“You need to dress nicer to work,” Mary turned and said to me one December morning as I began to put on what had become my “business casual” uniform of (not so) wrinkle free khaki pants and a faded Volcom Polo shirt left over from my college days. By no means was this dressing poorly, I dressed what was the norm for my department and I followed the old rule of “never dress down more than you have seen your boss dress,” but this wasn’t good enough for my wife, she wanted me to dress nicer than my department.
Being that Mary has excellent fashion sense, dreams of opening her own clothing store one day, and she picks out my clothes… she won.
It started out slow as I gradually transitioned into nicer button down shirts, but soon I was wearing nicer slacks to work, and then one day it got cold, and instead of wearing my red North Face jacket that I wear everywhere (Mary calls winter “Red Jacket Season” because I’m always wearing it), I decided to bust out a blazer I’ve had lying around that I had only worn a handful of times.
People noticed. They began to compliment me on my attire, and ask me “Why are you so dressed up? Do you have a job interview? Why are you wearing a jacket?” I’d laugh and say, I’m wearing a jacket because it’s cold. As much as I love compliments, they weren’t the only reactions I was getting.
I have always hated the concept of having to dress up for work, but by dressing nicer than my boss and my peers in the department people began to take me more seriously. No longer was I the young guy in treasury, I was Daniel the Analyst. People stopped going above my head to ask my boss questions, they started asking me directly… What I was saying meant something. The woman who has continually gone over my head on a project I am managing has stopped, and she has begun to listen to me and not scoff at every idea of mine.
It’s really quite interesting what a change in dress has done for me, by dressing more professional to work, I have instantly upped my credibility, people take me more seriously, and show me significantly more respect.
So as a piece of overly used advice from a member of Gen-Y to Gen-Y, dress for the job you want and you’ll be surprised at the results you get.
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