Dressing for Success

Dressing for success is much more than just deciding what clothes to wear. Yes, this is important, but it in no way guarantees that we will be successful. Dressing for success might better be described as a combination of basic life skills. To dress for success implies we are self-confident, goal-oriented and determined – all personal strengths or skills. In addition, we usually want to convey a positive image (a relationship skill) and the ability to overcome challenges (a project skill). If you add a positive attitude, we become a force to be reckoned with. And so, this combination of skills may well be the true definition of dressing for success.


How to Dress for Success

· Decide what to wear.

Deciding what to wear depends on whether we want to stand out, stick out or blend in. Standing out in an interview would be dressing one step above what would be worn on the job. Sticking out would be wearing a three-piece suit to a factory job interview. Blending in would wearing what everyone else is wearing. The question is whether or not you want to be noticed. And if you want to be noticed, to what extent? Does it matter if the attention is negative?

To be dressed appropriately for any occasion, it’s important to know what is generally expected. If you don’t know, ask. There is nothing wrong in asking if the occasion is casual, business casual, or formal. But keep in mind that these classifications can vary. Again, if you are not sure, ask. If told it will be casual, you could ask if shorts are okay. If told business casual, you could ask if jeans and a jacket are okay. If told it is formal, you could ask if a suit, rather than a tuxedo, is okay.

· Consider image to be presented.

Once we know what is expected, we can then decide if we want to blend in, stand out or stick out. If attending another person’s wedding, we may want to just blend in. If dressing for an interview, we definitely want to stand out. When trying to make an “over-the-top” statement” or draw attention to a cause, sticking out is the way to go.

The most important element in presenting a positive image – a large part of dressing for success – is being clean and neat. People react to what they see, and an unwanted first impression may take time and effort to overcome. Presenting a clear image is the first step in acquiring the results we are seeking. In addition to what we wear, a smile shows we are approachable and a good amount of eye contact shows we are sincere and interested in what the other person is saying.

· Be positive.

Trust yourself. Believe you will accomplish the goals you set and act like the person you want to be. A healthy level of confidence and a positive attitude not only improve image, but increase chances for success by attracting other positive people.

Look for positive interaction and results and you will find them. Look for negative interaction and negative results and you will find them.

· Be prepared.

Dressing for success also includes being – or at least looking like we are – prepared. Again, this is part of the image. Walking into an interview or a meeting with a notepad and pen folder gives the impression of being professional. (Of course, if you are expected to bring something specific be sure to bring it. Simply dressing for success can only go so far toward actually achieving success.)

· Use appropriate communication.

Don’t destroy the visual image by using inappropriate communication. Profanity, for instance, is rarely a key to success. Use an appropriate tone of voice and be aware of body language. Both can send unintended messages.

Also pay some attention to content of the communication. Stay away from facts you only think are true. Success, beyond looking the part, involves building mutual trust and respect in relationships.

· Develop the whole package.

Dressing for success is not just clothes, it involves a number of equally importat elements. If the other elements aren't right, the clothes won’t matter. Focus on developing the whole package. Remember, we can control the image we present, which is often a major factor in overall success.