Dress for the Job You Want, Not the Job You Have

By Lindsey Novak

February 27, 2014 4 min read

Q: I offer my experience for those who want to move ahead in their careers. My first real summer job while in college was as a stock boy in a small bank in the Detroit area. On my first day, I wore a white shirt, tie, pressed brown slacks and polished shoes, and arrived 12 minutes early. I reported to the vice president who had hired me, and he introduced me to the bank officers, tellers, bookkeepers, mortgage department staff, and others as they began arriving. The VP properly introduced me to all — name, job title and duties.

When I went to the stockroom and saw the mess, I asked the VP if I could take some extra time at lunch to go home and bring some work clothes back so I could straighten up the stockroom after work. I stayed late and completely organized it. When employees arrived the next day, the stockroom was in order, with everything in its place on the correct shelves. I dressed professionally every day thereafter. I was promoted two weeks later to the Office of Bank Money Orders, where I worked in solitude for 10 days to organize, sort, file and record years of old documents. I was then promoted to three more departments and was offered a full-time position, with the additional offer of pay for night-school classes, which I accepted for one year before returning to college full time.

No matter which job I was promoted to, I showed up to work in a sports jacket, white shirt, pressed slacks and dress shoes. The other employees just didn't "get it," and I never explained it to them other than to say that my parents had told me to "look my best and do more than what is expected of you, and you will always succeed."

I graduated with a degree in economics, finance and marketing, and became an entrepreneur, then a bank's executive vice president, and finally a CEO of a large metro trade association. I am retired now, but I am an active volunteer student supporter in Florida. Tell recent college graduates to perform the positive instead of looking at the negative, and to not follow the crowd but set an example by leading.

A: Your advice is right on target, and your experience confirms it. It worked for you throughout your career, and it would work for any bright, new graduate with a strong work ethic.

Parents ingrain messages in their children, both positive and negative. Your parents built a strong and positive foundation of support for you, which is why you are able to share it with students today. Values and work ethic translate into one's personality, which is more important at work than the information obtained in school. Of course, a person has to be able to perform the job, but it's often one's personality that ties into positive results that help the person get ahead. Pass on your parents' advice to every student you meet. It should help put an end to the "entitlement attitude," which will only lead to poor work relationships and a disappointing resume.


Q: From everything I've read, I can tell my boss is bipolar. His moods swings are sudden and erratic, but I like the job too much to quit. What should I do?

A: Don't be a slave to money. Know that he cannot change, and your emotional and physical health is crucial. If you can safely ignore his negative mood swings, stay. If the verbal abuse affects you, start a job search and be careful what you tell potential employers. If his moods swings turn physical, quit immediately, file for unemployment, report all the abusive incidents, and look for a new job. Safety comes first.

Email your questions to workplace expert Lindsey Novak at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @I_truly_care. To find out more about Lindsey Novak and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Website at www.creators.com.

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