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Is Your Work Attire Killing Your Chances For Promotion?

Dress  to project the right image at all times…

In the beginning … when employees are hired, they often receive a dress code policy they are simply expected to follow… without question.

Employees are responsible for promoting a respectable image for themselves and their employer; while employers are responsible for ensuring their employees understand their expectations. Integrating ones personal image with their professional image can be at best a challenge. To project the desired company image, employees are expected to take into account variables such as their personality, likes and dislikes, type of work, industry, job title, and so on.  Add the need to integrate the image or brand of the company and the result is often confusion – bordering on disaster.

To help YOU, the employee, prevent any dressing mishaps, here are some tips that will help you promote your best possible image at all times.

Always look the part ~ When deciding what to wear to work, keep your professional goals in mind as well as your industry, job, title, and what your planned activities will be. Are you management or staff? Will you be seeing clients? Do you have a presentation to do? Are you attending a conference or formal group function? Aiming for a specific promotion? Take a look at how others in that position are dressing. If they are perceived positively, copy them. If not, do some research or hire an image consultant to help you. When trying to get ahead, dress for the position you want and dress at least one level up, even on casual days. The wrong outfit will quickly damage your image and credibility thus lessening your chances of getting that promotion or even being considered for a management position.

Give neatness a high priority ~ Looking neglected is a very common mistake, especially when dressing business casual. Look impeccable every day. Wearing a wrinkled jacket, stained pant or scuffed shoes will not help your image. People might only conclude that you are too lazy to bother and consequently will not do a thorough or complete job. Keep your clothes and accessories such as shoes, wallet, briefcase, and handbag in good condition. Anything worn out will make you look worn out. People might wonder if you have the strength to do the job, whether you have health issues, or are just not motivated. Clean and polish your shoes regularly, and replace damaged heels. You look at yourself from the front but others see you from behind.  Men should wear longer socks so as not to show skin when crossing their legs. Women that wear hosiery look more professional and powerful, even during warm weather. Yes, wearing stockings might sound old-fashioned, but it’s not a question of right or wrong – but rather a question of when to wear them. Unfortunately, many people blur the lines and confuse the work environment with the fashion industry. In my book, not wearing stockings in business is equivalent to a man wearing a suit with no socks and sandals. Can you picture that?

Grooming for high exposure ~ In business, short hair is the most powerful for men and women alike. Whatever you do, maintain a well-groomed haircut at all times. Men with long hair (working in more traditional and conservative industries) might need to re-assess their professional goals as it might play against their chances of getting ahead. If you do decide to wear your hair long, keep it clean and wear it neatly tied in the back. Women with long hair (below the shoulder) should put their hair up for work to look more professional and in control. Thinking about coloring your hair or covering grey? If you are on a budget (it can get costly) or cannot spare the time (it needs regular maintenance), consider keeping your natural hair color. Sporting an awesome haircut (even with grey hair) is better than showing roots. Use perfumes and after-shaves very sparingly if any at all. Whatever scent you use, it should never be the first thing people notice about you. See your doctor and/or dentist if you suffer from either body odour or bad breath, even after showering daily using a good deodorant soap and deodorant/antiperspirant. They can help.

Keep your body parts covered ~ Keep cleavage of any kind in check. Chest is the first thing people think about when I mention cleavage. But there are other less obvious cleavages, like toe cleavage created by low vamp shoes or sexy sandals. Stilettos, open toe, and high heeled shoes and sandals are not recommended in the work environment. Showing too much skin of any sort like bust, tummy, or arms will affect your credibility. Michelle Obama may have started a fashion frenzy by often wearing sleeveless dresses – and even shorts – but like the hosiery issue, just because it is done by more visible, influential people doesn’t mean that we should do it!  They’re trying to sell more of their stuff. You’re trying to get a promotion. Big difference. It is accepted for a woman to look feminine in the workplace while looking sexy will only undermine her credibility. How can others take you seriously when you look like you are going clubbing or on a date? Another culprit is the infamous “more-than-I-want-to-see” bum crack. If you prefer low-rise pants, wear longer tops over your pants at work or tuck your shirt or top neatly into trousers, and wear a belt to complete your look.

As an employee, don’t be afraid to ask your employer for information about your company’s dress code policy or even ask about having a seminar on “looking professional or making a great first impression in the workplace”. This is the perfect opportunity for employers to create a more productive and healthier work environment, enhancing employee loyalty by showing interest in the welfare of their staff along with demonstrating a positive and supportive attitude towards each employee’s image.

Employers can reap great benefits from properly educating their employees on projecting the right image. Studies have shown that ‘the better employees look, the greater their confidence, and better job performance” … thus

A superior company image helps produce superior results!

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Angèle Desgagné, AICI CIP