Personal Best, Professional Best
Our appearance is our expression to the world of who we are. People judge us by how we look, whether we think they ought to or not. If we want to succeed, then we need to put our best face forward.
In this lesson, you’ll learn about the importance of appearance and what it can mean for you professionally. You will also review your pre-assignment.
The Importance of Appearance
No matter what you may like to think, people judge you based on your appearance. They don’t take long to make assumptions, either. If you think that you’d like to march to the beat of your own drum and you don’t need to follow some kind of standard for the way you dress, think again. While you may think that you don’t have to iron your clothes, you can get away with not polishing your shoes, or that you can wear sneakers with your business suit, we’re here to challenge your thinking.
People who are well respected, highly trusted, and most likely to be promoted care about how they look. You shouldn’t give in to the temptation to dress according to trends (sometimes they are simply a mistake). You also don’t need to wear clothes that shout out who you are. You can dress conservatively and accessorize tastefully if you want to show that you are unique or have flair. Just do so while thinking about how people in your industry look when they achieve success.
Tips for Success
Keep it understated. While someone in a design firm is likely to dress differently than someone in a law firm, both share something in common: if you stray far from what’s considered the norm, you can be viewed as disrespectful and even as holding your employer in contempt. That won’t do much for your career. Think about making a statement that is professional and one that will be taken seriously for the work you do.
Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Always consider where you are going within the company. The image that you portray can help you meet your goals, or get in the way.
Be an ambassador. If you are wearing your company jacket outside of work, think about what you are doing. When people know that you work for a particular place, they expect certain things. If you suspect that you might do something foolish, don’t wear your company gear outside of work.
Look after your things. Although it may take an investment of time and effort, learn to look after your things. Iron like a pro and get rid of that slightly rumpled, still-in-college look. Replace it with an image that is crisp and professional. Find a tailor and have your trousers or skirts properly hemmed. (You’re spending good money on clothes as it is, so respect yourself and present yourself well.) Replace buttons if they go missing. Make sure that you are cleaning clothes according to the instructions on the label.
Footwear requires attention. Shoes need to be in good repair and clean. Don’t wear your weekend or gym sneakers even on casual days. Make sure you have a polishing kit and that you know how to look after your shoes to keep them looking like new. People notice your footwear. You can lessen your credibility significantly by wearing a nice outfit and a poor pair of shoes.
Glasses need to be clean. Long-time glasses wearers have a gift for being able to look through a pair of smudged or dirty lenses, but your customers, colleagues, and manager will notice that layer of grime. Keep a microfiber cloth handy to keep your glasses clean.
Leave sexy for another time. Workplaces take professionalism very seriously. It’s in everyone’s best interests to maintain a professional atmosphere. While you may think you look good in club wear, evening wear, or lingerie, none of these are appropriate office attire. It can also be distracting to the rest of the office. Whether we like it or not, low-cut blouses, tight pants, short skirts, see-through fabrics, poorly fitting bras, ill-fitting suit jackets, or open shirts can contribute to a poor professional impression rather than an appropriate one. At work, the goal is to create an image of competence and professionalism; leave the glamor and glitz for your evenings out.
Keep your breath fresh. Nothing is more off putting than being greeted by someone with bad breath, so make sure that you brush your teeth, floss, and get regular dental check-ups, which are huge culprits in creating bad breath. If you are a coffee drinker or have a spicy meal, make sure you have something handy to clean yourself up. And don’t rely on gum: business people should not be chewing gum in the office, in meetings, nor blowing bubbles out on the step.
Putting Others at Ease
One part of making a good impression is to become so comfortable with who you are that you can forget about you and concentrate on the other person. Have you ever been with somebody who was so unsure of themselves that they made you feel ill at ease?
In this module, we will think about how to put others at ease. You will also have the opportunity to think about your own behavior and identify areas for change.