I got to thinking about how much our style defines who we are to the outside world–especially from the employer perspective. This line of thought occurred after I had a fashion consultancy session at Stockmann, a local high-end department store. This was the interview part of it, and what I remember most is how deeply I reject the idea of having to dress in the standard business suit for work, simply because it’s not me! I’d feel fake, and my performance at work would surely suffer if I went to the office feeling fake.

Might be a bit over the top but I do love using my golden satchel at work.
Might be a bit over the top but I do love using my golden satchel at work.

However, I do feel strongly about looking professional and fitting in at one’s workplace. I’d rather overdress than underdress because even though in IT the dress code is not that strict, the business management side is much more so. In my job I deal with both, and since I never know when I’m going to be pulled into a meeting with top management, I need to look professional at that level every day.

Serious thinking while preparing to step on a seminar stage,
Serious thinking while preparing to step on a seminar stage

This train of thought led me to thinking that dressing to fit my job is actually integrated into my personality in the sense that I care so much about it, and it’s an integral part of my professional confidence.

So then I googled more information on this topic and found this Forbes article from last year. “Top Five Personality Traits Employers Hire Most”  They list these five as the most sought after personality traits and in this order:

  1. Professionalism
  2. High-energy
  3. Confidence
  4. Self-monitoring
  5. Intellectual curiosity

And there were a few points that validated my thoughts in that article based on a data analysis study by Universum, a Stockholm-based employer branding firm that annually surveys over 400,000 students and professional worldwide on jobs-related issues.

  • “the vast majority of employers (88%) are looking for a “cultural fit” over skills in their next hire”
  • “A manager can read you the moment you walk in the door,” says Kathy Harris, managing director of Manhattan-based executive search firm Harris Allied ; from the clothes you wear to the way you stand to the grip of your first hand-shake, presenting yourself as a confident, energetic professional is about as basic as career advice gets.”
  • “The most successful applicant is the one who walks into every interview with her hand outstretched for a handshake, has done her homework on the interviewer and company and is dressed to fit effortlessly into the culture of the workplace.”
Different personalities in a change project, good to know what you are dealing with.
Different personalities in a change project, good to know what you are dealing with.

As the article says, people read you from the moment you walk in the door so your style, posture and walk already make the first impression before you even open your mouth to speak. When you do, your personality should support the outside impression. Without a cohesive style, you can seem like you are insecure or not sure of who you are, which then correlates to how confident you seem.

[A busty tangent:  your bust size does not matter. If you are ok with your body and confident, then it makes no difference. A well fitting, supportive bra allows us busty women also to have a great posture.]

Early in the morning preparing to conduct a fairly large scale development meeting, tired but confident.

This is probably why my younger female work colleagues say they are still nervous in front of an audience and don’t feel that confident even though they do know their work. I always say to them that the confidence comes with experience and age, I felt like they do when I was just under thirty and climbing the corporate ladder. But growing more mature and in that process learning to define and know who I am naturally led to a cohesive style and strong confidence–inside out.