Is Dressing for Success Really That Important?

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Dressing appropriately in professional contexts has become trickier in recent years. In the past, dressing formally for the office was a universal expectation. However, the meteoric rise of online industry has changed that. Today several of the world’s top companies pride themselves on their casual dress code, the logic being that employees work best when they’re most comfortable. Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook one of the world’s youngest billionaires, is famous for his uniform of jeans and a hoodie.

What does this shift mean for everyone else? Is dressing for success still necessary to get to the top? What about the risk of overdressing? While it can seem like a minefield, by following three straightforward principles, you can ensure confidence in your appearance and get on with your work.

1. Err on the side of caution

Even though many of us fear it, being overdressed for an interview or new job is always better than being underdressed. If you wear a smartly-cut suit and polished shoes, with neat hair and (for women) well-applied makeup, you are sending a clear message that you care about the job and are willing to put in the effort; regardless of what everyone else is wearing. On the other hand, if you show up in skinny jeans, a short skirt or a pair of trainers, it can easily be interpreted as indifference, even if what you’re aiming for is studied cool!

Over time, you can check out how your colleagues dress and adjust accordingly. There may be room to add a bit more personality to your look or to dress down on days when you don’t have meetings. But everyone should invest in a smart, well-fitted, understated outfit for interviews and first days of work.

2. Dress like the boss

While casual dress has become the norm in some industries, in many others, such as finance, traditional expectations still apply. Although young CEOs like, Sean Kelly, Ben Kaufman and Mark Zuckerberg get a lot of press, the average age of CEOs is still over 50 and they learned the ropes back when formal work-wear was the expectation.

As a rule of thumb, an executive assistant’s dress should be aligned with that of company management. If your boss wears a formal suit, model what they consider as professional behaviour. Since you are often the first point of contact for associates, clients or guests meeting with the executive, it’s important that you exude the same level of professionalism.

3. Be comfortable

While tech start-ups take the principle to its extreme, there’s no doubt that people work more effectively when they’re comfortable. Most women unfortunately know how difficult it is to listen attentively while enduring the agony of badly-fitting heels. To be clear, I’m not advising that you forget the heels and wear trainers. Rather, choose your work wear carefully and invest in quality. High-quality, breathable materials and good tailoring ensure that even a power suit is easy to wear.

Most importantly, looking and feeling good will enhance your confidence, allowing you to perform at your best.

Till next time,

Isobel