On being older in the workplace

If you are a more mature worker, the big question is what do you wear to still look current without looking as if you are trying to be “down with the kids”?
By Jackie O’Fee.

You’re one of the older people in your workplace. 

You love the vitality and enthusiasm of the younger people you work with and you know your experience and wisdom is appreciated.

You know the shortcuts, the methods that work and you have the relationships you’ve built over time. You have no doubt climbed the career ladder over the years and are enjoying your management role. You believe you are adding significant value, but you also worry slightly about how you are perceived. Are you thought of as the “mum” or the “uncle” of the team?  

Are you keeping up with the rapid changes that technology now brings to the workplace? Are you still relevant? 

Being older in the office can be both a very cool place to be and a slightly scary one too. 

Given I espouse that the way you dress can have an impact on how you are perceived, you know I’m about to talk about what you are wearing to work.

You see, once you are entrenched in your role, comfortable and happy within it, the years can pass without you giving much thought to how you choose to dress for the office.

You replace your suit every year or so when it starts to get scruffy, you go back to the same store you’ve visited previously as they’ve always looked after you and chances are, you’re dressing the same as you did 10 years ago.

Fashions change and sometimes we don’t change with them – you may as an example favour your shirts slightly baggy as they are more comfortable but with slim fits being the current trend, you’ll find yourself out of step. 

Perhaps you’ve always worn a brightly coloured jacket over black pants and a top and you’re finding it harder to find both the cut of pant you favour and the bright, hip length jacket you’ve always worn. Fashion has moved on but you’re stuck in a past look and being stuck in the past is not good for your career.

No one wants to think of themselves as out of date, but perhaps you are being perceived as such by what you wear to work each day. 

The big question then is what do you wear to still look current without looking as if you are trying to be “down with the kids”? 

Let’s be honest, one of the downsides of ageing is that our body shape changes and some of the newer trends are not at all flattering to a more mature shape – I’m talking about slim legged chinos and men’s beer bellies or high-waisted pleated front pants and mid-life short waists. 

I believe there are a few things to try. My number one tip is to actually step out of your comfort zone and try some new stores. 

Shop where you consider the clientele to be of a younger demographic. I’m not suggesting you head to a surf or cheap young store, I am suggesting you try a store that you look at and think
“I think that’s too young for me.”

 Next time, don’t walk past, go in and take a look at what is on offer. 


Jackie O’Fee is the owner of personal style consultancy Signature Style. She works with both individuals and organisations. See signaturestyle.co.nz     

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