The premise of Malcolm Gladwell’s international bestseller ‘Blink’ is that snap judgements can be far more effective than a cautious decision. Whenever you walk into a new environment your fellow human beings will judge you. Their judgements will reflect their personality, their personal history, the kind of day they are having, and they will be based entirely on your appearance. Of course they will modify their snap judgements as they get to know you but those snap judgements cast you in a form that will subsequently be slowly modified, but if that form is a negative representation you’ve got your work cut out to reshape it, to put it simply you’ve made a bad start and all you did was walk through the door.
All groups of humans are political and when you join a group you cause disruption. Some may welcome the disruption; some may feel threatened by it. On your first day you are like a child, you understand nothing of the political dynamics, that will only come later. In the absence of any other data on which to base their snap judgements your colleagues will judge you on your appearance. So, yes, what you wear and how you wear it is important.
Don’t dress like a parody
We all know that tech geniuses are famously casual, Zuckerberg T shirt and hoodie, Jobs, turtleneck and jeans but don’t arrive on your first day in the dirtiest, shabbiest ill-fitting clothing you can find, leave that until you’ve demonstrated your genius. As in all things, it pays to do some research. Check out the company’s website and social media channels and see what people are wearing. You could even make an old-fashioned phone call and ask for some advice.
Starting work is stressful and one way of reducing that stress is to arrive on your first day wearing clothing in which you feel confident and which is physically comfortable. Your role within the organization will also determine you style of clothing, if you are meeting clients face to face your dress will be a little more formal than if you are an engineer. Just a simple touch like layering a jacket can add authority to your appearance. Wear clothing which is good quality and which fits you well, understated rather than ostentatiously high fashion and obviously clean and without stains or rips. The same goes for you of course, clean hair and well-manicured nails are important details. For women and men, you can’t go wrong with the classic casual fashion staples: shirts and blouses, chinos and jeans, comfortable understated footwear.
As a woman you’re in a minority
Less than 20% of the US tech workforce is female and only about 5% of those are in positions of leadership. When you walk into work on that first day you are going to walk slap bang into all those old prejudices. Women tend to enjoy a greater variety of clothing than men and tend to use it more consciously as a projection of personality.
If you work in a fashion house than the expectation is that your clothing is a reflection of your creativity, in the world of male dominated tech the convention is that you are so focused on your work that it really doesn’t matter what you look like. I’m not suggesting that you should conform to male preconceptions about what women in tech should wear but if you choose to dress in ostentatious or sexy outfits you will be fuelling the prejudice against which you have to battle. If you are happy to do that, after all you’ve landed the job, then go for it.
Written by Stuart Cooke, Blog Editor at MAHI Leather, specialists in leather satchels and laptop bags.