Impact Insights

Why Professional Dress isn’t Really About Clothes

Christina Boling

You know the routine. It’s Sunday afternoon and right when you finally feel settled at home, it’s time to pack your suitcase again. Lately the routine has become mundane as I stare into my closet waiting for an inspiring collection to suddenly reveal itself. After a bit of trial and error, I scramble together four outfits and hope I didn’t forget the critical pieces. You know, like pants.

Like a twist of fate, I found some much-needed inspiration during a recent conversation with a fellow colleague. He shared his simple but rather profound rule for professionalism: stick with it, and start with what you wear. This particular gentleman exudes a classic style, donning a crisp dress shirt with a well-fitted suit and his signature 1950’s-inspired eyeglasses. I wondered, then, if he would take advantage of the client’s relaxed dress policy while we relocated to the Command Center during Go-Live. Without hesitation, he answered he wasn’t planning to because dressing casually conflicts with his professional standards.

As this colleague taught me, when we dress like a professional, we hold ourselves to a higher standard—in my case, the Impact Advisors’ Winner standard. Once I started applying this philosophy to what went inside my suitcase, I was surprised at the results. Elevating my professional wardrobe immediately improved my confidence. “Suiting up” suddenly felt like a wearing an armor of confidence. Similar to how lacing up tennis shoes excites the mind for a satisfying workout, professional dress can provide a healthy morale boost for the opportunities that await at the client site. Perhaps that’s why we “dress for the job you want” at interviews. Confidence is contagious and the client quickly took notice. Suddenly I am not only better representing myself, but also my company’s brand.

Professionals should dress like professionals, because it has little to do with clothes and everything to do with our executive presence. As a member of my leadership team once said about professional dress, “When I walk into a room, I should be able to immediately spot my consultants.” Whether we are invited to the table as an expert resource or a note taker, the value in our dress is the same. The next time you’re facing an empty suitcase, consider filling it with whatever or whomever inspires you to dress your best.

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