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Are you dressing the part for the security career you want?

Michael Santarcangelo | March 5, 2011
Do the clothes we wear set the stage for success or being stuck in our security careers?

FRAMINGHAM, 3 MARCH 2011 - Do the clothes we wear set the stage for success or being stuck in our security careers?

Shortly after graduating college, I went for a job interview with a small, eight-person company outside of Boston. Conditioned that job interviews required a suit, tie and freshly polished shoes, I arrived dressed to impress.

Imagine my discomfort when I walked into an informal interview with a CEO wearing jeans with ripped knees and a red t-shirt. The balance of the staff was a mix of shorts, t-shirts and jeans.

I was immediately uncomfortable -- and they were, too. The entire time was awkward and stressful. It was clear I wasn't a fit, and the whole time I kept thinking to myself: "How long until I get out of here?" Truth is, they were probably thinking the same thing, too.

Looking back on that uncomfortable situation, I recall vividly how my attire influenced the situation.

How does attire affect security careers?

In October, I gave the keynote at the inaugural HouSecCon and moderated an afternoon panel. The afternoon panel explored the opportunities executives and "techies/hackers" to work together more often, and more effectively.

We focused on elements of communication, presentation and how to build bridges that form effective connections.

But I sensed more.

Looking around the room -- and taking in the t-shirts, collared shirts with khakis and people dressed in suits -- it was entirely possible, if not always accurate, to pick out the "hackers" from the "executives."

With that context, as the host of the conversation, I paid attention to the language people used, watch how they held themselves and gauge the reaction of the crowd.

In the end, the audience agreed on the importance of more dialogue about how to work together more effectively.

On the plane ride home, with the events of the conference replaying in my mind, I realized that dressing the part for the outcome sought has a profound impact on the event, and over time, on a security career.

Sometimes the quiet space of twin aircraft engines doing their work helps put concepts in perspective. Riding home thinking about the impact attire has on events -- and an entire career -- I realized that on the trip to the conference, I shared an insightful conversation with a well-dressed woman that essentially proved the point.

My flight to Houston was wrought with delays and complications. While standing in line to get rebooked, a tanned, well-dressed woman approached me, tapped me on the arm and asked me about my shoes.

Both looking down, I wiggled the toes of my Vibram Five Fingers (VFF).


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