You are what you wear, right? So if you want to make a good impression in the workplace, it pays to think about your attire
“To my mind, I just don’t feel as if I’m at work unless I have a tie on, and a double-cuff shirt. A suit is absolutely essential. Casual trousers and shoes are strictly for downtime.”
|"It’s about wearing what’s appropriate for the job you’re doing."|
That’s the personal sartorial policy of Just Recruitment Group Ltd’s director, Peter Foy. With a background in management consultancy, it’s easy to see why he associates smart attire with a professional outlook. It wouldn’t have looked good to dispense advice to clients while dressed in jeans and a T-shirt.
But Mr Foy is no snob when it comes to work wear. “I don’t think there is any such thing as a universal standard of work dress,” he opines. “It’s about wearing what’s appropriate for the job you’re doing. So while I’d expect my accountant or solicitor to wear a suit, I’d think it perfectly appropriate for a creative professional such as a designer to dress more informally. And tradespeople clearly need to dress in a way that suits the hands-on nature of their role.”
The advice Mr Foy gives is simple, therefore: find out what other people doing your job in your working environment wear on a day-to-day basis, and copy it.
That approach served Just Recruitment’s communications consultant Tim Gibson very well when he undertook a long-term contract in a large quarrying company.
“I initially wore an open-neck shirt with a jacket and trousers when I went into the office,” he says. “That is pretty much my standard uniform for work and leisure, and it’s always served me well. But it soon became apparent that, as a fairly traditional company, my client was used to staff wearing more formal attire. So I adopted the practice of wearing a suit, with a tie when I spent time with senior management or people external to the company.”
This was largely about feeling comfortable in the office, Mr Gibson observes. “When I wore a suit, I felt more at ease in the company of colleagues, and had more confidence with them. My sense is that it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed, so even if I met people who were a bit more casual, I never felt awkward about my appearance.”
There is a further benefit to dressing in a particular way for work: you can draw a clear line between work and leisure at the end of the day.
“I always change out of my suit when I return home,” says Mr Foy. “That creates a clear demarcation between work and play. It’s a way of switching off, and has become almost ritualistic in its significance for me.”
Mr Foy is of the view that any form of work attire functions in essence as a uniform. “Whatever you wear, it’s an outfit that corresponds to your professional role, and provides a way of getting in the right frame of mind for work. That is why it’s so important to get it right – people read all sorts into our appearance, and make assumptions about how good we are at our jobs on that basis. So while you don’t need to dress to impress, you do need to send the right message.”
There is one exception to the “dress-to-impress” rule, and that’s interviews. “Whatever job you’re going for, I think it’s always worth making an effort for the interview,” says Mr Foy. “By taking care over your appearance, you’ll show the interview panel how serious you are about the opportunity. You’ll instantly create a great impression that will give you confidence to answer their questions.”
Mr Gibson agrees that wearing the right clothes to an interview can make a big difference to your performance. “I always dress up a bit for pitches,” he explains. “It’s your big chance to impress, and you don’t want to start on the back foot because you’re not dressed as smartly as the other people in the room.”
So there you have it. The rules of workplace clothing are simple: dress well, in a way that’s appropriate to your role, and the situation you’re in. But if you’re in the running for a new job, dial up the smartness factor and turn on the style. You’ll be on the road to success in no time.
Published: 6 December 2018
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