Someone asked me the other day how to be taken seriously at work. I laughed and said, “You are asking the wrong person!” When I was a legal eagle, I lived in a sea of black and charcoal grey. The majority of judges and masters at court in Hong Kong during the 90s were stuck in the Dark Ages. Anything remotely light was not acceptable. Within this confinement, and on days I did not have court appearances, I would wear the most fitted suits and the shortest skirts possible. This did not go down well, as my senior female partners complained that I did not dress appropriately, whilst the male partners encouraged this as a fresh look. On designated casual days like Saturdays, my inner fashion instincts went into full swing, and this could mean grunge, rock or even school girls’ thigh-high socks. This did not go down well either with my senior partners, who thought this was out of line for a lawyer. But this was Saturday – no clients’ meetings, no court hearings – so what was the problem?
Here is the answer: One cannot be taken seriously unless one dresses appropriately. Aren’t we supposed to be judged on our performance, competence and quality of work? Yes, but it will take a client or a superior longer to be confident in you, as they will have to know you and the quality of your work first.
If you are in the commercial world, a suit is a given. But please don’t wear a black suit with a white shirt. Use the inner top to show a print or embroidery that reveals your personality and individual tastes.
If you are in the design world, basically you can wear whatever you like, provided that it is edgy, on trend and not over-the-top. A full A-line skirt with denim jacket and a casual top with bangles can be functional and trendy.
If you are in the media or PR field, then you need to be in top form: research your client before the meetings and dress ‘in line’ with the client. This gives a good impression that you know their DNA. After all, you are promoting their brand.
If you are in the education business, then you do have to dress appropriately, since, after all, you are supposed to be the role model.
Always invest in good shoes. I hate when girls take off their shoes and put on slippers at work. Remember, your office is not your home.
Wear deodorant. There is nothing more off-putting than body odour. This overrides EVERYTHING as no one would want to work with you.