career booster

Is power dressing really a career booster?

We ask whether dressing for success and hitting the shops to get there, are really necessary in boosting your career prospects.

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When you’re working in a competitive industry or work environment, it’s important to feel confident within yourself but is dressing for success really a career booster or a money-wasting false economy?

Some women might say that spending a lot of money on looking the part will do very little to improve your promotion prospects if you don’t have the skills to do a great job. Indeed do you really need to spend a lot or will a little splash do the trick, if at all?

What’s interesting is that there’s actually some evidence to suggest that dressing in a way that makes you feel empowered will actually help you become more powerful.

In 2007, a study published in Human Resources Development Quarterly examined how workplace attire affects employees’ self-perception. Respondents felt most authoritative, trustworthy and competent when wearing formal business attire.

In 2012, researchers at Northwestern University came up with the term “enclothed cognition” to describe the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, demonstrated that since a doctor’s lab coat was associated with attentiveness, participants performed better when wearing a doctor’s coat in attention-related tasks.

When told that the same coat was a painter’s coat, participants did not perform as well. Therefore, if you associate a business suit with power and authority, then wearing a business suit will improve your performance in power-related business tasks like managing, negotiating and decision-making.

Similarly, in 2014, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that wearing casual clothing can hinder your chances of a successful negotiation.

In 2015, the all of the previous findings were backed by more in-depth scientific research. A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science also revealed that wearing formal clothing actually enhanced abstract reasoning and big-picture thinking in cognitive tests.

StyleConfidante brand and image specialist Melissa Lewis shares three tips to help you elevate your professional presence and they don’t necessarily have to involve hitting the shops.

Own your credibility
Set any self-doubt aside and believe in yourself. You are already an accomplished professional with plenty of experience, so back yourself with confidence. Be proud, not only of your qualifications and accolades but also your personal strengths and emotional intelligence.

Dress the part
When you look and feel amazing, you will exude confidence, so choose outfits that flatter your best features and make sure that you are maintaining the appropriate ‘look’ for your industry. This helps to create trust and reinforces your credibility. When you consistently dress for success, you send a clear, congruent message about who you are and where you want to go.

Practice the physiology of confidence
Studies by well-known Harvard professor Amy Cuddy have shown that posture has a direct impact on key hormones like testosterone, which increases a person’s confidence. Try a daily practice of two-minute “power postures” such as stretching your arms out like you’re getting ready to hug someone, holding your arms up with clenched fists, or standing nice and tall with hands on hips.

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