Few of us can argue with the concept of dressing for success. In fact, just hearing the words creates a picture of what you define as professional. For many of us, these visualizations are the result of movies, TV and magazines, which often supply highly stylized examples of what someone should or should not look like in the work world. Unfortunately, these examples often require a stylist or upper-end salary to create the so-called perfect look.
A Dose of Reality
While many of us desire to emulate this polished look of success, it’s often not realistic in budget or even what’s needed in the modern workplace. Defining a personal dress-for-success look can also depend on where you’re at in your career or the level of professionalism you want to project.
For new graduates and those re-entering the career world, it can be difficult to know the workplace rules. Plus, each has slightly different dress-for-success suggestions that often aren’t obvious until you become immersed in the environment. After all, you can only know what you know.
Erring on the Side of Professionalism
When it comes time to interview, always choose to look professional, even if you’re not sure the environment requires it. Arriving at an interview is the first time a prospective employer sees you in person. Being invited to interview means the employer already believes you have the skills to do the job. Now, it’s up to you to demonstrate why.
Wearing professional clothing conveys you’re serious about making a good first impression and you respect the employer and the work they do. Coming in looking sloppy or unkempt conveys a lack of self-respect, which can translate into a lack of desire to represent the employer well.
Dress Codes Beyond the Interview
If the interview goes well and there’s an offer, this can create a moment of anxiety in an otherwise exciting time. How do you dress for day-to-day work? If you have an opportunity to walk around the workplace during the interview process, observe what people wear. If you do not have this option, ask the advice of the staffing professional, hiring manager or HR representative. This is never a stupid question. On the contrary, it sends a positive message you care about professionalism and want to represent your new employer well.
Taking a Seasonal Approach
Once you’ve got the basics, understand acceptable workplace attire evolves with the seasons. When the temperatures rise, it’s natural to turn toward a wardrobe of casual clothing, and some workplaces adopt a more relaxed dress code during this time. Always keep in mind, relaxed never translates into inappropriate or sloppy.
Unless otherwise stated, avoid wearing shorts, maxi and sun dresses, jumpsuits, t-shirts, crop tops or sleeveless tops with thin straps, or flip flops to the workplace. Remember, each workplace is different and depending on an employee’s role with the public, the dress code may be stricter or more relaxed. State and federal laws can also influence dress codes. If you doubt something is appropriate, ask a trusted peer or manager. Otherwise, let your skills and personality lead and leave the risky fashion to after-hours.