Most everyone who has applied for a job or interviewed is familiar with the basic office “uniform” – black suit, white button-down shirt, and dress shoes. Most offices have a business-casual dress code, which means dressing up Monday through Friday. But what do you do when your company is a little more casual or you work in a creative field? In these areas, you will have more freedom, but still should be careful not to go overboard. Here are a few rules of thumb to make sure you err on the side of professional rather than over the top.
The easiest way to learn the exact casualness or leniency your office has is through observing your co-workers and taking mental notes of what they wear. Do they wear shorts? Open-toed shoes? How short are the skirts? What materials are acceptable? Do men wear collared shirts? Also take note of whether or not these attire choices seem to fit in or if they stand out in a negative way. If you work for a fashion magazine, you may be expected to dress in a totally different way than a graphic design company. When in doubt, lean towards business-casual until you have had adequate exposure to the office and feel comfortable shaking it up.
Dress Up for Clients
Despite how casual your office may be, it is not a bad idea to bump it up a level for any clients (especially new clients) or important meetings you may have. As much as we all say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” we each only get one first impression—so it’s best to make it count. Adding a blazer on top of your regular outfit or switching to a collared shirt are both quick switches that can make a huge difference in how you are perceived.
Embrace Your Style
If you do work in a more lax environment, don’t shy away from your own personal style of dress. Your way of dressing is a physical way of presenting yourself and your personality, so it should reflect your own tastes. One way to show off your style while maintaining professionalism is to choose accessories you love – a chunky necklace, unique watch, or quirky shoes can all show your personality without being too much. Work hard to find the balance that works for your position and your company.