I have not worn a shirt for work in 12 months. Since working from home, my wardrobe has gone toward the relaxed end of business casual. I convince myself that this is OK because I run a team of people with Designer in their job title and I make an effort to buy quality, branded, smart clothes that last. However, my premise somewhat fails when I look at my calendar and realise that I spend most of my time in video calls with people in director or management roles. Tuesdays for me are the busiest days for meetings, and so for a few weeks I started to wear a shirt each Tuesday, but two of my reoccurring committees that day ended as we moved to a new phase at the university, so my shirt-wearing ended along with the meetings.
People are much more forgiving of your presentation and other elements of professionalism once they know you than when you first meet. First impressions are made within a tenth of a second and once formed can affect the way you think of someone for over six months after you meet. First impressions can be so influential over how you feel about someone that even when presented with facts that contradict these initial feelings, your brain will side with the false first impressions.
Professionalism is the habits and norms that people see as acceptable within a field and is highly specific to an industry or profession. The variability of standards is particularly relevant for your appearance. Many design agencies would not hire someone who turned up to an interview in a suit, but it is the opposite for many corporate positions. A study found that wearing a brand named cloths has a positive effect on first impressions. Other habits, however, like turning up on time and good levels of personal hygiene are universal.
Acting professionally in the right context allows people to focus on your work skills. You do not have to change or hide your personality but making sure you don’t distract people with your appearance or grammar, this will allow them to focus on what you say and make them more open to getting to know you. Just be genuine, making an effort, and respect peoples time.
Quantic suggests that you pay attention to:
- Appearance: be neat, clean, and dressed appropriately
- Demeanour: be confident, articulate, have good posture, and a firm handshake
- Reliability: Show up on time and prepared
- Ethics: Be honest, kind, helpful, and moral.