It’s a daily struggle for most working women without a uniform, an asset during those precious morning minutes before the race to the office. What to wear to work? In the perfect world, it wouldn’t matter if it was yoga pants or a power suit, as long as you worked hard and were good at your job. But the truth is, how you dress can say a lot about you, especially when it only takes seven seconds to make a first impression. So how do you make sure you’re not sending the wrong message with your professional wardrobe?
Know Your Workplace
It’s no secret that every employer is different and each workplace comes with its own set of standards and norms. First, you need to know what you are expected to wear per office rules. Pay attention to your coworkers and how they dress. Do dark or muted colors make up the majority of others’ wardrobes? Is there a mix of styles, from conservative to trendy? Are management level employees dressing differently? Being aware of what others wear can give you a sense of what is considered the norm. It’s also a good starting point for building or expanding your office attire.
Step It Up
There’s a popular old saying– “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” This still holds true, whether the standard style of dress in your workplace is casual or corporate. Best-selling author and one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Business Influencers in the world, Bernard Marr, says just simply following this one rule could boost your career.
Slightly overdressing, whether for an interview or your average day on the job, can show enthusiasm and make you appear more qualified. Marr advises going to an interview just “one notch better than the standard dress code.” He asserts that it’ll help you to appear smart, professional, and detail-oriented–without completely overdoing it. He also suggests opting for classic styles and colors, as these will last throughout changing trends. They’re also smart investment pieces if you’re just starting to build your professional wardrobe.
Clothes and accessories shouldn’t be a distraction. This was something I learned when first starting out in television news. I never gave it much thought at the time, until I was out of town and watching a local newscast. I suddenly realized I was paying more attention to the anchor’s large, dangly earrings bobbing whenever she talked, rather than the actual story. That’s when it hit me… you work too hard to have all you’ve done be muted by earrings!
Accessories can be the ticket for complementing an outfit or for tying it all together. But they shouldn’t be so large or busy that they take away the focus from what really matters–you. This applies to a professional wardrobe, too. Loud patterns or a style that’s a bit too trendy can get in the way of what you’re saying. If you’re uncertain whether something is a little too much, err on the conservative side. Wasn’t it Coco Chanel who said “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror, and take one thing off.”?
Your professional wardrobe should be something that you feel good wearing. Although, that doesn’t necessarily mean your Netflix sweatpants are the secret to landing that job or rocking that presentation. Make sure your clothes fit well. It sounds minor, but not only will it make you look more professional and put together, it could also affect concentration. If your sweater itches or your jacket pulls every time you move your arms, chances are it will be on your mind and chip away at your focus. I once thought I was doing the right thing by wearing a smart suit to a job interview, even though it was a size too small. I spent much of the interview focused on taking little breaths so that I wouldn’t pop a button… not something you want to worry about when your career is on the line!
Hold your head high, shoulders back, and smile! No matter what you decide to put on in the morning, the most important thing you can wear is confidence. Your attitude is an energy that others can quickly pick up on. If you are self-assured and positive, you can make that first impression a good one–even if your suit doesn’t quite fit right!
Meet the Author
Megan Schlosser Filak earned a degree in journalism from American University in Washington, DC., after which she spent five nights a week bringing together thousands of people across all walks of life for her news broadcast. From politicians and artists to store clerks and business leaders, she sought to hold the attention of her diverse audience, make engagement a personal experience, and interact through social media. Doing so kept her newscast at the top of ratings.
When Megan chose to retire her producer role after nearly a decade in newsroom, the skills she counted on to seek out and tell countless stories to thousands of viewers helped her as she took on new roles. Since then, Megan has utilized her creativity and quick thinking to plan, promote, and execute successful fundraisers for the American Cancer Society. She now works full time in destination marketing, where she seeks out new and exciting ways to promote her area to both visitors and locals.