Even in this modern day when "business casual" is the norm, your appearance still weighs heavily on a person's first impression of you. A recent article by Business Insider claimed that first impressions are done in the first seven seconds of meeting someone.
What do the first seven seconds of meeting you say about you, your work ethic, and your ability to be successful? Every fiber you zip, shrug, or button into tells a story about you. Smart business people understand this and use it to craft a strong personal brand. While you don't need to wear a business suit every day of your life, unless you are in a super-professional industry, it's critical to selectively choose your clothing.
For the purpose of clarity, here are the different tiers of attire from top to bottom. High quality attire (formal wear) consists of a suit and tie for men and a suit or dress for women. Down a step, would be slacks and a tucked in button up with a tie for men and a dress or skirt for women. Business casual goes from a button up and slacks down to slacks and a polo, depending on the company. Casual dress consists of jeans and a t-shirt. At the bottom of the list would be loungewear, which includes any form of sweats.
Dressing up not only creates impressions for others, but it also changes the way that you perceive yourself. So dress for success to change others’ and your own perception of yourself.
Not sure you dress for success? Here are smart ways to make sure you are dressing for your professional success, no matter the circumstance.
For the Interview
What is acceptable to wear during the interview process? That depends on who you are meeting, the area that you are meeting in, and the work that you are seeking. If you are seeking a sales position, it could vary depending on the company or type of sales. For instance, if you are interviewing to be a sales professional it is all about the suit and tie or skirt and blazer. However, if you are aiming for an entry-level position at a retail store, then you can dress down slightly. Show up in a button up with or without a tie or a nice dress and cardigan. Do not show up in jeans and a t-shirt.
While you are at the interview take a good look around. Observe how others in the company dress. If you get the job you will have to dress similarly, so it is important to know the office norm.
How should you dress daily for work once you have the job? This is where the line is blurred, because it really depends on the company or people you are working with. Some places keep to a high standard, like government jobs. In this case, a suit is an everyday occurrence. Most companies have a form of business casual, ranging from a button up and slacks to shorts and a polo. To more easily assess how you should dress, figure out the norm around the office. If you are in the office you may have to dress business casual, or if you are at home simply casual could suffice.
If there are no dress code standards in your workplace, always dress up more than you normally would. For example, if you normally wear jeans and a t-shirt, wear khakis and a button up. This will help you separate daily home life from daily work life. More than likely you will be meeting people on a daily basis, and since you only have one chance at a first impression you want it to count.
What is an acceptable attire for networking events? Be aware of who you are meeting and where the event is held. If it is a cocktail party, button ups and dresses, but if it is a casual lunch then khakis/jeans and a polo are perfectly acceptable. The most important thing to keep in mind is who you are trying to impress. If you want them to think you are laid back, highly professional, or somewhere between the two then dress accordingly.
Be prepared for any situation by asking yourself: What is my intent? Who am I meeting and what is their title? Where am I meeting these people? After these questions, reevaluate your goals and figure out your perfect pitch by taking the time to plan how you will land a new job, the big promotion, the client, or a sale.
Take the time to cultivate a powerful, success-oriented wardrobe, and then wear and care for each piece carefully. Your pristine, high-quality clothing is sure to lend you the confidence and style to impress everyone you meet, and propel your career forward!