11 years ago I joined my current employer. It was my third gig in the corporate world. The culture at this place was somewhat laid back compared to my first two forays. Their dress code was essentially wear what you want. So why now do I dress in khakis and a button down every day? That brings us to today’s topic, dress for the job you want.
My First Gig: Dress Holey T-shirts
So my first corporate gig was in the software and hardware development world. Dress at this place was fairly lax even by my current employer’s standards. How lax? I remember a site wide memo that business casual Fridays do not mean shirts with holes in them. *Ouch* Extremes aside I still tended to dress in khaki pants and a button down for this gig.
My Second Gig: Dress Khakis
My second gig was at a more traditional large company. Dress down days were khakis and a dress shirt! I dressed to fit the part except for one issue, I don’t iron my clothes. I will readily admit I was called out once or twice for wrinkled clothes. At the time I didn’t care as I still hadn’t figured out the value of community versus the work we do.
I left that second gig for greener pastures when the layoffs rolled around. As I was looking for a promotion, now in a career outside IT, I realized staying put would mean applying for my own job. Promotions were not happening. So I joined another large, but slightly smaller, company. I’m still at that company.
My Third Gig: Lax Dress Code
My current employers dress code stood out when I first came in for an interview. Here I am wearing a suit and my future boss is wearing shorts and a tasteful t-shirt. That really synonymized the culture as I would later find out. It took about a year of working there before I started to lax up my clothes standards as well. But eventually like everyone else I was dressing in a plain shirt or T-shirt and jeans.
Fast forward 8 years…Over the course of those 8 years I steadily rose the ranks from lowly process analyst to a senior project manager. On that 8th year my manager approached me and offered me a job as a data analytics manager. I accepted. Then he proceeded to tell me I needed to change my wardrobe…
Dress For The Job You Want
What my boss was telling me was that while the culture of t-shirt and shorts applied to the masses, at the executive level the expectation was significantly different. All the executives wore khakis and button downs. None had wrinkles. If I wanted to be seen as a member of the executive team I needed to dress like them, not the masses.
You Don’t Have To Wear Armani to Look Good
Shortly thereafter I replenished my wardrobe with business attire. Now let me say before we proceed all this doesn’t mean you need to wear $100K custom tailored suit or spend a fortune on attire. I buy mostly from Old Navy. Many of my shirts cost like $10. My only requirement is that they are wrinkle resistant since I still don’t like irons.
Since I’ve changed my wardrobe I’ve increased my pay 40% and changed jobs 3 times. I’m now seen as one of the leaders of the company as I sit on the executive staffs as an individual contributor. While the wardrobe didn’t give me the job, I know now that without that change I would not have been considered.
Pay Attention to What Those in the Job You Want Are Wearing
So remember, regardless of your companies dress policy pay attention to what those in the job you want are wearing. Dress that way if you want their job. Studies have shown that appearance plays a big role in position and earnings. Take advantage of that rather than letting it hold you back.
Do you dress for success?