Editor’s note: This blog is part of a new series by and for the ladies. PHP’s leading ladies will cover budgeting, time management, etiquette, business best practices, style, cooking, wardrobe, health and more.
Make no mistake, the right appearance is a critical component of success in a professional environment. People will generally decide whether or not to do business with you after the first time meeting you. First impressions can sometimes “make or break” successful business relationships — whether you are looking to get hired, close a new deal, or cement a partnership.
After several years in the business world, I’ve seen firsthand many do’s and don’ts in professional attire for working women. Whether you realize it or not, your appearance can either contribute to or limit your ability to advance in your profession. Your wardrobe tells a story about you, so make sure that your attire says classy, professional, qualified, welcoming, and engaging.
Let’s take a look at some tips for dressing for success:
1. Know where to shop.
Shopping for quality professional attire doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Having a classy, professional look just takes knowing where to shop. Stores like Ross, Marshalls, Nordstrom’s Rack, Ann Taylor Loft and other department store outlets afford the opportunity to look like a million bucks without overspending. At these stores, you’ll find high-quality, stylish business attire at a fraction of the original price. And internet sites like Overstock.com and eBay offer great steals for bargain hunters.
2. Be stylish but classy.
Let’s start from the bottom: SHOES (one of my favorite words!) You don’t wear heels to the gym; and likewise, there are shoes that are appropriate for a business setting. Conventional wisdom says that a professional shoe should have a heel of no more than four inches. Other factors to consider are the color of the shoe (hot pink and bedazzled is not professional), the openness (don’t bear too much) and the style. Business footwear tends to be more conservative than what you might wear on a night on the town, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun and show your personality!
The basics of a professional wardrobe include suits, skirts, blouses and slacks. However, equally important is how you wear it. If it’s too tight, too short or “your gifts” are too exposed, it’s not professional. Right before I leave my house I take a last look – and if I have any question if it’s appropriate or not, I will go back to change my clothes.
Think simple. The simpler the better when it comes to accessories, hairstyle and even make-up. Sometimes we think that we should do more and more, but simple is classy. The mistake I see most often is women overdoing their look.
3. How you look is about more than how you dress.
Dressing for success isn’t about having the “right” suit, the “right” watch, or the “right” haircut; it’s about dressing to successfully relate to people with whom you want to do business. It’s about the way that you carry yourself and the way that you present yourself to others.
Have you heard of the term being a “chameleon”? It means to adapt; to dress for your audience and the occasion. Dressing professionally shows others that you respect their time and you take the occasion seriously.
Be yourself. This is the most important thing, because your style is a representation of who you are. Just because you are dressing for the occasion doesn’t mean that you can’t be uniquely you.
Last but not least, be an example to other women in your business. Just like what we SAY at work can be emulated by others, your dress will be copied by those who see you as a mentor or role model. It’s all part of being the kind of person that others trust and want to work with.
Cindy Cobos is a Marketing director with People Helping People and resides in Lancaster, CA.