During the recent New Latina teleconference “Personal Branding for Latinas: Your Image Your Opportunity”, I spoke briefly in response to a question from host Angelica Perez about bringing our cultural identity and personal brand to work in how we dress. Most women can relate to the challenge of asking, “what should I wear today”. For Latinas who span generations and the many cultures of Spanish speaking nations around the globe there are some added questions: Can I wear my hair naturally or do I pin it up. Can I wear a blouse with traditional patterns or do I wear a plain white cotton blouse? Can I wear braids or corn rows? Should I cover up my tattoos—mis placas—on my arm?
There is no easy answer because there are three factors to consider: the culture of your workplace, your specific role and workplace status, and your personal tolerance for risk.
If your organizational culture is very traditional simply by industry practice, you will need to think twice about dressing outside the norms of basic business attire. There’s a huge difference working at a bank for example, than at a start up. The dress code for a bank is most likely set with very specific intentions to appeal to a wide range of customers. The dress code at a startup may be nonexistent. If you are planning your wardrobe for a new job, take a look at its website and the images portrayed about working there. Visit the site to look at how employees are dressed. If you can see your style reflected in what you see, you should be fine. You can also find out more during your employee orientation.
The dress code at a start up may be “whatever works for you”!
The other factor in determining your wardrobe is your own role and status. Are you in a leadership position to set the tone for your staff’s wardrobe? If so, then you may find it “safe” to set this expectation. As a manager, director or supervisor you lead by example. If you are comfortable with a wide range of attire, you can set the range of clothes and hairstyles that works within your workplace culture. A word of caution: be consistent. A friendly response to just one cultural style versus others can raise the specter of favoritism or discrimination claims.
The last factor is your own tolerance for risking your personal brand identity. If you are in the early stages of your career and you have chosen to work in an industry that has long standing traditions about a professional image, take caution not to risk too much too soon. It is best to establish your credibility and value to the company and not to let your wardrobe be the slightest distraction from your skills and capabilities. If you are also looking to make a major transition into a different kind of work life, this is also reason for caution. The last thing you want is for anyone to question how serious your commitment is to build a new career.
If you have already worked several years in your industry and proven yourself, there is more risk you can afford to take on because your looks are not likely to be considered a distraction from the value you bring to your work. Your employer is delighted to have you and if your personal branding includes wearing your hair up or down, corn rows or traditional braids—who cares? At a certain age in your career, you are truly able to make a statement that says, “I have arrived. My outward appearance is not the measure of my work.” It is liberating and yes, well earned. Tell me about your personal branding strategies at Latina Cubicle Confidential™ or join me live at the next LatinaVIDA™.