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The Look and Feel of Success

8th Dec 2014

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This piece is the first of two that will attempt to guide anyone out there on how to make yourself the best possible candidate for any job. There will be two main themes explored in my writing (if someone gives me a third idea I will attempt to produce a trilogy more epic than Lord of the Rings). I feel my recent experience as a candidate, combined with my current role in recruitment has given me a unique perspective to write from.

There are some things I would like to clarify from the start. I do not and am not pretending for one second to know everything about recruitment or job seeking. I simply hope to be able to provide relevant and thoughtful advice that can help someone out there nail their job search.

The area I will target in this piece is the look of success. Coming through a uniform high school and a university that had a mandatory requirement of business attire, I had, for a long time, the idea of ‘what success looks like’ drilled into me. Although this piece is not an ‘attack on the suit’, I will be challenging many of the perceptions around this piece of clothing.

At high school, in the name of tradition, we wore numerous shades of black and grey (not quite 50) with our shirts tucked in and our socks pulled up. Then at university it was suit and tie every day, because that was how we got into the habit of being a professional. What has become abundantly clear for me in my time since graduating though is that this is not how you become a professional.

Whatever you wear in the corporate world, be that to an interview or at your job should be a reflection of yourself. If you hate wearing suits, don’t wear one. Even if you are going for an interview with a company that requires staff to wear ‘corporate attire’ you should still wear what you are comfortable in. If you were to miss out on a role because you didn’t fit their standards of ‘how we look’ then ask yourself this ‘Would I actually want to work there?’ As a candidate you should be able to value yourself, your skills and your personal image enough to work somewhere that reflects this as well. If you are confident in this image of how you want to look and how you want to present yourself, there will be companies out there that want someone with your values.If everything was to be believed from my days at university you would see nothing but the below photo around Sydney from 8-6, Monday to Friday. It is quite obvious from looking around anywhere that this is not the case. More and more organisations are ditching the tie, heels and often the suits full stop.

I consider myself someone lucky enough to work where the standards of dress are considerably more relaxed. Although there is a requirement for men’s leg wear to extend to the ankles, everything else is quite liberal. Does this make us unprofessional? Do jeans and tee shirts mean that we are unsuccessful because we have not dressed for success? Whilst I may be a bit biased on the argument, I very much think the answer is no on both counts. Why? Because when we turn up for work, the clothes we wear have the same relevance as the colour of our skin. We are not judged on the clothes we wear but the work that we do and as a candidate you should make sure you are the same.

Job seekers may have also been told that they should wear corporate attire as a way of ‘standing out’ when they go for an interview. From experience I can say that this is not what all organisations want to see. More that anything now, the way candidates are interviewed is changing and recruiters want to see how someone will fit in with the organisation, not stand out. If the organisation you interview with is a casual workplace, the sight of a suit and tie may well throw them off and you may be seen as the wrong cultural fit. What an employer will want to be able to do is visualise you working for that company. I feel this ties in with my earlier point made about working for an organisation that holds similar values to you.

These views are by no means fact and are simple observations and opinions I have formed over the last few years. Whether you’re going for an interview for a job or even if you’re just going to a regular day of work, ask yourself ‘am I happy with how I look’. If you feel you look like a tramp or a corporate fat cat then maybe where you’re working, or interviewing isn’t the place for you. Let the look you present reflect your own personal brand. I promise that is when you will look and feel best and that is when you will do your best work.

Whether you think I am a prophet or a lunatic, I’d love to hear your feedback. Contact me at chris.braae@xpand.com.au if you’d like to discuss or connect with me on LinkedIn.  I’ll be following this up with a second piece shortly so watch this space. Thanks for reading!