Your Mother Was Right: How IT Leaders Dress For Success

by drjim on June 18, 2009

IT Leaders Need To Dress For Success

IT Leaders Need To Dress For Success

So if you could wear anything that you wanted to work, what would it be? Would you be showing up in shorts and flip-flops? How about jeans and a T-shirt? Well why don’t you? The answer to this question is something that we normally don’t spend a lot of time thinking about, but because it can have a big impact on our careers, perhaps we should…

What, Me Worry?

The first issue that we need to tackle is trying to figure out why is there an issue in the first place. Face it, although we’ve always been told not to judge someone by the clothes that they wear, we all do it anyway.

That’s why how you go about dressing can determine how the people that you interact with perceive you while you are at work. Additionally, it can have a big impact in how you feel about your self. I almost hate to say it, but it’s true, how you dress can have an effect on your ability to get a job in the first place.

That Professional Look – For Women

I’ve done some asking around and when I opened my mouth, I got dumped on. There are too few women working in IT and this is clearly an emotionally charged topic for many of them. I listened to everyone (for quite some time if I do say so myself), and here are the top four suggestions that were brought up over and over again:

  1. Hose Rule: It turns out that pantyhose (remember them?) are still important. In today’s workplace, bare legs send the wrong message – they aren’t considered to be professional. Even if they are not required, they are required.
  2. Shoe Time: This one sorta lost me because I just don’t pay enough attention to shoes. However, smarter people than I told me that regular sandals and even open-toed shoes are generally considered to be acceptable for the workplace. However, the ultra comfortable flip-flops and toe-post sandals (what are those?) are not.
  3. Tall Patterns: Those women who are tall have a bit of a challenge especially if they work with / for shorter men – their height can make them appear overpowering. The goal here is to not emphasize what you already have – height. Instead, go with a horizontal pattern.
  4. Short Patterns: The goal here is to attempt to buy yourself some height so that you don’t have to kill yourself wearing 4″ heels all the time. The suggestion is that wearing a cropped jacket can help make your legs appear longer.

That Professional Look – For Men

Ok, so we’ve pointed out what women need to do to make the clothes that they wear to the office work for them, not against them. Now let’s see if we can do the same for men:

  1. Watch The Boss: One of the most important things that you can do is to watch what the boss wears and match him. This is especially important on so-called “casual days”.
  2. Super Dressy (Sorta): Things have changed. The #1 dressy look in the office these days is wearing a suit, but with no tie.
  3. Sports: You can’t go wrong if you wear a sport coat. The experts recommend that you go with either earth or gray tones in order to make matching with shirts easier.
  4. Pants: There always seems to be too many choices here. Stick with medium to dark worsted wool and  you can’t go wrong.

Final Thoughts

Mom was right after all – clothes do make the man / woman. Dressing well sends a message to others that says “if I care enough to take the time to dress this way, just imagine how much time I’ll take to solve your problems.” Now that’s the right message to be sending as you transform yourself from an IT manager into a true leader!

Questions For You

How much time do you spend on average each day deciding what you will wear that day? Have you ever worn something to the office that you regretted? Have you ever mis-read a boss and not dressed appropriately? Do you feel that you boss dresses appropriately? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As though the job of being a IT Leader was not hard enough, there’s also that added responsibility that you have to manage your career. With all of the turmoil of the past couple of years, it’s now more important than ever for IT Leaders to find the time to tend to this task…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth June 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Women can follow the “watch the boss” rule too, you know…not all IT managers/directors/supervisors are men.

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Dr. Jim Anderson June 20, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Elizabeth: you are correct – my mistake. In fact women can probably do a better job of watching and adjusting to what a male boss wears than men can do in adjusting to what a female boss wears!

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