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Should you really dress for the job you want?

We always hear it, but should we adopt it?

Always bombarded with phrases like “Dress for success”, “Dress for the job you want, not for the one you have”, etc? However, is it always doable? We like to wear clothes that we feel comfortable in, and suit and tie aren’t always the most comfortable solution. Another important question is, do people really notice these things? Does it really matter to them?

Well, it does matter. Your clothes give people a lot of information about you. Some people call it misjudgment. It may be, but it’s the way our brains are designed. The world is full of information, and based on the experience, we take mental shortcuts when coming to conclusions. Because we are so overwhelmed with information, we take the basic ones and make conclusions based on that.

dress for the job you want

Let’s say you come into a bank for the first time. Your number gets called and you come to the counter where a lovely lady works. However, the lady has stains all over her shirt. You will immediately think that she is sloppy and doesn’t take too much care of herself. You might be right, but then again, she might be one of the neatest and cleanest people in the whole bank, but just that day had a misfortune during the lunch break to spill something all over herself. You don’t know that, and you are making conclusions based on the information that you got first. That’s completely natural.

We can’t change the way people’s brains work, but we can change what information we send out to these people. Forbes was dealing with this topic, and one hiring manager wrote this:

(…) Appropriate dress has never been an issue until just the last few years. It’s not just Gen Y job applicants who come to their job interviews dressed like they’re going to a club or to the beach. I’ve had people in their 30s and 40s come to an interview in cargo pants with no belt and a pullover shirt that looks like an upscale T-shirt (no collar, no buttons). It is just me or has the whole ‘dress-down Friday’ thing gone too far?

What you wear to an interview is crucial. If you already have a job, that’s great. That’s an indicator that you probably know what to wear to an interview. But what now? How should you dress for work? Especially if that’s not your dream job, and you’re still waiting for that opportunity? Should you dress accordingly?

The short answer is yes, but this is what it means:

Wall Street Journal tackled with the studies conducted regarding this topic. The studies show that the better you dress, the better you feel. Seems pretty reasonable, right? But get this, your clothes may also have an impact on your work performance. The better you feel, the better will your motivation be. And motivated worker is the best worker. You might not have the job you wanted, but if you dress for the one that you do want, it will make you feel better. It will boost your confidence and by that, you have higher chances of getting the job you actually want.

Of course, “dress for the job you want” is applicable only when your dream job isn’t that far off from your real job. If you work in a kitchen, you have to work in a kitchen uniform. You can’t cook in a suit. You might work in an office but you always wanted to be a singer. You can’t come to the office dressed in bedazzled, see-through bodysuit like Britney Spears in toxic. You need to respect the dress code and do what you can within its boundaries. You need to be professional, and your clothes must be part of that professionalism.

Wall Street Journal reports that successful people are those who dress like it.

sweats vs suits graph Image source: Wall Street Journal

The bottom line

The way you dress sends out a strong message. You need to think what message you want to send out, and then dress accordingly. “Dress for the job you want” is a rule you should abide if the dress code for that job is amicable on your current job. Take care of yourself and take care of the way you look. Whether you like it or not, your looks play an important role in the first impression. And we all know that the first impression is something you can’t re-do.