While everybody likes to talk about inner beauty and most employers will tell you the things they want out of employees are ingenuity and efficiency, the fact of the matter is your appearance is a huge factor in your success. Even if your employer and coworkers don’t consciously judge you by your appearance the subconscious judgement is there, programmed largely by media influences and the way they were raised.
The era of suit-and-tie is over in many industries and today most workplaces allow you to wear a range of casual clothing with no explicit guidelines. This can be freeing but it can also be petrifying if you don’t know what people expect.
Luckily you can follow these simple rules to look good—to yourself and your employer—every day:
- Know what’s appropriate for your industry
We might have entered the era of casual clothes but for a lawyer that is still “business casual”—and you’re going to need a proper suit & tie for court dates. Usually you can figure out what’s appropriate by watching what other people in your industry wear. Pay careful attention to what other people in your workplace wear and don’t forget to follow the dress code if there is one.
- Dry your hair
It might not seem like a big deal, especially if you have extremely short or straight hair, but leaving the house with wet hair—and especially arriving at work with wet hair—makes it seem like you don’t have your life together, which translates to not having your career together.
- Your bag matters
Your bag should look professional and be clean on both the outside and the inside. You don’t want things to be visibly jutting out of your bag and you definitely don’t want something that looks like a high schooler’s knapsack. There are professional looking backpacks but generally it’s recommended that you avoid these altogether and stick with a messenger bag.
- Avoid strong perfume
Even if it’s a good smell your smell shouldn’t be the first thing other people notice about you. In fact, they shouldn’t be able to smell you unless they’re literally hugging you. Use tiny amounts of perfume and be careful not to get anything too strong or flowery. This is particularly important with the rise of scent allergies.
- Wear well kept, polished shoes
This is another thing that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you but is a big deal to many employers and interviewers. In fact, it’s often the first thing interviewers notice about a person. Stick with black business shoes and polish them frequently. Leather should be polished at least once a week.
- Get a nice watch
You don’t actually have to use it but a nice watch exudes class and confidence. If there’s one cool accessory you buy, a sweet watch is probably your best choice.
- Avoid noisy jewellery
Large amounts of flashy jewelry and jingly bangles are great for belly dancers but they simply aren’t appropriate in the office. Your noisy jewellery is both distracting and unprofessional. Stick to a couple simple pieces that won’t make a single noise when you move.
- Use rich colors to portray authority
Dark colors signify maturity and authority and tend to be more memorable than light colors overall. Choose the colors that look best on you but always go for the darkest shade you can get away with. If you’re going to be doing any presentations make sure your clothing is vibrant enough to stand out from the background.
Figuring out how you’re supposed to dress in the modern era of casual office clothing is often tricky but as long as you’re adequately groomed and you follow these rules you should be fine in any office environment. If you’re still not sure what you can wear to the office it’s always a good idea to ask a trusted coworker.