Dressing Your Brand

Professional PresenceHow big of a part did Mary Ellen’s unprofessional attire play in the clients’ lack of faith in her?

It played a huge role. As previously discussed, we are conditioned to respond to visual cues, and the impression we give (positive or negative) through visual style have significant impact. Continuing to dress like a college student, though apparently not important at her office, left clients with the impression that she couldn’t possibly be qualified to lead their significant project. Mary Ellen being in a traditionally male dominated industry simply added to this concern.

Professional PresenceWhere did the company err?

Every company, regardless of size, needs a clear and written dress-code policy. The policy needs to consider, not only the culture of the office, but that of their clients and the image the organization wants to convey.

Professional PresenceWhere did Mary Ellen err and, what should she do now?

Mary Ellen did not appreciate the value of her own personal brand. She thought since attire was unimportant at the office that it couldn’t possibly matter to her professional advancement. Although she did not have a female senior leader as a mentor within her firm, could she have found one within a professional organization?

Professional PresenceWhat lessons you can apply?

Understand your company’s dress code. If they don’t have a formal one, air on the conservative and professional side. Study the most successful people in the organization. How do they dress and present themselves? When going to a client’s office, know their dress code as well. If their attire is extremely relaxed, you don’t want to arrive in a grey pin-stripe suit. That looks like you are not in touch with them. However, dressing a notch or two above their every day attire does show respect and that you have given thoughtful consideration to how you look when visiting them.


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