(Published in The Observer on Sunday, 1 April, 2012)
How you dress plays a critical role in how you will be perceived at work. Not only is it key to ensuring you get a job, it can also help you get ahead too.
With Cayman’s tropical climate it can be all too tempting to wear tank tops and shorts, but as the temperature rises, a professional image should still be maintained to ensure a motivated image is projected to your boss and co-workers.
Many companies enforce dress codes, banning certain items such as flip flops, shorts and jeans, but many dress codes can be left open to interpretation. Even more of a minefield can be created when dress codes are not enforced, or when there is no dress code at all – leaving employees wondering what is deemed suitable attire by their bosses.
The Chamber of Commerce recently ran a professional development and training course titled Professional Image. Run by Catherine Tyson, a trained counsellor who has specific expertise in the area of self development and grooming for the professional world, the course aimed to address the importance of dressing for success.
Tyson said the importance of image cannot be overlooked as it creates a lasting impression, which can impact your success in the business world.
“If you want to be taken seriously then you have to represent that with what image you portray,” she explained. “The majority of times people judge the book by the cover. It’s hard to change impressions once they are made, so making a good impression is paramount.
“Tattoos, visible piercings and too high heels and short tight clothing is frowned upon in most environments, and will definitely not help when it is time to promote within,” she advised. “If people cannot take you seriously because of your attire, chances are they will not take you seriously as a team leader, or within a job that requires a serious, professional image.”
Casual Fridays or Dress Down Fridays are popular policies within many companies, allowing employees to adopt a more casual dress. However, Tyson said that although there may be a more casual dress code in place on a Friday, you still need to always remember that you are at work and dress appropriately. “You still need to look professional and well groomed. Add a belt to your jeans with a nice shirt tucked in or add a blazer, some nice comfortable shoes as opposed to sandals or flip flops. Low rider or too tight jeans or slacks, short or too tight blouses and skirts are not appropriate for the workplace environment – even on a casual Friday.”
Timeless pieces in neutral colours and classic cuts form the foundation of a professional wardrobe and will stand the test of time. Avoid loud or bold fashion statements that will go out of style – a well cut trouser suit for men and women with some smart shirts will always look professional.
But, there is more to simply looking the part if you want a successful career.
“A professional image in the workplace goes beyond your nice suit and first requires you to understand the need to be dressed for success in all areas and at all times,” Tyson said.
“It begins with looking the part but continues with acting and behaving the part. Being professional begins with first point of contact to going above and beyond and these impressions last even longer than first impressions and affect your future in the business world.”
Philippa Clarke, a recruitment specialist at Affinity Recruitment, gives her tips on interview wear.
“It is absolutely critical to present the right image at an interview. I would always recommend preparing at least a day in advance. “It relieves worry and stress on the interview day if you are fully prepared ahead of time. If using a recruitment agency, your agent should be able to tell you how to dress accordingly for the company you are interviewing with.
“If applying directly to a company, do some background research and you should be able to assess in what manner to dress.
“I always recommend dressing above and beyond, regardless of how casual or smart you feel the company is. Lastly, all your hard work in preparing an outfit to wear will be lost if your overall grooming is not up to par. Make sure that you have freshly washed hair and that if you have long hair that it is neatly tied in a bun or with a clip.
“Minimal make up and minimal jewellery will also ensure you portray a professional image.”