In this series, workforce journalist Tay Hong Yi offers practical answers to candid questions about how to overcome workplace challenges and move forward in your career.
Q: My job doesn’t explicitly have a dress code. How do you decide what to wear to work?
A: Dressing properly for your job starts right at the interview and continues into your daily work, said Ms. Indira Ramasundran, Senior Career Coach at Statutory Board Workforce Singapore.
Candidates – and employees – should research their company’s image and culture and dress accordingly.
“If you’re underdressed, it could show a lack of interest and sincerity in the job,” she said.
Still, “the tracksuit can seem intimidating to your superiors or peers, so dress appropriately with confidence,” she added.
Even if companies don’t have an explicit dress code, you should still avoid revealing your attire when showing up for work, she said.
Employees should also choose well-fitting clothes that aren’t too tight or too baggy, even if they’re just interacting with interviewers or co-workers on a video call.
The key factor is to present a professional image of yourself, so choose a neat, comfortable and presentable outfit that allows you to do this.
Within these parameters, Ms. Indira advises employees to choose the outfits, colors and accessories in which they feel most comfortable.
If a dress code isn’t explicitly stated, err on the side of caution, said Akshay Mendon, Singapore director of executive search firm EMA Partners.
“If you’re in a customer-facing job, you can safely opt for formal or casual attire, depending on your industry.”
But he noted that amid a shift to hybrid working during the Covid-19 pandemic, work attire has become more casual for staff who don’t face external customers.
Office workers who previously dressed formally in pressed shirts and slacks are now opting for smart casual wear such as polo shirts and jeans.
“Let common sense prevail – if you’re unsure, look around what your colleagues are wearing and get an idea of what works and what doesn’t for your business,” Mendon said.
Employees who are keen on changing their attire but haven’t yet seen others at work dress that way could just go ahead with one change at a time, a September Harvard Business Review article suggested.
This might involve avoiding high heels or ties for comfort and wearing more casual jackets instead of a blazer.
Then see if customers are saying anything about the change and what they are telling you.