Anna Lewis, Senior Recruiter at Viget:
Casualness at the office starts with what we wear. The casual dress code common to start-ups and creative agencies—T-shirts, jeans, etc—seems to defy the very term “code”. When it’s time for a client meeting or a presentation, we start looking positively “nice” or “dressy” and, mysteriously, we all seem to know what those vague terms mean. Understandably, the subtleties of these choices are hard for young people to pick up on because they require experience over time, which is exactly what they don’t have. If they sometimes dress too casually, it’s more often for fear of seeming ludicrously buttoned-up rather than from a lack of concern altogether.
For most of us, building a career means we must learn to strike a balance between “professionalism” and “authenticity” on a daily basis. There are times when we need to prioritize a more professional mode, and that means feeling less “authentically” ourselves. And there are other times when we need to prioritize “authenticity” at the cost of professionalism. Striking this balance takes a certain measure of experience and good judgement, which is why it’s understandably confusing at first.