you want to encourage your people to be! Neither do muscle shirts bearing hairy armpits—unless you happen to run a gym. Casual can be cool, but you still must communicate that you’ve got it together. And dress respectfully. Ask yourself, if your role-model leader or boss waltzed into your office on a random Friday, would you be embarrassed about how you or your staff members are dressed? If so, that’s a sure sign it’s an issue to address.
3. Dress to influence perceptions. People notice when you make an effort to look professional and neat. They also remember if you don’t. To them, how you care about yourself is a reflection of how you will care about your job. It shows how you will project yourself as their company representative, should you ever work for or lead them. Even in your current organization, if you want to be seen as someone’s leader, outfit yourself for that role. True, you may be the only one on your team dressing to a higher standard, so maybe you stick out a bit. But those above you, in the hiring position, will take note, particularly if it’s something that’s required for or could really support the success of that desired job. Dress right, and you can get ahead, separating yourself from the pack in this positive, productive way.
What sort of attire is causing trouble in your workplace—how are you managing it?