Dress for the Job you want, not the one you have


How often have you heard this statement “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have”? My guess is a lot. Isn’t it true though? Just as one must prepare for the job you want like acquiring the required skill sets, work experience, qualifications, a strong work ethic, putting in the hard work. Similarly, dressing for the Job you want is as important and is in fact backed by research.

A 2015 paper found that when people felt more dressed up than their peer group, they thought more creatively and abstractly. At  Harvard University one of the most popular classes in the history of the university is the Positive Psychology class taught by Ben Shahar. In this class, he highlights 14 key tips for improving the quality of our personal status and contributing to a positive life. One of those 14 tips is to “Take care of yourself and feel attractive”. 70% of people say they feel happier when they think they look good.

So how do you begin to dress for success?

Observe and learn –  Observe the leaders and influencers in your profession and notice how they dress and how they put themselves together. Look at what the people on the next rung of the ladder are wearing. Take your cue from your manager or boss. And see how you can add these elements to your own look.

Don’t Copy – Don’t copy cat instead make a look your own with your personal style preferences and creativity. For eg – If you notice everyone wearing high heeled court shoes, but you aren’t comfortable in high heels, you can choose to wear a wedge heel or ballet flats. This is both stylish and comfortable.  Use the people who are in your desired field or are your inspiration as a reference point and not the final word.


Be Authentic – Like not copying, bring in your personal style and flair to your look. If you aren’t being authentic, it shows. It also makes you and the people around you uncomfortable. Your style and your preferences matter more. Be sure to incorporate them while dressing for the part. Ultimately you want to come across as believable.

Avoid Distracting – You want people to get the message that you mean business, are professional and you’re on top of your game. But if you wear something too short, too tight or revealing you just end up being a distraction to others. Even if you are comfortable with what you are wearing, it doesn’t mean that people around you are. Again take your cues from your boss and senior managers.

Dress up not down –  Many times I hear women say ” nobody dresses up at work” or “I  don’t want to be overdressed ” “my workplace is too casual” “my work and not my clothes should get noticed” But most of them are aspiring to grow into leadership positions. Wearing clothes that are uninspiring, dull, lacking in elegance with your hair looking messy doesn’t help you look put together. Many times the clothes send a message that “I’m too busy to bother looking pulled together”. Cultivate a more pulled together, coordinated appearance that will help you look the part of a confident leader. Present your best self no matter what level you are at even if it is an informal look.


Invest in your wardrobe – Invest in quality items. Well made and well-fitted clothes, in a quality fabric. Buy the best you can afford while buying accessories like shoes, bags, jewelry, belts or a watch. Make investing in your wardrobe a priority. You will find that you may be spending more at the beginning. But once you build up a wardrobe of great quality items they will last you for a long time to come. Thereby giving you more value for money and avoiding repetitive purchases.

Your Audience – Dress for success with the people you’ll see. If you are meeting with clients then dress for that audience and not the people around you. Same goes for presentations, who you will be meeting, official events, visiting leaders and senior managers.

Stay sharp, confident and leave lasting impressions as you navigate your way to the top. I recommend reading “The Confidence Code” for more on building confidence.

Also here is our post on helping you identify your personal style. Understanding your personal style is key to cultivation an authentic style.


All fashion images via Pinterest