Your probation period is over and you’re starting to feel comfortable at work, possibly too comfortable. One day you decide to wear your frumpy, comfortable sweater and soon it makes a weekly appearance. But what message does this send to your co-workers?
“The way you dress at work sends a message about how you feel about yourself and your work. If you look sloppy or unkempt, you send the message that you don’t care what people think of you,” says career counsellor, Arlene S. Hirsch.
Andrea Kay, a career consultant and author of four career books agrees. “The clothes you wear convey the first impression someone has of you and can tell a lot about the kind of judgment you have. So if you’re wearing professional attire, it says, you’re a professional, and upon first meeting you, you look like a professional,” says Kay, whose most recent book is Life’s A Bitch And Then You Change Careers: 9 Steps To Fet Out Of Your Funk And On To Your Future. “Depending on the environment in which you work, your clothes may make you seem immature and not very concerned about creating a professional demeanour.”
Kay suggests taking a cue from how the leaders and management in your company dress. A polished appearance can help you be seen as someone who wants to move up into a more responsible role.
“Your appearance can have a significant impact on your career path. If you are working with customers or clients, you represent the company as well as yourself,” says Hirsch. “An employer needs to feel confident that you are representing their interests and organization in a professional manner.”
We send many non-verbal messages at work aside from how we look. Kay says how you behave in meetings, for example, shows a lot about who you are. Do you fiddle with your pen? Do you constantly look at your watch?
“These types of behaviours may convey boredom and disinterest, that you’re not comfortable talking or have nothing to contribute,” she says. “People may not necessarily be consciously paying attention to these things, but they notice and make decisions on how they feel about you based on these types of non-verbal messages.”
If you seem bored it will impact your ability to get promotions and take on new responsibility according to Kay. Making the effort to think about how you appear to others can go a long way.
“You don’t have to invest a fortune in new clothes to present a professional image; you just have to invest some time and energy in developing a well-groomed image,” says Hirsch. “Although this may take a little extra time, energy and money, it is time, energy and money well spent on your professional future.”