In every society there is an established set of guidelines that guides the behavior of its people. These guidelines are referred to as norms. They define what is acceptable and appropriate in varying situations.
Part of this norm is what is deemed as an acceptable or unacceptable form of apparel or dress. However, in today’s society where it appears as if down is up and up is down, one could easily develop this false notion that there are no standards especially as it relates to clothing or dress – in other words, anything goes.
It is therefore not surprising to see some people showing up for job interviews dressed as if they were going to the ballpark or a rock concert. The old saying, “There is never a second chance to make a first impression” and “First impressions are lasting ones” are not reflected upon by many people today.
Consequently, a lot of people have lost out on the opportunity to create a favorable impression on others both in and out of the workplace. In addition, careers may have even been stifled and goals hindered because of clothing choices.
In fact, one will do well to forget the old Sprite advertisement that proclaims, “Image is nothing, thirst is everything, obey your thirst.”
Presenting an image that portrays success, competency, and professionalism may seem old school but in a competitive market environment it might very well be the attire that tips the balance in ones favor.
Moreover, in a market driven society one could argue that image is everything and if ignored it will be to one’s own peril. So, although images do not tell the full story it can be said to be the beginning of the story.
Today, many organizations have developed policies regarding employee dress codes that ban certain type of clothing; for example, formfitting, revealing, faded or ripped apparel. In addition, body piercing except for the ears, and the displaying of tattoos are disallowed in most companies.
The question therefore is what should one do to improve one’s image? Well, apart from having the requisite knowledge and skills for the job, the following should be considered:
- Hair – Keep hairstyle neat, clean, and natural looking.
- Nails – Ensure nails are short, properly manicured, and clean.
- Makeup – Avoid heavy cosmetics.
- Dress – Ensure clothing fits well and looks professional.
- Footwear – Shoes should be cleaned, polished, and not worn out. Socks and stockings should complement outfit.
- Perfume and cologne – Avoid perfume and cologne with overwhelming fragrance. Use your discretion and taste.
- Jewelry and accessories – Avoid a cargo of jewelry, necklaces, and earrings, they are distractions within an office environment.
Although the foregoing in no way represents an exhaustive list, it provides context for reflection on one’s appearance within the workplace.
Finally, it’s also important to keep in mind that one’s clothing sends a strong nonverbal message at all points of contact both inside and outside a company. Send a positive message, dress to impress, will you?
Yvad Billings, The Readers Bureau, Fellow