Dressing for work is one of the hardest areas that my clients face. The two areas that cause the most frustration are for professionals working in a business casual environment and entrepreneurs who need to look like they don't work from their kitchen table even if they still do.
But it doesn't have to be tough when you know the right formula to create a balance to achieve the professional image you want for your personal brand.
I call it the 3 A's of Great Work Style.
Auhority, Appropriate, Approachable.
And your goal with every look you wear to work is to get the right balance of each "A."
Let me tell you a little more about each one and then how to balance the 3.
The tone you want to set for how people perceive you and your quality of work. Through your clothing you show you have respect for yourself and your title. And you demand respect from those around you.
This "A" is all about establishing the perception of yourself as a leader amoung your peers. It doesn't matter if it's week 1 or week 354 on the job when projects need to be led or a chance for promotion opens up you need to be top of mind. That comes from your quality of work but also that you are a good outward representative of the brand.
Your understanding of the workplace expectations and an example of how you can be trusted to represent the brand. How you dress is an outward expression of your respect for the company''s values and for those around you.
This "A" says you can follow the rules set before you. You can be trusted to work within company guidelines. This may seem small and trivial but it's not. When you can execute something as small as sticking to the dress code well it shows you can be trusted with the brand message of the company.
The human aspect of your position. What you wear is a way to plug in your personality and tell people something about you that they may easily connect with you.
This "A" is what will draw others to you because you are able to establish confidence in who you are through the outward presentation of your style. It's what helps to make you memorable to potential clients and leaves people wanting to get to know you more.
How to Balance the 3 A's for The Professional
Do not dress for your current title. Dress for the one above you. You are by your appearance alone setting yourself apart from your peers. You are saying that you are ready for the next level everyday by being polished and put together. Make sure the fit of each piece you wear is perfect by investing in a tailor. Nothing ruins the authority of a professionally dressed person faster than fit being too tight, too long, or too big.
Know and understand your company's dress code. A lot of organizations dress code's are very vague given you a category such as business casual with a few examples of dos and dont's. You will need to interpret the rules through the lens of the company's culture. You may work in a corporate office that allows jeans everyday, however it's still a corporate office. You will dark wash trouser style jeans to pair with blazers, blouses, and professional shoes.
Choose your signature. Maybe you love color which says you are creative and an innovative thinker or lean towards a neutral palette that says you see a project through with a steady hand. Being approachable through your style is about allowing those that you work to identify something about you. By being intentional with your personal style and what you want it to say you are guiding the message you want to send. Choose 3 words that you want to be known for at work, take a look at the outfits you wear most often ask yourself and a honest friend if these looks are projecting what you want to say.
How to Balance the 3 A's for The Entrepreneur
Dress like a CEO. Everyday and everywhere you go you are the owner of your business. You should be proud of that and it needs to show in how you present yourself. The next opportunity for introducing your brand to someone could happen at any point in the day, and the way you are dressed should never hold you back from confidently sharing your authority in your niche. Get dressed for work everyday-not in yoga pants or leggings. Trust me you can be just as comfortable in real clothes. Choose easy pieces like wrap dresses or jumpsuits to wear if you are working from home.
You make the dress code. It may only be you wearing all the hats to run your business today. But most likely that's not your forever plan. Setting your standards in part of the brand culture you are creating. Are you the photographer who is always in ripped jeans and chuck taylors? Great! You will attract people who want to work with you that crave a relaxed atmosphere to be creative. If you want your boutique law firm to be known for it's prestige you will want to look the part and attract associates who thrive in suits. Write out your company's dress code, and then stick with it.
People need to be able to like and trust you to give you their money. Your potential customers and investors are living in a world where they are bombarded with visual noise. Making sure your visual presence both in person and online say the right thing about you and your company is key. When their is a disconnect between your brand message and your visual marketing you will lose their trust. Write down 3 words you want to be known for as the owner of your business, and write down 3 words you want people to associate with your business. Then look at wardrobe does what you wear say these 6 words to potential clients? Does your online presence say the 6 words to potential clients?
Using the 3 A's I want to challenge you to think differently about what you wear. Being strategic with your clothing choices instead of leaving it as an afterthought is part of your competive edge in any field you choose to work.