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Archive for July, 2010

Business Casual?

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Most likely when I attend a networking function these days, I’ll see a person that purports to be a “CEO” of a mortgage company or a financial planner dressed casually. They wear a golf shirt with their company name and logo on it! Wow! How professional!  Appropriate business wear? Maybe for installing satellite dishes or delivering pizzas. But for business? No.

Steve Jobs of Apple Computertm can get away with it, but some might argue that much of his market is expensive entertainment or novelties items sold to an extremely young, unemployed demographic group. To many of these young people he is a folk hero and dresses in a manner they approve of. Now I am not referring to the superb Mac computers that are in use by professionals and business people around the world. Those people will buy the Mac computers no matter how Steve Jobs dresses. The rest of us cannot afford to be making the statement that Steve Jobs does.

You are needing a cardiologist, a CPA for an important tax matter or a defense attorney and that person walks into the room where you are waiting for them wearing flip flops, a super bowl twenty-one tee shirt and a pair of shorts. What message are they sending to you? That they are sharp and competent? More likely it is that their approach to their work is likewise casual. That’s not the message most people want to receive! We cannot perform in a manner that is inconsistent with how we see ourselves.

I was sharing the elevator in my office building with a person that always wore a much worn sweat shirt and jogging pants. I inquired as to what he did for a living. He said “guess!” I said “landscaper?” He said “a mortgage officer.” I myself don’t want someone providing a professional service to me that has no pride in their personal appearance.

Many people emulate the clueless and classless appearance of the newer entrants into the entertainment industry. I had a forty two year old executive come into my office wearing a spike hair do that came to a point! He said that his superiors and colleagues didn’t take him seriously. I said “You have the right to wear your hair in any way that you want, however, the message that you are sending is that you are a techie. They will discount what you have to say about strategy.” A simple neat hairdo change solved his problem. Do you really think that most people want to take professional advice from someone that looks like they were on American Idol?

If a professional dresses this way, they are rationalizing that they can dress however they want to. And they can. But dressing in a casual manner in the market place, most often indicates a less than precise approach to one’s work. They mask their lack of confidence by under dressing. Gotta be comfortable. Right?

A chiropractor came into my office in very casual attire and said her name was “Doctor Tara.” She attended all the networking events but couldn’t get any business and said “I just don’t understand why.” I said “the intake history says your name is Tara Ledford. People want their doctors to look and act like doctors. Why don’t you call yourself Doctor Ledford instead of Dr. Tara and wear the white smock that established chiropractors wear? You don’t look professional. Why would someone seek your care?” At first she was upset. She wanted to dress the way she wanted to dress, but she repackaged herself as Dr. Ledford. She dressed like a Dr. Ledford would dress. She is now taken seriously and her practice is thriving. Not only will her present and future patients see her as a professional, but now she sees herself as a professional. Not as someone’s new best friend!

We can only make that first impression once, and remember – we cannot perform in a manner inconsistent with how we see ourselves.

Bob Crow is a behavioral therapist board certified in clinical and medical hypnotherapy. He practices in Atlanta Georgia working with those wishing to overcome stress, panic, phobias, procrastination and fears. With those that wish to perform better in sports, sales, public speaking, to stop smoking, to lose weight permanently, to quit sabotaging relationships and any other area of behavioral change that would make life more enjoyable.

Bob Crow