I decided I better wear a suit for the day as we had a meeting with quite a senior group who most definitely would be wearing suits – I’ll always try to make sure it is a sharp suit with something just a little bit different going on. I won’t wear a tie as this is a step too far for me and at this stage I would feel uncomfortable wearing one.
This accountant turned marketer starting wearing suits at 17 in the accountancy practice and wore them for 21 years in my financial and general management roles within the high-tech and drinks industry. When I finally stopped working for others I stopped wearing this ‘uniform’ as I had enough.
I guess this was the appropriate ‘uniform’ for this meeting and if I wasn’t somewhat ‘uniform’ I might run the risk of giving the impression that I wasn’t taking my role seriously and I would have felt a little awkward within myself.
Later in the day I had to give a training course and later again we had to conduct a workshop for a project we were working on.
For the training course I was fine but I did feel just a little out of sorts because I wasn’t dressed in my usual way – I removed my jacket, which made me feel less formal and more appropriate.
The workshop was a totally different story – I was presenting with two other guys, each of us in our suits, quite ‘uniform’ but when the session started you just knew the group participating in the session were looking at us as we were different. Somehow we were ‘the establishment’, different to them and I felt it might have created a barrier and it could have changed the dynamic of the session.
I stood there quietly cursing my suit and wished I was in my more usual uniform, which is a smart trendy jacket/blazer with neat jeans and shoes – this is the real me (or at least it has become me and its the ‘me’ I am most comfortable and confident projecting).
After the session we went for a drink and a debrief and again I wished I wasn’t in my suit.
Was I being silly, was this all in my head or taking it to its limit should I have brought a second outfit to work with me that day to make sure that my ‘uniform’ always told the right story to my audience and most importantly made me feel more comfortable with them?
I remember a friend of mine who was working in the purchasing department of a large multinational telling me that they hated it when their suppliers would arrive dressed casually for meetings – she knew this was a little unfair because their own dress code was casual but it did work against the supplier.
When I was in Guinness in Dublin they introduced a causal Friday – while this created a more relaxed atmosphere I must admit that attitude towards work did become more relaxed as well.
Could a slight change of uniform change one from being a ‘typical’ accountant, solicitor, graphic designer or whatever to someone who stands out a little?
In Fuzion we were interviewing for graphic designers recently and one poor guy arrived for interview in a suit and tie, looking more like an accountant than a designer. Maybe his mother killed him when he was heading out the door that morning in his cool t-shirt , jeans and Converse runners and insisted that he dress properly for his interview.
Somehow it was really hard to get past that he was wearing the wrong ‘uniform’ and you had to work hard to jump over those first and important impressions to discover his personality and capability.
With our clients we advise that their branding, websites, social media pages, marketing materials, vehicle livery and all other visual demonstrations of their organisation must tell the best story about them – we often buy with our eyes and those first impressions are vital. Are we any different?
What story are you telling about yourself today?