There used to be a time when I went to all my meetings in a suit and tie. Heck, we pretty much all did. That’s just the way that meetings used to be held. But today, the meetings I attend have pretty much gone to a standard t-shirt and jeans look. Well, kind of. No matter how comfortable we may have gotten in the business world, it is still important to pay attention to your attire and match it to your client’s expectations.
It’s like Mark Twain used to say, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” While we would like to think that what we wear doesn’t have much of an influence, the truth is that it certainly can, depending on what type of meeting we are attending.
Case in point – if you are a lawyer or attending a meeting at a law office, you will still want to don the suit and tie. We haven’t come so far away from professional dress codes that you can get away with jeans in that type of meeting. But there are some other types of meetings where you can, and probably should.
Know Your Audience
Although you probably shouldn’t wear jeans to a law office meeting, you could likely get away with it at a media company. It’s all about knowing your audience. Here’s the trick – before you go to the meeting, do a little investigative work online. Today’s social media sites have opened the door to finding out more about a person than they would probably want people knowing!
Start by doing a quick search for the people you are meeting with, on Facebook and LinkedIn. Check out those people’s pictures. The key here is not to look at the personal photos, the professionally taken shots, or the ones that make you blush, but to concentrate on those taken at after-office parties and get-togethers. Those pictures, taken right after people have a typical day of work, will give you a good idea of how they dress.
Another trick that you can try is simply to call the office where you will be meeting and sound out the receptionist about the typical dress environment. Just say something like, “I am coming in for a meeting and want to make sure I dress appropriately for your office environment. May I ask, do your colleagues wear suits, business casual or jeans?"
Playing it Safe
How to dress for a meeting or interview is one of the biggest issues that people have. My one final tip is that you should keep in mind that it is better to over-dress than it is to under-dress. While a three-piece suit may draw a few funny looks at a construction site, it isn’t likely to get you booted. By contrast, torn jeans, a t-shirt and sandals at an accounting firm probably won’t do much to get you the job or the sale.
Deciding what to wear on the job is not as complicated as it may seem. Try to dress according to what will fit in with where you are going, and dress up a bit if you aren’t sure about the typical attire. But the closer you can come to matching the attire of those you are meeting with, the more likely it is that they will feel you are one of them. And you know how the old saying goes – “When in Rome…”
Mike Michalowicz is the Author of the business cult-classic, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Michalowicz has built three multi-million dollar companies, is a frequent expert guest on MSNBC, CNBC, ABC and other television networks, and is a nationally renowned speaker. His website is http://www.ToiletPaperEntrepreneur.com and his book is available at Amazon.com and all major book stores.