Match your shoes to your hem-line, always wear panty-hose, if you wear a little make-up it gives the impression that you pay attention to details . . . As a feminist, much of this seems offensive; however, working in a profession where I advise young people on how to present themselves in a professional manor, I know that these things are important.
It is not that how you look is more important than what you think and do, of course not. BUT, if what you wear draws too much attention, then others will be more focussed on the fact that you are not dressed appropriately and less focussed on what you have to say. Thus, spending some time thinking about what you are going to wear and what is appropriate is a way of ensuring that the emphasis is on you as a professional and not on your appearance. Furthermore, how you dress is not only about you. In fact, it says more about what you think of others. If you dress professionally it says “I respect you and this company.” How you dress is a part of your personal brand, but it also contributes to your company’s image. You are an important part of the corporate brand.
If you still think that these things are merely superficial and really do not matter, then why did the discussion of interns at an on-site visit with a large employer result in a 30 minute conversation about professional dress and how to ensure that students understand the message they are sending. The students thought that because they were not meeting directly with clients and because there were other long-time employees that dressed casually, that it was alright to show up in jeans. How many times has your mother asked you “if others were jumping off a bridge would you do it too?” Just because others do it, does not mean it is a good idea. Perhaps the reason why they have been in the same department for 30 years is a pretty good indication of how that un-professional image is working out for them.
You want your clothes to match your goals. If you want to be taken seriously, to be thought of as an intelligent professional with leadership potential then how should you dress? Regardless of whether you are in a role that meets directly with clients, you want to present yourself well. After-all, your colleagues, your boss and your boss’s boss will see you on a daily basis.
A common error, for young people especially, is that they miss-interpret what business casual means. The word casual has them heading in the entirely wrong direction. In fact, business casual is likely a lot more formal than you think. See below for some examples of business casual:
Here are some quick tips from Harris and Barnes Professional Image Consultants:
Business Casual No-no’s
T-shirts and jeans worn together
Shirt tail out
Leggings or stirrups
No hosiery or socks
Image Breakers for Women:
Tight fitting clothes
Exposure of body piercings
Too much cleavage
Over use of make-up
Heavy perfumes or lotions
Bows, excessive florals in garments
Image Breakers for Men:
Overstuffed pant pockets
Un-tidy facial hair
Out dated eyewear
For more tips on how to dress professionally visit: http://www.cpcc.edu/cpcc/learningcollege/core-competencies/dress-for-success-files/barnes_dress_4_handout.pdf