The Reasoning Behind OBT’s Dress Code
Lots of you are probably wondering why we have such a strict dress code! There are hundreds of other programs that can teach young people office skills without making them dress in business attire. You’re right. But that’s all they give them – skills. They are not OBT. They don’t instill in them the values that are one of the most important parts of becoming a professional.
When we demand that our trainees dress according to OBT standards, we take them out of their comfort zone. They look in the mirror that first day of classes and most don’t recognize themselves. It’s our job to help them become comfortable and to understand the purpose of the changes they are making. And to have them know that we, their instructors and mentors, truly believe in that purpose too.
Little by little we will see the changes – when they have to take responsibility for washing out dress socks, or making sure they have a clean and pressed shirt every day, or taking the Smurf blue coloring out of their hair and off their nails, and remembering to take out piercings and headphones before walking through the door.
This is the discipline settling in.
Next comes the confidence – we start to see the primping in the mirror – making sure the tie knots are straight and the skirts are pulled down to an appropriate length. Our trainees are really starting to care about their appearance. They feel good about what they are doing and want to look the part. They see that the people in their neighborhoods are looking at them and treating them differently. Their families and friends recognize that they are making positive changes in their lives and everyone is looking at them with respect. Including that new person looking back at them in the mirror.
All the while, professionalism is simmering. Everyone has an ID badge and is scanning in and out on a timekeeping system. Everyone is getting “paid’ every two weeks. Everyone is aware of the importance of good attendance punctuality and how it makes for a reliable employee. And everyone is optimistic that all the hard work they’ve done is going to pay off with that perfect job or acceptance in the college of their choice.
So, why do we have to follow the same dress code and wear ID badges every day? It’s very simple. Because we are the role models; we set the example. We can’t send a young man who isn’t clean shaven out to buy a razor when we are sporting our own two-day stubble. We can’t tell a young lady that her skirt is to short or her pants too tight, when our own skirt was too short or our pants too tight yesterday. And we can’t expect them to speak respectfully to us or to each other, when we are not practicing what we preach.
As changemakers, we must own this philosophy and act as ambassadors of OBT’s mission. Through our embodiment and commitment to OBT’s principles, we can help our trainees build a better life for themselves one step at a time.