Dress for Success, not the “club”.

By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

Yes, it may be a cliche that you should dress for success, or for the job you want to have, but I see on a daily basis that some people clearly never received this “memo”. Instead I see many people who show up at work looking like they are heading immediately to either the gym, back to bed, or perhaps a night club. With companies adopting a more “relaxed” dress code, people have taken it upon themselves to sometimes go beyond the line of what is actually an acceptable style of clothes to wear to work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about being comfortable with what I am wearing during work hours, but I also keep in mind I do not ever want to feel uncomfortable because the clothes I chose to wear are potentially too casual. 

I am not exaggerating when I tell you I have actually seen people come to work in what were literally their “sleeping clothes”, and I have also seen many people leaving the gym in the morning looking like they are working at a night club, but I’m almost positive they do not. So, if your company has a written work attire policy, my advice is to consider taking it up a notch in terms of what their dress code standards are. Why? Because as I mentioned earlier, it is far better to be perceived as being overdressed, and thought of as someone who knows how to dress at a level above the current role they may be in. Most people are visually oriented, so when they see someone who is dressed casually, they are assuming you might not have the credibility in your role based on the way you look. I understand this is a presumptive interpretation, but I have witnessed for years  how people are treated based on the way they are dressing in the office. 

Choosing the “right” professional clothing applies to both sexes, and to those who do not choose to identify with one sex or the other. An example I can share with you about how the perception people have of you based on your clothing can be best illustrated by a trade show my company was participating at. There were multiple people in our booth from our company, and all ages and both females and males were represented. Everyone in the booth except me was wearing a company shirt and jeans. Due to the fact I was meeting with the press and other business people, I chose to wear more “business oriented” clothing. When I was standing in the booth with my colleagues, people stopping by our booth automatically assumed I was the CEO of the company, and this absolutely had to do with what I was wearing. At the time, I was not actually the CEO, but the perception people had based on my clothes was that I was the head person at the company. 

After being witness to so many people seemingly not knowing what is appropriate “casual” office attire, I thought I would provide you with some quick tips to avoid making the mistake of dressing too casually.

  1. If you would wear the clothes to bed, then don’t wear them in the office.
  2. If you would wear the clothes to the gym, save them for your gym workouts. 
  3. There may in fact be clothes which can nicely transition to being worn at a night club, but if you have even the slightest hesitation about whether to wear the clothes you have selected, don’t wear them.
  4. You have a great sense of humor, or collect t-shirts which are representative of your political, cultural or religious viewpoints, but wear these on the weekend, and not to the office. 
  5. You love wearing form fitting clothing, but some of it rides the line of making others uncomfortable when you wear these type of clothes. This applies to both men and women, and ladies, let’s keep the showy cleavage tops at home. It makes both men and women uncomfortable when you expose too much cleavage, especially in a professional office setting. 

If you have not been graced with having good style sense, or are still perplexed by your office dress code when your office has one, ask one of your friends to help you out who you perceive to dress well. They will be flattered you asked them to help you. Additionally, you will also increase your chances of having others viewing you via a more positive professional perception when you “up-your-game”, and dress well in the office. Certainly it can be subjective in terms of what “dressing well” means, but doing so will surprise you from time to time with the positive comments others will make when they notice you are doing so. Give this a try, and let me know what happens. 

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me Too. Market Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

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