Why it makes sense to spend on your professional image

200402399-001I couldn’t come up with a title to put it more eloquently than this; If you don’t take care of your professional image, it may cost you much more in the long run than you could ever save in wearing the same old clothes or showing up to work not dressed adequately for the part. Many people struggle to find that middle point between how much money they should spend on their professional work attire versus how much money they’re trying to save. My advice, error on the side of professionalism, this is one area where it’s better to spend money on a wardrobe rather than skimping to save money. It’s also important to be as frugal as possible when clothes shopping, and to not buy clothes that will wear out too fast, causing you to spend more in the long run. Below, I will touch on some important points to help you create a balance between your budget and your work clothing needs.

There’s a secret rule in which all professionals or working people should live bye, and that is to dress the part of the role you want to be, not the current position you’re in. This doesn’t mean to go overboard and wear a shirt and tie each day if it’s unnecessary or because some day you want to be a CEO, CFO, or some other type of executive. It means you should be dressing with a purpose for the position you hope to get next. If you’re a a senior accountant, dress the role of management, not that of a senior accountant.

It’s sad, but true, you are what you eat and wear. Slobs tend to finish last for good reason. I learned the hard way when I wore a sport coat to an interview. I didn’t know any better, but a recruiter gave me the heads up that the sports coat was inappropriate. Per the recruiters recommendation, I went out and bought a nice black suit for $300 and landed the very next job I interviewed for. This doesn’t mean obviously that every decision on your promotion (or hiring) will come from what you wear, certainly your performance comes into play among other things. However, when all else is equal, the person who is deemed more professional looking will likely get the job or the promotion.

As manager now, I’ve got 7 people working for me, 3 of which I hired. Professional image was definitely an aspect of my selection process. The people I hire will not only have to interact with me, but they will have to interact with other departments as well as customers and clients. One of the positions I was hiring for, a fixed asset accountant, came down to two guys. For the most part the two were equal with regards to work history and how well the interview went. One of the guys was wearing an old gray suit straight from the 80’s, while the other guy had a simple black suit. You can probably guess who got the job.

I find myself to be one of the most non materialistic people I know, however, when it comes to business you have to dress the part. Dressing in a professional manor does not mean you have to stop being frugal or wear all name brands. It simply means dressing professionally. For me, that means wearing a fairly nice button up shirt (cleanly pressed) as well as wrinkle free slacks to work everyday. It also means coming to work cleanly shaven (I have a goatee) and with your hair clean. Also, make certain your shoes aren’t all muddy. Spend the $100 and buy a nice pair of shoes that will last a couple of years or more. It also means getting adequate sleep (which I’ve had a hard time with because of my sleep schedule with 4 kids) so that you don’t have big bags under your eyes and so you’re attentive in meetings. A nice wardrobe doesn’t have to break the bank, be weary of the best times to snap up deals in the off seasons, plan ahead for the following year and save money. Honestly, most all of my dress shirts were purchased for $20 or less, while most all of my pants (wrinkle-free) were $30-40. Over time I’ve amassed about 20 nice long sleeve winter dress shirts ($400), and about the same amount of short sleeve golf shirts, and 10 pairs of slacks or pants ($350-$400) I’m a khaki type of guy 3/4 of the time). Total, my wardrobe cost under a $1000 (and I’ve got an ample supply, you could do just fine with 10 long sleeve winter shirts (or 10 golf shirts for spring/summer/fall) and 5 pairs of pants. It’s worth every dime to show up looking professional every single day. If you can’t afford dry cleaning your shirts, do it yourself. To me, there is value in paying the $1 per shirt (I don’t get my pants dry cleaned), with 4 kids my wife nor I have the time to do it, and it saves me so much time being able to pull the shirt and pants off the hanger in the morning and go.

Look at your peers and draw inspiration from those you deem to be the most professional looking. For me, it’s a nice shirt, pants, black belt and black shoes.

You are the companies’ image in many ways. Whether that be through interaction with the outside world in customers or business clients, you must be professional. Dressing professionally and on a consistent basis will help your company gain confidence in your ability to represent them in the best possible light and will give you the advantage over your counterparts when a new opportunity arises.

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