Dressing For The Job You Want, Not The Job You Have.

What To Wear? When To Splurge and When To Save?

I think we’ve all heard the saying, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”, especially when you’re on the job hunt. Am I right? But what if you already have a job, then what? Does the old saying still apply? The answer is yes, yes, and YES! Always dress for the job you want, even if you are the CEO! Sound silly? Well it just might, but there are studies dedicated to this topic that solidify this saying and proves that it isn’t so silly after all. In fact, it’s 100% true and I’ll share why.

Burgundy Top with skirt and nude heels

First, picture this: you have a vacancy on your team. It’s a senior level IT position that pays well but is also in high demand. Recruiters are reaching out left and right providing you with great potential candidates. You set aside two days for the initial candidate screening. This one candidate in particular checks all the boxes. Education – check, experience – check, led mid-sized teams – check, has experience with the version of software the company uses – check. The list goes on and on and quite honestly, you’re very excited to meet this candidate in person.

The day comes, it’s a 3PM interview, and at 3:15PM the receptionist finally calls, “Hello Shayna, you’re 3PM is here”. I think to myself, “well, this isn’t a good sign, showing up late 15 minutes late to your initial interview”. I say to myself, “ok, you’ve been late to meetings, so give him a break, you have no idea what his circumstance is”. I then proceed to the lobby to greet the candidate and bring him up to the meeting room where the other interviewers are waiting. I reach the lobby and greet him. My first impression…. he seemed nice, somewhat soft spoken, his hair dark and very disheveled. His shirt, plaid, wrinkled, and partially untucked. His pants, khaki, wrinkled, with a quarter-sized stain on his upper right thigh, as if he accidentally dropped something greasy on his pants during lunch. In that moment, I said to myself, he reminds me of someone. Then it hit me… Chris Farley from the movie Tommy Boy. The scene where he butchers his first sales call. Anyway, needless to say, the rest of the interview did not go well. His phone kept ringing, he was unprepared, and the list goes on and on.

After I cut the interview short, I reevaluated the situation and aside from his unpreparedness, his appearance (which I would kindly describe as “rolling out of bed” and extremely unkept) said to me that he did not care. If he didn’t care about how he presented himself, then how would he ever be able to present to our Chief Officers? Even if the interview went well, I still would have wondered if his work product would resemble his messy, unkept appearance.

Now this may sound like I care more about his clothing than his skills, and let me be clear, I didn’t. I do care about hiring the best person for the job though and I needed someone who puts forth 100%. His appearance alone said to me that he didn’t care. End of story.

Ok, I’m sure by that story you understand where I’m going with this blog post. The simple fact is, how superficial it seems, we are all measured to some extent by what we wear and how we present ourselves. Like it or not, what we wear DOES matter, you only get one chance to make a first impression! According to the psychological studies published in the Business Insider, first impressions are formed within 7 to 17 seconds of meeting someone; 55% of a person's opinion is determined by physical appearance.

In reality, what you wear is not a shallow consideration; it could make or break your meeting. In another study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers found that the way a person feels about their clothes may have an effect on the brain, thus impacting their performance and extending to the performance of their co-workers. Yep, how you dress can impact the performance of others. So, the question is, what should I wear? Well no worries, I am here to help.

Polka Dot Blouse with Red Trousers

I have a passion for fashion. Technically, I think the correct word would be obsession! Talk to anyone that I work with, my friends or family, and they would all agree that I’m a bit fanatical about fashion and beauty (much to my husbands’ and our bank accounts’ dismay). Realistically, I do follow influencers and brands on Instagram and YouTube. I take their tips and tricks and put my own spin on them. I do not believe you need to spend a lot to look good and feel confident. I do believe that investing in classic pieces that you can have for years to come that do not go out of style are worth splurging on though. I also believe that trendy items should be purchased with care. Meaning, trends like bellbottoms or cold-shoulder tops and sweaters, usually only last a season, and if finances are an issue, may not be worth splurging on.

For me, versatility is key. I like to evaluate each piece that I purchase and it must be versatile. Such as some ankle trousers, paired with heels and a blouse for the office, but can transition to an after-work soccer game. Simply remove the heels, put on a pair of Chuck Taylor’s, your favorite tank or tee, and a Levi jacket. A quick change makes those trousers versatile and a decent investment!

Since we’re on the topic of investment, I have some thoughts on the matter. As mentioned above, I have a splurge or save mentality. But the splurge, at the time of purchase can be a bit hard to swallow. But if you evaluate the purchase based on facts, it makes it easier to determine if it’s worth splurging or saving based on its return on investment.

Below is a brief example of how I determine if I’ll splurge or save. Yes, it’s a spreadsheet. Yes, I know its super dorky (it’s my past life as an Accountant coming out). And, no, I do not formally evaluate every purchase I make, but the math is simple and can be done on the fly. Basically, I classify each purchase into two categories; classic, long-term pieces or trendy, short-term styles. From there I estimate how many year’s I’ll own it and the number of times I will wear it, and then I calculate the “cost per wear”. Everybody’s financial threshold is different, you’ll have to determine what you’re comfortable with. When you break it down to a per wear cost, the decision is usually clear. For example, with the look below, I spent $118 on the trousers and $4 on the top!

Rust Color Wrap Top with Pinstripe Slacks

Before I hear “10” years – this is not far-fetched. I own several beautiful, classic trousers that I purchased roughly two years after I had my son (who is now almost 13). During the summer, on average, I wear them once a week, while in the winter I might wear them twice a week. As you can see, the cost per wear for trousers with an original cost of $180, purchased in 2008 is somewhere between 17 and 35 cents. Yep….sold! Classic piece that can be worn for years. Use the same approach for seasonal or trendy tops or bottoms. Determine your threshold and then if it’s a splurge or save.

 Price Of Trousers Years of Ownership Number of Days Worn Per Week Number of Times Worn Cost Per Wear
$75.00 10 1 520 $0.14
$75.00 10 2 1,040 $0.07
$110.00 10 1 520 $0.21
$110.00 10 2 1,040 $0.11
$180.00 10 1 520 $0.35
$180.00 10 2 1,040 $0.17


In the end, it’s always important to put your best foot forward. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have and remember, versatility is key!

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