Does What We Wear To Work Matter?

I recently had the opportunity to listen to an inspirational web shop owner share his knowledge with a large number of soon to be web developer graduates. The classroom was full of young and eager students hoping to get their foot in the door and find their first full time job to start their careers.

The class was told that day to “dress to impress”, and when skimming the audience, most were wearing professional attire and even the occasional tie. I on the other hand was dressed in a hoodie.

Now before you judge please let me explain. That morning when I was getting ready for work I thought I was going to be spending the day in my office. Focusing on writing a few more blogs and working on the web presence for Lumeno.

I work for a company where the dress code culture is to be comfortable. And that it is more important to focus on the work we do for clients rather than spending hours getting ready in the morning or wearing uncomfortable heels for eight hours a day.

However, before I could explain my situation, it seemed that most of the classroom had already judged me on their first impressions. I would bet that when I first walked into that classroom, no-one thought I was a Project Manager about to hand out my business card and present them with a job opportunity.

The society that we grow up in has caused us to always judge people on what they wear; this is because our clothes give a perception of who we are. A person in a lab coat is often assumed to be knowledgeable, because we associate lab coats with doctors and scientists. It is no different when it comes to websites, where a clean and modern looking website gives the company an image of legitimacy. Especially when comparing these to websites that haven’t changed since the early 2000’s. When users spend an average of eight seconds on a website, that first impression is formed rather quickly. It’s unfortunate but true that most humans do judge a book by its cover.

Did my outfit that day impact my company’s image and convey the wrong message of being unprofessional?

Or did it display that Lumeno Web has a Silicon Valley culture where we focus on the quality of work produced? After all I had planned on being comfortable and locked away in my office all day producing a good portion of work. I felt comfortable in my hoodie and was able to arrive at work earlier before the rest of the office.

 

Did the classroom look at me in my hoodie and believe my business wasn’t trustworthy?

I honestly believe that everything that represents your brand should express your expertise and trustworthiness. And on this day maybe I was lucky, maybe showing up in a hoodie to soon-to-be graduates made them feel a sense of familiarity and allowed me to build a connection with them. Or, maybe I lost a potential employee that day, simply because I was too lazy to wake up an hour earlier and put the effort into looking professional.

Does What We Wear To Work Really Matter?

Yes, of course what we wear to work matters. That morning I had a gut feeling, that I was underdressed and I should have changed; but I didn’t. If I was sitting at home in my hoodie working on my laptop it would have been fine. However, I was representing the company that day and often meetings popup at the last minute or things don’t always go to plan. Therefore, from my own experience I hope we can all learn a valuable lesson about the importance of being prepared for the unexpected.

I believe feeling comfortable in your work clothes is important but I also firmly agree that confidence is the key. I am one who really appreciates fashion and keeps an eye on the latest trends. I’m proud of my name on the Lumeno business card that is printed on thick paper stock and has a gold foil coating. It stands out from the crowd as a top quality business card. I know I have a strong work ethic and that is why I wore my hoodie to work months after my interview and first impression was a memory.

However, for those times when I meet people that don’t know my working ability, I now have my bottom drawer in my office filled with a makeup bag, a blazer and a spare pair of heels. In a busy lifestyle it is easy to become lazy, but it is important we make time to instead wake up that little bit earlier. And put as much effort into the outfit as I would put into designing every graphic that represents the Lumeno business.

I’d love to hear about a time when you too were in an outfit that wasn’t ideal for the situation in the comments below.

Tara Brocklesby is a Project Manager and UX perfectionist. Originally from Melbourne, Australia she has been living in North America for the past two years, and according to her co-workers she still has that awesome Aussie accent. Embracing a “she’ll be right” attitude, she took a risk and left her job as a full-time developer for Bell Potter, a stockbroking company on Collins Street, to work at Chipinaw, a Summer Camp in Upstate New York.

After travelling around America and then nearly dying in Mexico, she decided to follow the path of many other Australians and work at Sunshine Village, a ski resort located in Banff, Canada.

Tara, has never been one to go with the flow, or take the easy road. She has worked hard while globe trotting to always find work relevant to her degree in Information Technology / Interactive Media from Deakin University. Her previous knowledge as a developer, as well as her supportive nature to help less tech-savvy people with computer or software issues has lead her into a well-suited role as a Quality Assurance Specialist and UX Designer for Aquanode Interactive.

Tara’s need for things to always be organised and perfect were the main driving forces behind her promotion to the role of Project Manager. While also wearing many other hats she is helping to build Lumeno Web into a fast-growing and top performing full service web agency in Calgary, AB.

Leaving her friends and family, to constantly seek new learning opportunities, often causes Tara to feel like she might be missing out. However, Tara is trying to spend more time taking a step back and viewing her life from different perspectives; because so far in her short 25 or so years of life, she has accomplished heaps!

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