Have You Outgrown Your Professional Wardrobe?

Posted by in Career Success | 3 comments

This is a guest post by Nick Christian who works with college students to discover and reach their career goals as a Director of Career Services. You can follow him on his blog at christiannick.com or on Twitter


Working with college students, I tend to hear a lot of great, creative terms.

One such term is “schmedium.” It is used to describe shirts of students in denial they are still growing (this is usually men, but women can be guilty as well).

popping buttons

Photo Credit: Richard Ayers

As many college students often get free shirts, these maturing students continue to request size small shirts that, once worn a couple times, are well stretched to fit their now medium physiques.

Unfortunately, it is very obvious that they are wearing a shirt that is too small. It’s not a pretty sight.

This may be how you feel in your work. Perhaps you have grown professionally so that your current responsibilities no longer fit you well.

Or you have had to take on extra responsibilities over the years that never were a great fit, but you had the ability to do them and so they were assigned to you.

Only now that your organization has recovered (or maybe it hasn’t), so many extra duties have been piled on that you can no longer concentrate on those that use your strengths.

Either way, over time, that shirt that did not fit has become comfortable. It has become well stretched.

You realize by wearing it, you are no longer looking the best. Perhaps the gaps between the buttons are getting bigger or the extra rolls are beginning to show.

Either way, there is no denying that the shirt no longer fits.

There are a lot of studies that have found those ill-fitting day job are dangerous to your health.

They could also negatively affect your professional growth, relationships, income potential, and more.

For your health and your future, you need to get rid of the “schmediums” in your professional wardrobe.

How to move up a shirt size?

1. Change your mindset. Just like the college guys were in denial that the shirts no longer fit them, you may be in denial that a change is needed. At some point, as painful as it is, you will need to accept the fact that you no longer wear a size small. You are ready for a size medium. Don’t feel bad. Enjoy the fact that your skills and knowledge have increased!

2. Throw out what doesn’t fit. This is definitely the hardest thing to do. You have a lot of shirts that are very comfortable, even though they don’t really fit. You say you love them, but the truth is they have simply become comfortable and you are afraid you will never find another shirt as comfortable. Fear not! Soon enough, your new shirts that fit appropriately will be your favorites.

3. Find the right size. You may need to try on a few new things to find what really fits you now. Volunteer or seek out projects at work that will allow you to use new skills. Maybe you have jumped a couple shirt sizes. Regardless, don’t be afraid to try new things. Yes, it will be a little uncomfortable at first. In the long run you will be able to present yourself better. You will no longer be trying to squeeze into ill-fitting clothes.

4. Continue updating your wardrobe. Dan Miller of 48 Days fame encourages his listeners to cut 15% of their responsibilities each year. Why? To make room, in both time and mental capacity, for new ideas and opportunities. If you are still trying to squeeze into too-small shirts, you will stop  growing professionally because your wardrobe won’t stretch anymore. Rejuvenate yourself by continuously clearing out the old to make room for the new.


Is your professional closet full of “schmediums”? What do you need to clean out or get rid of? What can you add to update your professional wardrobe?

  • Thanks for hosting me today, Adam!

    • My pleasure Nick. Thanks for your great post.

  • Pingback: How to get it all done | Christian: Nick()

  • Dave Unger


    You have a good concept, but honestly I had a hard time following you through bullet points 1 – 4.

    The first two stuck with metaphorical language about shirt sizes and I started to lose the connection between shirts and work responsibilities. The last two shifted almost entirely to concretely talking about new projects, new skills, and sloughing off old responsibilities.

    I think your ideas would have come across more clearly if you had focused on the metaphor at the beginning for about a third of the content and then shifted cleanly to focusing on new skills, projects, etc. for the remainder of the article. Mixing the two throughout the entire article was confusing, at least to me.

    Your guest post intrigued me enough to check out your own site. You’ve got a lot of solid content. You post frequently, which is great. I look forward to seeing you grow as a writer.