If engineers want to be well paid, they should look at the image they present, Robert Gooden tells NCE.
Engineers tend to dress to look unthreatening, particularly those in their mid-40s and older, ' asserts Robert Gooden, managing director of specialist contractor Seacore.
'It's kind of safe, like a club - and perhaps they assume that dressing 'in character' is unthreatening to other engineers. But why is it only pensioners and engineers who wear blazers and tweed jackets?'
That kind of image is thoroughly bad for the industry, Gooden maintains. He even goes so far as to suggest that it could be one of the reasons engineers have neither the status nor the remuneration they feel they deserve.
'Dressing well isn't threatening, it is more respectful, ' he says. And he asks why, in a world where first impressions are clearly important, engineers haven't woken up to the issue. 'Other industries have moved on. If engineers want to be well paid, they should aim to look more up to date, smart, and dynamic.'
The problem is worst among contractors, he says, speculating that it results from the desire to look practical. Among the new breed of large multi-disciplinary consultants, by contrast, a growing number of engineers dress to impress. If your colleagues include project managers, cost consultants and architects, their attention to appearance is likely to rub off.
Gooden is in a good position to comment. Seacore's business cuts across both the construction and oil industries, and he has noticed a marked contrast between how civil engineers and those in the oil sector present themselves.
Execs from the oil industry support companies in Aberdeen are very smart, Gooden says. It is not an immaculate City look, he explains, 'but it fits their role and their personalities and is usually very impressive'.
It was this contrast between his own appearance and those of his oil industry clients, plus the need to mix with both groups, that encouraged Gooden to overhaul his wardrobe: 'Some of these oil guys look really smart, ' he says.
'I wanted to look good, but didn't quite know how to do it.'
He turned to a friend, fashion consultant Annabel Hodin, and asked her to take him shopping. Having been through the 'makeover' process he is delighted with the results.
Gooden now comes across as sharp and smartly dressed.
Gone are the floppy locks and what Hodin described as 'an interesting professor' look. In their place are closely cropped hair, designer glasses and a professional but quite casual look. 'I didn't know you could wear a great suit and not look like 'a suit', ' he says. But does he feel more confident?
'Without a doubt, ' he responds, unhesitatingly. In the past, he says he bought clothes item by item - and did not really consider how they worked in combination. He hadn't developed a sense of 'a look'.
And of course once you've worked out what you are trying to do, you get better at it and you can instinctively combine clothes in a more creative way.
But in Gooden's view, having someone such as Hodin to help along the way, 'definitely speeds up the process.
'There is an art to it, ' he says, 'and the clothes don't have to be super expensive. It's being able to recognise what works for you. It's not about dressing up but looking good.'
And as a bonus the makeover process has opened up new avenues for contemplation:
'How people dress and how they interact is fascinating.
Being aware of this just makes everything much more vibrant, ' Gooden enthuses.