“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It might just be the most intimidating and confusing piece of advice ever offered to someone who wants to succeed in the corporate culture. It’s spawned a lot of jokes about people who go to work at Batman, or a ballerina, and so on when they really should have just bought a suit and maybe a nicer tie. If you want to succeed in the business world, the advice offered here is actually invaluable. However, it’s also very difficult to understand what it’s actually trying to say when it comes to your own wardrobe.
It’s Not Literal Advice so Don’t Worry
The good news is that you don’t have to literally follow this advice for it to work. If you want to be the CEO but you currently work down in sales, you shouldn’t go to work in a three piece suit. It’s going to make it difficult for you to hustle through the backrooms to find that right pair of shoes that you wanted, or help people get them on. It’s going to make you look like you’re not really all there and well put together. You need to dress in a way that allows you to do your job. The work uniform and dark slacks paired with sensible shoes that let you be on your feet all day and move with confidence are the clothes you should be wearing in this situation. So, given that you don’t have to actually model your outfits on the clothes your boss wears, what does this advice really mean?
Make Sure the Items You Own Are Clean and Nice
Instead of applying the literal rule to what you wear to work, consider it from a more general perspective. If you’re a woman, ask yourself how many female CEOs wear teal lipstick to work every day. Not that many. If you’re a man, consider that scruffy almost beards are very rarely seen in the boardroom. Some of these things are essentially meaningless corporate culture things. There is no reason why mustaches are acceptable in the boardroom and scruffy beards are not. It all comes down to keeping up with appearances and following the rules.
If you want to advance within a company, make sure that you’re obeying the corporate culture. This might mean that you have to buy some concealer to cover up that wrist tattoo. It might mean changing your hair to something more conservative. If that’s going to be a problem, ask yourself which you want more: a pink fauxhawk, or a chance at promotion within your company?
Even if you’re wearing dark slacks and a uniform shirt, then you should be aware that you’re presenting yourself to your superiors. Always make sure that your clothes are well fitting and clean. Don’t let your clothes get shabby. Invest in new pants when you have to. Keep yourself looking your best.
Don’t Allow Appearance to Take Center Stage
Dress for the job you want is advice that’s more centered on attitude than your literal attire. You should be showing your ambition in every way possible. This means in your attire and also your attitude. If you have to come in on weekends, if you have to do a job you don’t love so that the boss will notice you, then you just have to. Bring yourself in line with your goals in every day, and don’t let yourself hold you back. If you don’t shape up and conform to the corporate culture you’re going to have to overcome obstacles you set up yourself.