The Harsh Truth: You’re Being Judged on What You Wear

Posted July 23, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Building Your Brand

A few months ago, when interviewing candidates for Career Girl Network’s internship program, I posted on Facebook that I had decided not to hire a specific intern because she had public and quite risque photos of herself in a “Sexy Sailor” Halloween costume on her Facebook profile. One of my acquaintances on Facebook declared boldly that I should hire based on skills, not appearances. I thought about and it responded with two reasons for my decision – #1, this person clearly didn’t have good judgment when it comes to what she should or shouldn’t post online and therefore #2, I couldn’t trust her to represent my company.

Why, though did such venom come from my acquaintance? Because the fact that we are constantly and consistently judged on our outward appearance is very difficult for some to deal with. Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where the clothes you wear, the way you wear your hair, your shoes, or your makeup had absolutely nothing to do with your career trajectory? Sure. But the truth is, the harsh truth is, you’re being judged on what you wear every day.

So to ensure you’re not being so harshly judged, consider a few rules about what you wear every day (yes, every day, not just on week days!):

  • Would you be comfortable in your clothing if you ran into your boss or a potential mentor on the street? Even if you live in a large city, you have to be prepared to run into someone you know (and more importantly, someone who could be instrumental in your career) at any event. Whether you’re attending a networking event after work or a concert on the weekend, would you be embarrassed for your boss to see you? If so, you might want to reconsider your outfit (take note, girls at the Jason Aldean concert at Wrigley Field this weekend conveniently wearing….next to nothing.)
  • Is what you’re wearing clean and free from rips or tears? More than buying expensive clothes or even stylish ones, it’s important your clothes are appropriately cleaned and that they don’t overstay their welcome in your closet. I recently noticed a small tear on the bottom of my favorite leather blazer, and nearly cried. I hope a tailor will be able to fix it, but you’d better believe I won’t wear it until then. You might think, “Why!? It’s just a tiny tear?” But the fact is, I could be judged for it.
  • Casual Friday isn’t a free for all. Most judgement in office wear comes when casual Friday rolls around. Just because you’d normally wear a Mickey Mouse t-shirt when you dress casually doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for office casual wear.

It’s a harsh truth, my friends, and I wish it weren’t true. But ultimately, you have to be prepared to be judged inside and outside the office.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."