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Definition: Clothing that you wear at your job, such as dress for success attire or casual work wear. Ideally it should enhance your credibility, fit in with your job or industry and demonstrate your personal style.
So why is your business dress so important to your personal brand and success?
We make snap decisions based on what people wear. Imagine you’re getting on a plane. You’re just settling into your seat when you notice the pilot arriving and entering the cockpit. You know he’s the pilot because you hear the flight attendant greet him as captain.
You do a double take because even though he’s wearing a pilot’s cap, he’s also wearing board shorts, a loud Hawaiian luau shirt and sandals. (Not exactly a typical pilot’s business dress for success attire.) How confident are you that you will reach your destination? Hold on tight… it’s going to be a bumpy flight.
We all know we shouldn’t judge a book by looking at the cover. But let’s face it, we are visual animals. Deep in our DNA, our survival instincts have given us the ability to make snap visual evaluations. Is this caveman a friend or a foe?
That’s why the pilot in board shorts signaled danger, danger, danger. Had he been wearing a pilot’s uniform, our brain would have mentally checked off the confidence box and we would have enjoyed the flight.
So as not to overload our minds, most people have a mental visual shorthand that filters out extraneous or unnecessary details. This mental shorthand registers only discrepancies or focuses on things that don’t quite meet our expectations. This is why your business dress is so important in first time meetings. You are making a first impression.
A first impression is formed in under one second. You’ve made it before you even get a chance to say hello. It is almost all visual, comprising your smile, body language and business dress.
Before the 1st face-to-face meeting, you have usually spoken on the phone or connected by e-mail. The person has already formed a vague visual picture of you in their mind. So a customer or client or job interviewer, who knows your industry and job position has certain expectations of your level of business dress.
On the first meeting if you meet that visual expectation you gain a certain subconscious credibility in their mind. This is called the halo effect. However, if your appearance and attire doesn’t meet their expectations then you have to work that much harder to establish your credibility. This is even more important if you are younger or just starting in your career.
If you are young or look younger, people may assume you don’t have much experience in your job or position. So if you want to up your credibility, it’s more important that you pay closer attention to your business clothing in any first time meeting.
This doesn’t mean you need to wear a suit. As image consultants we work with all sorts of industries from construction to accountants and they all have their unwritten dress codes. Not all of them wear dress for success suiting. Many are in more casual wear occupations. Your clothing should match your industry.
Look around you to see how the successful professionals in your industry and position dress. What do the movers and shakers in your profession wear? Use your own sense of style to copy or mirror that look.
Here is a career enhancing business dress bonus tip. If you are looking for a new job or looking to move up in your organization, dress in a manner to make it easy for others to visualize you already in that position.
Your business dress forms an important part of your personal brand. Successful brands are consistent. That means they reliably and dependently meet people’s expectations. For your personal brand to become successful, your business clothing should be consistent too.
If you have dress-down Fridays or casual days, here is some branding advice. To maintain your credibility and brand, your casual wear should never be more than one level down from your standard business wear. If your standard wear is a suit, then your casual wear should be a sports jacket. If your standard wear is a jacket, casual wear should be a blouse or shirt with or without tie.
Now we hope you are not saying to yourself “Hey, when I’m successful then I’ll invest in my image”. NO No No! Pay attention to your dress and invest in your image now and you’ll be successful that much sooner. Almost everyone who takes our dress or soft skills training says that they wish they had taken it earlier in their careers.
Unless you work in a nudist colony, your business dress is a critical career tool you have a lot of control over. Use it to your advantage to create your successful personal brand. People will take notice. Oh, and try not to wear your board shorts in the boardroom.