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June 1, 2009

What it Means to Dress "Professionally"

Classic suits for a day at the office

Photo Credit: Joshua Jordan

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Oscar Levant said, "There's no problem so simple a little explanation can't make complex." Just ask a business consultant what it means to dress "professionally."

In his books Dress for Success and The Woman's Dress for Success Book, John T. Malloy explains that one success secret is to dress to mirror your environment. He explains that the right choice of attire can help bridge a connection with your business prospect; conversely, wearing a suit to negotiate with an Eastern Shore farmer on might actually make him suspicious or mistrustful. I am not a writer of books about what successful people wear, but I did earn a million dollars by my twenty-third birthday and I humbly and totally disagree with Mr. Malloy.

People like to do business with people who they know and like. It's easy; to promote your business you need to connect with other people so that they see you as someone who understands. My advice: be humble, be sincere, and wear the uniform that pertains to your industry.

That good ol' boy farmer who's been a hunting and a farming for 50 years, is not going to be fooled by someone who thinks throwing on blue denim and flannel is going to make a difference. Can you imagine? The farmer hops down from his tractor and says, "O.M.G.! You're wearing Wranglers? Me too! Is that a GAP flannel? We have so much in common - where do I sign?"

Professional dress in any industry means wearing the uniform of that industry, even if that means dressing "above" your prospect. On Wall Street, in finance, and in my industry, real estate investment, the appropriate uniform is a suit. It is okay if my prospect perceives (through my attire) that I am successful and knowledgeable about real estate, because I make sure that they also perceive (through my words and actions) that I am humble and sincere. Negotiation is about creating a connection, as Mr. Malloy explains, but a well-tailored shirt sleeve will never reach out to shake someone's hand on its own.

In fairness to Mr. Malloy, I concede that it is okay to adapt your attire slightly depending on the situation. For example, when speaking to labor unions the President of the United States may abandon the suit jacket and tie, and neatly roll up his sleeves. Still, the uniform is a suit, adapted.

When considering your own professional uniform, remember that your dress demonstrates to others how you value yourself. Perception precedes reality. Be neat, be clean, but not slick or overdone. Be a class act. Gum-chewing or smelling like an ash-tray are dead giveaways of an amateur or someone who just doesn't care about making the right impression. Above all, be humble and be sincere.

Ian Charles Parrish is a professional real estate investor and founder of Investors United School of Real Estate - America's 1st and only career school dedicated exclusively to real estate investing.
Read Ian's Blog at InvestorsUnited.com

Learn how to Dress for the Job You Want here.

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