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One Simple Dress Code Rule To Boost Your Career



By Bernard Marr

Whether you’re job hunting, seeking a promotion, or just want to be taken seriously at work, how you present yourself is an oft-overlooked, but integral part of the process — and you can boost your chances at impressing with one very simple rule:

Slightly overdress for your position. Just a notch. Remember the old adage: dress for the job you want, not the job you have? It’s absolutely true, because it shows you are excited and eager to be at your workplace, and that you put thought into the details, not to mention the fact that you will simply come across as more professional and competent.

So, when you’re shopping or choosing what to wear, go for the slightly nicer dress, buy a slightly nicer suit or shirt. But you still want to fit in — there’s nothing worse than turning up completely over-dressed (or indeed, under-dressed).

Before an interview, for example, find out what the company dress code is, especially for your desired position and department. Always dress up one notch better than the standard dress code; that way you will look smart and show you have made an effort without over or under dressing.


How to build a wardrobe for the job you want.

Easier said than done? Perhaps. If you’re out of work and looking for a job or hoping to move up a level, you may worry that you can’t afford to dress for the job you want.

When budget is a concern or you simply don’t know where to begin, use these tips for building a wardrobe you can be proud of:

  • Stick with the classics. If you’re shopping on a budget, go for classic styles and colors that will last. Avoid trendy items for now, or save your “fashion statements” for inexpensive items you can easily replace, like colored socks or pocket squares for men, costume jewelry and scarves for women.
  • Learn to care for your clothes meticulously. Read the labels and follow them to the letter. Does it mean you will spend a little more time doing laundry? Probably. But your clothes will last much longer. Try to avoid buying lots of pieces that are “dry clean only” because dry cleaning can quickly become expensive.
  • Buy the highest quality you can afford. Price really does determine quality in many cases (up to a point). Bypass any budgetary issues by shopping for gently used items or last season’s styles. Look for a high quality consignment store in your area, which will usually have nicer pieces than thrift stores, and shop outlet malls and discount stores. Familiarize yourself with high quality brands you’d like to buy, then look for them on your discount shopping expeditions.
  • Buy fewer, but better items. You may find you need to purchase fewer clothes to ensure better quality. Look for separates you can easily mix and match instead of dresses or matched suits. Stick with classic pieces in muted colors and patterns so that if you wear a shirt more than once a week with a different jacket or pants, people aren’t likely to notice.
  • Pay attention to fit. Many times the difference between a suit (or any piece of clothing) that looks expensive and one that looks cheap is all in the fit. Find a good tailor who can help adjust all of your clothes — even inexpensive ones. That extra few dollars can make a world of difference. Likewise, get to know your local shoe repair shop that can help keep shoes, belts, and purses looking new.
  • Look for durable fabrics including wool, cotton, silk, and linen, and avoid man-made fabrics like polyester and rayon, which will deteriorate and show wear faster.


  • Choose multi-season pieces. When considering a new piece, think about how you can wear it in different seasons. Aim to have most of your closet be wearable on all but the deepest winter and hottest summer days rather than splurging on items that are only useful for a short time each year.

Even if you’re working at an entry level position and hope to be a senior VP someday, it is possible to dress with your desired position in mind with a little planning and creativity. Do you have any career wardrobe dos and don’ts to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments.


Bernard Marr is a globally recognized expert in strategy, performance management, analytics, KPIs and big data. He helps companies and executive teams manage, measure and improve performance.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn