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Job Search 101: Dress for Success



How you dress is your love of self made tangible to the world. When you wear ill-fitting, soiled, torn, tattered clothing, it can make others aware of a poor sense of self-worth. What people see on the outside lets them know you feel about yourself on the inside. Image is the tip of the iceberg, yet it adds immeasurably to helping people understand what’s going on inside you.

How you wear it and what you choose to wear show others how much you respect yourself. Few people come even close to naturally having a “perfect” shape or size. Those who respect themselves know how to dress to emphasize strengths and minimize body flaws. Respect for self is lacking in women who in the workplace wear skirts that are too short, necklines that are too low, pants that are too tight; for men who wear long pants that are too “short,” ties with spots, jeans with holes; and with anyone who gains weight and then wears clothes that used to fit. Self-respect plays a big part in knowing/wearing the acceptable thing socially and professionally. .

The way you carry yourself contributes greatly to the air of confidence others perceive. What you wear also contributes to that look of confidence. When I wear a hat, inevitably men and women will say to me they love the confidence I portray. Some women say they would love to wear hats but are afraid they can’t carry it off. Men and women both say how it completes a woman’s outfit. Your goal is to create an aura of confidence and assuredness when you walk into a room. Make sure your clothing contributes its part!

Organizational skills
Even people who don’t like to file or plan the details of an event need to appear organized in their clothing color and style choices. You want to create a unified look from head to foot, without calling attention to any one item or color. Frequently in my “Polishing Your Professional Presence” workshops, I will ask attendees up front to describe what they think our time together will be like … knowing they have been sizing me up, even though I have only said a few words.

I remember the man who said, “organized, because everything from your suit to your blouse to your shoes to your hose to your jewelry is coordinated and looks as if it came together.”

Recruiters tell me they use appearance to judge organizational skills. If they know where the potential employee parked, they may send someone to walk around the car to see if it looks clean and orderly … or if it resembles the refuse bin for a fast-food restaurant or the repository for a week’s clothing that needs to be taken to the cleaners.

Soundness of judgment
Knowing and wearing the right outfit for the right occasion is an important indicator of whether you can make the right decisions at work, too. When I owned a business leads group and held after-hour events, most of the attendees wore suits or business casual wear. The member who owned a singles dating service and came attired in black velvet slacks, a rhinestone-studded strapless top and a black shawl turned more than one eye! She may have been dressed appropriately for one of her events, but not for a business event. She made a statement, and judging by all the comments I received, I doubt it was the one she wanted to make. Know when to wear a suit, business casual or formal attire to blend in appropriately.

Attention to detail
About 90 percent of your body is clothed in business – the remaining 10 percent of your impression is made through your grooming and includes manicured nails, trimmed mustache and beard, lack of a 5 o’clock shadow, neat and attractive hair style and the right amount of makeup and jewelry that can be seen and not heard.

While some jobs allow more creative expression than others, all of them permit you to individualize at least a bit. Express your uniqueness through a special tie and matching hankie, a scarf or a special or exquisite piece of jewelry. Maybe your mark will become the special way you tie a scarf or how you find just the right one to complement or coordinate with your suit and blouse … or maybe a pair of cuff links that looks expensive yet apropos for your important meeting.

The sum of the above adds up to how reliable you are … from the big picture to the details. Can you be counted on to look and behave in a professional manner wherever your job takes you?


What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you feel that the money you spend on your clothing and appearance directly affect your earning-enhancement potential? Check out this report by Labour Economics to get some interesting insight:

Dress for success—does primping pay?

Fellas, check out this awesome style guide for men. What are some of the clothing pieces in your closet? Ladies?

Dress For The Job You Want