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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Dressing the Part & Changing Careers

Dear Sue: I am a full-time student and work at a job without any major responsibilities. I want to know if you have any suggestions that will help me look as though I want to move up in life.

Some people say I should dress more like the people who hold the positions I want to have -- and I do. As a matter of fact, I have a closet full of scarves, pants, and lovely pantsuits, but this only makes me feel like a beauty queen.

I am at the point where I feel confident on the outside, but it's only an artificial wall that's blocking the real mess that's on the inside. What can I do?

- Confused

Sue Says: "Looking" professional is an important factor in the way you are perceived by others and will also affect the way you feel about yourself. But the idea of dressing well and looking good is not to put on a facade or feel like a phony.

In my book, "How to Gain the Professional Edge," I talk about the four simple rules that guarantee business success:

Look the part: To be successful, you have to project an image with which your clients, your employer and your colleagues are comfortable. Don't think you're giving up your individuality or compromising who you really are. Think of it as a tool to help you achieve your objectives.

Act the part: Knowing how to make others feel comfortable, and feeling comfortable about yourself in the process can make all the difference between being successful and unsuccessful. Etiquette is an art worth mastering if you are serious about being successful in any field.

Be the part: Although a particular suit, hairstyle or handshake can contribute to (or detract from) your personal style, you'll be more successful if you are attentive to what the norm is in the job you have or the job you want, and operate within it. Be the type of person others can count on. Don't gossip, complain or whine. And, if you say you will do something, make sure you get it done!

Think the part: I don't know why you feel as though you are a mess on the inside, but chances are those thoughts of inadequacy come through loud and clear to others. Do what you can to gain confidence and maintain a positive attitude. People like to be around people who are upbeat and positive about themselves and others.

Don't hesitate to let your supervisor and others know of your career goals and your desire to move ahead. In addition, find out what you need to do to reach those goals. In addition, consider talking with someone who may be able to help you understand why you feel as you do.

Dear Sue: I've been teaching first grade for four years and have been very frustrated with the environment I am in. I disagree with the direction we are headed and am not thrilled with the changes taking place.

I have always had an urge to work on my own. I love children, and have considered going into counseling to work with them one on one.

Should I venture off into new territory, or stay in my current position that contains so much security (not to mention summers off)?

I do enjoy many of the people I work with and I love the children. I'm just afraid that this urge won't go away and I'll "miss" my calling. I'm only 28 years old and have been thinking about this for some time now.

- Teacher

Sue Says: During the summer, while you have time off, take some time to explore your options. Once you have an idea about the types of opportunities that exist, you will be in a better position to make a decision and compare other jobs to the one you have now.

Or perhaps you will choose to continue your education and pursue counseling while you stay in your current position.

There are so many opportunities available, but you have to seek them out. You are too young to stay in a job only for the security it offers. Don't "miss" your calling -- make the call!

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
For more Ask Sue articles, click here.

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