How to dress for professionally
Sharon Napier, chief executive of Partners + Napier, a Rochester, N.Y., advertising company, recently called two interns into her office. She told them outright to go home to change what they’d worn to work. “I [said to] them, ‘I’m not making judgments about your fashion choices, but you need to look professional if you want your talents to be recognized. I can’t put you in front of clients the way you’re dressed now.” She advised the interns to look at what the supervisors at her firm were wearing before they went home, so they’d know how to alter their appearances.
“It was easier when the suit was the business uniform because everyone knew what it looked like.”
“For instance, I’ve had law firms and major accounting firms call me and say, ‘Can you work with So-and-So? He’s not going to make partner until he starts looking like one,’” she says.
There’s a reason for that: “We’d all love to believe appearances don’t matter, but the reality is, packaging counts. What you wear is part of your overall personal brand, your professional image. If you want to move up in your career at almost any big company, you have to look the part. The old adage ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ is still true.”
In other words, if your boss and other higher-ups aren’t coming to work dressed like you, you and your colleagues might want to take the hint. And as for what Mark Zuckerberg wears, unless your coworkers also happen to be self-made billionaires, how relevant is that?
Your coworkers who think clothes don’t matter might want to consider a couple of further thoughts. First, Rothman notes that advancing a career these days depends in large part on networking. So “even if you believe that the quality of your work should speak for itself, what about the way you come across to people who aren’t yet familiar with how good your work is?” she says. “If you’re going to networking events, people there are forming first impressions of you based in part on how professional you look.” Until they’ve gotten to know you, they have little else to go on, so it’s smart to make sure your style isn’t getting in the way. It can be hard to command attention and respect when you look as if you just don’t care.
Whenever you get promoted, your attire should be promoted as well — NO exceptions.
For women, never, ever wear revealing clothes at work. Even if you look fantastic in them, you won’t be taken seriously.
In general, the younger you are, the more conservatively you should dress. As you get more established in your career, you can add a bit more flair to your wardrobe because you have more gravitas. In your early years, your wardrobe should be professionally nondescript.
Anything connected to work counts as work: plane rides, retreats, office happy hours or parties, etc. The workplace rules still apply.
Finally, different audiences require different attire. Dress similarly to the group in front of you. If you don’t know them well, dress more formally.
About Rachel Thomson
I am a part of the Internet Marketing team at Waterfront Properties & Club Communities , a family-owned business. I started working here in high school doing search engine optimization, and now after college I am back doing it full time. Along with SEO, I currently work on advertising, marketing, and social media projects.