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Is being ‘smart’ at work important in 2012?

Posted over 4 years ago by Rob Markwell
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Our clients span all areas of the marketing, comms and creative sector, from small design agencies to major corporates. Over the past decade there’s been a definite shift in attitudes to what defines suitable work attire and in many organisations, the tie is fast becoming consigned to the annuls of history. However, clear styles of dress code still exist between different industries, which begs the question do the clothes we wear at work make us successful?

Take, for example, the financial services industry. An industry which has long favoured the suit (or female equivalent). Conversely, for those of you who’ve never stepped foot in a creative agency, the designer’s ‘uniform’ is invariably casual, ranging from up to the minute fashion, to the staple jeans and t-shirt.

From a recruitment perspective this creates an interesting dynamic, especially at interview. Let’s take the financial services example. If we’re interviewing, let’s say, a Marketing Director for a client in this sector, we’d expect them to look smart and polished as this creates the perception of ability and first impressions count – whether it’s correct or not, we’re conditioned in to judging a book by its cover. Just like books, however, the content (or ability in this case) doesn’t always correlate to the appearance and surely that’s what’s ultimately most important?

Precisely the same preconceptions apply to the example of the designer/creative. Just because a designer may look cool/creative, it doesn’t mean their portfolio reflects this.

There are a number of high profile protagonists who famously shun the traditional corporate attire; Sir Richard Branson is never seen wearing a tie, the late Steve Jobs favoured a turtle neck jumper and jeans, whilst Mark Zuckerberg always favours jeans and a t-shirt. Proof, perhaps, that substance wins out over style?

There’s a definite argument that being ‘smart’ helps create a culture of performance and differentiates work from ‘recreational time’ however what defines ‘smart’ will invariably differ from business to business. Fundamentally, we believe talent and ability will always win out.