Recently I gave a speech called Cut the Crap, Get Promoted, and afterward a young woman, Jessica, approached me with a great question. “If I dress like the other executives at work, then I won’t have a brand of my own. How can I be different?” My first question to her was, “What do you want your brand to be?” She replied, “Strategic yet able to execute; smart, trustworthy, and a team player.”
OK, Jessica, what is your brand today? She replied, “I’m the go-getter; the energizer bunny who brings our team together and assures we hit the deadlines. As a matter of fact, I wear bunny slippers to work. Do you think I should stop wearing them?”
Time to get rid of those bunny slippers! You may not like it or don’t agree with it, but your work attire does impact the perception of your ability to handle bigger jobs. In other words, your “promote-ability.”
Dressing better won’t get you the nod, but dressing inappropriately or too casually can hurt you…and you’ll never know it! As a matter of fact, with such heightened awareness and rules around sexual harassment, managers are less likely to have a wardrobe-focused conversation with you, even during a review or feedback session.
So, here are the top 6 work wardrobe bloopers that are potentially working against you:
- Men and women: T-shirts or shirts that are torn, worn out, have controversial designs or are just plain sloppy.
- Men and women: Casual shorts that look like you’re heading to the park or beach right after work.
- Men and women: Flip-flops or beach-like sandals, especially when combined with unbecoming toes. Wearing dressier sandals or open-toed shoes? Women – and men – invest in a pedicure, please!
- Men and Women: No part of your undergarments should be showing at any time. This includes bra straps or camisoles under tops. Men, no undershorts peeking above your waistband
- Women: Inappropriate attire for the workplace. Cover the cleavage, buy skirt lengths that you don’t have to tug down when you sit or stand, and save the party clothes for the weekend.
- Men and women: An important part of your wardrobe is your cleanliness. Be sure your hair is clean, your breath is good, and you have no body odor. Smokers, in particular, wash up after you go out for that break.
Concerned about what to wear to work? Remember these tips:
- Look your best at work every day. Even if others around you are not.
- Wear the type of clothes your boss wears.
- Dress conservatively. I have never, ever, ever heard that someone missed a promotion because they were dressed too professionally.
It’s a new world out there! The business world is increasingly competitive and you can’t put your career at risk by dressing too casually or inappropriately. Be your best and look your best!