Let’s just get this out of the way: Your mom may have told you that it’s what is inside that counts. But the hard truth is, people will judge you for what’s on the outside. So look as brilliant on the outside as you are on the inside!
That said, especially when you’re either a) new to the world of work or b) just new to the office or industry, it can be very tough to identify what’s appropriate work attire and what should be left for trips to the grocery store or lazy weekends.
You’ve got an office full of resources to help you.
First, when in doubt, just ask! There are a lot of terms out there to describe attire (business, business casual, casual, Friday casual, and on and on…). It can be confusing. Have those “in the know” clarify the policy, with specifics. It is definitely better to ask than to interpret. Be observant when you’re in the office, and take your cues from others around you. What are they wearing?
Second, still in doubt? Step it up! If there is a choice between being too casual or a wee bit too formal, err on the side of the more professional, buttoned-up option. After all, a wrinkled shirt or a skirt more suitable for the beach isn’t just a shirt or skirt. It projects an image. Better to dress on the leading edge of the level you are presently at, then to dress like you aren’t even working in an office setting. Push the envelope – in a good way – by looking smart and polished.
Third, look above. Don’t dress for where you’re at now in your career … dress for where you want to be. And, if you want to get a good feel for the image your business wants to convey, nothing can deliver on that quite like looking to your leaders. These execs set the tone for the corporate culture, so look to them not just for insight into attire, but about conduct and carriage. Hopefully, your boss is a positive role model. Otherwise, forget the conduct part!
Seriously, though, whether you like it or not, everything from the way you comb your hair (or don’t) to the color of nail polish you wear, especially in a conservative environment, speaks volumes about you to your workmates and supervisors … before you even have a chance to get a word in edgewise.
And there is something to be said for donning a sharp suit. Don’t you feel a little more confident and on point when you’re pulled together like that?
So while you’re minding your mind – the mental attributes that landed you the gig in the first place – also be sure to mind your appearance.