Most people treat fashion as a reflection of their personality, mood, health, or overall confidence. To a certain degree, this also rings true when dressing up for work.
When you have a job interview or business meeting or client presentation, you tend to dress more appropriately to look professional and trustworthy. But in normal days, you’ll probably opt for a casual or relaxed outfit.
Whether you’re going for smart and professional-looking pieces because of an office mandate or just personal preference, it’s worth noting that the right clothing impacts your career’s progress.
In a study by Wings for Success, 75% of recruiters believe that how a person dress affects his or her job, salary, and possible promotion.
People generally base their perception of another based on their looks, and most of the time, that perception can persist. Ralph Guzman, one of Guthrie Jensen’s Training Consultant, says that it only takes three to seven seconds to make a first impression, and first impressions last.
The Impact of Clothes on Your Career
In the corporate world, clothes are more than just for covering up or being trendy. In a way, it helps you advance onto the kind of occupation you aspire for.
Increases the chance of getting hired or promoted
You’ve been told to dress for the job you want, and often, the job you want is of a higher position. If you want to improve your chances of getting promoted or even of merely getting hired, dressing up is a step in the right direction.
A survey by OfficeTeam shows that 80% of executives believe that an employee’s choice of clothes can affect his or her chances for a promotion. If you’ve never held a higher position in a company and clueless as to how managers should dress, start paying attention to what your bosses are wearing—from the clothes down to the accessories.
Reflects and builds self-image
When presenting to potential clients and selling your products or services, a proper outfit will instantly give the credibility you need to win over a client. Looking polished communicates how much you value the client. This also gives you an edge if there are others who are also offering the same products or services to your prospects.
Aside from other people’s perceptions, clothes can also affect how you see yourself and in turn, influence your confidence. According to Professor Karen Pine of the University of Hertfordshire, not only are we what we wear, but we also become what we wear.
Enhances your performance
A study done by researchers from the Kellogg School of Management at North Western University shows that your performance can be enhanced or declined by your choice of clothing.
The researchers coined the term “enclothed cognition,” stating that there is a systemic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes.
There are cognitive, social, and emotional consequences in what you wear, and that there are benefits from specific types of clothes that depend on the symbolic meaning you associate with it. Those benefits can either make you work better or worse.
Helps you look more capable
Dressing like a professional to reflect your skills is standard practice, but findings by the Harvard Business School show that there are cases wherein deviating from the standard can actually make you look more confident and competent, as going against the norm may signify a higher level of autonomy and control. This only works if the change is a conscious decision to stand out.
Makes you stand out amongst your co-workers
Whether as an employee or just as a person, you probably prefer to differentiate yourself from others. People are unique in their own way, but clothes add another layer of originality that allows them to stand out, and that also applies in a work environment.
Of course, exceeding expectations when it comes to your job should also be a factor in that.
To better represent your company
When you’re outside of the office and meeting other people on behalf of your employer, looking presentable can reflect the policies and personality of the business you’re representing.
Dressing up can also better prepare you for any unscheduled or impromptu meetings.
Look good, feel good
You won’t always enjoy doing your job, so it’s important to motivate yourself, and the easiest way to do so is to dress up. Putting on a right outfit that you like is bound to make you feel better.
A study by researchers from Columbia University and California State University-Northridge concluded that clothes could improve a person’s mood and lead to more big-picture thinking.
How to Dress Professionally
Not all organizations have dress codes that require employees to wear business or formal attire. Employees from some big names like Google or Facebook, which both have a laid-back culture, prefer to dress more casually.
Clothes don’t define your skill set or professionalism, but it helps to learn how to dress professionally to look presentable and better adapt to company culture.
There are four degrees of formality for a business attire that you can follow.
This attire is what you would likely wear for an interview and are meant for meeting new clients or representing your company at an event.
Men should be in a formal suit and tie. A business shirt matched with an upscale sports jacket or blazer can be an alternative. Women can opt for either skirt or pants suit. Slacks paired with a formal business blouse or button-up shirt is also preferred.
Smart Casual is a simple change away from Business Professional and still an appropriate attire when meeting clients and attending events on behalf of the company.
Men can wear a button-up or traditional business shirt or turtleneck with dress pants and a sports jacket. Women can wear a blouse, shirt, or turtleneck top with a modest skirt or dress pants and dressy sweater.
Business Casual is hard to define because each office has a different view on it, so make sure to ask your co-workers or HR officers about it. Generally, you don’t want to be too casual, but also not too dressy.
Men can wear khakis or Dockers-type pants, shirt or golf-type shirt with collar, sweater, vest, or an informal jacket, and tie. Women have a choice between pants and skirts, blouse, sweater, vest, and an informal jacket.
Informal office attire is your outfit of choice on a typical day outside, except it should still be office-appropriate. This is more suitable for employees who don’t often meet clients and just stay in the office.
Both men and women can wear casual pants and jeans, shirts with or without a collar, sweaters, vests, sweatshirts, and shoes like sandals and sneakers.
Tips for Power Dressing
Here are some suggestions on how you can assure that your clothing will have a positive effect on your work.
No dirty or wrinkled clothes
Dirty or wrinkled clothing can present you as sloppy or unorganized, therefore affecting other’s perception of you.
Clothes should fit well
Clothes that fit well are flattering and will instantly give you a polished look.
Wear the right shoes and accessories
Depending on what your agenda is for the day, make sure to wear comfortable footwear that is still work-appropriate. Keep accessories at the minimum and do not overdo your makeup.
Follow the dress code
If your company implements a dress code, make sure to read, analyze, and of course, follow it.
Avoid distracting prints
Shirts with patterns or prints with loud colors or distracting designs are not viewed as professional attire.
Go for solid or strong colors
Navy blue, gray, and black are strong colors that complement both women and men. Solid colors are usually viewed as powerful, so stick with that if you want to exert a bit of authority.
Always overdress, never underdress
It’s safer to overdress or dress on the same level as your client instead of being undressed, especially if you often have unannounced meetings.
It Takes More than Just Clothes
As mentioned, your looks and clothes don’t define your skills or professionalism. However, dressing up is an essential factor if you want to present your talents and make a positive influence on your company.
Keep in mind, though, that it takes more than just a fashion sense to be a competent employee that will bring about business growth.