How will you wake up on Friday morning? Before you answer, remember that on Thursday we celebrate Thanksgiving. You may find yourself in need of an extra half inch on your belt; but, on the heels of your food coma, remember that you have an opportunity to enhance your professionalism beginning on Friday.
How and why should you care?
Black Friday signals the start of the holiday season and, more importantly, the holiday sales. It matters to you because, unlike most other times in the year, the best clothiers (e.g. Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren) offer their products discounted. You should relish the opportunity to bolster your professional wardrobe.
Clothing shapes people’s perception of you in every context, personal and professional. On your dream date, in the office, at school or with your family, people think differently based on your appearance. Your clothes form an impression that quickly cements in people’s minds. Positive or negative, better or worse, as one of my best college professors says, “perception is reality.”
A personal example: Outside of my work at Marchon Partners, I officiate ice hockey at every amateur level from the kids just starting out to NCAA Division I College Athletes. Every time we take the ice as officials before the teams, we become a spectacle. We enter the rink introducing ourselves to the fans, players and coaches. Our appearance dictates the impression we create and that stays with us throughout the game. Working hard, communicating succinctly and making the right calls during the game matters; however, before any of that happens, everyone looks at us. They see our shining black helmets, clean black and white shirts, tailored pants and crisp white laces… sometimes. Unfortunately, not everyone self-imposes a high professional standard and, not surprisingly, when people complain about referees, they often pick on their appearance first.
When you look sharp, your clothes earn you instant credibility. Overtime coupled with good work, you and your team develop an organizational culture through strong personal practices. In the league that I officiate, we want to develop a credible professionalism and enable others to perceive us as the best officials in college hockey. In our office at Marchon Partners, we foster a culture around intelligent, working professionalism that enhances our clients’ work. In other organizations, their dress reflects a more casual professionalism. Everyone’s style works for them and those choices distinguish different organizational cultures.
Shared cultural vision unites teams within companies. Engaging employees wins great business results. To quantify the power of business culture, Reflektive’s blog cited a recent Gallup study with some incredible numbers:
- Disengaged workforces cost companies more than $450 billion in lost productivity per year
- 95% of employees value culture over compensation
- 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success
Your professional appearance plays a large part in your organization’s culture. Your stylistic choices contribute to a professional culture that should attract and retain top talent. As we mention on this blog frequently, good cultural fit can fast-track someone to their next opportunity. In contrast, poor fit creates obstacles to hire when recruiters cannot articulate the hiring organization’s culture or a candidate’s interest wanes. Your appearance affects those around you and the future of your company.
To take the first step if you find yourself in need of some new clothes to enhance your professional image, take advantage of some of the sales going on this holiday season.