Become A CPA

Become A CPA

Dressing the Part

by Rebecca Pomering, CEO, Moss Adams Wealth Advisors LLC | Aug 20, 2015
Man straightening tie

I’ll admit I tend to bristle when I see articles about how to dress for the workplace.  The concept seems outdated and old fashioned, and I remember that when I saw these articles when I was new to the workplace, I resented the thought that I couldn’t be trusted to use good judgment in regards to dressing appropriately.  I’m not a slob and I have generally good social skills, so I always thought I was covered.

As I have progressed in my career, I now realize what an impact attire has on how a person is perceived in the professional world, especially when they are new to the workplace.  It can influence who is invited to what meetings, or who is given the best outward-facing (client, customer, vendor) opportunities.  I’ve also realized that with the increase of breadth in the industries we work in, the question of “appropriate attire” has become more complicated.  Here are a few pieces of advice that might make this tricky topic easier to navigate.

Know your audience:  When you know you have something on your calendar, give some thought to the occasion, the audience and the impression you want to make.  I think of my business wardrobe differently for different occasions.  How do I want the people I am meeting with (or working with) to think of me?  How do I want my choice of clothing to reflect on me?  That doesn’t always mean dressing up as much as I can.  I have some clients in the apparel industry, for example, who would show me to the door if I showed up to a meeting in something other than jeans.  While the first business outfit I ever bought was (like many people) a black suit and white blouse, that’s actually rarely the right fit for many of my meetings.  When I meet with students I dress more casually so I don’t seem intimidating. When I meet with women’s networking groups I try to dress more stylishly and a little dressier, though less formally.  When I meet with clients in Los Angeles in the entertainment or apparel industry I wear the “coolest” professional outfit I can dig out of my closet.  When I meet with East Coast men in the financial services industry, I break out the black suit and white blouse.  But my decision is always based on whom I am meeting and what is appropriate for that audience and the specific impression I am trying to make.

Dress for the spontaneous opportunity:  Many of us dress for our calendar – as described above – which is tricky enough, but even trickier is knowing how to dress when your calendar is not 100% predictable.  I call this dressing for the spontaneous opportunity.  I may look at my calendar and know I am going to be on the phone most of the day or in internal meetings with people who don’t care how I am dressed.  But what stops me from wearing my bathrobe to work on those days are those couple of spots on my calendar where I don’t know what might happen.  What if I get pulled into a meeting with a big client?  What if I have an opportunity to do a ride along on a sales call?  I always want to be dressed well enough that if someone sticks their head into my office to say “Hey – could you join me in the conference room for this meeting?  I want to introduce you to someone,” they never turn on their heel thinking “What a fright!  I can’t take her into a meeting looking like that!”  I always want to be prepared for (and dressed for) the unexpected opportunity.

Wear what makes you feel confident:  Unfortunately, this isn’t always the same as wearing what makes you feel comfortable. I would love nothing more than to wear yoga pants to work every day, but even on jeans days I feel a little less polished and professional.  When I am dressed in “weekend clothes” I feel sloppier, not just in how I am dressed, but even in my posture, my timeliness, or my articulateness. On the other hand, I know if I wear a pencil skirt or dressier shoes, I stand up a little taller and present the more professional version of myself in every aspect, not just my wardrobe.  There are certainly days  I wear jeans, but on the days when I want to dial up the professionalism and my confidence level, how I feel in what I am wearing makes a big difference.  I have also learned to banish clothes that make me tug at the neckline, constantly tuck straps, fiddle with hems, and the like.  If an outfit only works when I am standing perfectly still in front of a mirror, it’s not going to make me feel confident and put together when I am in motion.

There is no magic to the wardrobe equation, or any right answer for every person or every situation, but the question of what to wear is not as trite or simplistic as I once believed.  Being thoughtful about your audience, the impression you want to make, and what wardrobe choices will make you feel professional and confident will help you dress the part for your next known or spontaneous opportunity!

Rebecca Pomering is the chief executive officer of Moss Adams Wealth Advisors and is regarded as a leading expert on the business of wealth management. As CEO, she is responsible for strategic planning, sales and marketing, team development and mergers and acquisitions. Ms. Pomering is also responsible for integrating the delivery of comprehensive wealth management services alongside the accounting and consulting services offered by Moss Adams LLP, one of the fifteenth largest accounting firms nationwide. 

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