Let’s talk about getting dressed for work. As workplaces (and society in general) have become more casual, it can be hard to determine what is appropriate for the office and what should be saved for your social life. As someone who is chronically over-dressed and prefers skirts to sweats, you may already be hovering near the X at the top of the page. Hang tight and hear me out, please! I’ve previously written about how being well dressed is a form of politeness, but let’s go a little further. How is what you wear (or don’t wear) to work actually hurting your career? You might be surprised.
You’ve heard the old saying “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”, and I’m telling you THIS IS REAL. If you routinely show up for your office job in your rattiest jeans and sweatshirt this does not speak “future management” to your boss. You may be the brightest member of your team but if the people in charge can’t get past your inappropriate outfits, it won’t even matter. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when getting dressed for work:
1. Am I following the company dress code policy?
I’m fairly certain that fewer things in life could be more embarrassing at work than being asked to go home and change by your boss or HR department. And yet in my old corporate job I heard about this happening quite often! If policy bans mini skirts or cleavage, just abide.
2. Would I be comfortable wearing this in front of the CEO?
Maybe there’s no formal dress code, or maybe the rules don’t seem to be enforced. Think about this: The CEO of your company happens to be in town and stops by your office to meet all the employees. Are you frantically pulling your top up, your skirt down or scrambling for a jacket?
3. Am I portraying the image I would like?
I’ve heard of several instances lately of how people were passed over for promotions and jobs based solely on how they dressed. Here’s the deal, what you wear tells people who you are. Tell me how the outside doesn’t matter and that inner beauty and strength are all that should be considered. I’ll tell you that while I wish this were the case, it is not. How you present yourself to the world is what society has to go on. There’s not always time for heart-to-heart chats and instead you’re left with a 15 second physical impression. Does this mean power suits everyday? No, but it does mean you need to think about what you wear!
4. Do my clothes fit (and flatter)?
You might be the most conservative member of your work team. That’s all well and good, but if your clothing doesn’t fit and flatter, you’re not doing yourself any favors. If you want to be seen as capable and confident at work that means looking the part. Baggy pants and tops do not make you look disciplined and professional, they make you look disheveled. And that’s not how you want management to view you!
5. Am I too casual for Casual Friday?
Casual Fridays have been the trend in recent years and while I think the intentions were good, many people don’t quite know how to partake correctly. If general office dress Monday-Thursday is business professional, this does not equal sweats and tank tops on Friday. If jeans are allowed, keep them dark and not too trendy (leave the super flares and super skinnies at home) and paired with a nice top. A blazer always works too!
If you want to be taken seriously at work, you need to realize that your wardrobe plays a really big part! Whether your’re looking to move up the corporate ladder, be respected more by your peers or just generally leave a good impression, what you wear to work needs to be something that is thoughtfully considered.
Originally published March 31, 2016