Regardless of how you want to slice it, your appearance is plays a part in how you are received by those looking at you. I realize this may be a taboo topic, however, I venture into it nonetheless. In your business, the business of life or career, how you present yourself will directly impact what you achieve.
As engineers, those with whom we interact expect a certain, as my wife puts it…”engineer-like appearance”. I know what she means. Conservative, organized, well put together. Perhaps not a pocket-protector, but definitely clean-cut and, as the British say, “smart”. Why is this? Because people expect an engineer to be conservative, trustworthy, and managers of risk. We wouldn’t feel right committing our life savings at a bank where everyone was wearing cut-offs and t-shirts or working with a gym trainer who smokes heavily. The reason why is that we expect specific types of people, bankers or physical trainers, to look and act a certain way. This is neither right nor wrong, it just is.
I won’t suggest you begin wearing tailored suits, high-gloss shoes, and a conservative haircut from today onwards. I will suggest, however, that you take a look at who you work with, who your clients are, who you serve, and what’s expected of you and attire yourself appropriately. If you work for an Avant-garde firm, then spiking your hair and wearing primary colors might work. But for the rest of us, adjusting our appearance to fit what is expected is not only smart, it’s good business.
“Clothes and manners do not make the man; but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance.” Henry Ward Beecher
Christian Knutson, P.E., PMP is a leader, civil engineer, and author. He’s an accomplished professional specializing in A/E/C work internationally and author of The Engineer Leader, a recognized blog on leadership and life success for engineers and professionals.