When meeting new people, 55% of the impact comes from the way the person dresses, acts and walks through the door.
Vanda Ametlli, IIE Great Lakes Region Vice President, Henry Ford Health System
One of the common questions that I have heard through IIE conferences and seminars from young professionals has been “tips for professional wardrobe” for young engineers. While, the advice “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” can be applied to certain work environments, it’s important to consider an array of factors in determining how you present yourself in the workplace. Business attire is important because not only is it a basis for first impressions but also determines how we connect with our customers and clients.
If you are just starting or moving to a new organization, it might take awhile to figure out what’s appropriate, so it’s always good to start conservative. This means keeping your wardrobe in the dark spectrum of blues, grays and black. Minimal accessories are a must. It takes a while to understand the culture and the environment of your work group before “fitting-in”. It’s key that you observe the wardrobe around you from front-line staff to middle managers and executives. It can be helpful to observe external visitors and level of business professional they portray. For example, if you don’t work in a suit environment, it’s easy to spot a visitor as they are usually “over-dressed” by having a suit. Taking notes of subtle differences that exist is important, because if you’re in a role that requires that you interact with front-line staff, your wardrobe and body language will help in building connections and trust.
So you have the culture of the company down and you’re adjusting and adapting as you go but in the midst of it you become a suit robot or a polo robot. It’s easy to get sucked in a standard dressing pattern (i.e. trousers and a polo) but it’s important to have fun and express your personality or in some cases the phase you might be going through. Even though sometimes, we’re placed in the engineers and fashion don’t mix stereotype, incorporating your likes to make you feel comfortable and confident definitely helps.
Of course, too much of a good thing can be dangerous so follow that same policy to your clothing. I remember in an IE seminar once hearing a keynote speaker saying that women should not wear 5 or more accessories as too many start being distracting to the audience. I was shocked that glasses, and my watch that I wear on a normal basis each counted as an accessory. It’s easy to overlook them as an accessory; however, it’s a great rule of thumb to follow to avoid distraction from your audience.
Portraying a professional and polished look should not be reserved for only special meetings. Make it a priority to treat everyday as a “special meeting” day. The image we portray to others can be a determinant in building a quick and trustful rapport, making a lasting impression and adding confidence in the delivery of your knowledge.
What are some tips that you have learned in your industry? What have been some factors that influence your wardrobe? Is there a motto that you follow for your work wardrobe?