In my life before working in PR and fundraising, I spent a number of years working in and managing commercial art galleries, mostly selling limited edition photography. When taking on the role, one of the first things that was made clear was expectations around dress code. Namely: you should dress smart as a reflection of the target market and type of clients the owners expected to frequent the gallery. This made sense to me at the time, so didn't think much of it.
But as time has gone on and I've made a switch to working in a different field, the concept seems increasingly unnecessary to me. You see, one of the other things you learn pretty early on in sales roles is that people invariably are buying from you, not the company. Customers will often buy as a direct result of liking you as a person.
So, with that in mind, why would you actively try and present a personal image which isn't 100% authentic? I think it's reasonable to say that the majority of people prefer you to be 'real', rather than trying to fit into their expectations in order to sell them something.
Fast forward to today, and something I've found myself saying more and more in recent weeks is that the more experienced I am, the less professional I become. If I'm honest this isn't entirely true (I think I conduct myself in a mature and professional way) but the mindset that accompanies the statement is definitely close.
It's taken years of different roles and working with dozens of other organisations to gain the confidence to actually just be myself, dress how I want and not worry about trying to say the right thing all the time to keep customers, clients or partners happy.
Not long ago someone told me I look like an extra from a mid-90s Kevin Smith film. Whereas in the past this might have made me think again about the backwards cap aesthetic, upon receiving the comment I couldn't have been happier. It might not be the most 'professional' look, but I like it and if a cap on the wrong way round is an obstacle to an organisation working with me, it's likely we'd run into far bigger problems down the road. Besides, I quite like Kevin Smith films.
It's a constant process, but it's become important to me to be as authentic as possible with people I work with. It might mean I miss out on some business from time to time, but I'd rather work with those who appreciate me for who I am and what I bring to the table. After all, that's the kind of person I like to work with anyway. Real recognises real!