The courses that we take and the lessons that we learn amounts to the practical and technical skills required to have a prosperous career. Outside the academics realm, we pick up hard work, dedication, compassion and care from interactions. These codes and ethics we have gathered are key to helping us build a profession. However, there is one thing that we need to truly be a pioneer.
This Thanksgiving, I met up with my high school friends who have now been studying in various universities in the States. Some were at the beginnings of higher education, some pursuing even more, while others are already venturing into the workplace. I myself belonged to the ones getting ready to graduate. I sought the opinion of my one successful friend who had obtained a respectable internship in one of the top 3 advising firms of America.
The advise I got from him was helpful but non was more useful than the last bit of conversation we had. During a long car ride in the Chicago night, I turned to my friend and ask:
“So, what are you suppose to wear? Business casual?”
The conversation went on and developed into a discussion on wardrobe. It was then that I realize that all the time I spent in college had not taught me this one thing, class.
Class is a peculiar thing. I do not mean my socioeconomic status nor do I refer to any categories and differentiation. Class simply means the nobility. Nobility not inherited by birth, but shown in words, actions and presentation. It is hard to learn this form of nobility because it cannot be claimed in a mere short amount of time. It takes careful grooming of the character to show class.
The way you speak can tell a stranger a lot about you. The simple language we use to converse with friends is informal. While this might bring personality and closure while you conduct a discussion in the workplace, it does not bring respect to the speaker. A strong grasp of vocabulary and vocal control commands attention and discipline.
Your movements and actions may very well define how you are judged. Leaning onto a wall or slouching on your chair are extreme examples of sloppiness that fosters disrespect. Small gestures like firm hand shakes, early arrivals, prompt replies and maintaining eye contact are not just ethical but classy. These actions are very much like morals, it cannot be real unless it is always practiced.
Presentation is often the most prominent aspect of class. A man or woman will not be taken seriously if he or she does not dress so. Standing out with outrageous clothing is as good as a slap to the face to those who expect your presence. Dressing to the occasion is not only a showing of respect, it prompts returned esteem. The way you wear your clothes and the fine details of your jacket can show others what kind of person you are. During a formal meeting where everyone wheres the same design and almost similar colors, the small details like the perfect fit, neat tie, decorative cufflink and unwrinkled pocket square will tell your client how much you value them, and how much they should value you.
This information was not a mystery to me, but the application of it had eluded me for years. I have often told myself to produce professional products, but I neglected to realized that respect is also rated by class. I never wore a suit when I met my clients, nor did I use big words when I interact with them. These things weren’t second nature to me, but I had the power to switch it on. My friend had pushed me to start dressing up to the occasion, to give up the folly plays and venture into the world of adulthood.
When I think back, I remembered him in shorts, prancing around the campus like a fool. It seems that time and experience had seasoned him. Class does not mean wearing a suit everywhere you go, it means that you tidy up your speech, action and wardrobe. Even the smallest demand of class deserves your full devotion.