Category Archives: Personal and Professional Identity

Blog Post #11: Suit or Sandals?

image courtesy of
image courtesy of

Having a rigid, formal context in regards to dress-code and behavior in the workplace has both benefits and drawbacks. A formal approach to dress can create an environment of implied professionalism that encourages workers to stay on task. It also gives the impression that employees take their work seriously. A formal attire, it can be argued, is better than casual clothing in that it offers little to no distraction. A casual attire, on the other hand, can provide a relaxed and comfortable work situation where creativity is more likely to occur. Yet, this relaxed dress-code can also lend itself to relaxed attitudes towards the work itself, which could result in poor performance, tardiness, etc.


I do not think there is a “one size fits all” answer to this problem. In certain job situations, a formal attire is obviously the better choice. You would not want a Doctor, for example, to perform surgery in a Hawaiian t-shirt and sandals. The dress code should reflect the seriousness of the job being performed. Dressing in a suit implies a level of seriousness towards the work being done. It also presents an image of professionalism to the public. Therefore, in certain jobs like programming or software design, it makes little sense to have to wear a suit and tie to work, especially if these employees have no physical contact with clients. Employees in fields such as this would most likely benefit from a more relaxed dress code as it would be conducive to creative work output.


Much like everything else we have discussed throughout this course, the decision should be heavily informed by the audience in their work situation. Will the employee be in view of customers or clients? If so, it would probably be better to have some sort of standardized dress-code. If the job being performed mainly creative in nature? If so, it would most likely be beneficial to allow a relaxed and informal dress-code.

Self Branding

How we present ourselves most certainly depends on the context in which we are responding to.  From a social stand point I feel that for most people what we regard as “normal” dress for this function or that function is largely intuitive. We spend our entire lives, particularly as children, learning what to do and not to do and often our ques as adults are based upon that model. However, from a professional world standpoint the rules change drastically and are laden with a good deal more expectation.

I do feel from a professional standpoint that appearances can make or break someone. Ultimately it does come down to one’s personal skills on the job and what they can contribute. A nice suit is not the end all, be all; they can still be horrible at their job. But clothing and posture and language can all play massive parts in getting that job in the first place and getting ahead further along. Coming into a work place looking like last week’s laundry basket found under a bed will leave just as much of an impression as anything you have to say in that meeting. We’ve all heard that we shouldn’t judge by appearances, but whether we like it or not, whether we are even conscious of it or not, the judgement is there in the first 30 seconds or less; this goes back to childhood skills of watching and judging and absorbing the assumptions of those around us. Some things are just too deeply rooted into our culture to be easily rid of.  

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As far as I am concerned personally, I do not fuss overmuch about normal everyday wear, so making that extra effort with something that does matter, like an interview, is a bit nerve wracking. But there is a certain sense of satisfaction/ease to be had knowing that even if you screw something up you will look decent doing it. Do I think it is unfair that people can be judged and discounted by something other than their actual credibility? Yes, it is not very fair. But at the same time I understand the inherent logic behind it. If one can not take the time to look nice and be willing to go that extra step or two to make a presentation to someone else, one of two things has occurred: 1. They don’t actually care about the thing. In which case, why are they bothering to apply and why should you bother to hire. Or 2. They are careless, disregarding or lazy when it comes to their appearance, something that can be likely to translate into their work ethic. Dressing nicely usually does not take much and it is, in the end, really a display of initiative and positive-ness. The social world can be flexible, the professional one is not.

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The Pressures of the Current Workplace

If we take a look back ten years, even twenty years, into the past, we will see that the aspects that helped the workplace thrive are much different than now.  Ten to twenty years ago, online recruitment and promotion was unheard of.  Connections were made through face to face communication and word of mouth networking.  People would physically work hard to promote their specific product or to arrange meetings that would help their credibility and job standing.  Personal identity and professional identity were not nearly linked as closely as they are now.

These times were tough and the actions people took were commendable.  But times are changing and the workplace is rapidly becoming more technology based.  Audiences are more vast and diverse than ever. The link between your personal and professional identity is so close now that people often feel pressured to make sure their personal lives do not hurt his/her professional reputation.


