Is Your Style Affecting Your Career, For Better or Worse?

by Debra Bednar-Clark


This isn’t something Corporate America talks about often, but it’s something everyone should know and definitely something I work on with each and every coaching client: STYLE MATTERS (yes, it needs to go in all caps and bold because it’s that important).

For some reason, work style has become a subject that feels taboo to talk about, think about or invest in at risk of not being as respected or looked at as credible. But it’s absolutely not saccharine or superficial to think about how you present yourself. In fact, it’s actually one of your greatest assets. (I even call it Business’s Unsung Hero).

The fact is, we live in an Instagram world right now, in which more and more people have less and less time to make judgments about people. Your identity and your image can influence a lot of opportunities. Simply put, those who have style are celebrated for it; those who don’t face challenges.


For example, a lack of style can exclude you from opportunities. I’ve been told to omit direct reports of mine from client meetings because they didn’t present themselves in a way that would command an audience or respect. Rather, I was told to send someone who is both intellectually at their best and presenting themselves in that way. A lack of style can also hinder your advancement. I’ve been in calibration meetings where people have told me, “That person doesn’t look like a leader,” because if you’re not taking care of yourself it’s hard to gage how you’ll take care of others.

So, what can you do about it? Two things:

  1. First, you have to shift your mindset into a place that recognizes that style matters. (This includes also recognizing that as your career grows and goals evolve, your style needs to grow and evolve with you.)
  2. Then, once you take style seriously, you have to define your own. Style is inextricably connected with who you are and what you think and feel. Yes, this means what you wear, of course, but you also need to broaden your definition of what style includes to encompass your overall brand, like how your desk is designed, how you’re presenting yourself on Instagram, LinkedIn and more, the way you communicate over email, etc.

Listen, there is no one style that is right for everyone. You have to find what works for you. Finding your style and making it work for you is a journey — and a constantly developing one — but the sooner you recognize that smart style can actually help your career, the more teed up you are to get ahead and achieve your goals. And that’s worth taking seriously.

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