3 beginner rules for dressing for success in the workplace

You’ve done it! You’ve actually done it! You’ve made it through all the semesters, the mid terms, final exams, group projects, you may have had a part time or even full time job while completing school, and here you are, ready to head out into the workforce. You send out your resume, get a call back saying they’re interested, they check in with your references and it’s all looking good. They call you up for an interview at the head office… and it dawns on you… what am I going to wear?

After 4 years of showing up to class in sweat pants, gym clothes, and a raggedy backpack, you, as a working professional are now responsible for not only the new job you’ve acquired but how you appear to your managers and fellow coworkers. What kind of impression will you make?

Nowadays with the presence of social media it is no surprise that “appearance” is ranked second among most the most important qualities that define professionalism.* Why is this so? Because in this day and age, every company is trying to appeal to the masses by gaining followers, likes, comments, and positive publicity. Companies are thinking of all the possible ways you can be a part of their brand, and ultimately make the company more appealing to outsiders.

To get you started, here are 3 quick rules for dressing in the workplace for the absolute beginner.

  1. Know your environment.

The best way to gauge the office dress code is to look to others around you. How are most of the associates dressed? Is it extremely sleek and well tailored office clothes, shirt and tie, pencil skirt, blouse and heels or is it a more relaxed environment with relaxed fitting clothes, but still respectable, like khakis and a loose fitting button shirt. Maybe you work for a very fashion forward company that encourages creativity and dressing “out of the box”. Whatever your office environment, take note as to what the upper levels of management are wearing, this is a good indicator to what the standard is for the workplace.

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  1. Attract the right kind of attention and keep it modest

So you love Disney, and your Mickey Mouse shirt is your absolute favourite thing in your wardrobe. Does this mean you should wear it tomorrow to work? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong I love Disney as much as any wannabe princess but if it attracts attention in a way that does not have to do with your professional performance then it’s not a good fit for your 9-5. Choose clothing that will allow your professional performance to stand out first, and if they happen to like the shoes as well that’s a bonus.

Modesty is most definitely a virtue in the workplace, “nothing undermines how you are perceived in a business as leaving nothing to the imagination”* says Chris Hauri, founder of Mirror Image, an image consulting firm based in Chicago.

I would instill these three basic rules:

  • If you would wear it to the beach, do not wear it to work.
  • If you would wear it to the nightclub, do not wear it to work.
  • If you would wear it to the gym, do not wear it to work.

The clothes you would wear in any of these three settings are unlikely options when dressing for work. My suggestion is to have a separate physical space in your closet for your work clothes, and clothes you can wear for your recreational activities.

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  1. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

We lead busy lives and so it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day routine without really thinking of the future, and yet, a lot of us are waiting for that big raise or promotion and wanting that added responsibility that comes with a better title. Whether you’re starting out or feeling stuck where you’re at, one way we can change the way we are perceived at work is by putting a little extra time into our appearance. It doesn’t get any simpler than thinking, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. By taking that extra time to plan out an outfit and investing in some important wardrobe pieces, it’ll boost your confidence in the office, and confidence never goes out of style 😉

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*Hering, B. B. (2011, September 20). 10 commandments of dressing for work. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/16/living/workplace-professional-dress-cb/index.html

If you had to choose one important accessory or clothing item to wear to work that makes you appear professional, what would it be?

Let me know what you think in the comments section below.


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