The Importance of Dressing Professionally at Work
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated August 8, 2022
Published March 8, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Presenting a positive representation of yourself is a key component of experiencing professional success. What you wear, along with how you communicate with others both verbally and nonverbally, can impact the image others form about you. Creating a professional look can help you command attention and serious consideration at work.
In this article, we discuss what dressing professionally is, why it's important to dress professionally at work, the benefits of having a dress code and tips for dressing professionally.
What is dressing professionally?
Dressing professionally refers to wearing clothes and accessories designed for a professional workplace. Professional outfits are modest, well tailored and free of images or graphics. Your clothes should be clean, ironed and free of rips, holes or stains.
The level of formality in each work environment differs, so dressing professionally in one setting may mean wearing a suit while another office may advise employees to wear khaki pants and a company polo. Review your company handbook to learn about the specific policies at your organization.
Why is it important to dress professionally at work?
Here are some reasons why it's important dress professionally in your workplace:
To make a good first impression
Your appearance is often the first thing others notice about you. Dressing professionally can help form a positive impression to people you meet in the workplace. This is especially important for interviews and when meeting upper-level managers who make hiring and promotion decisions. The initial judgments people make about you can influence their long-term opinions.
To communicate that you take your job seriously
Dressing professionally sends the message that you are serious about the work you do. It shows that you spend time and effort on your appearance, which demonstrates that you care about representing yourself well at work. When you show that you take your job seriously, it helps others see you as someone they should respect and take into consideration.
To represent your company
As a member of your organization, you serve as a representative of the company to the public. Whether you're making service calls, visiting clients or speaking with customers in a store, your appearance reflects on the business. Dressing professionally helps you present a positive, professional image of your organization to others.
Even if you dress casually or wear a uniform, making sure you look neat and put together can improve the reception you receive. Employers appreciate employees who consider themselves as company ambassadors to the public.
To give you confidence
You can do your best work when you feel your best. Dressing professionally can help you feel empowered and confident to take on new challenges, meet new people and progress in your career. When other areas of your professional life may be out of your control, how you present yourself is something that you can control and use to your advantage.
The image you curate is like your personal brand. It can often communicate a great deal about you to others who don't interact with you. Create a professional wardrobe that speaks to your goals, personality and creativity.
To help you feel part of the team
Being able to work with others is a crucial element of success in many professional environments. Dressing professionally can help you feel like you belong in spaces with your peers and supervisors and that you have valuable insights and ideas to contribute. Your colleagues may be more inclined to include you in important discussions and projects if you appear professional and committed.
To enhance your credibility
When you look professional, people respond more positively to you, often engaging more and trusting what you're saying. Dressing professionally can give you an added layer of credibility in your dealings with coworkers, managers, clients and the public.
Benefits of having a dress code at work
Having a dress code at work can provide the following benefits:
Eliminating subjectivity and miscommunication: Having a dress code can help eliminate subjectivity in wardrobe choices. How employees define terms like "casual" or "professional" can vary, so having specific guidelines can help avoid these concerns.
Ensuring fair treatment: Creating an official dress code policy can help ensure that all employees receive fair treatment from supervisors.
Presenting professionalism: With a dress code in place, no matter who comes into your office, they are met with a professional environment, which can create a positive association with your company.
Promoting productivity: When all employees dress professionally and have an extra boost of confidence, it can lead to a more motivated and productive team.
Making employees easily recognizable: In some companies, instituting a dress code that includes uniforms can help your employees stand out. This can be important for employees who need customers to recognize them, such as those who make service calls, like technicians, or those who work in crowded spaces, like restaurant workers,
Adhering to safety standards: In some industries, like manufacturing, law enforcement and healthcare, dress codes are vital to ensure the safety of employees, clients and patients. Safety goggles, flame resistant clothing and gloves are a few examples of necessary elements of a company's dress code.
Tips for dressing professionally
Here are some tips for dressing professionally at work:
Dress one level above your position
Generally, most professionals should aim to dress for one level higher than their current position. For example, an entry-level employee may dress appropriately for an intermediate-level position. Middle managers may dress more in line with department managers or directors.
Read more: How to Dress for a Job Interview
Consider more than just your clothes
Dressing professionally involves more than the clothes you wear. You should be clean, neat and well groomed. Consider your hairstyle and accessories to make sure they fit in with your company's standards. You can note how other people in your department dress and aim to match that level of formality. You should also consider the following areas of your appearance:
Nails: Keep nails trimmed and clean.
Makeup: Opt for neutral makeup in corporate settings.
Perfume or cologne: Choose light scents or avoid wearing perfume or cologne.
Shoes: Make sure your shoes are clean and, if needed, polished.
Breath: Use gum or mints to freshen your breath at work.
Show your personality
Your clothing can be a way to show your unique personality. Even in a professional environment, you can differentiate yourself through colors, patterns and accessories. This can be especially meaningful in creative professions, like design.
Confirm company policies for tattoos and body jewelry
If you have tattoos or body jewelry, review your organization's handbook or speak with your manager about these policies. You may need to choose clothing that covers your tattoos or remove your jewelry.
Make thoughtful selections for casual days
Many offices have "casual Fridays" or other opportunities for employees to depart from their traditional business attire. Make careful selections for these days as you still want to project an image of confidence and professionalism. Your appearance should still be clean, neat, well-fitting and modest.
Choose clothes that are comfortable and easy to move in so that you aren't distracted during the workday. For instance, if you need to spend much of your day standing, you should wear comfortable, supportive shoes.
Plan appropriately for events
Even in more casual environments, there are some occasions when you should dress more formally, including:
Meetings with clients or company executives
Formal presentations or meetings that you're leading
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