A few months ago I delivered a speaking skills course at a
Fortune 500 Company. Many of the salespeople were beginning their new career
after years of wearing casual college attire. Last week I received an email
from one of my male participants who knows that his polished image is crucial
in his future career advancement, however, he doesn’t know where to begin in
building a professional wardrobe on his entry level salary. I thought this
would be a great topic to share with any college graduates entering large
organizations with the same question.
My first word of wisdom to this young man is to invest in the
very best quality that you can afford. This will depend on the company
environment and what kind of salary you are making after graduation. Higher
quality clothes will always last longer, dry clean better and little details
like finished seams and hand stitching can make all the difference in how an
item wears in your long-term investment.
Every professional working in a large company today needs at least one
great suit even if he working in a business casual environment. Large firms
where I teach or coach executives always want their people to own at least one
formal suit incase a situation calls for a new employee to have the opportunity
to meet a top client or attend a evening business dinner.
Where do you begin? I always tell my male clients to begin
their shopping with a plan of attack. You always want to invest in dark, solid
colors in sport coats, blazers and suits like gray, navy and black. Your dress
trousers should include colors like khaki, gray, brown, navy, tan and olive. When
shopping for dress shirts, be sure to look for solids here as well. You can
never have enough white dress shirts so be sure to stock up on these. You will
also want to add colors like ivory, light blue to give you some variety.
After you have been working and have the basics feel free to
add a sport coat or suit in a check or plaid. After you have established a
supply of dress shirts then add to your collection an array of fine stripes,
French cuffs and fine fabrications.
You always want to ensure that your wardrobe is a reflection
of your personal brand. Be sure whatever you invest in is authentic to your
personal style and tailored to fit you as though it was custom made for your
physique and positively conveys your personal brand. Your investment in your
wardrobe will be noticed by high level managers who are considering putting you
on the fast track program.
Image Tip: If you are starting a new wardrobe dark solid
neutrals will provide you greater versatility on a budget. As your career
advances and you wish to invest in your professional wardrobe, you can always
add more patterns. Use the “keep it simple” approach when starting to build
your working attire. With a lot of dark neutrals, you will have a greater
ability to mix and match creating great business casual looks.