‘Know, first, who you are and then adorn yourself accordingly’
– Epictetus, Greek philosopher 55 AD – 135 AD
The first piece of advice anyone would seem to want to give you these days is to be authentic. Fair enough. You’re being you; you’re being real. But what does that mean?
As the American comedian Dave Chappelle says: ‘The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching.’ And in this 21st-century globalised world, everyone is probably watching, especially if you put yourself on social media.
According to leadership coach Carol Kinsey Goman: ‘In business interactions, first impressions are crucial.’ Well, yes, they are, everywhere, not just in business, all the time actually.
And professionals, especially young professionals, should be cognisant of this. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, ‘power dressing’ was the crux of successful business dressing with Margaret Thatcher – the epitome of what it was to dress in a ‘man’s world’. The Cambridge online dictionary defines power dressing as ‘a style of dressing in which business people wear formal clothes to make them seem powerful’. The thing is in 2016 would you like to seem powerful or be powerful? Maybe this is where authenticity lies.
Being authentic means being true to one’s self. So, to begin the list of ‘Top 35 Tips to Dress for Success’, Epictetus had it right:
1 KNOW WHO YOU ARE
Well and good; you are a qualified accounting professional.
Is this the only thing that defines you? What else is it that you bring to the proverbial table? Safe to assume I’m sure, that as a Top 35 achiever you have a fair amount of ambition and drive to succeed. So what are the qualities that make you who you are, what are your strengths and what is it exactly that you’re striving for? Take time. Take a seat. Take a breath. Define yourself and the value you bring to the world. Yes, the world. Not just your office and not just your home life because you are on a journey – your big, bright life journey. And if contemporary wisdom has it correct, YOLO, right?
2 DEFINE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Why? ‘The question is no longer if you have a personal brand, but if you choose to guide and cultivate the brand or to let it be defined on your behalf,’ writes Shama Hyder, a U30 contributor to Forbes online. Take the time to craft a personal brand statement for yourself and make sure it not only defines your value and values but that it’s also aspirational. It can then be your guide as you move forward in your career. It will require re-crafting as you grow professionally and on a personal level. Your personal brand flows from knowing who you are.
3 KNOW WHO YOU WANT TO BE AS A LEADER
This is not about aspiring to a title; this is about being a leader in all that you do. According to Glen Llopis in Forbes Leadership: ‘Personal branding, much like social media, is about making a full-time commitment to the journey of defining yourself as a leader and how this will shape the manner in which you will serve others.’
4 DECIDE WHAT DRESSING FOR SUCCESS MEANS FOR YOU
… and then find an industry and organisation where – at the interview and beyond – you can be comfortable, successful, and fit in with the corporate culture,’ says Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likeable Local and New York Times best-selling author and speaker.
5 STRATEGICALLY MANAGE YOUR IMAGE
This is about defining your personal impact power. In the nanosecond you have to make a first impression and then the time you have to make a lasting impression, who is it that you want the world to see?
As stated by Colin Shaw, founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy: ‘For people, our appearance reflects how we want the world to see us, what we are comfortable in, what we think of ourselves.
Some of these looks tend to conform and present a societal archetype to those who see us.
It’s better not to judge a book by its cover, but since we know we are going to do it anyway, make that cover say what you want to say.’
6 DEAL WITH ASSUMPTIONS
‘Know the world isn’t perfect. People still make assumptions about us based on irrelevant things like clothing and mannerisms … and height and weight and age and gender and ethnicity and tons of other qualities and attributes that have absolutely no bearing on a person’s performance,’ says Jeff Haden, ghostwriter, speaker, and Inc. magazine contributing editor. Know who you are and be that – never apologise.
7 KNOW THAT BUSINESS DRESS SHOULD REFLECT YOUR INDUSTRY OR PROFESSION, YOUR COMPANY’S BRAND AND APPROPRIATENESS TO YOUR WORKING CONTEXT AND CLIENT.
8 UNDERSTAND THE ROLE YOU PLAY WITHIN THE COMPANY BRAND.
9 CHOOSE YOUR LEVEL OF BUSINESS DRESS.
10 POWER DRESS FOR INTERACTIONS WHERE YOU NEED TO LEAD, DIRECT AND MOTIVATE WITH CONFIDENCE.
11 BUSINESS DRESS FOR THE CLIENT AND OFFICE ENVIRONMENT.
12 DRESS BUSINESS CASUAL FOR THE OFFICE ENVIRONMENT.
13 REMEMBER THE DRESS DOWN PHENOMENON IS LIMITED TO CASUAL FRIDAYS.
14 DON’T CONFUSE BUSINESS CASUAL WITH CASUAL.
15 CASUAL FRIDAYS ARE NOT CASUAL SUNDAYS AT HOME ON THE COUCH.
16 FOR CASUAL FRIDAY, THERE ARE TAKKIES WHICH ARE TACKY AND THEN THERE ARE TAKKIES WHICH ARE SMART SNEAKERS.
17 CHECK YOUR FABRICS: THE FINER THE WEAVE OF THE FABRIC, THE MORE FORMAL IT IS.
18 HAVE THE BASICS IN YOUR WORKING WARDROBE: CLASSIC SUITS, JACKETS, PANTS AND SKIRTS.
19 AT LEAST 80% OF YOUR WORKING WARDROBE SHOULD CONSIST OF THESE BASICS.
20 ADD AT LEAST SEVEN SHIRTS AND TOPS.
21 OF THESE SHIRTS AND TOPS, 70% SHOULD BE PLAIN AND 30% PRINTED OR PATTERNED.
22 SELECT A BASE COLOUR FOR BELTS, SHOES, HANDBAGS AND BRIEFCASES OR LAPTOP CASES.
23 ADD 20% FASHIONABLE ITEMS OR ACCESSORIES TO REFLECT YOUR STYLE.
24 ACCESSORISE, YET REMAIN PROFESSIONAL.
25 DRESS FOR YOUR REAL SIZE, NOT THE SIZE YOU WANT TO BE.
26 TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR CLOTHING.
27 THINK ABOUT THE IRONING – IS THAT LINEN JACKET WORTH IT?
28 TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR SHOES.
29 RATHER BUY A FEW QUALITY ITEMS AT THE UPPER END OF YOUR BUDGET THAN BUYING MANY CHEAPER ITEMS AT THE LOWER END OF YOUR BUDGET. THEY’LL LAST LONGER AND LOOK BETTER.
30 CONSIDER YOUR BODY SHAPE: RECTANGLE, HOURGLASS, PEAR OR APPLE. AND DRESS FOR IT. JUST BECAUSE IT LOOKS GOOD ON SOMEBODY ELSE DOESN’T MEAN IT WILL LOOK GOOD ON YOU.
31 ATTEND TO PERSONAL GROOMING INCLUDING SKIN, HAIR, NAILS, BEARD, MOUSTACHE AND BREATH.
32 PLAY TO EXPLORE YOUR PERSONAL PROFESSIONAL STYLE AND THEN MASTER IT.
33 SHOP WITH YOUR PERSONAL STYLE IN MIND.
34 BUY AND WEAR CLOTHES YOU FEEL GOOD IN.
35 PAUSE TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT YOUR DOOR EVERY DAY.
And finally, consider this from Glen Llopis: ‘Those who have defined and live their personal brand will more naturally demonstrate executive presence and as such may find themselves advancing more quickly at work.’
Author l The IE Group