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Latest trends can become roadblocks

Special to The Spokesman-Review

Half a dozen managers gathered. As everyone settled in around the table, the meeting started and the speaker was introduced. Her bio was quite impressive, which left the group happily anxious to hear her.

When she walked into the room, however, the first thing the co-ed group of managers noticed was her cleavage. Many missed her opening comments as their minds wandered. Others began discounting her previously touted credentials. So much for a first impression.

But as her presentation moved along, part of the group let the cleavage issue go and began intently listening to her. At this point she was regaining some credibility, until she turned around to fiddle with her laptop, bent over and exposed a lower back tattoo underlined by a gold thong. Any standing she had had in that room was now completely diminished.

While not a big fan of rules, I really believe in standards. I have been talking about professional standards with colleagues, staff and friends for several months now and I am not alone in the conclusion that professional women are doing themselves a disservice if they allow the latest fad of dressing garishly to lessen their credibility.

I can already hear the arguments about prudishness and individuality, that you should not judge a book by its cover and all that.

There’s also an argument that we’re all judged by our looks anyway, so what does it matter?

I recently mentioned to a friend that I did not know why all these professional women on TV are now wearing low-cut garments almost exclusively, and that I don’t think a professional should dress that way, to which he said, “Oh, I kind of like it. It’s sexy.”

My point exactly. Since when did sexy enter into an office job description? Would I ever want people to say, “Wow, that Jan Quintrall really led the BBB to another level in a clearly sexy way”? No!

Why do women waste so much energy sabotaging their professional paths with the latest trends?

After many years hiring, training, mentoring and nurturing both young men and women professionally, I have some theories:

• Many women are more comfortable in their bodies than in their brains.

And why not? Society rewards great figures, not beautiful gray matter.

• Many women feel their most powerful tool is sexuality.

We all use femininity to our advantage, but think subtlety, not a gold thong and low-cut pants.

• Many women think men in power will overlook their talents if they do not see them as women.

Wrong. Just ask someone who hires or manages people.

For many young women, the transition into the work world conflicts with the trendy way they have been accustomed to dressing. But no one is out there forcing them to purchase certain clothes. Buying the more appropriate line just takes a bit more focus, and perhaps the helpful eye of a seasoned professional.

Consider: Even if you look just fine standing up in the dressing room in that deep V neck, envision sitting down at your desk. The view changes drastically for someone standing over you.

When you bend over to pick up an item dropped by a customer, what do you look like from the back?

It’s inappropriate, cheap and unprofessional to display a tattoo and thong. That’s my opinion, yet I and others like me are doing the hiring, promoting, and investing in your future. So our standards apply. Does that put it simply enough?

If you’re moving up, changing jobs or wondering why you’re stuck in the same spot, try looking in the mirror first.

Next, do this test: If you’re vying for a job, and you are Choice A, with Choice B being a professionally, tastefully dressed opponent, who would you hire?

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