Dear Mr. Molloy:
I am a real estate salesman and have been managing the Commercial Sales Department in my firm for almost 7 years. My standard uniform in the winter consists of gray slacks and a navy sport jacket. When I’m dealing with corporate types, particularly when we’re meeting in their offices, I wear a suit. I found that this look works very well in Boston, New York, Connecticut and most of the area around Washington DC.
However, I’ve just been given a promotion. I’m now vice president of the company and I will be running nine offices primarily selling residential real estate. I did a walk-through of each office and noticed that there was no dress code. I’m not sure what is necessary because the socio-economic background of the buyers varies dramatically from office to office. I recognize that those dealing with the actual buyers have a better insight into what is needed than I. Nevertheless I believe there should be some general guidelines for dress in real estate sales. After all you are asking buyers to make a major financial and personal commitment.
Can you give me any hint as to how I should approach this problem?
Moving from selling commercial real estate to residential properties virtually puts you into another business. The fact that they’re both real estate sales is really irrelevant. When buyers look at commercial properties they usually have had the property appraised and discussed how much the property is worth to them with in-house financial experts, so there is very little room for negotiation on price. In over 90% of the cases whether they buy or not depends on whether that properly suits their needs. Since you’re dealing with businesspeople you are right, it is usually best to dress in the same style as the buyers.
When people buy residential property however the story is entirely different. Unlike people buying commercial property they are less interested in the bricks and mortar aspect of the building and more interested in the lifestyle of the community. The general rule is to dress as if you are a successful member of that community. If it’s a blue-collar rural community casual dress is almost a must. One very astute real estate person said dress the way you think the people in that community would dress when going to church on Sunday.
The second rule is you must be neat and well put together. People at all socio- economic levels are more likely to trust others who look as if they know what they’re talking about. Most of us trust those who appear to be in control of their lives which means to women, who are often the critical decision-makers, dressing well or at least neatly and appropriately. I wish I could be more specific but with such a broad range of buyers that’s impossible.
Dear Mr. Molloy:
I am 16, a junior in high school and by nature creative. I love the arts and the theater and I participate in theater in school. I read several times if you want to be successful in life find something you love and do that for a living. I want to live in the world of da Vinci, Chagall and the great minds of the 21st century most of whom are artists. The creativity in a Hollywood, on Broadway and in the writings of our great men have changed our world.
My father, an engineer, is the dullest and least creative person I’ve ever met so it did not come as a surprise to me when he said he will not pay my tuition in college if I become an art major. He said it’s a degree in unemployment and I should find something more useful to study. Can you think of any way I can convince him he’s wrong?
A Hopeful Junior
I do not know you or your father but I think you do not know your father either. At least you don’t have any idea of what he does for a living. Engineering by its nature is creative. Now I will admit some engineers are more creative than others but they are problem solvers, which often requires creative thinking.
Which forces me to point out an obvious fact, in da Vinci’s time the most brilliant creative minds became artists. In the 20th and 21st century the sharpest and most creative minds have gone into the sciences. Edison and Einstein changed the world so much you cannot imagine the 21st century without them. In fact Edison invented the movie camera and built the first studio to produce movies. The reason Hollywood is located just north of Mexico is the people who first made movies to put it politely borrowed much of the technology needed to make movies. They wanted a location that would allow them to move to Mexico in case they were sued.
I am certain if da Vinci lived in the 21st century he would be a scientist. He was centuries ahead of his time when he drew some of the most accurate depictions of the human body produced until the early 20th century. He also drew up plans for a workable airplane and submarine hundreds of years before anyone conceived of them. He was without a doubt one of the greatest scientists of all time, but in his time creative minds went into the arts so became a sculptor.
Creative scientists have given us the ability to travel into space, to the bottom of the ocean and to every corner of this planet. They also develop technology which helps us live longer and better than the Kings and Queens did just a few hundred years ago. If you really want to be creative you’re more likely to succeed in the 21st century if you become a scientist or even an engineer.
As far as your father’s assertion that a degree in art history is a degree in unemployment he’s right.
Nevertheless, I wish you good luck, I suspect you’re going to need it.
Dear Mr. Molloy
I will be graduating next year with a degree in English literature, I would like to teach. So far I’ve been interviewed twice and both have been disasters. I wore a suit to the first interview and was told in no uncertain terms that I overdressed and would probably not fit in. In an attempt to be more casual I wore a sports jacket and a golf shirt to the second interview where I was told they expected me to be a bit more formal for the interview. I have no idea what to wear to my future interviews, can you help?
Name and Address Withheld
Dear Future Teacher:
Don’t worry, most school principals and department heads would like you to dress more formally for the interview than when you get the job. While a suit might be a bit too much for teaching today I think the sport jacket with conservative slacks, a shirt and tie would be appropriate in most places.
However, since you had such negative experiences I suggest you call the school before you show up, tell them what happened to you and ask them what they expect you to wear.