Dress for the Job You Want, Not the Job You Have

Orvis signature twill shirt - green and khakiIn a perfect world, substance would win over style every time. However, the truth of the matter is that you must look the part if you want to get ahead. In other words, you must dress for success, to use another oft-quoted phrase. This is not new advice. But if you have not yet woven these sayings into the fabric of your mind, please do so right now.

Repeat after me:

"Dress for the job you want, not the job you have."

It is very easy to let your wardrobe slip into a state of disrepair. Before you know it, your work clothes are tattered, too small, or, worse yet, out of style. The sad fact is that people will indeed judge you by your clothes. At the risk of sounding like a bumper-sticker advertisement for a clothing company, "the clothes make the man." (quote from Mark Twain) If you want to advance in the workplace, to be promoted, or to tackle that dream-job interview with confidence, then do your homework and look the part.

What can you do if your wardrobe needs refreshing? Men should purchase quality basics such as chinos or khakis, quality dress shirts and ties that actually match, polo shirts, semi-casual buttoned shirts for casual days, a jacket or sports coat, and new-looking shoes to complete the order. (Sorry, ladies, I am nowhere near an expert on women's workplace fashion. I wont even try.) When you are purchasing basic foundations of a workplace wardrobe, it is worthwhile to spend extra for quality. Do not skimp on work clothes. Repeat: "Do not skimp on work clothes." Although quality work clothes can be expensive, not only will quality clothes last much longer, but they will also make a better first impression.

Be forewarned that there is no need to over-impress when dressing for success. Study other people in your industry, and people who already have the position you are aiming for. What are the hallmarks of their style and confidence? How do they establish the power relationships in a room before they even say a word? I guarantee that it has something to do with their attire, which is second only to their nonverbal demeanor. How do the clothes help establish authority and trust? And, if you are thinking of someone who lacks these qualities, why is that? Are the clothes helping or hurting? Try noticing the attire of every coworker, both those above your position and those below your position? You'll be surprised what you can learn about getting ahead from opening your eyes to the nonverbal, visual clues in the attire surrounding you every day.

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