Dress the Part: How Your Appearance Can Make All the Difference in Your Professional Success

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but let’s face it: we’re all guilty of making assumptions about someone’s character based solely on how they look. A person’s sense of style is the most prominent factor that affects his or her physical appearance, which is why focusing on this aspect as you enter the workforce is crucial for getting the response you’re looking for. Although it seems shallow or unfounded that one would make such strong assumptions about a person based only on appearance, there may be more of a logical foundation to this inevitable fact of life than you might think.

If It Looks Like a Duck…

When you put on a nice outfit, take the time to style your hair and spend an extra few minutes grooming in the mirror, how do you feel? Usually the answer is confident, attractive and prepared to take on the day. Now compare this feeling with your demeanor in a t-shirt, jeans and messy hair for a quick run to the store. It’s like night and day, right? Although it’s true that “clothes don’t make the man”–or woman–they can have a major impact on your ability to put your best qualities forward. Dressing like a certain type of professional makes you feel like that professional, and encourages you to simultaneously embody those qualities in your actions.

So although you may be aiming for a low-level position within a certain company or have already landed this introductory job, you should dress like you’re the CEO. This may seem a bit superfluous–especially if you’re entering the workforce right out of college–but it will often encourage you to follow your ambitions and remember that your end goal is much further on down the road.

How Does One Dress The Part?

Answering this question is tricky because it varies based on a number of factors, including your profession, the ultimate position you’re aiming for and what type of environment you’ll be working in. To keep things simple, we’ll just assume you’ll be working in an environment that requires (or encourages) professional attire. For men, professional attire means you should always wear a tie–even if the dress code doesn’t require it specifically or it’s not what most of your co-workers typically wear. Although it might seem over the top, a tie adds a heightened level of refinement and seriousness to your look that your superiors will take note of.

Professional women can dress the part by wearing skirts or nice slacks to work along with button-ups, blazers, nice blouses and other attire that exudes a high level of professionalism. Both men and women are encouraged to express their unique personalities in their clothing choices as well. However, it’s important to avoid going overboard with over-the-top hair styles, multiple piercings, visible tattoos and other appearance modifiers that might distract from the professional attitude you’re aiming for.

If you’re still on a recent college grad’s budget, you can cut costs on revamping your wardrobe by using coupons and shopping at outlet stores. Although you may not have the job (or salary) you’re looking for just yet, investing in your appearance is a worthwhile way to advance to your most coveted position. In an age where your LinkedIn profile is just as vital as your resume, your appearance may have more weight on your ability to land the job than you think. So make it count.

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