Monday, October 25, 2010

I was punk, now I'm just...corporate?

I always kind of assumed I would work in a creative field - you know, have the kind of job where I could express my flair and individuality through my clothes and this would reflect how arty and talented I was. Like working in design or in fashion or maybe in an art gallery or something. Somehow, though, I have ended up in perhaps one of the most conservative, boring industries ever.

The uniform in my profession for girls goes something like this: plain suit (grey or black, pants or skirt - so long as the skirt isn't too short); business shirt (white or pale blue - occasionally you will see someone rocking out a stripey number if they are feeling super-bold); and black heels (not too high!!!!). Hair is usually in a low ponytail and sometimes you will be lucky enough to see someone sporting a black ribbon around their ponytail. For reals. It is rare, but a real treat.

It isn't like this all just kind of happened to me by accident though - I mean I knew what I was probably going to be in for when I started my degree. I was really mostly interested in actually getting a job at the end of university though and was kind of in denial about the whole suit thing. And couldn't things change by the time I graduated and entered the workforce? Nope. 'Fraid not.

People who know me outside of work are usually a bit surprised when I they find out what I do for a living. Especially if they knew me in high school or uni when I was going through one of my goth or punk phases.

When I first started working in corporate-land, I did try to conform as much as possible. I did the suit thing - I even tried ironing those nasty business shirts every morning so I would look very responsible and very professional and people would trust me to do... whatever it was that I was meant to be doing at the time. Casual Fridays used to just freak me out though. Nothing in my "weekend wardrobe" was really office appropriate so I ended up having to buy new, fairly dull casual Friday get-ups. It was the most depressing shopping EVER.

And even after all of that, I don't think I really ever fooled anyone at work. Even if I manage to dress normal, I can't seem to keep up "normal" conversation for very long and sooner or later something a bit odd will pop into the conversation and my cover is blown. This has resulted in some co-workers looking a little freaked, smiling anxiously at me as they quickly make their escape down the hall and then limiting their exposure to me in the future. No big losses in retrospect. It has, however, also resulted in me being able to find the other odd-balls and quirky personalities that had also been hiding out around the office. And the more of them that I met (including some of my bosses) the more I found I could relax and be myself at work and over time I have stopped worry so much about fitting into the corporate "mould".

My work style has evolved over time too. I don't think that I ever dress inappropriately - but I do try to dress in way that is still true to who I am and there is usually a little nod here and there to my out-of-work persona. (A tiny skull on a necklace, a pair of sky-high Louboutins or maybe some dark purple nail polish - although everyone seems to do that now.) And, obviously, a lot of black helps too. Also, my hair tends to give away the fact that I don't necessarily run with the pack. At the moment it is kind of a pale purpley-pink - I was still a bit nervous when my hairdresser revealed it in the mirror, thinking that maybe this time I had pushed things a bit too far, but it was actually received pretty well at the office.

Turns out, if you are half-way decent at your job, people will forgive you a bit of freakiness - within reason of course. Still not totally convinced that they would be happy with me getting a full-sleeve tattoo. Bummer.


Unknown said...

I love your style and your ability to carry it off so well - I'd go so far as to say there's even a little bit of envy there too ! You go girl....:)

Emma M said...

Aw bless - now that is what sisters are for! :)