Friday, August 29, 2008

Dress Code - Why it exists

We all had a dress code of some kind in our schools and workplace. The big question is, "Why?" Logic says that improper dress reflects poorly upon the wearer and the school or business, as first appearances have a strong value around the world. If it didn't, fashion wouldn't be such a commodity. Some business and schools want everyone to look similar for unity. Others want uniforms to protect clothing, or to make it impossible to discern the income of the wearers. This can sometimes backfire if a uniform is required but there are no restrictions on footwear, jewelry or handbags.

Should there be more restrictions when we live in a democracy and some see their appearance as freedom of speech?
I believe, for the most part, restrictions or regulation of any kind usually exists because someone, somewhere messed up. If you're working for another entity or going to school, your rights come secondary to safety and the message you are allowed to carry in that space. For example, a student who wears a T-shirt that is emblazoned with a message about consuming alchohol when that child is underage and in a position to advertise that message to his or her peers, is usually in violation of dress code and will be asked to at least turn the shirt inside out for the day. Unless you go to school in Gonzalez, Texas, and you might be asked to wear a jumpsuit like prisoners wear (only not in orange).

Why Adults Have Dress Codes
Other than the same reasons given above, the quick answer: Law suits. Really. Sexual harassment is tops on the list but when a woman is given the message from the fashion and entertainment world to dress like the characters in Sex in the City, or she's not trendy enough, what can she do? Layers. Keep cleavage to a minimum, don't show those panty lines or worse, that thong each time you sit down, and cover up on the job. When you're on your own or with your pals, then you can show that skin, but not when it will distract others from doing their job or give a jerk an (albeit lame) excuse to target you. Our court systems are not usually progressive and, ladies, there are some low-brainwave judges out there that will fault you for looking your sexy best if a predator strikes, even though it has been proven repeatedly that appearance has nothing to do with attacks. (it is all about power over another.) In fact, for your safety, maybe you should do that '80s power walker look to get into and from the office, and slide those heels on when you get to your desk.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Career Advice -- Where to look, who to trust?

There are millions of books, websites, and people who are willing to offer advice in business, success and life in general. So, who do you trust? Whose advice do you use and whose do you ignore, or run from?

I believe most of us accept advice that speaks to our spirit, personal nature, and goals. Sure, I can listen to Michael Jordan give a motivational speech, but when I was looking to be the best teacher I could be in the public school system, I went to people like Harry Wong. Mike was the go-to guy for the court, not the classroom.

Know When to Run
Also, make sure the group you join has the same goals. When I began as a performance storyteller I went to a guild meeting. I first noticed I was the only one in the group without gray hair, reading glasses or both. When they asked for my contact information and I handed them a business card. The president held up the card and said, "Oooh! This one has a card. Look at that!" My gut flipped and I immediately knew these were not the folks to help me grow my career. I never went back.

Some sites, resources and springboards that might appeal to you if you're just entering the workforce:

1. Your college resource and career center. I like, The Black Collegian Online, particularly this article:

2. Free sites on the web (with the understanding that sometimes, you get what you pay for.)
Job Dig, who has the catchiest tag line, "Because everyone should dig their job"!.html

3. All major career resume sites such as CareerBuilder, Monster, HotJobs, and so forth. Look for their free resources that offer advice. These guys have a business out of getting people hired, and helping businesses grow, and the more successful you are, the better they grow.

4. Professional associations, and national organizations in your field. Like-minded folks often have insider tips that other resources might not know to offer.

5. Professional organizations related to your personal life - gender, race, creed, fraternal organizations, Greek life, honor societies, craft and hobbies, all have networking groups. Just be sure not to use your day job as a way to recruit others for your personal/pet projects or you may not have that job very long.

Be aware and informed! Your success or failure is all up to you.

Do You Know the Rules?

The first step for success is to know both the written and implied (unwritten) rules for success.

I love this Legal Assistance site's list of frequently asked questions and their responses:
Please note that this site's information was compiled in the state of CT and rules vary from state to state.

However, logic should be unvaried according to circumstances when it comes to responsibility and respect, and everyone should know your rights.

The Golden Rule: Used to be about "doing unto others" as you'd like to be treated. However, more are more I'm confronted with people who do not have a basic idea of what is appropriate. Their personal standards might be higher or lower than those they work with and complications result.

Mel's personal rule for success: Acting with respect and responsibility requires you to do the right thing every day, without reminders, even when no one seems to be watching. If you only follow policy when someone is watching, your integrity is lacking.

What are your rules for success?

School Room to Boardroom

Having been a certified teacher since 1991, I am often surprised when students do not see the connection of what they are required to do in the school environment as being connected to success in business or adulthood. Furthermore, as a business woman, I'm astounded when I notice adults who still have not mastered the basic rules of success and are dismissed from positions they were qualified for.
The purpose of this blog it to address these issues and to gather input for a new book that I'm co-authoring on the subject with Sonja Randall, of Verizon Wireless.
-Mel. Edwards