I worked as a yellow page designer for about three years, which was the extent of my professional experience. Prior to that, I held retail and restaurant jobs as I went to school. When I started Worx, I was 22 with an unborn child cooking in my womb. I didn’t exactly have the best knowledge or perspective on not only how to run a business, but how to dress like a professional.
I’ll date myself a tad here. In 2007, we didn’t exactly “ask Alexa” or say “hey, Siri” to find answers. I wanted to make a great first impression as a new-found business woman, so I went to Yahoo! to look up what a “business woman” looked like. Most of the stock images were the same… suits, slicked-back hair pulled tight into a bun, black briefcases, and high heels. Most of the woman I had come in contact with followed this strategy as well, so I assumed this was how it was done.
I headed to Walmart to find the perfect outfit to make my meeting debut. They had a decent “professional” section at the time and the cost was affordable. After looking through a few racks, I found THE ONE. It was a beautiful maroon suit, fully equipped with a blazer and pencil skirt. When I tried it on, I felt like a million dollars. “This is how successful women dress! I’m one of them!”, I thought as a looked at myself in the dressing room mirror. I purchased a white blouse to go under it and had black heels that I wore with it. I was the shit.
It came time for my next meeting. I took the freshly pressed suit and shirt off the hanger, pulled my hair back in a bun, put on my black heels and took out my nose ring. I grabbed my leather padfolio and headed to my meeting. It didn’t take but about a dozen times of wearing this outfit that something started to feel, off. I hate pantyhose. I don’t even like the color maroon. And pencil skirts are not my thing. I started to hate this damn suit that I once felt on top of the world about.
While there are a ton of beautiful women who rock the business suit, I quickly found out this wasn’t for me. When I got home, the first thing I did was change out of the suit back into my jeans and t-shirt, putting my nose ring back in its place. That bun made my head hurt so I swapped it with a ponytail instead. And then, I felt like my personality returned. One day I had an aha moment that I was trying to be what everyone else was expecting vs. showing up as myself.
It was that moment that I started dressing more like a creative professional – more like ME. I began wearing my favorite decorative blazer with a graphic t-shirt and jeans. As for my nose ring… I left it in. It was a little scary at first because I thought people would judge me and not want to work with me because I wasn’t showing up how they might expect me to. But then I found the more I started to dress like myself, the more I talked like myself. And the more I talked like myself, the more I attracted clients that appreciated me for who I was and what I could offer them. I went from being uncomfortable and attracting the wrong clients to feeling confident and attracting the best clients.
There are stereotypes all around us. We’re influenced to talk, act, and think a certain way based on how everyone else is and it’s the easiest trap to get into. The truth is, authenticity is contagious. People admire people that are willing to go against the grain and take a risk. By being yourself, you’re influencing others to do the same. If we all dressed the same and did business the same, we’d all eventually run out of work. It’s in the uniqueness we all bring that creates change.
What are you doing in your business that feels like it just isn’t you? Are you putting on a front, feeling as though you have to impress someone with a version of yourself that doesn’t truly exist? Are you following a business model that someone else is using but don’t feel connected to it? Are you marketing in a corporate way when you’re really more laid back? Are you wearing a suit when you should be sporting your own unique fashion?
Keep in mind, you get more of what you put out. I donated that ridiculous maroon suit (although I wish I would have kept it and hung it on my wall, Hard Rock Café style). Today I’m sporting me, and that works.