Dressing to Get Promoted

When you think of a big time CEO, how do you typically think he or she dresses?

Do you think that CEO takes him or herself seriously as a leader in his or her field?

There was once a time when a coach told me that I “Hillary Clinton myself.” I dressed to cover myself up in clothes that sort of fit me but did not enhance how I looked. I wore blacks, greys and blues only. I dressed to hide who I am, mostly because I heard horror stories of Washington, DC interns who wore skirts that were too short or shirts that were cut too deeply in front. I did not want to be known as “that girl.” I also told myself that I wanted to be seen for my brain rather than my beauty, as if I could not have both at the same time.

I am not alone in this. I know there are thousands of people, particularly women, who dress to fit in and to not draw attention to themselves, who fear being seen in a physical sense without being understood deeper than that.

I acknowledge that there are industries that promote covering up, not standing out. By no means am I suggesting that you or anyone around you should suddenly make a huge shift to wearing something that would shock your colleagues in the office. But I do encourage expressing your essence through what you wear, whether it be through color choice, accessories or a new style of shirt. I also encourage buying clothes that actually fit you; this means if you need to go to a tailor, GO. The money will be well spent.

Think about walking into an interview with a suit that you feel uncomfortable in because something about it feels off, either you have not gotten the pants hemmed, or your shoes do not match as perfectly as you like or something else entirely. Since you feel so uncomfortable, you focus more inwardly rather than on the interview. Your mind is cluttered with thoughts about whether the interviewer noticed what is off, and when you are in that headspace, how can you possibly perform at your fullest ability?

Here’s the point: you can be professional (whatever that looks like for your work environment) and still demonstrate who you are AND you can be confident and comfortable while you are at it. When you feel good about what you are wearing, it can shift your whole day, your perception of yourself, and your productivity.

I am telling you now that I used to be the woman who did not want to hem her clothes because it cost money and it was not necessary because my work ethic will speak for itself. I used to be the person who hid myself by what I wear.

It did not serve me.

By not dressing to express myself, I lacked confidence, and could not ask for what I wanted or needed at work. I focused inwardly rather than on being a contribution to the mission of my organization. I was defensive about how I dressed, with my energy getting sucked out in the wrong directions.

When I began dressing in a way that screamed “That’s me!” I saw a shift in my confidence and work ethic. I also built deeper relationships with my colleagues (and my friends). And I got a lot of compliments for how I dressed. These are the things that get you promoted (seriously).

Isn’t that worth it?

To dressing for success!