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Dressing for Success at Work

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources for CareerBuilder.com

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Company dress codes are a never-ending battle in the working world.

Battle No. 1: Employees misinterpret the dress code or they don't abide by it.

Battle No. 2: Companies have a code in place but don't enforce it.

Battle No. 3: Companies don't have a dress code but they still reprimand employees for wearing certain attire. Or,

Battle No. 4: There's constant objection from certain industries along the lines of, "Why do I have to look nice at work if I don't see anybody?"

If you're a sales employee who meets with clients every day, for example, it makes sense to dress professionally. But for the writer who sits in his cube all day and rarely sees the sun, let alone another person, does it really matter what he's wearing?

If he wants to be promoted, it does. In a new CareerBuilder.com survey, 41 percent of employers said that people who dress better or more professionally tend to be promoted more often than others in their organization.

Where do wardrobes really matter?

Dressing professionally is more important in some industries than it is in others, According to the survey, according to the survey. Financial services is one industry that places the most emphasis on professional work attire. Fifty-five percent of workers in this sector say well-dressed employees are more likely to be promoted than others. An additional 51 percent of sales representatives say the same thing about the likelihood of promotions in their industry.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, only 33 percent of manufacturing employers and 37 percent of IT employers say that professional attire influences whether or not an employee gets promoted.

Employer restrictions

Especially in the warmer months of the year, employees take advantage of more relaxed dress codes. But, professionalism shouldn't decrease as temperatures rise. How you dress plays a critical role in how others perceive you at work. Dressing professionally in the office, despite the urge to wear a tank top and shorts, will help you project a motivated image to your boss and co-workers.

To many employers' dismay, traditional dress codes aren't always enough to keep employees from dressing inappropriately. In order to force employees to dress more professionally, some employers are banning certain items of clothing in order to limit the options workers have when it comes to their work wardrobes.

Sixty-four percent of employers surveyed have banned flip flops, while an additional 49 percent have forbidden mini-skirts. Thirty-eight percent banned sleeveless shirts and 28 percent have prohibited jeans. More than one-third (35 percent) of companies have gone as far as to send employees home for unsuitable work garb.

Here are four tips for dressing professionally on the job:

- Stock your closet -- Start with the versatile basics, such as a pair of black pants, a dark pant suit, some button-down collared shirts and a classic pair of dark shoes. Once you have the staples, you can continue to build your wardrobe to give you plenty of professional options.

- Keep it neat and clean -- Make sure your pants, shirts and other clothes are ironed, stain-free and in good condition. When your clothes look sloppy, so do you.

- Steer clear of bar attire -- Don't mistake the office for your local watering hole. Leave the slinky shirts, tight pants and cut off t-shirts at home.

- Look the part -- Have a client presentation or a meeting with the CEO? Dress for the part, making sure you choose appropriate articles of clothing for your role.

Rosemary Haefner is the vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder.com. She is an expert in recruitment trends and tactics, job seeker behavior, workplace issues, employee attitudes and HR initiatives.



Last Updated: 09/07/2008 - 12:04 PM


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