Even though I work for a major corporation and there are definitely some corporate effects of this circumstance (no comment), not all aspects of my job jive with the stereotype – especially that of business attire.
I work in media. Not in the medical field, the legal field, or even the education field, but in media, where all fashion bets are off. In the weeks before I started working, I stocked up on my fancy business slacks, my patent-leather heels, and my expensive blouses. I was actually worried that I was going to look stupid and underdressed in this new sea of adults. But when I walked in on the first day, I was shocked to see jeans, flip-flops and t-shirts.
Not that this is a bad thing, but it certainly threw some of my perceptions of Corporate America out the window. All of a sudden, I didn’t need all that fancy stuff I bought! I didn’t need to wear heels, put on makeup, or even graduate from my college uniform of leggings and free t-shirts. However, one years later, here I am… still sporting my overpriced J. Crew wardrobe.
Why is this? Not only did I already buy the stuff, but I truly feel that you need to dress for the job you want, not the job you have, cliche as that is. If someone walks into an office and sees everyone wearing holey shirts and one person wearing a suit, who are they going to assume is in charge? Yup. That’s right. You.
My 5′ frame and miraculous ability to be mistaken for a 16-year-old may make it so this never ever happens, plus I don’t really need anyone to mistake me for the boss. But the truth is this – the simple ability to put together an ensemble that is appropriate and professional, even in the midst of jeans and Ugg boots, will let people know that you are serious. Even if you’re at the bottom of the totem pole, people will know you’re in it for the long haul (even if you’re not) and all it took was a few extra minutes of getting ready.
Just because your office is casual doesn’t mean that you need to be casual too. Don’t show up in three-piece suits if everyone else is in jeans, but don’t be afraid to raise the bar a little bit either, even if you’re the new kid on the block. See dressing nicely and professionally as your investment in yourself, because even if it’s not today or even tomorrow, one day you won’t be the new kid anymore. When that day finally does come, do you want someone to see you as the boss-to-be… or the intern?