I used to not care what I wore, because growing up in boarding school, I was told what I had to wear, and when I wasn’t told what to wear, I just wanted to be out of that button up shirt and skirt and into something comfy.
I didn’t care what I looked like. I didn’t even care if people would say something to me, because I thought that no matter what I was wearing, people should respect me. But then I experienced something that changed my mind completely and has stayed with me to this day…
A couple of years ago I had a job in NYC. I would take the Long Island Railroad into the city, and then I would take the subway to my office building.
My dad, who could navigate his way through the whole city with his eyes closed, made me a layout of where I needed to go, what train and subways I could take and where I needed to get off, so I didn’t constantly have to pay so much to take a cab when I could hop on the subway.
It was one day during my first couple weeks of work, and I decided to be what I thought at the time was “brave” and take the subway to meet my older brother, Richie, on the other side of the city where he worked so we could have some lunch. It was all good until I thought I missed my stop! I didn’t know where I was, and I had absolutely no cell service. Time to Panic!!!
A kind man who was sitting next to me noticed that I was trying to figure out the stops, trying to look the subway map up on my phone, and freaking out while I had no service. He asked me if I needed help. I explained to him my situation, and he confidently told me that I should exit 3 stops from where we were, and he exited the train while I thanked him for helping me. However moments later a guy that was sitting across from me heard the conversation, and told me that I needed to get off at the next stop. I thanked him and jumped off the subway like he told me to disregarding the advice the first man had given me.
The man across from me was dressed in a suit and had looked like he worked in the city and knew his way around, while the man next to me was wearing sweat pants, drinking a beer and had a baggy tee shirt on. In just that one moment, I realized to myself all the different stereotypes that were going through my head, positive and negative. Here I was, hating how people would judge me by my clothing and not respect me, yet I was doing the same to them.
I didn’t mean to make this assumption about someone, but it was years of people doing the same thing to me piling up. That’s when it hit me that stereotypes are unavoidable, but the way you dress could change whether people listen to you or ignore you.
Back then almost everyone wore business suits. Men wore suits and ties, and women wore nice dresses almost everywhere. However, even a few years later, things have changed. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of workplaces that still require you to wear this clothing, but our society has become less conservative when it comes to dress code, actually making what to wear more confusing.
Whether you’re going to the bank, the grocery store, or even to get your car checked out, there is honestly a way to look appropriate for the setting. While it’s nice to think that we are being evaluated by our skills or abilities only and appearances don’t matter, they actually quite often do. Appearance is pretty important, and getting it right isn’t always the same answer. If you’re a designer in California, you are going to wear something completely different than if you were a banker in Wisconsin.
When you’re choosing an outfit for an interview, an internship or a full time job, research the aesthetics of your company, and consider these tips when you are going to work:
Appearances do matter. Look the part.
Dress appropriately for your surroundings.
If you ever ask yourself if something is too inappropriate, it is.
Always be neat and clean, including your nails, teeth, shoes, hair and makeup
There’s a fine line between smelling good and killing everyone with your perfume. Keep it minimal.
Think about when you appear along with what you appear in. If you’re not early, you’re late.
You’re never fully dressed without a smile! Smile and always have a positive attitude
Again find out what your office environment is like. As I said before some jobs and internships will be more casual than others. Start up companies often are more casual, but corporations often expect you to show up all suited and professional. By the way, just because a work environment is considered casual that doesn’t mean you should walk in with baggy and gummy clothing. There could be important clients coming in that day, and you don’t want to be the office disgrace!
Remember it is always better to be known for dressing up rather than dress down. Dressing up gives more of a lasting impression and boosts your confidence levels. When you look great you feel great, and when you feel great you produce great stuff.
So dress for success, because it really does work!
Read More By Zara: