The New Rules of Dressing for Success

March 29, 2016



There’s been a dramatic shift in business attire in the past 10-15 years. Silicon Valley executives who run multi-billion dollar companies attend meetings in ripped jeans, high tops and t-shirts. On the other hand, professionals in finance and banking still use dark suits to project stability and trustworthiness. Fair or not, perception is reality, and the way you present yourself influences perceptions about your competence and potential. Your image affects your success in business.

  1. Confidence is critical. The way you carry yourself, speak and other nonverbals are the foundation of the image you project. Looking good and feeling comfortable boost your confidence.
  2. Style trumps fashion. The best looks reflect your own personal style and creativity balanced with an understanding of context—what’s appropriate in the situation. Your attire shouldn’t be the primary thing people remember about you. And changing your look (or hair color) with the seasons is more about being a follower than a leader.
  3. Individuality is a plus.  It’s important to “color within the lines” of what’s appropriate, but expressing your personality and creativity is valued. To develop a personal style, you have to engage in the process of finding out who you really are—and which fashions allow “the best of you” to be seen while reflecting your own taste, not that of others. What fits, what flatters, what feels good to wear?
  4. It helps to be strategic. Not only about your look but also how you communicate, your manners, and how you appear online. Don’t dress like a rock star, a Kardashian, an undergraduate or Mrs Doubtfire. What you wear for a night out isn’t meant for the office. Be aware that leggings aren’t pants, short sleeves should never appear with a tie. Yesterday’s shave or bra straps showing are no-no’s as well.
  5. Cultivating your image is important at every stage of your career. The challenge for seasoned professionals is to be fresh and up to date—relaxing a corporate conservative style with current accessories and a hairstyle that isn’t two decades old or even a different shade of nail polish. For younger employees, a big part of progressing in your career is ensuring that people can envision you in the role you want. Easy upgrades to your image are quality shoes, watches and a more classic look.
  6. Sending the right message shows savvy. Learn to read the environment you are working in. Your image needs to be appropriate to your company’s culture, your customers (if you are in a position working with them directly), the event or situation you are in…and even the city/region you are in. This ability to adapt appropriately shows that you understand and respect the environment you are working in.
  7. Grooming and hygiene always matter. Everything from facial hair to nails to the fit of your clothing should look attended to. Clothing should never be worn, torn, wrinkled or stained. Be conscious of offensive odors, not only body and breath but also perfumes and clothing. A bad impression in this area lingers.
  8. Consider a personal “uniform.”  You might find freedom in a professional look that will be your go-to. Limiting yourself to a few simple combinations, makes dressing professionally a lot easier and allows you to focus on quality. Paring down the decisions you need to make and the choices you have can even raise your productivity.
  9. “Dress for the job you want” still holds true.Dress a step above your position not only for what it says about you but also because it shows your respect for those you meet and work with. “Business casual” doesn’t mean what you wear on the weekends around the house. Being underdressed is a common new employee mistake.

Small things can make such a big difference.

Lend a helping hand this September!

Put those accessories that are lying neglected in your drawer or closet to work!

On Sunday, September 18th, the Administrative Professionals Conference will partner with Dress for Success by sponsoring an Accessory Drive! Be sure to catch Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success, at the APC as she speaks about Finding Purpose and Finding Confidence. Learn more

APC attendees should bring their new or nearly-new jewelry, scarves, belts, hats, bags, etc. to the donation table onsite. Help empower women to enter the workforce across the globe!

Dress for Success is an incredible organization that has served over 925,000 women in almost 150 affiliates across 20 countries with multiple services and programming to help during all points of career development.

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