Opinion: What’s the point of professionalism?

Lindsay Bookout

Abbi Pittman

Lindsay BookoutAs a news reporter for The Appalachian, I am required to conduct interviews where I’m expected to dress professionally, especially when meeting with university faculty.

When my editor first told this, I was not surprised. That wasn’t a new concept – of course we should look professional.

But then I started thinking about it.

Why do we have to dress up? Why do we all have to look the same?

My whole life, I have been told to be myself. It took a while to figure out who “myself” was, but now that I’ve got it, it has been fun so far.

So it seems strange that in college, where we are supposed to further “find” ourselves, I’ve been asked to dress professionally more than any other time in my life.

But I don’t understand why looking professional is such a big deal. Regardless of what I’m wearing, I’m going to be the same person underneath. Wearing professional clothes just hides my personality for the five seconds before I open my mouth.

This summer, I worked for a company called Vector, where I sold Cutco knives.

For my interview, I had to dress professionally.

So I borrowed my sister’s clothes.

At training, which I was required to dress up for, I found myself among other 18- to 21-year-olds in ties, dresses, heels and everything else that looks ridiculous on anyone under 30.

It all seemed fake. And it was. None of these people acted professional, but since they looked it, they demanded some kind of respect.

Now, I’m rarely a professional person. I don’t see the point of it. I’ve only got one life to live, and I want to do it having fun and being myself.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I would never show up to a professional setting in sweatpants and a big t-shirt. I’ll wear something that I consider presentable.

But regardless of how I choose to present myself, I should not be judged for a job, or anything else, based on my clothing.

Why should I have to conform to a superficial idea of what success looks like? What should matter is the work a person does and the effort that he or she puts into it, not what he or she wears.

Besides, I’m too busy being myself to bother with heels and dress pants.

Bookout, a sophomore English and French major from Charlotte, is a news reporter.