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DRESSING THE PART FOR YOUR CHOSEN CAREER
Although some of the lines around what is appropriate workwear have become blurred in recent years, it still pays to dress smartly and in a relevant way according to the career path you have chosen. Obviously there are some artistic or bohemian careers where it's acceptable to be alternative or casual, but unfortunately in more traditional workplaces you may still be judged on your dress code.
Dress to Impress
The old adage still holds good that if you want to show a credible and professional image then dress to impress. For instance in a legal career it is of paramount importance that you look the part and present a polished and confident image to the world. Some people are taking on an alternative legal career by working as Consultant Solicitors for companies such as Passion for Law, where they are able to work as part of a freelance model but with a support infrastructure behind them. This business model lets employees take control of their own workload and offers great flexibility, however, there will still be meetings with clients, partners, attendances at conferences and other events where you will need to look your professional best.
Don't Be Drawn in By the Casual Brigade!
Despite some top level firms such as Goldman Sachs recently introducing a flexible and casual dress code - and the fact that dressing down seems to pervade many sectors - don't get lulled into thinking this is necessarily acceptable. Although it is surprising news that a top investment bank would go down this route when expensive tailoring has been the norm for many years, in some careers you may damage your reputation or career prospects if you don't present the right look.
Admittedly, many people have become confused by the expectations in the workplace and the term 'smart casual' is one culprit that has added to the confusion. Even if you go for a job at a firm where casual gear seems acceptable, make sure you still dress appropriately for the interview - there is often an unwritten rule that whilst employees can endorse this style of dress, potential newcomers can't. If you are subsequently accepted for a job you can then choose to dress like the other employees if you find that most people dress casually or smart casual, and it will be easier to assess this once you start and have a good look at the way other staff dress.
Suited and Booted
It's difficult to go wrong with a smart suit and shirt but make sure that there is nothing too flashy or revealing about the outfit, and ensure your shoes or boots are up to the job as a shabby worn-out pair can spoil the effect. This look can put you in good stead for a number of sectors including accountants, law firms, healthcare, governmental jobs, healthcare or ICT companies. If you are applying for an artier or less conservative firm such as start-ups or creative enterprises it may be acceptable to relax this dress code slightly or brighten it up, but choose your look carefully and do the research first.
No doubt first impressions are still very important in the world of work, but as long as you have dressed in an outfit that you feel is the best fit for the job, you can then let your other qualities shine through to a prospective employer or client. Your look will give a first (hopefully positive) impression, but after that it is your other skills, abilities and attributes that will come to the fore.
Does It Really Matter What You Wear?
The simple answer is yes, it really does. Even if it is just a matter of making you feel at ease that you are dressed correctly, this will imbue you with confidence and may make all the difference at an interview, meeting or conference and also to your ongoing career prospects. Sometimes being dressed incorrectly can put you on the back foot at a presentation, conference or meeting. But you equally shouldn't spend too much time worrying about your outfit than the quality of what you are trying to convey to an interviewer, client or audience. Therefore, taking the time to get it just right can create a positive ripple effect both at interview and as you perform in your job, and who knows where this may lead!