I have been having conversations with a new guy on the block (so-to-speak)… a young man who recently joined the office staff, working under contract for a chief of a technical division. This guy is eager to make his mark. He arrives early, leaves late, and always appears to be working. I never observe him playing with a smartphone or surfing the web for personal reasons while on the clock. He has a good work ethic.
Now, about his attire…
…this kid wears a suit every.single.day, even in the dead heat and humidity of sultry summer. He does not attend meetings with management as I do on a daily basis. He may speak with some influential people on the telephone, but does not see them in person.
At lunch the other day, Newguy asks, “you got promoted recently, right? Now you work for (a big cheese)? Don’t you have to wear a suit in that job?”
Yes, I was promoted but I also retain the role of my former position because they can’t fill it, so I am doing both jobs. Fun to be a one-armed paper hanger! And no, I do not “have” to wear a suit. I considered it, but realized that a suit would not befit my character when (big cheese) said to me one day, “you’re not some office clone. I like that about you. You’re your own man.”
If I wore a suit when not required, I would be blowing my rep with the agency. Yes, I admit, a jacket & tie is required sometimes such as when greeting dignitaries and big-wigs, but not for doing the job on a day-to-day basis. That’s why I keep a jacket and choice of a few ties on the back of my door for emergencies.
To that, Newguy looked bewildered. He said, “that goes against everything I was taught.”
What you are taught in school, read in on-line business blogs, in men’s “style guides,” and through peer pressure does not necessarily relate to reality. Sure, if I were an attorney and had to appear in court, of course I would wear a suit. But I’m not. I’m the “go-to” problem-solver adviser for (big cheese) and he respects me for my corporate history, professional and academic background, who I know, and how I get things done. He doesn’t really care as much about what I wear as he cares about what he and his staff ask me to do.
Newguy then asks, “even those boots you wear every day? He doesn’t say anything about that?”
Nope. (Big cheese) has seen me in boots way back since the ’90s when I met with him while working in my other job. He probably has not thought about the boots on my feet and we haven’t discussed it. But it just goes to show that you do not have to wear dress shoes to have a professional appearance in an office job.
I then asked Newguy, “so, are you thinking of getting yourself some good-looking dress boots?”
The color drained from his cheeks.
I guess not.
Oh well, more work to do.
Life is short: blow perceptions and wear boots to work!