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How Your Appearance Can Affect Your Career Progression

In the workplace, it would be nice to believe that the only thing that determines your progression is your ability to do the job well.

However, it is evident that appearance plays a tremendous part in how you are judged by your colleagues and boss, particularly if you are a woman.

According to a study conducted by Cornell University, women who were considered slim and attractive earnt 10% more each year. However, whilst attractive women were seen as more competent and fit to do their job, being too attractive also tended to hold women back. With this in mind, here are a variety of aspects to take into consideration when choosing an outfit that will evoke positive judgements from your boss and colleagues:

1. Be Comfortable, Be Confident

Dressing to impress has more to do with your attitude than your actual attire. Sure, you may want to put in a great deal of effort with your appearance, but adding that pair of heels and some highlighter is not guaranteed to catapult you up the career ladder. Indeed, whilst a put-together appearance may suggest that you have good time management skills, it may also hinder your ability to perform your day-to-day tasks if you’re not used to walking in heels. At the end of the day, it is better to be comfortable and confident than nursing a blistered foot and distracted from fulfilling your responsibilities.

Similarly, if you’re used to wearing little-to-no makeup at work, coming in one day with a full-face is unlikely to help you out, especially if you are out of your comfort zone. You don’t want to be constantly checking for shine and eyeliner smudges, and consequently not concentrating on the tasks at hand. By the same token, if being made up makes you feel more confident in yourself, it may in turn make you more confident to pitch your ideas and discuss your progress with your boss. When you think that you look good you tend to feel more confident, and confidence is key to gaining recognition for your work as well as enjoying your role.

Remember, self-confidence is reflected in your work, so style yourself in whichever way makes you feel best and reap the rewards at work.

2. Be Industry Relevant

It’s important to not only feel confident, but also to dress appropriately for your industry. This isn’t simply to fit in or be comfortable: not doing so can suggest you don’t understand your own job role, which in turn can impact your perceived professionalism. If you’re in the postal service, for example, you can get away with wearing shorts, but you might get fired on the spot if, as a lawyer, you show up at court in a pair. Remember that it is imperative to look professional – whatever that might mean for your industry.

3. Dress to Fit In

Emulating your colleagues shouldn’t be seen simply as an egotistical desire to be popular. Rather, those who toe the company line tend to be perceived as team players with the ability to build a rapport with colleagues and, thus, clients. This isn’t to say you have to blend in per se; work wear does not need to be completely devoid of your personality. However, do take cues from your colleagues so as to ensure you neither feel self-conscious, nor under-dressed/over-dressed. You should dress to fit in – and let your work stand out.

There are many factors in the workplace that can detract from your professionalism, and although it is unfair to think that our abilities are being judged by our appearance, it is seemingly unavoidable. In order to ensure that your appearance isn’t affecting your work, make sure you feel comfortable and confident and don’t wear anything that will directly impact your productivity. Strive to look respectably presentable and let your work speak for itself.

Written by:

Alysia-Marie is a University of Nottingham English and Creative Writing graduate with a passion for writing anything and everything. Her life's ambition is to find and taste the best doughnut in the UK (and become a travel writer/publisher/Louis Theroux's PA).

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