They say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have… But that doesn’t mean you should turn up to your new job interview dressed as Batman. Whether we like it or not, however well we perform at work, however consistently we smash our targets, we are being judged on our appearance in the workplace.
It’s nobody’s fault, it’s human nature to be superficial. The human race has evolved by making snap judgements based on appearance. It’s what has taught us which foods are safe to eat, which animals to stay away from as well as which people can be trusted and which will steal all our food. That’s not to say people at work are looking to steal your food (although from the passive aggressive notes often found on staff room refrigerators, they may believe you might eat theirs).
The fact remains that, for better or for worse, your appearance will play a big part in how your colleagues and higher ups will perceive you. Some workplaces have prescriptive dress codes, others are far looser and in these circumstances it can be difficult to dress optimally. Here are some ways in which you can ensure you do it right…
Look around you
Loom at what your colleagues (and, more importantly your managers) are wearing. You don’t have to parrot their look (how embarrassing would it be if you both turned up to work wearing the exact same thing), but it’s helpful to gauge the expectations of the workplace. Different employers draw the line in different places, and while your employer might not have an explicit dress code, it might be implicit in what other people are wearing. If you’re the only one wearing jeans, for example, it might be worth checking out Dickies work pants for something more appropriate. If you’re the only one not wearing a tie, it might be worth wearing one, even if everyone’s too polite to say anything to you.
Sure, what you wear is important, but how well it fits matters just as much. If you’re wearing clothes that are slightly too big it can make clean, neat lines look messy and lend your look a saggy quality. However immaculate your posture, it can make you look slovenly. Likewise, when your clothes are slightly too small it will not only look unflattering but subliminally imply that you’re ill fitted to your job.
Buy a bag
Whatever your age or gender, you should invest in a good brief case or messenger bag for your work and personal items. The last thing you want is to go around the workplace with over stuffed pockets or to have your desk littered with personal effects. Avoid backpacks! Employers tend to frown on these as they are too collegiate in their appearance.
Pay attention to your shoes
You can wear a razor sharp suit with a pressed dress shirt. You can be immaculately groomed and smelling exquisite… But nothing will compromise your appearance more than bad shoes. Inappropriate, scuffed, damaged or unpolished shoes will make you look slovenly and unprofessional. Make sure you wear an appropriate, well polished shoe.
By adhering to these simple principles you’ll not only look great and professional at work, you’ll fit in well and increase your chances of gaining the attention of management.