By Alex C. Hess, Graduate Ambassador
Did I miss the boat? When did jeans, a sweater and tennis shoes become business casual? The clichés of “dress to impress” and “you never get a second chance for a first impression” resonate as I look at colleagues’ lackadaisical dress standards for business. The excuse is often heard that successful companies such as Google, Facebook, and Apple have lowered its standards, why can’t everyone else? Does it really make a difference what a person wears if they get the job done correctly? This is one of the great clashes of generations. Although the current graduating class may feel comfortable going to work as if they’re going to out for drinks with their college friends, their bosses most likely do not reciprocate.
Employers expect professionalism not only in communication and work performance but also in dress attire. Most importantly they expect it consistently and not just in the job interview. One misconception is that if an employee doesn’t have direct contact with customers then it doesn’t matter what they wear. This is based that all customers are paying customers. To the contrary, some customers are internal. For example the employees who work in the back office (e.g. accounting, finance, and information technology) serve upper management and other departments; all of whom are making impressions about the employees. Impression management is one obstacle that people can have a great degree of control over.
Future business leaders ought to shed the jeans and tennis shoes and adorn themselves with pressed slacks and polished shoes. To emphasize a familiar proverb, “dress not for the job that you have now, dress for the job that you want.”