Whether you are fresh out of college or mid-career, developing a more polished professional image is important to how you are perceived in the workplace. Personal branding is key in promoting yourself in the office. The way you promote yourself can be the difference in you getting that next promotion or raise.
Whether we like it or not, the way we look and the way we behave plays an important role in our success. I’m not talking about being attractive or not. I’m talking about being well dressed and well groomed. In the Zuckerberg era, where casual attire is becoming more acceptable, it’s becoming more difficult to understand the rules of appearance in the workplace.
Let’s break down the steps needed to elevate your office style and present a more polished professional image:
Refine Your Work Style
The first thing you need to do is become more familiar with the culture of your office. Is it more business formal or business casual? Are jeans appropriate or a no-no? Once you figure what’s appropriate in your office, add your personal style to it (within reason). You can show your personality bt try not to be a distraction to others. You want to be noticed for the right reasons. Try to strike the right balance between your personal style and your office dress code.
The Wardrobe Edit
One of the first things you should do when conducting a major wardrobe overhaul is to take stock of what you already have. You can’t effectively build or rebuild your wardrobe when you are holding on to things that no longer fit you or your lifestyle.
Start by cleaning everything out of your closet. Once you have everything out, start separating your items into three piles. You will need a keep pile, a donate/consignment pile and finally a trash pile. You will want to go through each item and try everything on to see if it still fits.
Ask yourself the following questions while cleaning out your closet:
● Does it fit?
● Have I worn it in the past year?
● Does represent my current style?
● If the item is damaged, am I ever going to have it repaired?
● If given the chance, would I buy the item again.
If the answer to any of those questions is no, then put the piece in either your trash pile or donate pile (depending on the condition of the item). Put everything you haven’t worn in the last year in the donate/consignment pile. Separate your keep pile into your closet pile and what will be stored (out of season items).
Build Your Wardrobe Basics
Once you have taken stock of what you already own and gotten rid of what no longer fits your lifestyle, make note of what your wardrobe lacks. The next step is to begin building the foundation of your work wardrobe.
Once you have the basic pieces, finding something to wear each day should be a piece of cake. Your basics should be able to last from year to year. When building your basics try to limit the more trendy pieces. These pieces should be more classic.
The best way to start off when building your work wardrobe basics is to keep it simple.
Here are a few basic guidelines for a great office attire:
Make sure any dresses or skirts you purchase are knee length
Neutral colors are good first choice for your foundation pieces like blazers, slacks, and skirts
Create options by changing up pieces so you can have maximum versatility. Purchase long sleeves, short sleeves, pencil skirts, cardigans, jackets and cropped trousers
If wearing a sleeveless top, make sure you have a blazer or cardigan you can throw over for meetings
To begin building your basics or foundation, you can start with the following:
3 pair of slacks
8 tops (shirts/blouses)
Start with two pairs of shoes (neutral pump or flat, black pump or flat)
Use accessories to really step up your look. Great statement jewelry and a strong shoe game can update the most basic outfit.
Putting it All Together
I know you have heard it before, but you should dress for the job you want not the job you have. Your appearance is important but so is your attitude. Confidence and a positive attitude are also key to a professional image. The next time you are in a meeting, be sure to smile and speak up when you need to.