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Educating Young Folks on How to Dress for Work

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Recently, the Ask Amy column in The Denver Post had an interesting piece from a small business owner about hiring young folks.

Dear Amy: dressing one level up for success

I am trying to get through to people and teenagers how to apply for jobs and how to keep the job once they get it.

I own a small deli and grocery store, and I have tried to hire and keep good help.  People show up wearing short tops baring their midriffs, and rings in their noses, eyebrows, lips and belly buttons. They often have very poor hygiene. 

Employees take calls from and make calls to their kids, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends.  Some bring their cellphones in and look at them every ten minutes to see whether they have missed a call.

I am so disappointed at the level and quality of people who come to me looking for jobs.  I wish that parents and teachers did a better job of educating young people on how to get ready for the workplace.  It would make my customers and me so much happier.  Small Business Owner

Amy replied.

Dear Owner:

I agree that young people should have a more specific understanding of how to apply for and keep a job. You could also do you part by establishing some clear rules in your workplace,  reminding your employees that their function is to serve the customer and that appearance and behavior on the job are important.  A tough but fair boss is a godsend for young workers.

This letter makes an important point about positive personal impact.  How you look and how you act is important to not only getting a job, but to your success once you've landed one.  I always advise my clients to dress one level up than is required for their job.

In this case, prospective employees of this deli and grocery would make the best possible personal impact by wearing unrevealing clothes and removing their jewelry prior to going for the interview. 

Does it really matter what you wear?  Unfortunately yes.  Rightly or wrongly, people judge you by your appearance.  If you work in a store that sells food, people expect you to be clean and well groomed.  If you want to succeed in getting or in keeping a job it's good to keep this in mind.

On the other hand, there are lots of jobs where piercings and tattoos are more than acceptable.  I bought my bicycle at Turin Bikes in Denver.  I also get it serviced there.  All of the bike repair people have lots of tattoos and piercings.  It's a look that works in that environment.  In many ways, the tats and piercings actually create positive personal impact for these folks.  The same is true of the used record shop where I sometimes go to find out of print cds. 

The common sense point here is simple.  It's important to create positive personal impact if you want to succeed in your life and career.  Your attire is one of the best ways to create positive personal impact.  If you dress one level up from what is expected of you, you will achieve that.


Bud Bilanich, The Common Sense Guy, is an executive coach, motivational speaker, author and blogger.  Bilanich is Harvard educated but has a no nonsense approach to his work to goes back to his roots in the steel country of Western Pennsylvania.  He is the author of Straight Talk for Success: Common Sense Ideas That Won?t Let You Down, where he presents his blueprint for career and life success. 

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Bud Bilanich, The Common Sense Guy, helps individuals, teams and entire organization succeed through applying their common sense. He is an executive coach, motivational speaker, author and blogger. Bilanich is Harvard educated but has a no nonsense approach to his work to goes back to his roots in the steel country of Western Pennsylvania.
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