I have just returned from an ASME leadership training conference (LTC) that was held in Dallas, USA where I had the chance to meet a whole bunch of interesting people from all over the world.
I was busy talking about my bright pink hard hat, when I got a ‘OMG, are you Engineer-Chic?
This was a real treat! Noha is the president of ASME’s latest initiative, Engineering for Change or E4C. Of course, it was great connecting with other young women who are also engaged in developmental initiatives, but after exchanging business cards, the conversation drifted to lighter (yet very important) topics: clothing!
Noha is a pretty, young, middle-eastern woman who I thought looked very stylish and well put together. Iana, another awesome E4C initiator, lamented over how difficult it was for engineering women to know what was appropriate to wear to these occasions. I have to agree with her on this one. I’ve been to a couple of engineering conferences where the dress-code was set to business-casual…and I know first hand how difficult it is to stock your wardrobe to accommodate both engineering ‘work-clothes’ and formal meeting attire and on top of all that, the elusive set of garments that fall into the ‘business-casual’ category. I think that we engineers have an even harder time of dressing for business-casual than business-women since we don’t wear business-casual clothing to work. We wear jeans and comfortable shoes, or clothes that we don’t mind getting quite dirty!
So does this mean that we have to go out and buy clothes specifically for conferences and business-casual events?
Wait for the shocking answer…Yes it does!
I know all of your logical minds are thinking, ‘But why? Why must I spend all that cash on clothes that I will wear a few times a year? Is it really all that necessary?’
And, again, yes it is necessary! Conferences and events are amazing opportunities to network and market yourself. You are an independent, strong and smart young engineer, and others need to SEE this when they look at you. First impressions always count and you will have to dress the part to get the recognition you deserve! But for some reason, this is something that doesn’t come naturally to engineers. Two key learnings from the LTC was that engineers are really bad at marketing ourselves, and that we tend to think that reason and logic are superior means of attaining power and influencing people agree with you. But this is a complete myth- totally wrong! Just looking at the (soon changing) ASME website tells us how bad we are at selling ourselves and our products. I recommend the book Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, which has a whole section on the importance on MARKETING YOURSELF. There are multiple ways of getting and leveraging power, and one of the fastest and easiest is by being attractive!
“Now, don’t go hating on me, I’m not saying you have to be pretty to use this type of power, but everyone can be neat, clean and appropriately dressed”, said speaker Elaine Seat, in her talk titled: Selling Your Ideas in the Absence of Authority (aka how to get power and use it to influence others). “Think of the money you spend on good clothes as an investment in yourself that yields unbelievably high returns!” Said Ron Rosenburg who delivered the Plenary Session: Outrageous Association Marketing.
(Hint: google this guy!)
So yes, it is extremely important to market yourselves. You will have to learn how to dress the part. This isn’t easy, but I’m here to help. In my next couple of posts, I will be exploring this in a little more detail, so stay tuned.
Can you think of some SUGGESTIONS on what would be appropriate conferencing gear in the BUSINESS CASUAL category? Comment on this post or email me with hints, tips and PICTURES!!!!