The Importance of Business Dressing

You don’t have to have taken Marketing 101 to know that packaging can go a long way toward swaying someone to buy something. (Who hasn’t bought a bottle of perfume or wine because he or she liked the label?) Of this fact, advertising agencies the world over are keenly aware. It’s why boxes of detergent are blue or red (or blue and red) and not gray. It’s why labels shout new and improved and not same old, same old. These tactics sell!

Applying the principles of product packaging to how you dress and groom yourself should help you market yourself to an employer, and provided you work hard and stay on the boss’s good side get ahead in the company.

Unfortunately, not everyone pays enough attention to his or her own sales campaign. According to a 1994 survey of readers of Glamour, 79 percent of women cared a lot about what to wear on a date, but only 52 percent cared as much about what they wore to work.

Sartorially speaking, most people, male and female, get too comfortable in their work environment, not referring to dressing for casual Fridays. It takes some thought to figure out what you’re going to wear every day. Most people pull out all the stops for a few weeks after starting a new job, but after that, they just aim for presentable.

Professionals require that you set your standards higher, no matter what your title or profession whether you’re responsible for sharpening the boss’s pencils or signing the payroll checks. Even when the economy is strong and unemployment rates are low, there’s a lot of competition for the best jobs. You don’t want to be held back or downsized because you look dowdy or disheveled. Unless you have a stellar personality or wit or intellect to override how you look, not looking the part will cost you some points, notes an office manager.

Take a moment and assess your own packaging. What image are you projecting? Could those scuffed shoes be telegraphing a lack of attention to detail? Is that ’80s power suit a sign that you’re so behind the times you couldn’t possibly find your own way, much less lead a staff, into the twenty-first century? Have you gotten stuck in that college groove, with hair that says, grunge lives or my roommate cuts it, rather than the perfect accouterment for my professional attire?

One message your outward appearance transmits loudly and clearly is how well you think of yourself. With rare exception, a well-dressed person projects poise and conveys confidence a winning combination in the work world. The reverse is also true. An unprofessional appearance speaks to me of low self-esteem. Why would you want to do business with someone who lacks confidence?

As teachers are known for reminding their pupils, you have to take pride in your appearance. As working stiffs, that means freshly pressed shirts and un-scuffed shoes, as well as no frayed cuffs, missing buttons, chipped nail polish, or stained ties. Pride is an important character trait, and the way a person dresses is a commentary on his or her personal pride, notes the president of an insurance brokerage.

Beyond what it says about your character, dressing well shows that you have a healthy respect for your employer and those with whom you do business. You are, after all, the company’s ambassador to the outside world, so how you’re perceived says a thing or two about it. As one marketing associate observes, the first thing a client sees is you and your business card.


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