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Workplace Ethics #5 Dress Pofessional

I was raised by a very strict mother who would hardly tolerate indecency in any form or shape. That withstanding, all skirts and dresses were expected to hang below the knees. It has taken me years to feel comfortable in anything less than what was engraved in my mind while growing up. Way before I started working, my mother would make for me formal suits because she was grooming me for the workplace in the near future. Unfortunately, I have never been a typical suit person so you can imagine how much long suffering I had to exercise.

When I got my first job, I took my mother’s precaution and dressed up in the best way I could for my first day at work. To cut the long story short, I was over dressed for my role. I could tell there was something wrong from the moment I walked into the office based on the constant stares and bewilded looks from my colleagues. By the end of the day, I had figured out what my problem was but did not know any better how to ‘dress down’.

If you were raised in a similar way, you know how hard it is to unweave those thought patterns that were planted in your childhood. It takes a lot of grace and radical determination to learn to swim against the tide and that is exactly what I had to do. I had to find my style and learn to feel comfortable in my new wardrobe. The more I got a grip of my profession in the social services sector, the more it became clear what was the acceptable dress code for the different roles in that regard.

Professional dress code will differ from one profession to another. It is unreasonable for one to expect all professionals to dress the same way yet there is a minimum acceptable standard that cuts across all professions. The standard is decency in whichever way you dress and present yourself. Even mechanics have an acceptable dress code for their profession. Your ability to successfully integrate into your profession has a lot to do with your ability to understand and appropriate professionalism in your outlook.

Some professions such as lawyers have a preset standard for acceptable dress code while social workers will have to find their rhythm within the culture of the organization they work with. Take the time to inquire as well as observe your fellow professionals to find the right balance between comfort and professionalism. Without a doubt, every professional needs at least one formal suit in their wardrobe for that deal breaker moment. It may not be your daily code but you need it as a backup plan for a formal event that turns up unexpectedly.

It is also important to find the balance between formal and casual. Most workplaces tend to dress down towards the end of the week so you need a couple of casual smart outfits for those specific days. Reminds me of a young man who I met and he confessed that he wore formal suits seven days a week because that was his interpretation of formal dress code. He often looked out of place while hanging out with his peers on the weekends but he was strapped in his self-made prison. Talk about going over board, that is what he had done.

Find the right balance between your personality, professional expectations and budget limitations. There is no point in looking sharp when in actual sense you dread every minute that goes by. Find clothes that suit your personality, fit within the acceptable dress code and are affordable with in your budget limits. Be happy with your look and you will love every moment of your working day. Often times less is more so there is no point in sticking out like a sore thumb unless it is part of your style.

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