Improve Your Self Image: Education and Dress Code

In preparing yourself for promotion or just trying to improve your self image, consider expanding your knowledge of the business you’re in. It’s not enough to become expert in just your area of responsibility. You must understand more about your company’s entire operation.

You can acquire this additional knowledge in several ways. For instance, you can broaden your knowledge through selected readings. Your own boss may be able to recommend reading material that fits closely into your own company’s operation and philosophy. No boss is ever insulted when asked for advice.

However, a word of caution: Don’t ask for advice too often, because your boss will either suspect you can’t make up your own mind about too many things or figure you’re seeking a favor. Neither of these impressions will help your self image.

If your company offers education programs, sign up for them. Even if you can’t see any immediate benefit from them, they’ll serve you well over the long haul. In addition, you’re displaying an eagerness to learn. Make sure the classes and training you take are related to your current role and aspirations. You do not want to be perceived as someone who signs up for every class offered, regardless of its relevance. Also be reasonable in how much time you take away your from primary tasks for the education. The best way to increase the chances of being promoted is by doing an excellent job.

Improve Your Self Image by Dressing for Success

Styles come and go, so what is inappropriate for business today may seem satisfactory in a couple of years, or even months, down the road. As a manager, you should not try to be a trendsetter by wearing far-out, extreme, avant-garde clothing. You might not think it fair, but you will not advance your career if some executive refers to you, in conversations, as “that kooky dresser down on the first floor.

What is acceptable or extreme may vary by the kind of business you are in or the area of the country. For instance, what might work in a fashion magazine’s office would seem inappropriate in a tradition-bound life insurance company. What may be acceptable in the Southwest may not sit well in the East. Obviously, what you wear as a manager in a factory is altogether different from what you wear in an office. The point is that if you are going to be successful, it helps if you look successful—but not extreme. Your appearance should make a quiet statement, not shout. Build and improve your self image.

The following story points out how dress can differ from company to company. Several years ago, a young man had an interview scheduled at one of the more creative departments within a motion picture studio in Hollywood. He called up his contact there and asked her what the dress was. She replied, “casual.” So, the young man arrived in slacks and a nice pressed shirt. He walked into the room and everyone was dressed in tank tops and shorts! The word casual obviously meant different things to the interviewee and to his contact. Despite being on a different wavelength, however, the young man still landed the job.

This story not only proves that companies have different ideas on style and dress. It shows that you’ll make fewer fashion mistakes as a business-person by being a bit overdressed than by being under-dressed. If you go to an event wearing a suit and tie, and you find it’s casual when you arrive, you can always take off the jacket and tie. If you dress casually and find that everyone is in a suit and tie, you cannot easily add the apparel to get in sync.

A rule of thumb is this: If you’re not sure what to wear, you’re better to go more formal than casual.

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