On Working Online

Division 49 Early Career Psychology Column August 2020

This article was written for American Psychological Association Division 49 [Early Career Psychology Column August 2020]

Like most boys growing up, I was dressed by my mother. I did not put any thought into the way clothing makes me feel or its impact on how I’m being experienced by others. In my 20s, my girlfriend (now wife) would dress me. After finishing graduate school, I started to think about what a “young professional” looks like. I’ve asked myself questions such as, “Do I look professional?” and “What makes me look good?”

The questions led to a very interesting journey on researching men’s clothing. It was a whole new unexplored world for me. It was fun to read books (I highly recommend Men’s Style by Russell Smith) and articles and listen to podcasts. However, the most fun I had was doing field research by going to various stores and trying on different clothes. I had no idea that a same size shirt made by different companies can make me look so different. I discovered there is a difference when it comes to different fits (relaxed, tailors, athletic) and types of fabric. And shoes. Did I mention shoes? A nice pair of fancy shoes makes me feel professional at work and attractive in my personal life. Who would have thought? After extensive research, I have settled on a few companies that I always get my clothing from when they go on sale. It is expensive stuff, yet I still wear products that I bought six years ago. I have yet to throw away any clothing and consider them an investment in my professionalism and self-esteem.

COVID-19 has changed a lot. One of the ways it impacted my life is that I have been working remotely since early March. One of the questions that became apparent to me is, “How to look professional on Zoom?” As before, I began doing research. One of the biggest takeaways was the importance of lighting and background. So, here are my tips. Invest in a good ring light; you would be amazed at the difference it makes. My second tip is to play around with your background. Personally, I don’t like virtual backgrounds, as it adds to the unreality of the situation. My workroom was rearranged time and time again for Zoom meetings to feel professional. I also definitely continue to wear professional attire (from the waist up, that is). The HD cameras put into sharp view our face and upper body. In fact, it is as if a person on the other end of the camera stands much closer than if they were standing in real life. Lastly, invest in a good headset. It is important to be seen as well as heard. A good headset will allow you have crystal clear sound and the person on the other side of the camera will hear you without any difficulties. I found a noise cancelling headset to be a must-have product for me.

This journey to look professional has been a huge growth experience for me. It made others see me as professional but, more importantly, it made me feel like I am a professional. I hope you will do your own research and look like young professionals face-to-face as well as in a virtual environment. But most importantly, have fun with it.