Pulling together an appropriate business wardrobe can be a real challenge, particularly if you’re short on funds or wardrobe advice. Get it right and the “sky’s the limit.” Get it wrong, and you could find doors closed or your career stalled.
Business wear sets the tone of your business interactions, and it has to do it quickly and at a glance. If you say you’re an accountant and you dress like one in a business suit and pumps, you’ll be accepted as such. But if you say you’re an accountant and you dress like a punk rocker, your credibility instantly becomes suspect — just as if you say you’re a punk rocker but dress like an accountant. People like the packaging to fit the contents, and if it’s out of synch, they’ll have trouble getting past it enough to do business with you.
Now that example’s obvious. But there are other ways that women undermine their credibility with their business wear, and it can be so subtle that they don’t even know it’s a problem. Here are 5 ways women hurt their business image:
1. Being Fashionable Instead of Business Like
EVERY industry has a dress code, whether it’s written or not. While some fields are very casual and some are very formal, there’s an unwritten rule that if you’re not in a creative industry and you put fashion before business, you’re considered a shallow light weight. Just ask a few science, math, legal, or engineering fashionistas how they’ve been treated on the job.
When dressing for work, consider the requirements of the industry dress code FIRST, adding fashionable elements in small degrees if allowed. Otherwise, wear your work costume to work, and be the head-turning fashion lover after hours.
2. Showing Too Much Skin
The more clothing you wear, the more formal the situation. That’s why you wear long dresses and tuxes to galas and tank tops and flip flops to the beach. Work attire falls somewhere in between. To be taken seriously, keep upper arms covered, cleavage out of sight, and skirt hems around knee length. Yes, that’s a bit conservative in this day and age, but it keeps wandering eyes off your body parts and focus on the business at hand.
3. Old Hairstyle
Over the years, I’ve noticed an interesting correlation between hair style and skill level: if the hair style is out-of-date, so is the skill set. It’s weird, but it makes sense. If you don’t change your hairstyle every few years, chances are good you’re not bothering to keep your skills up to date either. Update both and make more money.
4. Distracting Elements
I once sat through a college lecture given by a “prominent female scientist” with makeup so clownish, I thought it was a joke and laughed out loud when she took the podium. Another time I was in a long, tense meeting with a woman who jangled her charm bracelet so much she got yelled at by the boss in front of everyone. Still another time I was in on a six-figure contract presentation where the potential vendor used his pricey Montblanc pen as a pointer so much, he annoyed a board member and promptly lost the sale.
ALWAYS consider your audience when putting together your ensemble. You want your clothing and accessories to establish your credibility and quickly fade into the background, not annoy or offend those around you.
5. Poor Posture
How you dress, carry, and present yourself speaks VOLUMES about your self esteem. If you costume yourself appropriately but walk around like a troglodyte, you’re not fooling anyone — you don’t believe in yourself. Stand up straight, suck in your gut, and face the world head on. You’ll be amazed by how a little confidence in yourself can instill confidence in others.
So take a little extra time before you head out the door for work each morning to ensure that your business attire matches your business goals. If what you’re wearing will distract from business or cause someone to question your credibility, change it. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression; make sure it’s a good one.Need some more help putting together a business attire wardrobe? Business Wear Magic can help.