"It's the thought that counts," right? "Don't judge a book by its cover." You hear these idioms often, but do looks factor into workplace success? In short, yes, looks do matter, but that doesn't mean that there is one look that dominates the workplace. It means that taking pride in your appearance will help you excel, because it shows professionalism and self-awareness.
Before you run out and change your wardrobe and hair color, understand that the look you project in the workplace should correspond to your professional abilities. Looking good for a date is different than looking good for work. In the office, cleanliness and a polished appearance are the two most important aspects of your visual image. Don't worry about whether your purse is designer or your shoes are the latest fashion, but do wash and style your hair in an appropriate way, and make sure your face and nails are clean.
Wrinkle-free is the way to be in the workplace. A messy look conveys sloppy work, which can deter clients and keep a supervisor from recognizing your value. According to the article "You're Going to Wear That? Appearance in the Workplace" from the American Bar Association, polished and pressed clothing are a must for business dress code. Shaggy, unkempt, or messy hair is a distraction that can harm your image.
Torn jeans and flip-flops might be your go-to style for meeting with friends and hanging out, but in the workplace, they convey a disregard and disrespect for the company. Avoid wearing hats, frayed clothing, faded shirts, and anything revealing like spaghetti strap shirts and low-cut blouses. Appearances that make you seem "hip" in some settings will make you seem unprofessional and even threatening in others. For example, if you appear too revealing in tight clothes and heavy makeup, you could send the signal that you're a sexual harassment case waiting to happen.
Appearance isn't just about the permanent features of your face and body. It's also about how you carry yourself. Standing with good posture and smiling can be just as powerful as a new pair of shoes or a bright jacket. Your smile and posture conveys confidence, ability, and passion for your job. Wear these features with pride and make your appearance work for you, not against you.
Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.