Social media is one main factor contributing to the pressure of conforming to normative standards in the professional setting.  Self presentation has, and always will be, an important aspect of earning a positive professional reputation.  However, in our modern society, with such social media as Facebook and Instagram, individuals are now pressured to keep their personal lives at bay.  Many companies are able to view potential candidates before they even reach the interview and judged solely on what appears on these social media sites.  In my opinion, this is absolutely unfair but something that should be accepted and respected until the times catch up with technology.  Enjoy your life but do not post everything online.  Keep things to yourself.

Moving past the social media outlets, self presentation will surely help your case should you pass the social media test.  Keep yourself up to date with the normative standards of the career you plan to pursue and abide by them.  Keep yourself cleanly shaved and dress appropriately.  However, although influential, even this does not determine whether you fail or succeed at your career.  Understanding the current technologies will determine how well you succeed. No matter the type of person you are, if you are more than capable of completing the desired tasks, you will likely have a job.  For example, it is likely that a job promoting a product through social media will go to a young college graduate as opposed to an older gentlemen or lady with years of experience.  This is only because younger college students are more familiar with the current technologies.  This is not to say that older folks are at a disadvantage, they just need to make sure they are keeping up with the times.

Overall, it is important to maintain a respectable personal identity if you wish to share so much online in order to maintain a credible professional identity.  This will be the case until the times catch up with technology.  Self presentation or “branding” will always be critical in assisting your overall identity.  With the vast and diverse audience, presenting yourself in the right way will not only maintain your professional identity but also entice others to follow your ways.   fabonetworking

Who is the Perfect Employee?

It is not always possible or practical to divorce your professional identity from your personal identity. Sometimes they are one in the same, or they are too intertwined to distinguish between. But, on rare occasions, it is completely conceivable for an individual to maintain identities that exist separately in workplace and recreational contexts. These rare occasions are, in my experience, when a personal is most likely to succeed in the workplace.

I am not suggesting that one must alter, refine, or obscure certain aspects of their personality to fit the role of “the perfect employee.” On the contrary, I believe possessing the cognizance of when a certain set of behaviors or beliefs are inappropriate or unnecessary to display in the workplace that one more comfortable assumes the role of “the perfect employee.”
It is a time-tested truth that no social setting can exist without a status quo, and that opposing the status quo or attempting to change it, yields no results—with the exception of oppressive or bloodthirsty regimes. But the office is a far cry from Rwanda in the Spring of 1994, management does not even remotely resemble the akazu, and your boss cannot be compared to Robert Kajuga; to complain, while you are on the clock, about the break room injustices and parking garage massacres you are subjected to is a massive violation of the contextual norms of professionalism.

A little airing of grievances around the water cooler is an expected and accepted occurrence in the workplace, but it should never extend beyond mere words—and, if one of the participants were able to leave their personal identity in their personal life, and exist only in their professional identity while in their professional life, then that individual would never find grievances to air solely for the sake of adhering to the status quo, but rather because they wished to maintain an environment that perpetuated professionalism, or because they believed that they had a solution to a genuine problem.
A well-maintained and fairly balanced status quo can benefit every employee, and an employee who sticks to it, rather than vehemently disparaging it, may even go as far as to encourage other employees to work harder and strive for excellence, in hopes of recognition, promotion, or opportunity. In professional contexts, professionals are expected to perform in a specific manner or demeanor. Doing so not only reflects positively on the individual who respects these contexts, but can also have a positive influence on other employees who wish to advance in their profession, and sees others doing so by following the status quo, not fighting against it.

Nearly anyone who has held a job for any amount of time, despite the field, has heard the colloquialism, “Leave your baggage at the door,” and in the instance of professional versus personal identity, it has never been more true. The workplace is a setting with high expectations, quotas, and standards, and to succeed in such settings, one must act as the situation commands: with a professional demeanor that is not influenced by outside events.

Featured image taken from Comedy Central.

