Professionalism – Dress Code Matters
As we explained in the first piece on the topic, professionalism is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.”
When it comes to the clothes we wear, we all have an ideal in mind. A profession could be a doctor, lawyer, or a hockey player. They all wear professional attire to their respective offices. The question we have to ask, is why it matters for everyone.
Why dress professionally?
The way people treat you
First impressions are important. Your appearance tells a hiring officer or new manager how suitable you are for a job. Whether you care to be there, and how much respect you have for the company and its clients. The last point is important to the hiring officer if you’re looking for something in customer service. The image you portray will be how everyone sees the company and dirty or unkempt is an image few can shake.
The way you treat yourself
Dressing professionally will give you a boost to your confidence and morale. Conversely, wearing ragged or dirty clothing has the opposite effect.
The way we treat other people
Knowing the dress code for a company is important and if you don’t adhere to it, it says a lot about the lack of respect you have for them. Fitting in; however, reinforces the respect and desire you have to build rapport and achieve the company’s goals.
Tips for work attire
Whether your dress code requires casual or formal, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Keep it clean
Whether it’s your kid’s breakfast or last week’s rain puddles, keep your clothing clean. People don’t want to see mud or oatmeal.
Keep them in decent condition
Clothing can become stretched or threadbear over time. Maintain quality garments for work to ensure they don’t sag in the wrong places.
Pro Tip: Keep an eye on current trends. A decade’s old wool suit is just as bad as a torn or dirty one.
Keep them comfortable to wear
You don’t have to wear three-inch heels. If the position requires a lot of walking then you need shoes that can handle the travelling. There is a point where you can go too far; however, so make sure you aren’t trading professionalism for comfort. There are shoes and attire built for both.
It’s about more than just your clothing
Have you been thinking of getting that new tattoo on your face? Think twice if you want to become a tour guide or banker teller. Body art and hair style matter just as much as your suit. Make sure you hair is clean and kept and tattoos are suitable or cover them. You may understand the meaning of a tattoo, but the hiring officer doesn’t, nor may their clients. Once you have an understanding of their policies you may be able to relax, but not until then. Your fingernails and makeup need to be kept in check as well. The cleaner, more subtle you look, the easier you will fit in.
Dress for the job you want
What you do you want? The frontline or management? If the rest of the team is running around in short sleeve t-shirts while the manager is wearing a suit, then where a suit or at least a more formal look than the rest of the staff. Wearing a level up in formality from everyone else will set the professional tone you want to aspire towards. It may invite others to do the same.
Pro Tip: It isn’t about stifling your unique charm. Many businesses will give you the outlet you need once you understand how.
Many companies offer a dress down day. They could ask for a donation to a charity or do it to boost morale. For whatever reason, it isn’t a license to wear your pajamas. You still want to dress appropriately, even if everyone else doesn’t. Leave the ripped jeans at home and invest in some casual work attire that balances the professional with the personal.
How do you know what’s right?
You will already be doing your research before an interview. Make sure you take the time to see what everyone is wearing. If you can’t find out by looking, then don’t be afraid to ask. Start by asking people in your network. They may know if there is a dress code. If you can’t determine that way, then call the office and ask. It may seem like a silly question, but you don’t have to give your life’s story. Just ask if they have a dress code or suggested level of formality in their attire.
Pro Tip: When in doubt, take it up a notch, especially for your interview.
Pro Tip: Hold off on your new purple hair until you know what’s appropriate.
How to make it happen
There are several places that you can get the right look. Stores like Winners or Moores often have sales you can take advantage of. If you join their mailing lists, they will let you know. You can also try second-hand stores. There are often gems just waiting for your discovery.
There are several groups like “Dress for Success” for both men and women. They are designed to get formal work attire into the hands of people that need them. Take advantage of the services without worry as some day you may be able to offer the same to someone else. Your employment consultant will have contact information for any of these services.
Pro Tip: People notice shirts before slacks. Get at least 6 shirts to start so you don’t wear the same shirt in the same week.
The Ideal look
Would you rather be ridiculed for wearing dirty ripped jeans or a clean cut suit? Dressing a step up will always win you accolades. It shows your desire to be present and your respect for the people you work for and the clients you serve. Over time, you will learn what’s acceptable so you can adjust your wardrobe.