How to project a professional image

Whether we mean to or not, we project an image every day at work. What kind of image do we want to project at work? Or more importantly, what kind of image do we need to project in the workplace? It depends on the kind of work we do. It must be appropriate to our profession, because it directly affects the opinion that our customer has of our company and our product.

A common argument in recent years is that an employee can do just as good of a job while dressed very casually as when they are dressed in a business suit. Perhaps. However, our clothing is more than a covering for modesty. And although many things have changed over the last 30 years, the design of our clothing is still an important means of communication. It conveys messages to others about our level of training and education in our field. From our clothing, customers can and do infer how serious we are about doing our job appropriately and about the quality of our work.

For the corporate world, a suit and tie are the accepted ‘uniform’. For the automobile service department, a suit and tie would be inappropriate and would not give the customer a sense that we are more capable of repairing their car. Instead, we would wonder if this person is to be trusted with our vehicle. Are they really going to get up to their elbows in grease in that outfit? In the administrative offices of a hospital, business dress or business casual is appropriate, but in the clinical setting the right uniform is essential to maintaining order. Patients need and want to know who is a nurse, a doctor, a technician, etc. It helps others to trust us to do our jobs well.

Appropriate dress for our work lets the public know what our job is and that we are qualified to do the job. If we all dress as we do at home after hours, it is more difficult for others to know what our position is in the hierarchy of the workplace. We need clues! For advice on our finances we look for someone who projects stability and prosperity. We want our personal trainer to appear healthy and fit. If we want fashion advice, we look for someone who wears fashionable clothing.

So, if you want to project a professional image, go back to square one. Look at the movers and shakers in your industry. Dress in the uniform most appropriate for your workplace. Use your appearance to make it easy for your customer to trust in your abilities. Raise the bar a little – it can only help your credibility and it might even set you apart from the competition.

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