WorkWearWisdom: Standing Out Without Sticking Out

Excelling as an employee calls for more than proving your professional competence - if you want true success, you’re going to have to dress for it! Whether you are trying to fit in, get promoted or are seeking to persuade a potential client or customer, keep this in mind: While it takes mere seconds to make an impression, the kind of impression you make will have a long-term impact on your career. As your committed career partner, AppleOne has compiled some tips to help you be - and look - your best.

Fashion that Fits In

The best basis for deciding what works in your workplace are the people around you. If you haven’t been paying attention to what your co-workers are wearing, now is the time to start. What is the dress code at your office? Does your company encourage casual business or strict business attire? Either way, remember that there is a big difference between standing out and sticking out. As much as you may want to set yourself apart, wearing the business "uniform" communicates instantly that you are a mature, stable professional and a member of the team. Companies and even industries have definable corporate cultures. Find out what your corporate ‘look’ is, wear it, and wear it well.

Cleaning Up Your Act

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In addition to what you wear, how you wear your clothes is also very important. Don’t wait for the next new year to make resolutions to be neater and be better-groomed - the sooner you act, the sooner you enjoy the benefits (and reduce the risk of making negative impressions). For starters, assess your grooming and hygiene practices. Having neatly trimmed and clean fingernails, a nice haircut and agreeable breath says you care about details. It also shows courtesy, and yes, adds to making you a pleasant person to be around.

After taking care of your personal grooming, it’s time to give your outfits some attention: check your clothes for missing buttons, frayed cuffs and other needed repairs. Everything must be clean, neat and pressed. Make sure your shoes are clean and polished, and, unless your shoes are rubber shoes or something you can wear to the gym, save those white socks for weekend wear.

Separating Good from Gaudy

Grooming, dressing and accessorizing for work is like a balancing act. There is difference between smelling pleasant and being a walking perfume cloud. And while animal-print platform boots may look cool with black blazers, it’s not very corporate. Jewelry, particularly body piercings and men’s earrings, are rarely - if ever - encouraged in the workplace. If you are female, keep jewelry to the minimum - avoid costume jewelry and, like makeup, always keep in mind that less is more. If you must accessorize, do it the same way you’d ask for a promotion: carefully, tastefully, and only after you’ve thought it over and decided it won’t get you in trouble.

Mirroring to Get Ahead

A spokeswoman for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu says the accounting practice has a "dress to win" policy. "It (the policy) is encouraging people to dress in a way which meets client expectations and mirrors the way our clients dress," she says. Another variation of this approach is dressing not for the job that you have, but for the job that you want. Therefore, even if you join a company at a entry-level clerical position, and want to be promoted to the executive level, dress the way the executives dress - in appropriate business attire. If you have potential - and you most definitely do - let them see the executive material in you!

Casual or Too Comfy?

Even if your company has a "casual Friday" dress code (and according to a survey, about 70% of American employers do), don't go into work as if you have just tumbled out of the laundry hamper, in crumpled jeans and mysteriously-stained sweatshirt. Wear clean pressed khakis and a polo shirt or blouse, and shirt and, again, pay close attention to personal hygiene at all times.

Dress in your corporate culture ‘uniform,’ and look neat. Combine these two pointers for appropriate work attire with the right attitude and some hard work - and you’re all set to stand out in any career crowd. More importantly, you’ll be ready for those job evaluations, promotions and raises.

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