So you’ve heard the saying, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” and if you’re like me, I’ve always wondered if that was still even relevant especially since most startup/digital attire is super casual.
When I started my first NYC job at a digital marketing agency in Times Square, I thought it was so cool that the CEO would show up to work in a t-shirt and jeans and the employees could sport their new white Vans. I mean damn, Daniel. But, my boyfriend, being the natural fashion guru that he is, gave me some friendly advice to up my outfit game.
At first, I didn’t take it too well; I thought he was telling me I had bad style and I sure as heck didn’t want to wear a pencil skirt to an office that had graffiti art on the wall. So of course I went to work wearing jeans and a t-shirt to work the next day.
However, I began to notice the style difference between the managers and the associates. It was crystal clear who the leaders were. Not that they were wearing suits and ties but they dressed like a professional ― collared shirt, tucked in obviously, loafers or heels, casual blazer ― and it separated them from the sea of newly graduated account managers. I began Pinteresting “casual work attire” at once and started marking photos of women with an outfit that said “I’m a boss babe.”
My first attempt was a bit stuffy and I even had one co-worker ask me if I had a job interview but as the weeks went on I tweaked my outfits in a way that made me feel polished and chic. My blazers sported a python trim and I’d rock a crisp, white shirt with studded heels.
I started to become somewhat of a fashionista around the office. Girls would come over to my desk to share their latest buy or get advice on a new outfit they’ve been mulling over. Not only was I getting noticed among my peers but the higher ups knew exactly who I was. Granted the office isn’t huge but we do hold two floors and I was standing out.
Over the next few months, I continued to take pride in my appearance and started to notice quick, career results. My suggestions were taken more seriously, I was asked to manage higher-level accounts and I was even invited to several meetings with c-level executives.
I mean, I had just started a few months before with no experience in the industry! Yes, I was studying everything I could about digital advertising and backing it up with stellar performance but so were a lot of other people.
It was obvious that the way a person presents him or herself dictates the way they are treated. As totally superficial and sad that this idea is, it’s true. We are constantly being judged on our appearance whether it’s on purpose or not so it’s crucial that we present ourselves in the best way possible. My boyfriend was right, and boy do I hate telling him that.
This thought process was confirmed when one of my higher ups came up to me and said, “We would rather bring you to an important meeting over so-and-so because you have a professional appearance and look the part.” I didn’t even have to say a single word in one of those meetings but I looked the part. It was an awesome compliment.
Needless to say within six months of working like a mad woman and dressing the part, I gathered up enough courage to ask for a raise early. Without hesitation, my bosses approved the raise and gave me a promotion! I later found out that most employees didn’t get promoted until after their first year but I was creating excellent work and becoming a leader in our division. I highly attributed this to taking pride in my appearance. Not only did the compliments make me feel great but I believe it gave others the impression that I was organized, serious, and ready for more.
Over the past few years, I have continued to advocate “dressing the part” to my friends and co-workers because of the enormous benefits that came from doing so. I have now received multiple promotions and raises well before the standard timeline and credit my growth to presenting myself as leader within the office.
The best part was it didn’t take a whole new wardrobe to look like a pro. I started out by selecting a few key pieces such as a blazer or silk pants that I rotated with more casual items already in my closet. Once I was able to, I began to replace old clothing with the best quality I could afford in a basic color scheme so that I could easily match my outfit each day. Now I can say that I am in love with my small but selected wardrobe and feel dressed up even if I am just stepping out for coffee. Not only has this increased my professional experience but it has increased my overall self-esteem and that alone has been well worth it.
— Zabrina Janda, Clarity and Transformation Coach, www.zabrinajanda.com