Dress for the position you aspire to have. I have both heard and given this advice many times over the years—on the receiving end first as a student and then as a young lawyer working for a large law firm; on the giving end, as a professional image consultant.
Today, among my favorite networking activities is participation in a weekly neighborhood networking meeting over morning coffee. The meeting is relaxed but structured to the extent that all attendees, both job seekers and entrepreneurs, have the opportunity to share their latest challenges and triumphs, and to obtain suggestions, leads and ideas from their colleagues.
At eight in the morning, people should be forgiven for attending a casual get-together wearing casual wear that would not pass muster in the corporate world. The more typical attire at these morning meetings, however, is business casual clothing that would be appropriate in most offices.
In this setting, I have the opportunity to observe a wide variety of business casual styles and, of course, I pay attention to jewelry. Men typically wear no jewelry other than a watch, wedding ring and occasionally another ring – there are no surprises there. With the women attendees, however, there is a noticeable difference in the visual impact of a look accessorized with jewelry as opposed to an unadorned ensemble.
Without jewelry, an ensemble looks unfinished. Unless a woman’s entire aesthetic is spare from head to toe (think Calvin Klein in the 1990’s), she comes across as unpolished when she omits jewelry. Missing earrings are especially obvious by their absence. It’s as if she forgot to complete her look, suggesting possibly an inherent lack of attention to detail. Even the shyest introvert can benefit from modestly sized, business-appropriate jewelry. The jewelry lends her presence and power.
What also is noticeable is the extent to which jewelry gives clues as to the wearer’s personality. Is she dressed conservatively, or does she dial up the personality factor? Gold or silver metal jewelry comes across as highly professional, even in quantity up to the point of excessiveness. Adding color or sparkle other than on rings or simple stud earrings is taking a bit of a style risk, but may be entirely appropriate where the wearer wants to convey the look of confidence and financial success.
For creative professions and especially with business casual wear, bolder, more creative jewelry is interesting to observe and makes one think that the wearer too must be interesting and creative, too.
Jewelry speaks volumes about the wearer, and those messages may give the job seeker the extra bit of polish that snags the coveted job offer.