What is business casual these days? Last week I spoke at a conference in San Francisco. The dress code was business casual and I had to spend time on the Internet exploring what that really means these days. If you work for a company that does not dress up, what does that mean when you have to take it up a notch? Business casual does not exist for me. Every day is casual. So when you are in a situation where you might be interacting with customers, vendors, clients, or partners what is the true meaning of business casual?
From what I can tell it means no jeans. However, is that really true? With today’s tech world, are jeans still out of the realm of business casual? I barely had an outfit to wear to speak at the conference and I realized I went from working from home for so many years (and basically living in my pajamas and sweats) to my current company which is very laid back. Why should I add outfits to my closet that I will never wear? I know the origins of business casual are probably not much different then “casual Fridays” — a chance to dress down and be more relaxed. In my mind everyday is “casual” Friday. Yet, my terminology for business casual is not in the traditional sense. My version of business casual equates to: “Am I comfortable?”
Yes, I am not a traditional one. Going from my early career where I had to dress nice (and no, I no longer have any of those clothes) to spending almost a decade hoping that I had showered before Chris came home. I would roll out of bed and immediately go to my laptop instead of acting like a normal human and actually getting dressed. Why should I have when I saw practically no one all day? When you spend most of your day as the voice in a grey conference room speakerphone in the middle of a long table 3,000 miles away from your house to now, where I have a lot of work outfit options. I can be comfy and I can dress nice, so what is the 2015 version of business casual? Has it changed too much? Have we evolved and become a more laid back society? Or do lawyers and Wall Street exec’s still dictate the definition of business casual?
We could go through much of our life and not give a damn about anyone else. What a bore that would be, right? I was a sociology major in college, which for some of you that might mean a chuckle and a smirk and a comment of the sorts of: “Where did that get you?” Well I am not a doctor, or an architect, or an engineer. All professions that probably need a highly skilled sort of curriculum in school to ensure that we are not given the wrong drugs, our homes and buildings are do not collapse, and, well, engineers — they solve all sorts of problems.
I am here to tell you that I am an engineer of people. As a sociology major, I studied people. While many might think: “how are you applying your degree in your career?” I want to say back to them, “Every damn day.” I work with people all day long. Most of my days are filled with meetings, which are filled with people. Not everyone has the desire or patience to deal with people all day. Maybe I should make a button that says: “I was a sociology major, and I give a damn about people.” I would get lots of laughs, or perplexed looks, maybe a few strange questions.
Regardless of what I studied, or what others think about how that prepared me for the real world. I live my life caring about people, their todays and their tomorrows. Their feelings matter, what they are going through, what challenges them, if they take a stand in life. I care about it all. At the end of the day, we all work for different types of companies, businesses, non-profit, for profit. Whether we make art, sell a product, are in sales, provide customer support we all somehow have to deal with people. The business or company could fade away, the product could bomb, and yet we would still have people. So why not treat them right, take care of them, and help them to be better.
I was thinking the other day how easy it is to get sucked into other people’s drama. Whether they are having issues with their husband, are frustrated with a co-worker, or feel stuck in their job, it is easy to get pulled down with them. We cannot go there with them. What they need (and what we need if we are feeling similar) is to have someone stay strong and pull them out of the muck. Bring them over from negativity and poopiness to view the good that is happening in their life.
What came to me when I was thinking about this, was how I can stay strong and resilient in those moments, listen, be present, and share a good way to spin their situation. There is always a lawn that is greener, a life that looks more attractive, and a work environment that seems more perfect. Yet, most of us have so much good already right in front of us. We choose to not focus on it. We choose to look at the frustrating co-worker, the fights with our husband, or the dead-end job. I am not saying to not work through those things in your life, I just mean that when things feel shitty, be sure to focus on the good. It will get you through those times. Gratitude has an amazing effect on keeping us grounded and balanced.
Sometimes all it takes in those moments is to get quiet and stay focused on what is important on that day or in that moment. Sometimes my mantra is to remind myself: “Stay out of it.” There are times when it is easy to get pulled into the negativity and the drama, and when we know we just cannot help, we cannot get pulled in, that is when I tell myself to stay out of it. I try to not encourage a conversation, or ask leading questions. I stay focused on what I need to do, and where I need to focus. I know that sounds selfish, but sometimes we just need to have self-preservation to make it through the day.