July 8, 2013
Don't take casual Fridays too casually
Summer is a time when many companies in the Seattle area loosen their work attire requirements, especially for casual Fridays. Just (please) don't come to work wearing bike shorts and a tank top.
"Casual Friday" can mean different things to different companies, but no matter what the definition, it doesn't mean you should show up at the office in your gym clothes. While wearing stretchy leggings with a jog bra underneath a T-shirt or bike pants and a tank top might be comfortable, it will never allow you to project a leadership image.
The biggest mistake I see for casual Fridays (and during the summer months) is employees wearing attire that is too casual for the company or industry. Just because it's summer doesn't mean it's OK to wear shorts and flip-flops to work.
Casual Fridays can become an issue if HR or the management team doesn't clearly describe what is appropriate work attire, especially for the summer months. I once worked for a large, conservative medical company where the typical management-level attire was a business suit five days a week. When the company first implemented casual Fridays, employees began showing up in just about anything, from cut-off shorts to gym clothes. Yikes!
Tips for keeping casual Fridays from going too far:
Define a policy. HR or management should define and communicate the appropriate/inappropriate attire for casual Fridays (and the summer months) and the consequences for not following the policy.
Meet with employees. Managers should discuss the policy with employees, answer their questions, provide examples of what is considered acceptable work clothing, and ensure that everyone understands what will happen if they don't comply (such as being sent home to change their clothes).
Be a role model. If you're in a management position, dress a step above the casual Friday policy, even during summer months. If jeans are acceptable on Fridays, choose dark-colored jeans that are styled to look like trousers. Women can pair these with a colorful blouse and standout necklace with heels, while men can wear a button-down shirt or even a company logo golf shirt with their jeans or khakis. The idea is to look casual, yet polished.
Stand out from the crowd. It's time to step up casual Fridays, Seattleites. Even when you're given the option to dress casually for work, take it up a notch from your weekend wear. In this tight job market, everything you can do to make yourself stand out will help.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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