It’s Do I Have To? Practical advice for skeptical adults.
Do I really have to dress for the job I want, not the job I have?
Here are a bunch of things I’ve heard and probably you have heard:
- Fake it until you make it.
- We are what we pretend to be so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
- If you wear a mask long enough you become the mask.
I'm over here listing platitudes, but you sent over a platitude, so meeting you where you’re at. There are lots of pithy wisdoms floating around in the ether. All of these indicate that if you dress like a boss, you’ll become a boss.
There’s another one that also applies, that either someone semi-wise said to me or I read it on a poster while waiting at the student center to replace my ID or something: only you think about what you can do, other people think about what you have done. If the job you want (boss) involves dressing more conservatively or fancier or sleeker, then by doing it, you will give an outward signal about what you can do. You will help people imagine what you can do. It’s a pretty easy way to signal how you see your potential. Looks matter, you can take them seriously and not take yourself seriously, there is whole fantastic magazine about this very subject but I can’t quite recall the name of it now. It’ll come to me, I promise.
Anyway, when I was interviewing for my first desired job, I had to sneak out of my zillionth terrible job in the middle of the day from the awful window-less office that was so grey and low-ceilinged it felt like working from within a rolled-up carpet. Anyway, dressing nicely for the interview got me kinda paranoid about the whole thing. At this job, I wore the same grey dude’s sweater and weird-fitting jeans almost every day. Then to this interview, I wore a gauzy white button-up shirt (in my mind, this was sophisticated and nonchalant) and a skirt. To me, this meant everyone would know that I was going to an interview. Wearing nice clothes was the sartorial equivalent of leaving a resume in the printer.
That’s when I realized what I was taking seriously. At the thought of this job, the job I wanted, I put in effort. But at this previous job, I shuffled on it, like a grade-A girl schlub, in sad jeans and Salvation Army sweaters. Those are Saturday clothes. So if your current thing has you in Saturday clothes, put yourself in the mindset and trappings of Monday clothes. Whatever draws your energy and effort is a sign of what you want. What are you excited to dress well for? What gets you into sophisticated and nonchalant work attire?
If you’re getting into your head regarding phony stuff, well, you’re in good company. If you really feel phony in what you’re wearing, maybe this is a sign that something is amiss, and a fancy-silky-tie job isn’t for you. And also, calm yourself. Everyone feels weird the first time they try out a new thing or every time they wear a hat, even if they have worn it a bunch of times before. Why is there something asshole-ish about looking out beneath a hat? I can’t explain it.
Think of it less like pretending and more inventing. You are creating what you want next. Clothes are just fabric shells.
Are you skeptical about whether you have to do something? Send your leading questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a weekly thing!