Career buildyourownbrand

Published on June 20th, 2013 | by DearFashionista

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Build your own Style Brand: At Work – Part I

Have you ever woken-up in the morning, walked into your closet & wondered “What the hell do I wear today to work?”

Like most women all over the world, my day starts with this mini-crisis!  Unless you’re a career gamer or stay-at-home-maven or uniformed-employee, it appears that this condition of existence is true for almost everyone…and it has nothing to do with the the size or contents of ones closet.

Why is it so?

  • Is it because what one wants to wear doesn’t sync with what one must wear?
  • Is it because our closets are demarcated with ‘work clothes’ vs ‘life clothes’ that rarely mix?
  • Is it because there isn’t an unlimited budget or moolah to update ones ‘look’ often-enough & oftentimes?

Ok…..it goes without saying that this article will be useless for lazy-bums and laundry-snobs, even though I am one, on certain days.

After taking some deliberate, purposeful measures towards building a brand and identity for myself at work, I’ve formulated some lessons learnt along the way to help others in a similar predicament. In addition, having mentored many women and fellow fashionistas, I’d like to share some philosophical yet practical approaches to building your brand.

#1 Style ID your Work

First of all, try to determine the style that best describes your work environment. It is to be noted that sometimes departments within a company can have disparate styles.  I once worked for an employer who had dress codes based on employee types namely staff, manager(s), admin assistants, front office, etc.  Below is a snapshot and guide to determine the Style ID.

 Business/Formal

…..clothes are tailored or fitted, very structured and often utilize dry cleaning services. That means women wear panty-hoses and men wear loafers. The best way to describe this would be a buttoned-up style.

Think flight attendants, lawyers, sales executives,  board members, politicians, wedding guests and groom, interviewees, dinner parties and other events.

Business/Casual

….is a bit more relaxed in style but still requires one to dress-up for special occasions like meetings, presentations, etc.  Almost every workplace has a variation of this style in one form or the other.

Think accountants, retail employees, doctors, teachers, etc.

Smart/Casual

….is what you wear on Fridays in a Business/Casual. Jeans and denim are accepted, in moderation. But they need to be fitted, age-appropriate, not ripped, with minimal or no embellishments. A dress shirt or blouse is still expected to be worn.

Think managers, advertising executives, bank tellers, and Steve Jobs.

Glam/Urban Chic

…..specifically for women and fashionistas. This is a style that translates from day to evening effortlessly!  You can either dress-up or dress-down a look with minimal accessories or by switching footwear, adding scarves, headbands, gloves, etc.

glam-chicIn my observation, fashionistas everywhere have eagerly embraced this style. It is a middle of the road, easy going, adaptable style that provides an opportunity to expand ones répertoire while helping cross-pollinate life and work clothes.

Geek/Chic

….is for geeks, big whoop!  There are signature chunky glasses, mix & matched patterns, undone tie, colorful socks, suspenders, cargo pants, and other chic details. Also notably, there is funky hair that is perfectly coiffed to be funky!

A must-have will be a t-shirt with namely, an offensive quote, a movie character or poster, a cartoon or game avatar or a combo of it.

Relaxed/No Rules 

All bets are off & everything goes and trouble is brewing! This style is extremely rare, and if in practice, one should proceed with some wariness. Even here, managers probably follow a dress code.

Think start-up, gaming, media, art, fashion or accessories design environments.

Now that made the work Style ID, it is time to reconcile that ID with your own closet.  Are they polar opposites or are you closely related?  There is a problem to solve when your personal style is in conflict and contradicts with the Style ID of your work.

So, what happens next?

#2  If You’re a Dog, You Gotta Bark, so Bark!

Having chosen to play the part of a dog in a play, guess what, one has to learn to bark, really well and keep improving upon it…. unless you’re playing Scooby Doo!   In other words, this wouldn’t be the ideal time or place to demonstrate a rebellious streak.  My advice would be to accept the differences without resisting it.

‘Clothes maketh the man’ is an expression in multiple languages, including Latin.  It may or not be true for men, but it is definitely true for women.

Wearing a college hoodie or a bandstand t-shirt doesn’t exactly scream professionalism.  Imagine a leader in meeting wearing a hoodie and starting a topic about cost efficiencies. Does their appearance lend credibility to that conversation?

Even the utterly eccentric & unpredictable Steve Jobs had a signature style i.e. black  turtle neck tshirt & blue jeans. He stuck to that style  & we expected him to be that way.

A bohemian employed as a lawyer & dreaming of entering into politics has to make some adjustments.  Simply said, something has got to give…and meet in the middle.  Wear a bohemian blouse or scarf with a tailored, fitted suit – bingo!

A classic style can appear a bit informal with a colorful scarf or artistic accessories.

Bottom line, adapt to your work style. If it is too different from your personal style, add just one or two elements from your personal style but retain a work style.  I’d recommend working towards a conscious goal of changing things around you.  That is, if you’re empowered to do so at work & don’t get branded as the person who doesn’t like to follow the rules.

#3 Dress for the job you want, not for the one you already have ! 

Someone gave me this piece of invaluable advice when I first started working….and it has served me well.  It is an undeniable fact that society & coworkers  judge you for your looks & clothes way before observing how you act.

At work, for the most part,  the mood and tone is usually set when someone enters the room! Everyone is assessing whether they look confident, groomed, age-appropriate & most of all, authoritative.

It is an urban legend and a complete myth that one would be recognized and rewarded at work for their performance, despite their appearance. It is a fact that well-groomed individuals get more doors opened for them…whether or not they make good on the opportunity.

People are creatures of habit & familiarity. Being consistent makes employers and decision-makers think that you are reliable, decisive & sure of yourself. So make sure that you are consistent with your style at work, create the right impression and gravitas that makes you a serious contender.

It is to be noted with great irony that the quote is “dress for the job you want”, and it did not encapsulate a career.  Chances are, when one journeys through the volatile 21st century job market, there are many opportunities to reinvent and evolve their personal brand.  

 

Read continuation at “Build your own Style Brand: At Work – Part II“.

 

 

Images: Multiple sources. Assembly/Context Applied by DearFashionista.com.

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About the Author

a.k.a Devi. I’m a technologist, world traveler, lifestyle aficionado & aspiring fashion designer. Enjoy my commentary on pop-culture, social events, products & advice, by way of keeping up with the Jones’ errr, I meant the Kardarshians! (ˆ▽ˆ)



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