For Heaven’s Sake, It’s Winter and This is Canada

CPC Career Professionals of Canada News

Pack Credibility with Warm Clothes when Heading for Cold Climes

During a winter trip to Edmonton, I was driving in blustery conditions watching drivers cautiously manoeuvre their cars around parked vehicles. Close by, bundled-up commuters jammed into bus stop shelters ready to hop on public transportation. On a nearby snow-packed sidewalk was a man gripping a Starbuck’s cup with his bare hands. This young man – I’m guessing a professional in his 30’s – sported a white shirt and tie, pants neatly pressed, and smooth-soled shoes – and that’s it. No winter coat – not even a suit coat or sports jacket. No hat, gloves, or boots. Even though the temperature was a freezing minus 36 degrees, I thought, “Buying a jacket at a thrift shop would have cost him less than that Grande Starbuck’s Latte!”

Of course, if you are out and about this winter – meeting with clients, performing workshops, and networking – you don’t want to get stuck in a blizzard with only a cup of java to keep you warm.

To do your research before tackling the cold climes:

  • Check for weather reports online and in the media before you start packing your clothes.
  • Contact colleagues who live where you’re going and quiz them on what clothes you should bring. It’s also a great way to warm up your friendships before your visit.

Then pack these etiquette essentials—

  • Warm boots that cover your feet completely
  • Winter coat, the thicker the better
  • Winter hat and/or wool scarf to cover your head and ears
  • Heavy gloves (thin ones won’t cut it)
  • Umbrella (protects you against rain and snowfall)
  • Sun glasses to deal with winter sun glare

In fact, heeding these tips will do more than keep you cozy. They will actually improve your personal and professional image, and here’s why.

“Clothes are a tool you use to control how others react to you and how they treat you,” wrote the famous image consultant John Molloy in his best-selling book Dress for Success. In that context, consider my comments about the jacketless young man outside in an Edmonton blizzard. I reacted to his dress by surmising that he valued buying coffee more than being warm. Clearly, I didn’t give him much credibility based on his image of someone not wise enough to wear a coat in a blizzard.

What if we saw a workshop leader dressed in a mini-skirt and a lightweight coat slipping on an icy sidewalk in her high heels? We would probably react by thinking, “If she didn’t have enough good judgment to dress property for below-zero temperatures, how on-target would her workshops be? They’d also be clouded by poor judgment.” The image she created would have eroded her credibility as a professional. We might also surmise that “If she doesn’t have smarts to prepare her dress properly, she’s probably hasn’t prepared her presentation well either. How can we trust her information?”

In contrast, if she’d showed up wearing the etiquette essentials noted above, we’d afford her messages more credibility because we’d perceive that “she has it all together.” Do you see how wearing the right clothes for a situation gives you more control of your personal and professional image in the eyes of others?

That’s why when traveling in the land of snow and blizzards, it’s best to pack wisely. And, when you do, you sandwich lots of credibility between your winter clothing essentials.

Margaret Page, a Vancouver-based etiquette and protocol consultant, helps professionals adopt business etiquette to advance their careers and keep them out of the cold. Margaret is a founding member of Career Professionals of Canada’s Organizational Learning and Development Initiative and sits on the board as the Professional Image and Etiquette Adviser. She can be reached at or Margaret(at) or 604.741.1866.

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