Thinking about what to wear in the workplace to get noticed kind of goes against everything we believe in: position and advancement should be based on merit, right? So why is it that you haven’t gotten that promotion you’ve been eyeing? Why do you feel overlooked and unappreciated at your workplace?
Call it superficial, but appearance plays a major role in your success or chances of it. If you really want to enhance your standing in the workplace, it may be time to revamp your style and look.
Swimming against the current never got anyone anywhere
People choose their outfits on a daily basis and every choice has a reason (intentional or unconscious) behind it. Some people dress to be noticed, others to avoid attention. Some dress for success, others for comfort. Some dress to impress others, some to please themselves. But whatever that choice is, like it or not, everyone gets judged on the way they look.
The importance of dressing for success didn’t really dawn on me until I witnessed something that changed my mind completely.
Years ago a friend of mine, Adam, was trying to find a new job. He had been to a few interviews but was yet to get the “when can you start?” call back.
The situation was clearly weighing Adam down to the point where he started to question his abilities. One night when the two of us and our mutual friend Sheryl were out having wine, Adam asked: “Maybe I lack the skills employers are looking for? Maybe I just don’t come across as particularly capable…”.
Sheryl gently placed a hand over his arm and looking straight into his eyes, said: “There is nothing wrong with your abilities. It’s just that the way you package yourself really doesn’t do you any favours. No offence, darling, but you really look sloppy in your god-awful interview suit from last century.”
“Who are you, my mother? People should respect me because I know what I’m talking about, not because I’m wearing an expensive suit!” Adam responded, visibly offended.
A lengthy conversation about style and making first impressions ensued and eventually a bet was made: Sheryl was to help Adam to pick out a new outfit which Adam was to wear to his next interview. If he didn’t get the job, Sheryl was to buy a bottle of Champagne for Adam but if he did, he was to buy one for Sheryl.
You can probably guess the ending to this story: Adam went to the interview in his new outfit and did, indeed, get the job.
How you dress yourself changes who you are. Dress well and it brings out the best in you. The “don’t bother” theory and the “take me as I am” theory have been tested. Neither works. If you want to do yourself a favour, stop swimming against the current and invest in a wardrobe to always look the part.
Five Steps from Invisible to Incredible
Step 1. Invest in Quality Basics
What exactly are basics? In a nutshell, they’re items that you wear to the office on a regular basis – think suit, skirt, jacket, dress shirt… You want these basics to be perfect and last for a long time. Quality shows as does the confidence that it inspires in you.
Step 2. Only Wear What Fits
When it comes to dressing well, nothing matters more than fit. Not only do ill-fitting clothes look bad and unprofessional, but they also make you uncomfortable and eat away your confidence. On the other hand, clothes that fit well look, in all details, like they were made for you.
So, if you are buying a suit, make sure it’s a great-fitting suit. Maybe it’s more expensive but trust me, you’d rather you have one suit that looks great on you than several ill-fitting ones. Even if you have to try on 20 and only 1 works, that’s ok! At least you’ll have your perfect suit and with it you get quality, simplicity, comfort and elegance.
Step 3. Get Rid of Outdated Clothing
Holding on to timeless pieces such as a flattering blazer or a classic pencil skirt is great, but you have to stop wearing outdated clothes that scream the name of the decade they’re from.
It is important to be in style – not ahead of or behind the curve. Being stylish doesn’t mean “high fashion” or trendy. Current is where you want to be.
Step 4. Do Wear Colours and patterns
Professional dress does not have to mean boring. You have a lot of room to be professional but expressive with a print or bright colour to your dress shirts. Or wear a pop of colour with a scarf as an accessory to your white shirt.
Step 5. Like What You Wear
If you look at yourself in the mirror and think, “well, I guess I look more or less presentable;” you are not doing anyone a favour. Don’t settle for anything short of fabulous! Wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself and you will exude confidence that others will pick up on.
What helps is having a signature item you can always relay on. Signature item is a piece that looks amazing on you and makes you feel well dressed and invincible. Mine, for instance is a French Cuff Shirt. I love the extra flair of double cuffs that never fail to take my outfits to a next level of chic.
Clothing isn’t Everything
Having said all of this, clothing isn’t of course everything when it comes to your career. It does, however, contribute much to your self-image and it can set the tone for your day and impact how you feel at work.
With so much that you cannot control, dressing for success is one of the simpler things you can do to improve your career and overall success in your professional life.