Dress for Success Workshop with Charles Bennett

By Huang Yu, Strategy & Management major, Global MBA 2019-2020

This week, Charles Bennett conducted his second workshop titled “Dress for Success”. We were happy to have him back to talk to us about key soft skills that MBA participants need for their career development. This time, he focused on the dress code and other codes of conduct in various professional conditions. 

Before the actual workshop, Charles invited everyone to talk something unique about himself or herself. As a group of MBA participants, we are very familiar with each other professionally. Hence, during this exercise, we spoke about our personal interests, hobbies, or anecdotes that we never shared with others before. It was a great moment that allowed us to be more connected with each other with empathy and understanding, after sharing our stories and ideas from our heart. 

After that, Charles moved on to the main topic of the day, the dress code. The dress code “Business Casual” is a frequently-seen required dress code in different professional events such as networking sessions, “Casual Friday”, company dinners, etc. Yet, the actual definition of “business casual” is not well-defined. The challenging part of the definition is that the line between business formal and business informal (or casual) is not clear. The company culture, or the general culture of a country, is unique. The dress code in a company or a country may not be acceptable in another. 

During the workshop, Charles discussed various rules to follow and here are just some takeaways:

  • Our dressing is part of our identity and value. Hence, it is important to be consistent in our dressing and our behavior.
  • Dressing in the correct way is also showing respect to others. 
  • If you are new to an event and curious about the dress code, ask the HR for guidelines. As an alternative, you can always ask and learn the dress code by observing other people at similar events.
  • Over-dressing is always better than under-dressing because it is easier to “downgrade” your dressing rather than “upgrade” it.
  • To match the colour of your dressing/suit is less critical. The golden rule of “business casual” is to dress as close as you can to business formal, but adding your own style. 
  • Looking good does not mean spending lots of money. The trick is to buy something relatively affordable, and get a tailor to make it perfect for you. 
  • Your tie node is important. It is the “face” of your dressing/outfit.

Besides speaking about dress codes, Charles also mentioned various codes in other professional situations and here are some highlights:

  • In France, being polite and formal in emails and phone calls is extremely important. You can only earn respect from others when you respect others in the first place.
  • Whenever your supervisor asks you for a coffee break, go for it. It is a good chance to enhance your professional relationships.
  • Patient is always the key, in both emails and meetings.
  • Always be punctual for any meeting. 
  • Don’t use your mobile phone during meetings.

There are also many questions during the Q&A sessions and Charles answers all of them with his insights. We look forward to meeting him again for the third session.

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