What would the media say about your professional image?
The run for Presidential office has taken a turn. A shift from the pressing issues of the economy and global warming to the significance of Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s shiny black boots! Of course, this focus on fashion is a direct attempt at fellow Republican opponents to sway public opinion to believe Rubio is a weaker candidate for wearing more effeminate, fancy shoes.
The media is also noting Hillary Clinton’s style evolution. Her once colorful array of suits seem to have been packed away in preference toward muted suits of black and navy. This appears to be a deliberate attempt at drawing attention away from what she is wearing and direct attention to what she is saying.
Whether these strategies to distract voters works, will be determined during primary season. However, the notions begs the conversation of how important “dressing for the occasion” is to making a first and lasting impression.
Whether we like it or not, it is human nature to judge others based on how they appear. Surf the web and you will find countless stories about how the person in a suit or polished outfit was given preferential treatment over the person in sweat pants and a t-shirt. A client recently shared an experience with me. She approached the admissions desk of a school to inquire about a class. She was mistaken for a teacher instead of a student because of her professional attire. This is an example of how others judge you based based on how you appear.
To enhance our professional image, we want others to talk or maybe even not talk about how we appear versus being the topic of viral social media mocking for a fashion faux-pas.
Here are Five tips to ensure your professional image garners positive feedback from your peers:
- Dress for your industry – Different industries call for various styles of dress. Are you in the financial industry? Suits or looks with jackets or sports coats should be your go-to look. Creative arena or academia? This is a more casual environment. Feel free to take some style liberties by adding a pop of color or prints to your wardrobe! Politicians, keep it conservative or risk a “Boot-Gate” situation like Senator Rubio of your own!
- Let’s talk Tailoring – Clothing is cut and designed for very specific measurements. Most (myself included!) do not fit into this cookie-cutter fashion world! What are we to do? Please go see a tailor! I have seen many a shredded pant bottom drag on the floor or sport coat just hanging off the shoulders. Hemming pants, nipping at the waist, shortening arm lengths are all standard alterations that can dramatically transform a look and ultimately a first impression in seconds! Your intention might be to dress up for the occasion, however if items are ill-fitting, the interpretation can be the complete opposite! So add this line item to your yearly budget!
- Ladies, look out for distractions – At a recent networking function, some colleagues were chiming in on what a prospect was wearing, or rather not wearing to their business lunch. The goal of networking is to leave a great impression that turns into a lasting relationship. This woman did that alright, however for the wrong reasons! One even suggested that they would not feel comfortable introducing her to their clients. Success Tip: Dressing up for work is not the same as dressing up for an evening on the town! We want to be respected for our intellectual assets (knowledge and hard work). Not for our physical assets, unless of course you are a trainer at a gym! Ladies, please consider skirt lengths to hit just above the knee. Cleavage or a too tight blouse is never ok. Invest in camisoles or layering tank tops to cover up and please do not worry about buying the next size up! Size does not matter when the item fits and flatters your body and brings the focus back to your message.
- Men – Groom or Doom! To shave, trim or brush – that is the question, you should address every morning. While there are many areas that the eye can fall on a woman, for men, typically the eyes are drawn to your face first! There is nothing worse than working so hard preparing for an interview or presentation and you blow it because your beard is unruly or the audience on the other end if fixated on a random hair peeking out of your nose! Take a few minutes after you shower to take and look in the mirror to take care of those stray distractors. Success Tip: While you are at it, add a bit of moisturizer to your face. Moisturizer hydrates your skin so it looks more smooth and youthful. A separate moisturizer or lotion should be applied to your hands daily. You want your handshake to be remembered for its confidence, not dry, scaly skin!
- Make sure your online presence and in-person presence match – To be successful in business today, maintaining both an online and in-person profile is crucial. I suggest every professional have and maintain a LinkedIn page. This social media giant is the most popular site among the B2B community. Consider this your online resume. Maintain this page as you would maintain your self. Whether someone is meeting you online or in person, your appearance should be consistent. No excuses. Have a great headshot, update your experiences, ask for recommendations to build credibility and lastly incorporate key search words in your profile to be SEO friendly.
“These boots were made for walkin’” sang Nancy Sinatra in her 1966 hit. Apparently Rubio’s $135 Florsheim boots were unintentionally worn for voting too! How will you appear the next time you want to influence others?