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Keeping Up Appearances:  

Mark Zuckerberg is my new fashion hero

Mark Zuckerberg wears a uniform- every day. Not really, but he is consistent. He is famous for wearing a grey t-shirt daily (different ones - mind you - and they are clean). Noting that he has a lot of responsibility working with a social tool that impacts one billion people, he doesn’t need to waste time on fashion.

They say that what you wear still impacts the way you are perceived. We all know that is true to some extent. When I am on-site consulting, I look different from when I am at home. But, I am not often wearing the traditional work attire I once did when I had a 9-to-5. Instead, because I work in marketing and consulting, I now have a license to dress, well, like me. That means ditching the pin-striped pants and business suits and looking more like the creative spirit that I feel I am. I love to wear my colored jeans and hipper jackets with funky boots. I may be older, but I will never be old and stodgy. I plan to look like the creative person I am as long as I consult.

I know that the image of the consultant who works from home often conjures up bunny slippers and pjs, but appearance is something that everyone consciously considers when they make the leap to freelancing. I continue to get up and either get dressed in nice, but casual clothes, full hair and make-up. Or, I throw on gym clothes and keep up appearances only after a work-out. Rarely will you find me lounging. I tried that, I admit it. Rolled out of bed, stayed in my flannels and tried to work, but I couldn’t focus. I was so trained to be in bed, comfy and sleeping that I could not get my work bearings. There’s something about looking nice and professional that makes me act professional.

They say that you need to set boundaries when home is also your office. Some need to wear clothes during their work hours that look more polished, even if they are not seeing clients. They change into their jeans when they are not working. The clear attire deviation helps them change their perspective. I have a consultant friend who gets up every morning and by 9 a.m. still wears work attire. She says she needs to do that to move out of “mom and wife” mode. When she is dressed up, she won’t touch the dishes or run errands. She works. When she needs to slip back into being a human, she changes her clothes – even when she picks up the kids from school. She says some days she changes to pick them up and then changes back to work attire when she gets home. It was an important part of her psychological adjustment to consulting. 

That said, I have a Web developer freelance friend who doesn’t own a tie, or even a nice pair of khakis. He says he is constricted when he dresses up and wears whatever is clean-ish when he wakes up. He also works 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. most days – not one to conform to standards. And, he is super successful. Love it.

I have a closet fully of fabulous dresses, tailored skirts and pants. They are collecting dust now – brought out only when I travel for my clients – I mean, certain clients. Oh, and sometimes I wear them on top only when I have a video conference with a client. I cheat – shorts and sneakers on the bottom. And you know what, I am pretty darn ok with that. There is no question that you need to dress in the way that makes you feel comfortable and is conducive to the kind of work that you do. Even a pair of jeans partnered with the right shirt, jacket and shoes can pass for acceptable attire on-site. It is more your attitude, your talent, your brains and your ability to skillfully counsel that matters. It works for Mark Zuckerberg. It is working for me.

A blog chronicling the up's and down's, trials and tribulations, fear and happiness of moving your life from the expected 9-to-5 job to a life of consulting. While it is a big and often scary decision, it is a time of discovery, rejuvenation and introspection that will help you remember who you are and who you were supposed to be. It's a wonderful journey.

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