APU Careers Careers & Learning

Are You Dressing for the Part?

By Rowe Leathersunconventional-career-advice
Contributor, Career Services

A few years ago while shopping at Target, I was stopped several times by customers who asked me seemingly random questions. Not being familiar with the layout of the store, I wasn’t able to help any of them with their questions. It wasn’t until the fourth time being stopped that I realized that I was being asked these questions because I was dressed in khakis and a red shirt. To the other customers, I appeared to be a Target employee. These days I am more careful about how I dress and adjust accordingly to the environment. This same consideration should apply to the office and most important, to your career.

Are you climbing the management ladder but still dressing like an intern? Are you a current manager who still dresses like the receptionist?

While we dress to impress for the interview, we have a tendency to soften our standards following the probationary period. What begins as motivation to look professional, somewhere along the way, morphs into casual Friday every day of the week. Some organizations allow for a liberal interpretation of the company dress code, so it is important to follow the preference of your management, not your co-workers.

As the definition of “casual Friday” is subjective and varies with each organization, ensure that your definition of “casual” aligns with the definition of your organization. In some offices, “casual Friday” translates to “not a suit”’. While still a bit formal, this could be the culture of your company.

Is your office more relaxed and allows for creativity and interpretation? If so, proceed with caution. While some of your colleagues may interpret casual Friday as a “pit stop on the way to the beach,” I suggest you keep the focus on your upcoming promotion. Whether that will be next week, next month, or next year – you should dress for the part.

As a guide, dress for the specific position you aspire to have in the future. If your leadership is always in suits, consider a slightly less formal dress code, though still appropriate enough for an impromptu meeting with them.

As you begin to climb the ranks of management, be sure to continue to adjust your wardrobe accordingly. Looking back, you will be pleasantly surprised when you realize how much you have evolved.

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