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Dressing up to avoid the public service axe

Public servants must remember basic dress sense and interpersonal skills if they want to beat the competition, Canberra stylist Lizzy Wagner says.

Public servants must remember basic dress sense and interpersonal skills if they want to beat the competition, Canberra stylist Lizzy Wagner says.

Pop stars like Justin Bieber have one and now public servants should turn themselves into a personal brand if they want to survive, says an experienced Canberra image consultant.

Stylist Lizzie Wagner has a secret client list made up of business people and, because she is based in the territory, politicians.

She has the job of telling round men to wear clothes with vertical stripes and larger patterns on their ties and informing the uneducated to sport maroon, not pink, when they're walking into a power meeting.

Style consultant Lizzie Wagner in her Jerrabomberra office.

Style consultant Lizzie Wagner in her Jerrabomberra office. Photo: Gary Schafer

“Maroon shows that you will be around forever,” she said.

As thousands of federal bureaucrats face job cuts and a labour market filled with former colleagues made redundant, Ms Wagner said public servants must remember basic dress sense and interpersonal skills if they want to beat the competition.

This meant polishing shoes, making sure there are no pie splodges from yesterday's lunch on your shirt and, for women, not wearing skirts above knee height.

“To go up in the public service today you need to stand out,” she said.

“You want someone healthy and fit with a good work-life balance.

“This is the message sent by Tony Abbott and Barack Obama when they wear those very fitted suits – it says we can take care of ourselves and we can take care of the country.

“There's huge competition in the public service and it shouldn't come down to the way people dress but it does.

“People do not understand they need to brand themselves.

“A lot of people look around the workplace, look at middle management, and then dress below.

“It's not good enough to say, 'well I don't deal with the public', because you're dealing with your colleagues.”

In her words, it even meant avoiding the heating up of an offensive smelling lunch in the microwave and eating it in a small cubicle surrounded by colleagues.

It is an example she gives to drive home the point professional boundaries needed to be maintained at work, crossed potentially at the person's own peril.

“Your work colleagues are not your best friends,” Ms Wagner said.

Basic etiquette in the workplace as well as at home and online is receiving a refresher with The Agony of Modern Manners airing on the ABC in early April.

29 comments so far

  • And if you ensure your desk is facing a northerly position, it will improve feng shui and give you a greater chance of promotion.

    Commenter
    Te-berra-ble
    Location
    Berra
    Date and time
    March 31, 2014, 3:32PM
    • Unlike some other workplaces, a public servant and his or her work is valued for its substance, not 'image'. We're not employed by how pretty we look because we have value beyond how we appear. 'Image' by definition is what people offer when reality isn't sufficient.

      Commenter
      Southernresident
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 3:35PM
      • It used to be that if you had a job in the public service you stayed there for life... but not anymore.

        This article is a timely reminder that you do need to present yourself well to get a job and keep it, the days of having your job for life are over.

        Now those ex public servants may have to face life in the real world and in the real world presentation counts. If you cant take care of yourself how are you going to take care of the job?

        Commenter
        Megg
        Location
        ACT
        Date and time
        March 31, 2014, 10:08PM
    • No need to pay your hard earned cash to a style consultant. Men - wash under your armpits; Ladies - shave those legs!!

      Commenter
      Wally of Monash
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 3:41PM
      • +

        Commenter
        Akari
        Date and time
        March 31, 2014, 4:00PM
    • "making sure there are no pie splodges from yesterday's lunch on your shirt"

      perhaps a clean shirt daily would be best.

      Commenter
      Blue
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 3:57PM
      • I was somewhat surprised to read something written a "style consultant" implying wearing yesterday's shirt was OK ...

        Commenter
        Mike
        Date and time
        March 31, 2014, 9:25PM
    • When the job market gets tight it is time to watch the snake oil sales increase. Circle of Life as we go through it again.

      Commenter
      I'm impressed
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 4:01PM
      • Methinks Ms Wagner is trying to take advantage of insecurities by promoting her business to benefit herself. No doubt she's never worked in the public service herself because I'm sure if she did she'd realise it's what you know and who you know that counts the most, not what you wear. I'm sure they all shower daily, & brush their hair and their teeth every morning and wear clean clothing.

        Commenter
        Felix
        Location
        ACT
        Date and time
        March 31, 2014, 4:04PM
        • Shouldnt Public Servents avoiding the axe be based on performance and quality of work??? oops i was think about the real world for a second. Guess this doesnt matter in fantasy land.

          Commenter
          bob
          Location
          Kambah
          Date and time
          March 31, 2014, 4:18PM

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