This is one of those posts that’s been a long time in the making. I’m sure that many of you will find what I have to say distasteful, perhaps even offensive, but that’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
I have attended several seminars and read many blog posts and articles about professionalism, mostly as it relates to librarianship. Every single one has had some mention of appearance and the effect of a job applicant/employee’s appearance on the supervisor’s opinion. Every. Single. One. Which leads me to my controversial statement:
Your appearance DOES matter. Even if it doesn’t matter to you, it matters to those around you.
I’ve talked about this subject before on previous blogs and on Twitter, but I’ve always addressed how looking “unprofessional” lowers others’ opinions of said unprofessional-dressing person. (I could write at length about what is and what is not “professional” attire, but this is not the time.) Now, I’m addressing the opposite view.
I am a so-called “pretty” person. I wear makeup, I fix my hair in a variety of ways, I put together coordinated outfits and create a weekly wardrobe plan so that I am always well dressed for work. I do not leave the house without at least a little concealer and mascara on and having done something with my hair, even if I’m just running down the street to CVS. I have a regimented skin care routine and am concerned about wrinkles and acne. I get my nails done and my eyebrows threaded regularly. I like to shop. I like to talk about shopping. I generally put a moderate to substantial (depending on the day and event) into my appearance. I care a great deal about my appearance. I care that others think that I care and put effort into my appearance.
So I am “pretty”. I am also professional.
Everything about my work persona is geared towards appearing as professional as possible (while still being me…I’m not changing my personality for work), from how I answer the phone to how I talk to my superiors to my appearance. By dressing appropriately for my job (at a non-academic hospital) I think am saying, “I care about my job and I take it very seriously. And I want others to take me seriously and trust me to do my job well”.
Now you may not agree. You may think that putting lots of effort into and taking pride in my appearance makes me unprofessional. That I am not as serious as someone who doesn’t put that much stock into their looks. That caring about how I look to others makes me petty and self-centered. That I’m looking for attention from men or trying to appear better than others.
If you think those things then you would be wrong. I am very serious about my work and acutely aware that I am a representation of my job and my field outside the library. I do not dress to attract attention from men (or from anyone really); in fact I work very hard to make sure that everything I wear is setting-appropriate. I do not think that just because I look or dress a certain way that I am somehow better or superior.
I am pretty. I am professional. There is no having to choose between looking your best and being taken seriously. You can have it both ways. In fact, I do it every day.