What do I love most about switching careers? No uniforms. Seriously.
Do you know what I love most about switching careers? Feeling like a human and more importantly me, each and every day because I don’t have to wear a uniform to work.
During my hospitality jobs, I had to wear uniforms. Terrible uniforms that never looked good. Plus I was guaranteed to be sweaty in my frumpy, designed-for-men uniforms. I hated it. I used to tell myself: “Oh getting ready for work is faster & easier because I have these uniforms”. And while it was faster, I hope I never work anywhere that requires a uniform ever again. Why did I hate uniforms? Because every shift I looked the same. I was a thoughtless zombie and every day was basically the same. It was the ultimate way to cover up any sort of personality and pride in how you look.
At my first job after college as a Banquet Captain, I remember one shift was going to be particularly boring as all I needed to do for the day was set out water pitchers for a meeting in the morning and at lunch and perhaps I might fine some other random tasks to fill my time. One of those shifts where that someone had to be “available” for the group, but that’s about it and that someone was me. Instead of looking towards the shift as the longest shift on the planet, I decided to instead take this as an opportunity to wear something fun to work. And before you start with the “but I thought you had to wear a uniform..” business, let me enlighten you. When you’re a Banquet Captain/Supervisor, you generally need to be in business attire and in some places I worked, that meant a suit.
Keep mind that your business attire has a few requirements:
- Look professional and meet corporate dress code (bleh!).
- Hide stains — because you will get them since you work around food and dirty dishes all day. Tide to-go pens are your friends, but even they can’t get coffee out of the cuffs of that nice shirt you have.
- Somehow let you bend and move all over the place since you never know what you’ll be doing that day. Server called out? Guess you’re doing that on top of your regular duties. Dishwasher went home sick? Fantastic! I love doing dishes in a suit with my leather, food service non-slip approved wedges (thank the gods that Crocs starting making good-enough looking work shoes).
- Hides sweat because you’re in and out of a hot kitchen all day and running around making sure clients and staff are happy, but inevitably someone is not and your left to deliver that thing they needed 10 minutes ago. So you’re sweaty. all. the. time.
- Oh and as cheap as you can find it because you will destroy it in probably 3 months. Somehow you’ll brush up against some equipment and now you have tear or stain or both- hurray!
So that basically meant dress pants, a blouse that hides sweat, same old dress Crocs, and a ponytail/bun each and every day. Insanely boring.
So back to my story of this one fine day where I’m going to wear something different because I don’t even have to deal with coffee and it should be a blissfuly simple day. I decide to wear a nicer blouse than normal, a pencil skirt (gasp!) with the required panty hose (and I hate panty hose), and actual dress Mary Jane’s with a silver buckle. I think I didn’t even pull my hair back into my standard “librarian” bun. I did my make up. I looked great.
I did my duties and all was well. I even got compliments from other hotel employees about how good I looked that day. And then the good-for-nothing HR lady comes up to me to “speak” to me about what I was wearing. Apparently she thought my skirt was too short (even though it hit about an inch or so above my knee- where it should) and decided to pick apart anything else she could. She told me if I ever wore the skirt again I’d get written up or something. I’m pretty confident she just hated on the skirt since it was red and I did look good as opposed to her regular outfits. I was totally bummed. When others later mentioned the skirt and how I should wear it again, I told them I couldn’t. Why? HR. Lame.
What’s the point of this story? I tried to improve my dreadful day with color and having pride in my outfit, and then corporate crazy shoves me back into the dreaded uniform for monotonous shifts.
Another example of how what I wore mattered is when I was a Food Service Manager working in corporate dining. Everyone else from our company wore a chef coat. I had also worked my way up to the position and started out in a chef coat. So chef coat. A big, bulky, hot as Hades, chef coat for the person with no culinary background ever. I had to wear it to meetings with the onsite customers and when I was alone in a cubby of an office which was actually supposed to be a closet. I had worn terrible uniforms for so long that I had just gotten used to the dang chef coat and thought there was not a way out. Until the one blissful day where dress code came up in conversation with my area manager and I asked if I could please stop wearing the chef coat. He said sure, but thought I actually liked wearing the chef coat. Oh this frumpy thing which makes me feel like I have some massive pajamas on during meetings? Oh yeah — I love wearing the chef coat so much that I will in fact never wear it again if possible.
Once I was free of the chef coat (but still had to wear food service non-slip shoes aka tolerable looking Croc Mary Jane’s), I was noticeably happier at my job. I fit in better with my customers and I felt more professional. I actually had to start buying clothes because I had limited selection of non-uniform clothes- re: weekend clothes.
And to bring this full circle, since I changed to web development, I love that I can wear whatever the heck I want to work and no one cares if I wear a red pencil skirt. I can even wear heels! It’s delightful! And I doubt my co-workers even notice or care. I love that I get to piece together outfits in the morning, feel comfortable in what I’m wearing, and let my hair down.
I honestly did not think stepping away from a uniform would be so freeing. And it’s really strange to say that I think my favorite part about switching careers is that I don’t have a uniform/strict dress code anymore. Oh and that I don’t get gross and sweaty everyday. If I get coffee on my clothes, it’s actually from my cup of coffee! I guess in life, it’s the little things and for me, it’s wearing whatever I want. Some days I dress up. Other days I wear a hoodie. And it doesn’t matter and no one cares. :)