I’m a total Offbeater in an Onbeat career.
I’m the business interface and management for a group of engineers in Tech in the Silicon Valley. And unless you can break the sound barrier on amazing code, your work clothes had better be “business casual.” Since I am the business interface, I find myself even more pigeonholed into looking more “corporate” than I’d prefer. This is still more loose than “financial corporate,” but tougher than what my engineers can get away with.
I find little ways to express my offbeatness though…
It’s pops of personality, rather than the whole enchilada.
When having to look business appropriate, you can get away with one or two pieces that are expressive to you. A funky t-shirt with a blazer and slacks, or a cool scarf and jewelry, or fun pants/skirt, with a professional top and shoes.
My favorite thing is expressive jewelry, I like big obnoxious pieces and generally wear them over more sedate clothes in the office. It also showcases those pieces in a way that invites conversation with you, rather than about you. I have found people like a little personality because otherwise, we all look like extras in the Devil Wears Prada Runway offices.
Also, if wilder hair is your jam, there are clip-in hair pieces and temporary color in every hue imaginable, so you can do crazy hair on the weekends/after work, and then have normal 9-5 hair on the weekdays.
I always tell my interns/mentorees (I mentor young women in Tech) that you have to remember that the people making the decisions on your future within the company are generally at least 10, but probably closer to 20+ years older than you. For them, certain styles and personal appearance items like tattoos represent something that doesn’t represent you as you’re on two different generational and even cultural wave lengths. So for you, it may represent individuality and your soul on your skin, and to them, it may represent something very negative. It’s not right, but it’s reality in some cases.
They’re hiring to fit the team culture as much as they are hiring for skills. And when we’re running the show, the next generation will have things that make us roll our eyes or think is negative, as they had in their generation.
So within the 9-5, don’t hide your personality, but test the waters before committing to all out demonstrations. It’s as much work finding your place in the company culture as the actual job.
How do YOU find ways to express your offbeat nature within the normies?