Right after college, I went on a job interview in a poorly fitted suit and realized the ad agency I was meeting with embraced a jeans-and-T-shirt work culture. I felt totally out of place and didn’t get the job. However, if I had been interviewing with a consulting group, my suit might not have felt so out of place.
You hope that your skills and expertise will speak more loudly than your wardrobe and looks, but they do play a role in how you’re perceived by your customers. The key is to find both an organization and a style that will complement your business and personal goals.
Match your wardrobe to your business
Your dress code often stems from the needs of your business, such as a no-jeans policy for workers in client-facing roles at banks or law firms, or uniforms for automotive technicians who work with messy materials and dangerous tools. Use common sense to determine what your (potential) customer will expect you to wear based simply on your business. Remember YOU ARE THE BUSINESS!
It will also reflect as good judgment to a customer if you’re spot on with your manner of dress and presentation. “As a customer, I’m looking for signs of future success – and red flags – anywhere I can find them, so clothing can be a powerful tool. If the product is creative, a unique style can convey that you have that. If I need someone meticulous and hard-working, a pulled-together, crisp, conservative look can tell me more than words ever could.”
Your business need unity and uniformity with your employees
While creative positions are usually friendly to more personal expression and individuality, some roles need the unity and uniformity of suits, uniforms or standardized dress to promote an organization’s vision. That might also mean toning down your hair or makeup, as well as hiding tattoos or piercings.
Here, personal expression isn’t an asset like it can be in creative roles. Instead, matching your identity to your brand will align your image and actions, positioning you as a great company ambassador. As a business person responsible for driving sales, you can’t afford to lose customers because of an employee’s individual expression of him or herself. Additionally, you want every action and image a customer views to be consistent with your brand’s message. Unfortunately, an employee’s body art may not match that message, so I cannot allow visible tattoos or piercings.
Ultimately, your goal is to find a culture that complements your style and your business goals.