An emotional reaction to what we wear

Dressing for work is one of the most intentional career moves you can make, says Jackie O’Fee, who challenges you to see if the way you dress actually makes a difference to your work day.

Every new year brings with it a set of new intentions.
 I’m sure we are all keen to leave the topsy-turviness of 2020 behind and want nothing more than a year free of community Covid transmission, I also know most of us will be setting ourselves some new goals for 2021.
I know many of my business clients have told me they appreciated the time that lockdown gave them with their families and the ‘slowing down’ that was forced upon them.
I repeatedly hear an expressed desire to maintain a degree of balance going forward.
Of course, not all of us were so lucky, with equal numbers of us stressed beyond previous levels as lockdown was not, in fact, time-out but rather a stepping up to the needs of the business. And while they may have been working from home, they were also sleeping at the office with the impact of constantly blurred boundaries.
Some of you will, no doubt, have set a goal to reach another level in your career and I’m here to make sure that the way your present yourself is not one of the things that hold you back from that.
There’s a very old saying: ‘Dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ which is a good starting point, but what does that actually mean?
Over the almost 20 years I have owned Signature Style I’ve worked with countless individuals on their personal presentation at the behest of the company they work for.
From young people who were deemed ‘partner material, if they just looked more professional’ to the woman who ‘presented brilliantly at her interview in all aspects except the way she dressed’. (Top tip: the way someone dresses at an interview is possibly the best they will ever dress.)
I’ve worked with team members who were ‘embarrassing’ to the business owner; graduates who ‘need to understand what professional dress looks like’ right through to senior executives who simply didn’t have time to buy new clothes.
In every instance I’ve spent a little time trying to uncover how they wanted to be perceived in their role.
I think we often forget that dressing for work is one of the most intentional career moves you can make.
The way you dress shouldn’t be determined by the weather report, nor by what is ‘easy and comfortable’.
It should instead be determined by who you are in your workplace and the role you have (or want to have).
Your dress can underpin or detract from your professional standards and is the easiest non-verbal clue as to who you are, picked up by colleagues, clients and your manager.
It’s as key to ‘look the part’ as it is to be the part, especially if you are hoping to step up the ladder because your higher-ups need to ‘see’ you in the role you aspire to.
There’s another (often under-estimated) aspect to dressing intentionally in the workplace and that is the way it can make you feel. I’ve mentioned in this column previously that we have an emotional reaction to what we wear – and you owe it to yourself to feel good each day.
Grabbing something ‘that’ll do’ for your workday will likely result in a fairly lack-lustre day while anything ill-fitting, cheap or wrinkled is not a recipe for success.
The simple act of making an effort will be rewarded with a greater sense of self-esteem, a spring in your step and. believe it or not, a better day at work.
Don’t believe me? Give it a try – I’d love to know how you felt. 

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