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“I Got My First Job by Wearing a Suit”

I was chatting with an older gentleman the other day at a bar and he told me the fascinating story of getting his first job as a ground’s keeper for a cemetery. The same job eventually transitioned into him running the entire cemetery. He eventually retired after 27 years having had a successful and satisfying career, but if there is one thing I gleaned from his story it was how he got the job in the first place.

man showing his preparedness by dressing in a suit See, his dad always wanted him to work on Wall Street. He figured that was where the money was and so being the good son that he was he put on a suit and went down for an interview. After the interview was over, he knew that wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to work outside, not be stuck in an office all day.

On his way back home, he decided to stop by a bar and have a drink, (something he still enjoys doing based on our meeting place). Half way through a cold beer he hears a commotion across the street, a few guys start crowding around. So, he asks the bartender what’s causing all the hubbub.

“They’re giving away jobs over there”

Interesting. He was in the market for a job. Without knowing what it pays or what it is he goes over and sees what it’s all about. As he heads across the street, he finds out it’s a grounds keeping job. Now he is one of tens of guys there trying to get it, all just as capable as the other of doing the work.

Without any prompting, the guy doing the hiring stares at him. He had yet to say a word. The hiring manager said, “Hey you in the suit, you want a job?”.


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And that was it, he had a job. No interview, no credentials, no references, he was hired solely on the fact that he wore a suit when no one else did. That job would grow from managing the grounds to managing a team of 120 people to run a cemetery. Not the most glamorous job, but at least business was never dead. It was a job that he took pride in and did well, and it was all because he just so happened to be wearing a suit that day.

I thought about this most of the night. As a digital worker, many of the clients I work with I never see, nor do they ever see me. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder, what is the equivalent of showing up wearing a suit? What is thing that before they read your bio, see your awards and certifications, or see your work for past clients, makes people already want to give you the job? Is there even an equivalent?

Being that how you engage with your clients can be so varied (calls, email, in person meetings, etc.), I decided that there probably isn’t one thing that could be regarded as a replacement. So, I decided to look at the “spirit of the suit” or what qualities it represents and can be conveyed instantly by its appearance. I settled on two qualities, preparedness and initiative.

These are two qualities if displayed right out the gate, before anyone has a chance to look at your resume, hear your pitch, or see your work, fill your potential client with confidence that you can do the job. So, what can you do to display them?


Charts on a table showing being preparedWhen that man from the bar meeting appeared up in a suit, he showed that he was ready to demonstrate why he was a good fit for the job. He showed that he was serious about the position, that he would act professionally, and be ready to discuss the details of the job.

Pitching a job to a client should be the same. Make sure that you are prepared for that meeting. Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Have I researched the client and their industry?
  • which of my services they are contacting me for?
  • What are some of the questions they might ask?
  • How can I help this client?
  • What are some ways I can improve their marketing strategies?
  • Do I have all the necessary paperwork to send them if we do close this deal?

Asking yourself these questions can help you fine tune your discussion with the client. Being prepared shows that you value their time and that from the get-go, their time (and your time) is important and not something you want to waste by not having your act together.  Be willing to share with your client any research you may find about them or their industry, that way they can see you have a personal interest in their success and are a professional person to work with.


Shaking hands showing the initiative The suit shows initiative. He didn’t wait for anyone to tell him how to dress. He went with his best and that made him stand out. The same can be true when meeting new clients. Don’t have them set the expectation, set it yourself and set it to the best you can do. Doing this at the beginning will show your willingness to go above and beyond. Wearing the suit for a grounds keeping job may seem like doing more than you need to, after all you definitely won’t need the suit for the job, but it shows that he was putting his best foot forward. He was going above what he had to do or was expected.

Be surprisingly exceptional in how well you are prepared. Communicate with and care about the client. It’s something that people can’t help but recognize. How many restaurant reviews  talk about customer service before they ever talk about how the food? So, start your meetings off right and everything else will follow. “Wearing the suit” can set the right tone for your meetings to close a sale.

What if I don’t have a suit?

You may wonder, what if you don’t have a “suit”? That something that shows your initiative or how prepared you are. To which I would say then dress your best. You may not always be able to get all the information you need to wow a client or know exactly what strategies you can use to help them. But going with something is better than nothing. There is no shame in going in not knowing, but if you never tried in the first place how can you show that you are giving it your best?

No matter how small it is, bring something. Even if that is a quick google search before an impromptu meeting. Arm yourself with information. If nothing else, your client will see that even when things don’t work in your favor you work with them anyway. In marketing you want the most reliable person not the most sensational. So, separate yourself from all the other people that don’t prepare or show initiative, and wow your clients off the bat. You might find that coming in your suit gets you hired on the spot.

Written by: Taj Royer

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