Dressing the Part

Many have heard the adage “dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” According to Kim Zoller of Image Dynamics, one’s appearance is 55 percent of the basis of someone else’s perception of him or her.

In some fields, such as aircraft maintenance, one can only be so dapper on the job. However, there is still room to impress when dressed in an oil-stained uniform.

Interview attire
Getting the job is the first step. Alison Doyle of About.com suggests that it is better to be overdressed than underdressed for an interview.

About.com suggests that a general code of dress for an interview for men and women includes a conservative suit in a solid color, moderate shoes, limited jewelry, a neat and professional hairstyle (including facial hair), sparse perfume/cologne/aftershave, neat fingernails, and a portfolio or briefcase. Women are advised to be light-handed in their makeup application and men are advised to wear dark socks.
Even if one is not applying for a job in an office building, there are guidelines for a business casual appearance. About.com reminds job seekers that even when the dress code is business casual, “it’s not appropriate to wear your favorite old t-shirt, ripped jeans and antique sneakers. Keep in mind the “business” part of business casual, and leave your old comfortable clothes at home.”

When the job environment calls for business casual dress, one should still keep his or her appearance simple. Doyle says that when in doubt, it is best to err on the side of conservatism. Wear plain colored pants and a shirt with a collar.

While one might think they have the bases covered by adhering to this general code, a few additional suggestions can further polish a job-seeker’s appearance. Clothing should fit well — arm movement shouldn’t be restricted by shoulder tightness and there shouldn’t be room for your briefcase between the waistline of your pants and your abdomen. Make sure interview attire is clean and pressed.

Make sure to be clean. Take a few extra minutes in front of a mirror to make sure hair is in place. Bring along a breath mint — just make sure it’s not still in your mouth while you interview. Don’t chew gum, either.

A job-seeker should appear focused. The job-seeker should also make sure not to distract or take focus off of his or her skills. Turn off a cell phone or any other device that could interrupt the interview. While tattoos have become more commonplace in American culture, it is still best to cover them during an interview.

Opportunity for Advancement

It only takes 12 to 15 seconds to form a first impression.

According to a poll conducted by staffing firm OfficeTeam, 93 percent of managers say that a person’s style of dress at work can influence his or her chances of earning a promotion. One-third of those managers state that on-the-job attire “significantly” affects an employee’s advancement prospects.

The image you project will dictate many outcomes of your life, especially at work, says John Samuel, a success correspondent for AskMen.com.

An article by Shirley Pierce and Janet Behmer says that if you want to climb up the ladder, you should dress as if you’re already standing on the top rung.

“If you want to be seen as a professional, then you have to start dressing like one,” says Shari Hearn, writer and website creator.

Samuel suggests that someone who appears polished will garner promotions over “someone who looks like he hasn’t left his backyard” every time.

“Image is everything,” says Hearn. “Your appearance is a visual cue to the boss of what type of employee you are. Will you be one who slaps something on in the morning for your dead-end position, or are you one who dresses like you already are a professional?”

In a Wall Street Journal article from Jan. 31, author Christina Binkley reports that a partner at a New York law firm says that when it came time to pick a point person for a plum assignment, the firm chose “a polished, professional-looking associate” over a “brilliant” and experienced associate who had been advised to improve his grooming and attire.

Ross Bonander, a career advisor for AskMen.com, says that the sooner you accept your workplace as a place where perception can be as important as results, the quicker you’ll see success.

That said, what do you have to lose … other than opportunity for advancement?

A “uniform” appearance
One should not abandon all attempts at a professional appearance upon landing the job. Even when wearing a uniform in the hangar, there is room to look your best. If given the choice, dress in dark colors, as these will better mask dark stains and keep clothes looking cleaner between washings. Long-sleeved shirts, if available, will keep arms cleaner. Make sure to wear proper boots (oil-resistant soles are key) that are in good repair — they will look better and protect feet better.

Things like maintaining good grooming and hygiene transpire all job fields. Ease up on the perfume or cologne or skip it all together. Keep long hair tied back so that it looks neater and is less of a risk factor. And avoid jewelry as it can be a safety hazard in maintenance areas.

Tara Weiss of Forbes.com suggests that employees projecting an amateur appearance “undermine themselves professionally and force their manager into the uncomfortable position of addressing their inappropriate attire.”

No one wants to work with someone who has body odor or fingernails that give other mechanics the creeps. For the sake of your co-workers and the level of professionalism in the shop, don’t be that guy.