Professional Advice for Generation Y: Starting with the basics
Dear Generation Y (or if you call yourself Millennials), I get it. Many of us in Generation X get it. I understand your disdain of the workplace in 2012 when you believe your ideas will make it better. In many ways, most of us in Generation X agree (even if we won't admit it).
I've read enough articles and blogs both praising the ideas and even more bashing you for them. I work with several Millennials, and I refuse to fall into the belief that you're all spoiled, entitled, and childish. I only see you all as inexperienced, and thus a little advice over the course of a few articles might be more helpful than criticism.
Let's start with dress code
I feel fortunate that I work in an office where I can stroll in wearing jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt. I see some who wear shorts and sandals, and it's allowed. Working in a creative or technology company, I can see the need for a loose dress code. Creatives need to be comfortable to let the ideas flow. Others in fields with little to no contact with outsiders can also enjoy that luxury.
However, if the need came, I'd be in a suit for my job, or the true definition of "business casual", and I would not complain about it. I would not think it's ridiculous. In fact, my boss just told our team to "look spiffy" this upcoming week because our client will be in town. They are a mix of younger Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y, but they were also raised to believe that "true professionals" dress in their definition of "professional". We want their business, and their money, so we dress nice this week.
While my work can allow for a relaxed dress code, not every job works this way. Look at finance or accounting. Jeans and t-shirts won't work here. In many ways, the business attire life is what makes those fields stay productive in the eyes of both management and employee. How about medicine? That's a world of scrubs or proper attire, because jeans and a t-shirt might not help a doctor gain the trust of a patient who is expecting the old-school definition of a medical professional.
This pretty much also goes for anyone who even deals with what I call "outsiders", such as clients or customers. Walk into most established companies, especially when a client or customer is visiting, and you'll see anyone who even is seen by the client in business attire. You might think that the clients might also be Millennials, but it does not mean they share your views.
We can also use this same logic in the topic of tattoos and piercings. I know that pop culture has fully embraced it all, but ask yourself who is embracing it? Musicians, artists, actors, etc. I know there is a Facebook page that's trying to push for tattoo acceptance in the workplace, but remember that companies want to portray an image to the outside world. They might want "clean-cut professionals", and thus sleeves, a pierced eyebrow, or plugs in your ears will not fit that image.
Remember, someone is paying you
I'm sure some of you can come up with a very deep argument as to why offices and companies should drop the dress codes. I do agree that nicer clothing doesn't mean someone is competent or a company is superior.
Unfortunately, when you're an employee of a company, then you're being paid to be the person they want you to be. Think about lowly retail jobs like a grocery store or a fast-food franchise. You see the uniforms, everything from simple polo shirts to a shirt/tie combo with a vest. We can think those uniforms are "dorky" and have no precedence on employee performance, but the hard reality is that the employer is paying said employee not only to do the task, but to wear the uniform.
As you move up the corporate ladder, this same idea holds true. You are expected to dress and look a certain way simply because you are being paid to. It's part of the job description. Only when you have skills/experiences that are in scarcity—thus you have value, is when you get to call some of the shots.
This is why we have a very loose dress code at my work. It's partially about making us comfortable so we'll push our creative minds, but also so our workplace appears favorable for other talented creatives to come to as employees. It's the same with startups. You ever wonder why many will have literally no dress code? One is the idea that they want to make employees comfortable, but it's also so talented people will be more tempted to give up the stability and money of a big company to take a chance on said startup.
In the working world, you will unfortunately realize that life is a big bargain...a haggle. You have something to offer, and so will your employer. You have skills, talents, and experience, they have money. When they need you more than you need them, then you'll see dress codes and the other stuffy corporate thinking disappear. However, when you are standing among millions of workers who all can offer exactly what you are offering, then you'll have to unfortunately dress and dance the way they ask.
Forewarning...this will be a recurring theme throughout this series.
Share your opinions and feel free to dispute my opinions if you wish.