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September 2006
Dressing for Success is No Joke!

by Susan Reynolds

Dressing for Success is No Joke!

Clothes make the man. That's actually a modified quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet. So what does this mean to today's professional? (And if clothes make the MAN, what does it mean to today's FEMALE professional?)

Especially, now, in these days of "casual Fridays", and for that matter, "casual Anydays"… Our work environment is often VERY casual, so we as professionals need to make some careful choices about how to handle this freedom of apparel, without damaging our career in the process.

It's a challenge for all levels, not just the executives, but also the folks climbing on the career ladder. We are given the option of dressing down, but need to determine just how far down to go. I'm going to address this article to the professional who wants to fit in, and to be comfortable with not only his or her choice of work clothing, but also with the environment of co-workers, clients, vendors, and other key business relationships.

Casual Fridays is a BAD idea. Yep, I'm coming right out with my opinion! Don't fall prey to the seduction of "being comfortable" by trading your professionalism and your image. A pair of short shorts or ratty jeans will not bode well when the next promotions are available, no matter if the company seems to condone the casualness. But you can hardly suit up, when everyone else is dressing down, right? Choose your business casual attire carefully. Many companies are addressing this problem by opting for great company logo apparel which allows everyone to feel casual and comfortable, without sacrificing business image. But what if you're completely on your own with this issue?

It's in many ways much easier for men. Opt for a "polo" shirt (with a collar) or a t-shirt without an imprint, coupled with a pair of pressed khakis, and polished casual shoes, and you're probably good to go! (You may elect to throw on a mid-weight blazer for VIP meetings.) Notice, I said POLISHED shoes. What an easy way to make or break an impression!

And ladies, opt for carefully chosen necklines… not too low… and carefully chosen skirt or shorts lengths… not too high! The fashion magazines and runways would often allow us to dress too provocatively for a professional environment. Watch it! If it looks sexy, it's quite probably too sexy.

Be taken seriously by appearing serious. Be assessed as professional by appearing professional. Your resume will be glad you did!

Susan Reynolds is a senior partner at Newmarket Careers in Santa Clarita, a job search and career strategy firm geared toward managerial, executive, and senior level professional careers. She can be reached at or 661-755-3308.

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