There was a woman named “Sandra” that worked in the same building as I did in Downtown Detroit. We started work at approximately the same time so we normally pulled into the parking lot together. She was always dressed very meticulous and polished. Some days a skirt and blouse, other days she would wear a pant suit. She was never overdone, nor could I say that she was drenched head to toe in St. John and Louboutin pumps. But every day she arrived consistently as a “pearls and pumps professional”. Sandra would get off the elevator on the 8th floor and I would wish her a good day and I would go on to my floor to start my day. I would rarely see her when I would leave. I worked a lot of late hours then and usually her car was already gone.
A year or so had gone by and I thought, I have NO idea what Sandra does. I know she works in the same office building. I assumed she was an executive of some sort, but never asked what did for a living, or simply what office did she work in? I promised myself to make a point to ask her the next time I saw her.
A week or so went by and Sandra and I pulled in at almost the same time as we did so many days before. I slowed up a bit so I could purposely walk in with her. After asking about her weekend and making small talk as we walked across the parking lot, I asked “Sandra, I don’t think I’ve ever asked you…what office do you work in?” She said she worked for “Harris & Grayden, Attorneys at Law”. Ahhh it made sense…she was either an attorney or paralegal. Harris and Grayden took up all of the 9th floor and most of the 8th floor. The firm was massive and well renowned. Oh, ok I said..I should have figured as much. How long have you been practicing law? She said LAW? Oh, no. I don’t practice law. I’m in maintenance. I clean the offices, the bathrooms, the kitchens and the supply areas. I order the cleaning supplies and I make sure that if something is broke I get it fixed. My mouth dropped open. I went on to say.
“Oh, I’m sorry…I just assumed…”
“Assumed that I was a hot shot executive…why? Oh, because of the way I’m dressed? Sandra added.
Well, yes. To be honest, You wear really nice clothes to clean in. I never would have guessed that. I said.
Then Sandra told me something that I need to share with you. You may have heard it before, but hear it again. She said “ I don’t dress for wear I am, I dress for where I’m going.” I get up every morning and dress like an executive because that is my goal eventually. I change my clothes when I get here to perform the job I have to do. Then I put my suit back on and encourage myself all the way to school that eventually I will be doing the job I am being educated to do. Very few people look at me as only a maintenance person. Not that I’m not proud of what I do, its honest hard work and everyone can’t do it. However, I think it’s important that in order to minimize the stereotype in how I am viewed, I have to manage and take responsibility for my image.
Sandra talked like an Executive. Her reputation is being formed as an executive. She looked like an executive. She is working toward the skill set she needs to become what she has envisioned. Anybody want to bet that she would eventually become what she has seen?
Many of you can probably see where this is going. However, I’m going there anyway. Look at you. I mean really truly look at you. Some of us want to brush off appearance as being superficial and irrelevant. Not so. Would you trust a hair dresser with bald spots, thinning edges and shedding hair? Would you trust a dentist with rotted teeth? Would you entrust your finances to a CPA who lives in squalor and didn’t have a bank account? Would you want a physician that was wheezing, coughing, overweight and smelled like smoke? Then why do you think it is acceptable to want to sell goods, service or your anything attached to your brand when you personally do not appear as a credible professional? If you don’t care enough to manage the simplicity of your own image, why should someone entrust that you know what’s best for theirs. It doesn’t matter WHAT you are selling, people don’t buy unless they first TRUST. Trust is built by experience and credibility. However, people rarely dig into you to SEE if you and or your product are top notch if they can’t get passed the packaging.
Rebound Strategy: It may be time for a new uniform. The uniform is more than clothes, which we can learn from Sandra. It’s your reputation, your vernacular, your attitude and then Yes, your attire.