Self-Brand and the Workplace



From my past work experience, self-presentation is vital for success. I have been on hiring panels and if an interviewee came in to the interview with poor self-presentation (flip-flops, wrinkled clothes, odor, or overall sluggish, ect) their qualifications did not matter. They were also immediately removed from consideration. We are no different than a product on a shelf at the local supermarket. Though the off-brand detergent may clean better, be more environmentally safe, and have crazy superpowers, it is less likely to move because the initial appeal from the visual brand presented. By this I mean, though you may be more qualified for a position, you are likely to be overlooked if your “brand” does not present a competitive element. This can be achieved by putting effort in  self-presentation.


I feel pressure to conform to this idea because, as I stated before, in order to compete with others you much express you brand as the superior brand. This means presenting yourself as the most professional in respect to the job you are trying to attain. This is not to say that every employment opportunity requires the same type of brand. For example, when I worked for Johnson and Johnson the self-presentation was much different that at CNN, where my sister worked. We must adjust our self-branding to compliment the intended brand of our employer. Sometime a company may have several brands working together. For example, my sister currently works for Adult Swim. Her department, Adult Swim Sales, requires a different brand than, say, the Adult Swim Creative Dept. 

I think that a connection between self-presentation and quality of work does not exist in truth; however, because standards are so strict in the work place, the two are falsely connected. The idea that how you present yourself and your quality of work are connected is ridiculous Unfortunately, the standards in place require the quality and brand to compliment each other in most cases.


Blog #11: Personal and Professional Identity

Over the course of the semester, we have examined closely the conventions, genres, and processes of technical communication. We have considered carefully and discussed at length how different contexts and audiences influence the form and content of technical communication. In those discussions, we have also addressed the ways in which technical and professional audiences and contexts influence significantly the important choices we make about our self-presentation as workers and communicators.

For example, in addition to thinking about how corporations create a brand identity via their social media and online presence, in your blog posts, professional development/training module presentations, and your online professional profiles, many of you have taken up the question of how we as individuals use social and digital media to create our personal “brands.”  In her guest lecture, Elizabeth Johnson offered some insight into what employers expect from job applicants and employees with regard to dress and behavior. And, in the service learning project, you have been creating communication (including email, in-person conferences, and presentations) with a hybrid academic/professional purpose that has a real audience beyond our classroom.

An image of lego figures dressed in different suits.
“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” ~Mark Twain. Image credit: “Suit up” by stavos on Flickr.

In professional contexts, we are judged by the quality of our work and by how we present ourselves. While the conventions of self-presentation vary from workplace to workplace, those conventions exist, whether they are explicit or implicit. Some people would argue our success in the workplace often depends as much on how well we are able “read” and respond to these conventions, as on our ability to perform the functions in a job description.

What do you think? Do you think conventions of self-presentation play (or will play) a significant role in determining how you and your work are judged in your chosen profession? Do you feel pressure to conform to normative standards regarding dress, speech, writing, grooming, etc., in order to succeed in the academic and non-academic workplace? If so, what are those standards, and are they in any way at odds with how you would prefer to present yourself, either online or in “real life”? What connection, if any, exists between conventions about self-presentation and professional behavior and the overall quality of an individual’s work? For example, do you think being punctual, well-groomed, and suitably attired for a job lead one to do that job better? Do you think it’s fair that prospective employers judge applicants on criteria that may or may not be connected to the quality of work an individual might be able to produce?

Posting: Group 1

Commenting: Group 2

Category: Personal and Professional Identity

In your Blog #11 post, take a position about how workplace contexts shape our identities in subtle and not so subtle ways, and the pros and cons of the current state of affairs. Consider who benefits from the status quo, the ways workplaces are changing, how employers can level the playing field for applicants, and the relationship between contextual norms of professionalism and the work professionals in those contexts are expected to perform and for whom. As always, craft your response as a cohesive essay or argument, rather than a list of answers to the questions and topics outlined here. Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog.

Featured Image Credit: Last Sokol fit check by Samantha Cristoforetti on Flickr.