Dress for success

One of the things that helped me early in my career was advice and a gift from my manager at a small company. He simply gave me a book titled, Dress for Success by John T. Molloy and suggested I read it.

I had just come from IBM so it wasn’t like I didn’t know how to wear a nice suit in those days. I actually had some very nice suits, lots of white shirts (obviously), and some really great ties. I like nice ties, , , but my wife says I tend to buy ties that look the same all the time. I don’t really agree but I guess many of them do have a similar “power look” with some red in the tie. Oh well.

The point this CEO was making in giving me the book was that you need to be conscious of how you look in your professional life. To get ahead, senior management needs to see you as professional, polished, a good example and role model, , , especially when you are managing and leading other people. How you dress has some things to do with all of that.

It’s a misconception that IBM required you to wear a white shirt and pin-stripe suit. Not true, at least not so when I was with IBM in the late 70’s and early 80’s. However, most of us wore white shirts and conservative suits because it did not create any issues with our customers, , , it was just a cultural thing that “this is what we wear to work”. Pink, yellow, even blue shirts at the time were considered to cause some level of discussion so we avoided all of this by wearing a white shirt and conservative suit. No issue to get in our way of working with our client.

Today, dress is far more relaxed, , , and I love it. Many companies, even IBM has gone to “business casual” versus requiring you to wear a suit and tie. On the flip side, some companies are now going back to the suit and tie because they feel it makes their staff more professional and possibly the relaxed dress code has made the work a bit too relaxed, , , or they have lost some productivity.

Personally, I like the business casual code – nice trousers and a nice shirt (dress shirt or a polo golf shirt with collar), and a nice pair of shoes.

The challenge is that some of your employees are not as professional as they might need to be. If you want to maintain a professional atmosphere, especially important if your staff meets with clients, it is important that you set a positive example and reinforce appropriate dress in your company.

Senior management looks at you and inspects you every day:

  • How you dress
  • Are your shoes polished
  • Is your haircut nice and neat
  • How you handle yourself in meetings
  • What does your staff look like
  • etc., etc., etc.

Believe me, , , your senior management team is sizing you up a lot to determine if you are material for a bigger role at some point. Your image and how you present yourself day to day is an important part of their inventory of your work, , , not just the results you attain, , ,  so don’t limit yourself by being slack when it comes to putting yourself together in the morning.

Take advantage of the opportunity “dressing for success” gives you, , , we all need every advantage we can get to reach our full potential.

The book I mentioned, Dress for Success, has been written and revised many times, , , it continues to be a big seller. There is also a book for women, , , both can be found on Amazon.com.

One final comment. Many companies go with “casual day” on Fridays or the end of the work week where you can wear blue jeans and tennis shoes. I like these days too, but be sure you wear nice jeans and nice shoes, not raggedy jeans or dirty tennis shoes.

Even though it’s “casual Friday”, you are setting the tone with your staff and if you wear grubby jeans and shoes, , , they will take it a lot farther and before you know it the company needs to back off of their casual dress days because it doesn’t reflect a professional image with clients and one another.

Obviously, companies are different. Small start-up companies are often much more relaxed than larger financial institutions. Regardless of how lax your company is, I would recommend you always do your best to present a professional image, , , it is to your benefit in the long run.

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