Dress like you want to be addressed


When I lived in China, I was often amazed and curious by a somewhat common visual on the streets: a street sweeper dressed not in sturdy work clothes but a sport coat, pants and dress shoes. The clothes were covered in dust and stains, and I found myself wondering about and even judging the choice. I saw the clothes as being “ruined” by the dust and grime of the traffic.

20 years and many a lesson learned on mindset later, I wish I could go shake these street sweepers hands and ask them to tea. I admire their choice to not let their position define them and see them as embodying the “dress the way you want to be addressed” and “dress for the job you want not the job you have” proverbs. I now know, there is also a lot of data showing connection between dress and performance (one example here). And, whether we like it or not, dress is a huge contributor to the first impressions we create (hence a 20-year memory of a street sweeper I didn’t even talk to!). It can also add to or detract from the message and value you have.

Dress may not be the trump card, but I encourage you to see it as a first step to the reality you desire. If you want to up level your career or be taken more seriously in your current role, if you are working from home and dress for comfort but are increasingly less motivated, if you are working toward a personal goal or mindset shift, dress for success in that context. I’d love to hear what happens when you give it a try.