Presenting a positive representation of yourself is a key component of experiencing professional success. What you wear, along with how you communicate with others both verbally and non-verbally, can impact the image others form about you. Creating a professional look can help you command attention and serious consideration at work.
In this article, we discuss what dressing professionally is, why it’s important to dress professionally at work, the benefits of having a dress code and tips for dressing professionally.
What is Dressing Professionally?
Dressing professionally refers to wearing clothes and accessories designed for a professional workplace. Professional outfits are modest, well tailored and free of images or graphics. Your clothes should be clean, ironed and free of rips, holes or stains.
The level of formality in each work environment differs, so dressing professionally in one setting may mean wearing a suit while another office may advise employees to wear khaki pants and a company polo. Review your company handbook to learn about the specific policies at your organization.
Here are some reasons why it’s important dress professionally in your workplace:
To make a good first impression
Your appearance is often the first thing others notice about you. Dressing professionally can help form a positive impression to people you meet in the workplace. This is especially important for interviews and when meeting upper-level managers who make hiring and promotion decisions. The initial judgments people make about you can influence their long-term opinions.
To communicate that you take your job seriously
Dressing professionally sends the message that you are serious about the work you do. It shows that you spend time and effort on your appearance, which demonstrates that you care about representing yourself well at work. When you show that you take your job seriously, it helps others see you as someone they should respect and take into consideration.
To represent your company
As a member of your organization, you serve as a representative of the company to the public. Whether you’re making service calls, visiting clients or speaking with customers in a store, your appearance reflects on the business. Dressing professionally helps you present a positive, professional image of your organization to others.
Even if you dress casually or wear a uniform, making sure you look neat and put together can improve the reception you receive. Employers appreciate employees who consider themselves as company ambassadors to the public.
To give you confidence
You can do your best work when you feel your best. Dressing professionally can help you feel empowered and confident to take on new challenges, meet new people and progress in your career. When other areas of your professional life may be out of your control, how you present yourself is something that you can control and use to your advantage.
The image you curate is like your personal brand. It can often communicate a great deal about you to others who don’t interact with you. Create a professional wardrobe that speaks to your goals, personality and creativity.
To help you feel part of the team
Being able to work with others is a crucial element of success in many professional environments. Dressing professionally can help you feel like you belong in spaces with your peers and supervisors and that you have valuable insights and ideas to contribute. Your colleagues may be more inclined to include you in important discussions and projects if you appear professional and committed.
To enhance your credibility
When you look professional, people respond more positively to you, often engaging more and trusting what you’re saying. Dressing professionally can give you an added layer of credibility in your dealings with co-workers, managers, clients and the public.
Tips for Dressing Professionally
Dress one level above your position
Generally, most professionals should aim to dress for one level higher than their current position. For example, an entry-level employee may dress appropriately for an intermediate-level position. Middle managers may dress more in line with department managers or directors.
Consider more than just your clothes
Dressing professionally involves more than the clothes you wear. You should be clean, neat and well groomed. Consider your hairstyle and accessories to make sure they fit in with your company’s standards. You can note how other people in your department dress and aim to match that level of formality.
Show your personality
Your clothing can be a way to show your unique personality. Even in a professional environment, you can differentiate yourself through colours, patterns and accessories. This can be especially meaningful in creative professions, like design.
Confirm company policies for tattoos and body jewellery
If you have tattoos or body jewellery, review your organization’s handbook or speak with your manager about these policies. You may need to choose clothing that covers your tattoos or remove your jewellery.
Make thoughtful selections for casual days
Many offices have “casual Fridays” or other opportunities for employees to depart from their traditional business attire. Make careful selections for these days as you still want to project an image of confidence and professionalism. Your appearance should still be clean, neat, well-fitting and modest.
Choose clothes that are comfortable and easy to move in so that you aren’t distracted during the workday. For instance, if you need to spend much of your day standing, you should wear comfortable, supportive shoes.
Can you think of any other tips? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.