One of the best suggestions to give any job seeker, especially young professionals, is to “dress for the job that you want five years from now.”
The statement can be taken literally: If you want to be a project manager in five years, then starting today, you should wear outfits like the managers in your company, not the entry-level employees.
Imagine you see two men in their 20s having coffee and talking together — one is wearing jeans and a t-shirt, the other is in nice pants with a shirt and tie. Which of these guys would you assume has more responsibility at their job? Takes more pride in his work? If you were their boss, which one would you consider more seriously for a promotion?
“Dressing for the job you want five years from now” is about more than appearance. It’s about how you think about yourself, and how you act in the workplace. It’s about paying attention to your career goals, not just this week’s pay stub.
What can you do to make your career goals a reality?
Watch, listen and learn from the managers at your job now. Even managers at your part-time job can teach you how to lead and work with other employees, deal with crisis situations, handle customers, and communicate effectively.
Emulate the positive qualities of your managers, and make a mental note to not repeat their negative actions. By acting the same – or doing the opposite of – your current supervisors, you are training yourself to become a better manager in the future.
Everyone wants to have a manager who treats employees with respect and support, so start being supportive and respectful to your coworkers now. When you are given the chance to take a leadership or management role in the future, you will have already practiced those skills by taking responsibility and treating others with respect today.
Be mindful of how you act around your coworkers and supervisors in social situations and at break times. Are you the “office social director,” always making jokes, gossiping about other people and planning happy hours? Are you a loner who barely talks to anyone, does what he’s told and tries hard to stay out of everyone’s way? Or are you somewhere between – you socialize on breaks, but you know when to be serious and get back to work?
When supervisors pick employees for special projects, they not only look for someone with a good work ethic, but someone who communicates well and gets along with coworkers and clients. Find a balanced way to be social at work that shows your true personality and that you’re a team player whose work duties are top priority from 9-5.
Also pay attention to who your friends are at work. “Birds of a feather flock together.”
If your lunch buddy is someone who often comes in late or does sloppy work, supervisors might find you guilty by association. Likewise, collaborating with other professionally minded employees will not only support your goals but could lead to networking contacts for future career moves.
“Dressing for the job you want five years from now” is not about acting like a snob or pretending to be someone you are not. On the contrary, it’s about treating others – and yourself – with respect. It’s about taking yourself seriously and being aware of how supervisors and coworkers see you. It’s about making your career and professional image a priority.
Think of yourself as a professional, act like a professional, take responsibility for your career and you will discover opportunities where once there were only obstacles.
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