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Redifining Professionalism

By Allison Wiederin, CCC Editor and Project Manager

This article is part of an ongoing series exploring justice and equity in the workplace.

“Dress for success.” This is one of the many timeless sayings permanently fixed into my brain whenever I am about to interview for a new job. I find myself anxiously rummaging through my closet, stressed over the sheerness of a shirt, the length of a skirt, or how dark my eyeshadow might look. Rather than worrying about what I might say or how I might explain a job experience on my resume, I’m obsessing over, arguably, one of the least important aspects of a potential job.

Missing from this quick advice is what it means to actually be “successful” or “professional.” The way a person dresses is not equal to the competence they possess while on the job as competency is not measured by classist clothing expectations, rooted in white supremacy. The ability to know what to wear, have it in your closet, and arrive at the business without having to worry about sweating through the outfit or getting a stain from public transportation, is often limited to those who may already have a job, grew up in affluent families, and have other privileges.

We need to move past the idea that if you own a tailored suit, you must be “well-suited” for the job. Instead, employers should focus on the relevant job experience a person has, the skills they possess and what they can bring to a team.

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