In this blog series, we’ve been talking about your workplace wardrobe and better defining what Business Casual looks like. And you’ve likely heard the saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” That’s a very true statement in most cases. You wouldn’t show up for an interview as a yoga instructor in a full pantsuit and your best stiletto pumps. Just like you wouldn’t show up to an interview for a bank teller position in your yoga pants, sports bra and barefoot, right? Not so fast. These days, there seems to be a lot of confusion on what is and isn’t appropriate for the office, especially when it comes to business casual. And even further, many young professionals do not realize how their clothing choices can impact others’ perception of them.
What’s Your Personal Brand?
I’ve had the opportunity to interview numerous intern candidates, as well as employees, during my career. Because of that, I strongly recommend that you don’t underestimate the power of a first impression.
Does the boss really care about what I wear? Yes, they do. You may not realize that the clothes you choose to wear to that interview is the first impression the hiring agent will have of you. Are you well put together? Organized? Pay attention to detail? Your clothing and overall appearance can often answer those questions without you even knowing it. Now, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I’m not suggesting you need to wear expensive brand-name clothing to make a great first impression. You certainly don’t. But you should think about what you want your “personal brand” to be when you walk through the door. Is your shirt ironed? Do your socks match? Did you wear appropriate makeup? Are your shoes muddy? Are your nails groomed? Do you have a stain on your shirt from lunch? You might be surprised how little thought some candidates put into their appearance before walking in for an interview. We’re not talking about just your clothing choices, we’re talking about how you present yourself, and thus, your personal brand. Sure, there are a lot of elements that define someone’s personal brand, but your outward appearance is certainly one of them.
Each day you become a walking billboard for your personal brand. Everyone’s personal brand is different, but when it comes to the workplace, you should try to be the best version of yourself. Making your best effort to look professional and polished will help to establish more self-confidence, not only in what you’re wearing and how you feel, but about your performance on the job as well. It will also impact your co-workers and superiors to feel more confident about your performance as well. If you’re put together personally, they’ll expect you will do the same on the project they’re handing over to you. It’s all related.
Does your work attire describe you accurately? If the majority of your work wardrobe is full of really bright colors or bold patterns, it suggests that you have an outgoing personality. You want to stand out and be noticed. While wearing soft and neutral colors could indicate that you are easy going. In most cases, we typically choose clothing that fits our personality and demeanor. But regardless, you need to dress in appropriate attire for your workplace. Your sorority tee and leggings aren’t going to cut it. "Athleisure Wear" is not an appropriate business casual look for the workplace. It’s time to graduate from the classroom if you want to be ready for the boardroom – and build your professional look and personal brand to reflect that.
I remember a college graduate telling me that she felt like her most “authentic self” when she wore her yoga pants and t-shirt. Her degree was in financial management. I remember joking with her that I didn’t know of any wealth managers that wore yoga pants and t-shirts to the investment firm office and that she may want to rethink how she can still feel comfortable while looking professional in her industry. The truth is, I feel most “authentic” (a.k.a. comfortable) in my pajamas and fuzzy slippers, but that’s simply not going to fly as a business owner in a client meeting. We simply must adapt to our environment.
Look, we all want to be comfortable, but it’s important not to forgo being appropriate. There are certainly several ways to look polished, professional and comfortable all at the same time. You can look and feel your best while you’re climbing the corporate ladder!
Check out my recommendation for the Top 5 Wardrobe Staples Every Young Professional Women Should Have in Her Business Casual Closet.
Need more ideas? Check out my Business Casual Pinterest Board.
Well, that’s all I have for now.
Special thanks to the LEGACY team for your research and assistance with this blog.