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Does a Project Manager Have to Look Good?

well-dressed-project-managerIf you are anything like me then the clothes you wear to work aren’t at the top of your list of priorities. I was used to wearing any old thing as I had previously worked in a job which had me hidden away from public view and on my own most of the day.

It was only after a couple of months as a project manager that I noticed that the other project managers around me were all smartly dressed. At this point I realised that image is a big thing in this role and that it was time to make more of an effort. I think that some of my colleagues didn’t even recognise me when I turned up with a dapper suit on the next week but I discovered some good reasons for making the effort to look good.

Make a Good Impression

When you meet stakeholders or business users for the first time they probably pay some attention to how you look. As the leader of their project you will want to appear professional and trustworthy. I know that it sounds a bit shallow to base this on your clothes but you might be surprised to see how many think this way. If you think about it, a project manager who turns up with crumpled and dirty clothes on probably looks like someone who just stumbled out of bed and therefore isn’t exactly on top of the game. If you look good people tend to think that you are a good worker, it is as simple as that.

Feel Good

It was only as I started to pay more attention to my clothing that I noticed that looking smart made me feel better. It does genuinely make a difference when you turn up at your office with a nice suit on, with a pair of shiny cufflinks and a whiff of expensive aftershave lingering around you. I was amazed at how big a difference it made to my attitude. If you are fairly new to the role and sometimes feel a bit awkward or out of place at things like meetings then looking good could help you feel better about yourself.

Stay Comfortable

I think I mentioned in another post that I ended up working in Spain for a while. This was when I had got into the habit of wearing smarter clothes to work. The problem is that I was sent to a place in the south of the country in August. It was so hot that I nearly melted on my first day there and even the little ventilator fan whirling round on my desk did little to alleviate my suffering. On the second day I sneaked a glance around at the other people working there and noticed that the guys were all wearing short sleeve shirts and had long discarded their jackets and ties. The point I am trying to make here is that you need to be comfortable as well as look good. If you are in a hot office you need to adapt to that and if you are in a cold one you need to make the appropriate changes. You might look good with the full outfit on but you won’t be as effective or as impressive in your role if you are suffering as much as I did in Spain.

Follow the Corporate Image

Since I have started on a bit of globetrotting here I might as well take a wander over to Belfast for this one. A few years after my spell on the Iberian Peninsula I ended up working in Northern Ireland on a job in a bank. This was in a year when Belfast got hit by a surprising heat wave and we were stuck in a tiny office which didn’t even have any of those feeble little fans I had gotten used to. Of course, being a man of the world I now knew the drill and I went in one day with my short sleeved shirt and without a tie. I had kind of expected other people to follow my example and at least take off their ties but after a couple of hours everyone else was still suffering in silence without loosening a single button. I eventually said to my boss that it would be good if everyone could follow my example and dress a bit less formally while the heat wave lasted. He gave me a withering look and said that they were following the bank’s dress code and that I, on the other hand, wasn’t.  It pays to check how relaxed your employer is about their dress code before you do what I did.

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