What kind of image do you present at work? It doesn’t have to cost a lot to present a top quality impression, but it is worth making some investment. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to interview Kat Griffin, publisher of workstyle blog Corporette, about how what you spend on yourself and your appearance makes a difference at work. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for matching your heel height to the length of your trouser suit. But listen up, guys, this is about you too…
Spending money on yourself is an investment. Why should you bother buying expensive clothes?
Clothes affect both the way that you're perceived and the way that you feel about yourself. From a personal standpoint, better made clothes feel better -- for example, better fabrics are often softer, from wool to cashmere. Furthermore, clothes you actively like can elevate your mood -- whether it's a tie or a dress or a great pair of shoes, putting them on in the morning gives you a little bit more confidence, and makes it a bit more fun to go to work. From a perception point of view, people who recognize bad clothes realize you're probably not very invested in your career.
What about accessories? What does a cheap bag/briefcase say about you?
A no-name bag that's well-made is better than a knockoff. And logo bags, no matter how high end, should really be considered carefully before you wear it, because a lot of people think of them as tacky. Ultimately, just look for a well-made, functional bag of a good leather, without obvious defects in the stitching or hardware.
Are the rules for contractors/consultants different from permanent employees i.e. do consultants have to pay more attention to this sort of thing and spend more (or at least look as if they have)?
I think it depends on the situation. On the theory that the contractor/consultant is constantly seeking more work, more business contacts, or even a permanent job, though, professionalism certainly matters -- which means yes, looking polished matters tremendously.
Trappings aside, what about investing in your appearance through hair and nails? Have you noticed a trend where men are getting their nails done or having facials?
Not really. In some workplaces, an overly-manicured appearance can even work again you, signifying that you have a lot of free time to go and get such services done, which could mean that you're not working very hard.
What are the business and personal benefits of doing all this?
Looking polished and put together helps your message be heard without distractions. It isn't about being the best-dressed person in the room, but it is VERY much about not being the worst-dressed person in the room. And in terms of personal benefits, there's a tremendous toll that dressing poorly (or even dressing in a uniform, without creativity -- such as women who wear nothing but polyester suits and sensible pumps every day) can take on your psyche. You want to feel good about what you're wearing -- and that confidence will be conveyed to others.