When you are meeting with the big end of town, do you dress up for the occasion? This is a dilemma many soloists are faced with when they need to move from their home office and meet in a corporate environment. How important is dressing for success?
As a soloist I pride myself in being an individual – slightly eccentric and pretty happy in my own skin. After all, these were powerful reasons why I was so compelled to set out alone in business in the first place. Last week, however, I found myself trying to be something that I’m not and it shocked me how easily it happened.
I was getting prepared for an important meeting with an organisation that is a significant leader in its field. I was going through my wardrobe deciding what to wear when I heard an email arrive. It was the executive assistant to the CEO letting me know that photographs were also going to taken at the meeting.
Suddenly my slight anxiety about what I was going to wear became a mild panic! My shirts began to look all wrong – either too dressy, too casual or too out of date.
Then up popped a nagging question: should I wear a tie? I haven’t bought a tie in over five years and I have only worn it once. I am usually very comfortable going tie-less. Yet, suddenly it seemed like a huge dilemma.
And then there was my hair. I no longer have what would be considered a particularly “corporate” hairstyle. I’m comfortable with that. But as my anxiety about the meeting started to increase, my coiffured locks, which my hairdresser would describe as “relaxed”, were beginning to look a total mess!
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I felt dejected and my previous confidence about the meeting evaporated, as I wallowed in self-pity and bemoaned the fact I could no longer do “corporate” like I used to.
Then I thought to myself, hang on, despite your success you never really fitted into the corporate world! And I remembered how, newly qualified as an accountant, I was told by my managers that although my work was excellent, I was too “laid back”.
Back then you were either “dynamic” – which appeared to mean running around like a headless chicken, creating dramas, upsetting people and working ridiculously long hours – or “laid back”. Given that choice, I preferred laid back, which to me meant no dramas, work done on time and an enjoyable working atmosphere.
This reminded me about the reasons why I am a soloist and why I had no choice other than to fly solo. I love being my own boss. I use my intuition and instinct about what work to take on, when to progress projects and when to put them on the back-burner. I like to trust my ability to allow things to happen effortlessly and easily without forcing things.
I love to create my own rules and think outside the box. My most creative work inevitably happens when I am walking in nature or on the beach, not sitting at a desk. I don’t do mornings very well and only really start to come to life after midday. My mornings are generally quiet, sacred moments set aside for contemplation, meditation and visioning.
I turn down work that doesn’t feel right or happen naturally, trusting from that I will create a vacuum into which the work I’m passionate about can flow.
So as I gradually coached myself back to sanity, I began to feel grateful for having taken the courageous steps on the road, along with many other soloists, towards a more authentic way of working and a mastery of the art of being yourself.
And the meeting? Oh, it went well. I wore my favourite shirt and left my ties to gather more dust in my wardrobe!