This past month, there’s been a lot of online chatter about corporate dress codes and what (or what not) to wear to work. (Surely initiated by the recent, salacious news that Citigroup is being sued by a former employee who claims she was fired for dressing too provocatively- details here). It reminds me of a message my late uncle passed on to me early in my professional career.
I was 22 years old, recently graduated from UBC, working as a “key-op” for a print and copy centre in Richmond. My duties included greeting walk-in customers and running all the Xerox photocopy equipment. It was a very, very casual work environment and I often wore shorts and a T-shirt during my shift. I was making $35K (good dough at the time) and my colleagues and I goofed off all day long. It was a blast!
After a few months at my new, “fun” job, I traveled to Toronto to visit my uncle and his family. At the time, he was a National Account Manager for a Fortune 100 international technology firm. A few days into my visit he asked me, “What do you wear to work?” Not, what do you do, tell me about your job, do you like your boss, etc….but, what do you wear to work? I told him and he responded, “So, where do you see that going…shorts and a T-shirt?” I shrugged my shoulders…”I dunno”. He smiled and said, “Richard, if you dress like a clown, the world sees you as a clown…is that the impression you want your boss to have of you?” He shared more of his thoughts with me and then challenged me to “dress up” for the next job I wanted in my life. It’s a message I’ll never forget.
The following week I showed up at work wearing a new pair of chinos and a crisp, white shirt. My colleagues laughed at me and my boss said, “What’s with the new get up?” I said, “I want more out of this job.” Within six months I was promoted to inside sales rep and the following year I was their number one account manager.
“Dress up” for the next role you want in your career….you’ll get noticed!
photo credit: parislemon