Three Tips on Dressing for Success

As a former reporter/producer navigating America’s top newsrooms to a seasoned media trainer and presentation coach, I’ve lost count of how many times clients tell me they’re nervous when presenting to a packed room or even when giving an update at a meeting with their boss. My first suggestion is always the same – practice. The second is to invest in your appearance and make sure the way you look reflects the way you want to be perceived.

Whether you’re a C-level executive, a rising manager or starting out in your career, you should always be thinking about how your dress mirrors your image. You are your brand!

Here are my top three pieces of advice on dressing for success:

  • Rock the first impression. First impressions mean everything, especially when you are presenting in front of a group. Make it memorable. According to a Harvard study found on Remarkable Leader, it can take up to 21 repeated good experiences with a person to make up for a bad first impression. What you’re wearing is the first thing someone sees before you open your mouth. So make sure your dress is aligned with how you want to be remembered.
  • Invest in yourself. You do not need to max out your credit cards to get quality attire. My advice is to buy four to five staple items that you can change up each season with less expensive shirts, blouses and accessories.
  • Up-level your business casual. “Business casual” has a different meaning at every organization, so be sure to dress at the higher end of the spectrum. It might seem like a no-brainer, but stay away from sweatshirts in the winter and flip-flops in the summer if you want to make a good impression on a client or your boss. Obviously some industries are more lax than others. What is most advisable is to pay close attention to those who are rising quickly in your office or industry, and mimic their dressing habits.

I live by the mantra, “dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” My personal “perception is reality” story happened when I was a young writer and producer at WGN-Channel 9 in Chicago. My boss repeatedly told me I would never be an on-air reporter, due to my lack of on-camera experience.

So what did I do? I dressed like a reporter every day for three long years. When both weekend reporters called in sick one Sunday, guess who was asked to do an on air report? I was a TV news reporter there for 10 more years, largely because I dressed for the job I wanted. Take my advice and do the same.

Mary Gannon is an executive vice president and head of media and presentation coaching in Chicago.