We recently read an article in the New York Times by Vanessa Friedman titled “Hey Silicon Valley, Maybe It’s Time to Dress Up, Not Down”. It’s a good article that considers the costume of high profile CEOs in the tech world, and makes parallels to the forgotten rational of Jobs’ and Zuckerberg’s simple, tailored and consistent dress. It was Albert Einstein, a Tech OG, that wanted to reduce the number of decisions he made in any given day to the ones he believed to be important. More time to consider groundbreaking technology and supporting physics equations. Less time deciding what to wear. It’s a good article to read as you start interviewing or begin a new job.
BTW, thanks to SBF, the older intellectuals running companies these days are going to pay more attention to your appearance as an indication of your commitment.
What to do – How do I dress?
CareerNet Nation staff spit-balled on this one. See we don’t have a dress code. We have guidelines. We are adults. You are an adult. You know what is appropriate. You know when you are pushing it. You know what is not appropriate. Here then is our simple guide to dress code for any job. And we mean any job.
Step 1 – Observe
Look at what established co-workers in your team wear to work. It’s the best indicator of what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. Why? They dress in a way that is respectful, to the company, to its customers, to each other. They dress in a way that makes their co-workers and colleagues comfortable. The dress code at your company happened over time. It’s part of the culture.
You may have recognized that some companies are suits and boots. Some are Kakis and polo shirts. Some are dresses. Some are skirts and tops. Some wool slacks and button downs. Some are clean sneakers, dressier jeans and sweaters.
The point is to be neat and to be consistent with your co-workers.
Look at what your co-workers are wearing. It’s the best indicator of your dress code.
Step 2 – Who are you meeting today?
Consider your day. Who are you meeting with? Your manager – great you know what to wear. Are you visiting a team in another division that dresses more formally? Match it. Are you visiting a team from another division that dresses less formally than your team? Do Not Dress down. Wear your everyday attire.
Are you meeting with a customer or a potential customer?
Hmmm – this is where mistakes are made. Here is the answer, dress business casual at a minimum. A white crisp blouse or button down as examples. Solid colors or modest patterns. No Gucci snakes or tigers. A tie is ok IF you are comfortable in one. No too tight collars! It looks forced. Tailored dark slacks, yes. No sneakers. Shoes. And take the time to remove any scuffs – men learn how to polish shoes quickly. Here is a video link to learn how to shine your shoes in a minute.
Our internal guidelines suggest an ironed, solid button down for men when they are on a video call. For women, they can wear what they like – but no T-shirts.
What’s the reason for all this? It’s respectful to the client or potential customer and says to them that you are serious about the meeting, the business, their business and to details.
Step 3 – Look in the mirror boss.
Look in the mirror. Having a bad hair day? Get it under control. And that does not mean put on a ball cap. We can’t tell you how often we see interviews or product demos on video conference where one of the platform demonstrators is wearing a ball cap. Seriously? It’s not that we haven’t purchased services from ball cap wearers, we have. But it’s almost never because of the presentation. The tech service sold itself during the 14 day trial period.
Nails need grooming? Get it done. Why? We shouldn’t have to tell you – but here is the career reason: If you have it together, customers, co-workers and clients will be less concerned about the quality of your work and your ability to provide the service to them. That’s a big advantage for young professionals.
Look, we are not here to tell you how to wear your hair, apply your makeup, shave properly. You know what to do. Look in the mirror. You know what needs to be done.
Step 4 – Don’t over do it.
Don’t over do it either. Channel shoes and Gucci bags are not for call centers. They are for nights out.
Suits and ties in a kakis and button downs office? Not a great idea. It potentially says all the wrong things to your co-workers. And yes they are talking about you behind your back. If you want that kind of negative attention, it’s all yours but you have to work with these folks everyday.
Want to amp it up a bit? Find higher end kaki’s and get them properly tailored. Find understated higher quality loafers or dress sneakers. Go the extra mile to find polo shirts of better quality that fit you. Not all cuts are alike. Not all body types are alike. Take a half day at the mall to find the brands and sizes that fit you properly. Then order them online.
Step 5 – It’s totally your call if….
It’s totally your call if you are in the fashion industry. Pretty much ignore everything we’ve just written. All bets are off. But most of us are not in the fashion industry.
It really is not that difficult, except that during the 20 years since the dot com bubble professionals have lost their way, dress code wise. Things have changed. Ties are an exception not the rule. Jeans are generally fine in certain office environments (neat and well-fitting not baggy). Suits are mainly for formal occasions, weddings and New Years events. We know the work world is not going back to the 80’s and 90’s anytime soon.
Here it is in three words. Neat and Clean.
That’s what you are going for. And look, as you become a titan of industry or a leader of a new division or the next high growth business CEO, people will give you a little wiggle room. You can dress like Jobs or Zuck.
Bill Gates was a slacks, button down and sweater guy btw. But in important out of office meetings? Navy suit and tie. Think about it.
(CareerNet Nation: No hats and no hoodies in the office. They are for weekends.)