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So, what's the problem?

In finance, banking, legal, and certain other lines of work, it is best to keep things simple and conservative.  Leave the go to hell pants, neckties, and Madras sport jackets for another time.

An interesting and thought-provoking article on the inappropriate dress of job candidates in the banking and financial sector  in London came across my computer screen several days ago via the BBC website. And my question is this.  Why is this such a surprise? And how in the world is this an affront?  

It strikes me that universities have done students a huge disservice by encouraging them to believe business and professional life is somehow the same or very similar to one's private life with all that might imply.  Getting ahead and moving up in working life often requires that people look and act, I'll say it, BETTER than they might at home.  And that might mean becoming aware of and reining in some of the quirks of personal appearance or behavior and habits in the workplace.  This isn't rocket science if you'll pardon the oft used cliche.

It strikes me as a very simple problem for companies and firms to address by printing and handing out acceptable business dress codes, with plenty of examples in pictures, of what is acceptable business wear -- depending on company location, type of business, and culture -- and what is not.  Human Resources could also set up and offer routine seminars in etiquette training (both within the office. . .  and at the dining table for those entering positions higher up the company ladder) for its young hires to impart that veneer of needed polish. The people doing actual interviews could also mention to potential short list candidates that they will need to dress and conduct themselves in accordance with the company's accepted policies as representatives of that company who interact with both the public. . .  and other associates behind the scenes.

There is really nothing wrong with having a company culture like this, just like there is nothing wrong with, at least in theory (I don't buy into it), having an ultra-casual company culture like one finds in Silicone Valley in the United States for instance.  But a young person should hardly be surprised (and apparently many are in 2016) if he, or she does not get the job, impressive university credentials notwithstanding, because he or she demonstrates a lack of awareness about how to make a positive impression, through appearance and behavior, for what is a PROFESSIONAL white collar situation after all.  A smooth transition into that kind of environment, especially in a capital city and financial center like London, requires more than just impressive paper credentials.  Since so many parents have apparently not taught this to their children, it seems like high time for universities to pick up the slack and instruct their students on how you get and hold onto a job in the real world. . .  especially within the white collar sector. 

Not only do you adopt the accepted uniform of your particular (or intended) station in life, you likewise elevate your outlook and behavior.  On a related note, you put your best foot forward in all senses, all of the time during business hours when you are on the company clock.  One must learn how to walk the walk and talk the talk as an adult if he did not get that sort of grooming during the formative years. Doing so is difficult but not impossible.  Again, as a representative of a company or firm -- banking, financial, legal, or otherwise -- people must be able to conduct themselves in a way that is in accordance with their employer's image especially in more conservative professions.

If that plain fact of life is unsavory, and the preceding verbal cliches aside, job-seekers are always free to apply elsewhere.  Goodness knows there are plenty of offices these days where pilled fleece pull-overs, backwards baseball hats, pajama days, and barely concealed belching are de rigueur.  But who would you rather have handling your business and accounts?  Someone who comes across as polished, professional, careful, and capable?  Or an overly familiar individual whose behavior and/or appearanace seems more in keeping with a slumber party, or an evening of drunken clubbing in Blackpool or Las Vegas?

-- Heinz-Ulrich


And by the way, the last time I checked, companies and businesses in a capitalist system were still permitted to hire the person best suited for an open position.  Another fact of life.


Old School said…
Please see the accompanying video:
Very interesting, thank you. I am reminded of another cliche, that you dress for the job you want, rather than the one you have. We can include mannerisms and behavior in that. Social mobility is fine, but people have to fit into accepted expectations to move into conservative, professional white collar environments.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.
Jason said…
Ah yes - the BBC new article. I recall getting very hot under the collar when I read this item.

The BBC used to report news, now it just spews opinions. I feel embarrassed at how some of their views must be received internationally. It paints a poor picture of this country.

Unfortunately the BBC is hell-bent on driving some left-wing agenda and if this means shrieking out because some scruff can't sort their dress out and they can blame it on the 'class system' then so be it - that is just what they will do.

It doesn't take any effort to dress properly - why not dress appropriately for the role. Anyone who is ex-military can understand this. Sadly the BBC would perceive this to be culturally politically incorrect. Their commissars gnashing their teeth in faux outrage that their right to wear beards and sandals would prevent them from getting a role working for a bank (their inability to get over themselves being the key ceiling to their potential of course).
guy said…
The BBC Today programme had an interview with a new headmaster in Margate (a pretty deprived seaside town in the UK) who sent over 50 children home for being incorrectly dressed on their first day and not following the dress code. examples were of children turning up in track suits, trainers etc. Needless to say the BBC interviewer was doing his best to belittle the head but to his credit he stood his ground, presented well thought out and reasoned arguments and would not back track and pander to the protesting tiny majority whose most constructive comment was to say he was a member of the Gestapo.

There may be hope yet.


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