It’s true, most of us are blessed to live in a country where we are free to wear whatever we choose.  But with that freedom comes the responsibility of knowing what’s appropriate for the job, our role and the events we need to attend.  To disregard any written, implied or silent cultural appearance codes and you may find yourself considering self-employment.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m the first person to tell you that the way you dress is not the most important aspect of your professional image.  Equally important is your:

  • self-esteem and confidence
  • Attitude and integrity
  • respect for others
  • ability to perform the job well
  • communication skills
  • body language and
  • reputation

However, the way you visually present yourself can and will at times, outweigh all of the above.

Why? Because people believe what we see.

We take the outer appearance of a person to be a reflection of their values, attitudes, status and abilities.  In fact, regardless of how glowing a person’s reputation, documented successes, experiences, testimonies or how enthusiastic and intelligent their conversation, if their visual presentation is below the expected level, everything they have been informed about the person will be viewed as embellished at best, or a lie at worst.

Simply put, your appearance (clothes and grooming) is your ‘visual resume’. It will either create and support your reputation as a trustworthy, capable professional or undermining it.  When one does not support the other, people will always believe the evidence before their eyes.

Professional image, Image Innovators, Ann Reinten, My Private Stylist, Image Innovators, Professional dress

When I speak within organisations, I ask ‘how many have ever interviewed candidates for a position?’ To those who and ‘I have’, I ask, have you ever walked into the reception area to get the next candidate only to be confronted by someone who visually did not cut it and then found yourself thinking – “dam! this is going to be another waste of 30 mins!”.  Instantly, and often without realizing it, the candidate has substantially reduced their chances of getting the position purely through their presentation. Somehow, in their tiny window of opportunity they are going to have to produce something outstanding if they are to turn things around.  

Likewise, the opposite is true.  An interviewer can glance upon the next hopeful and instantly feel positive about the possible outcome of the next interview given their polished and confident appearance.  Their mind slips into “I like this person, this one may just the one” mode.   

Psychologists have a term for this process, it’s called the ‘horns and halo effect’. Once an initial judgement has been made the tendency is to lock onto what we believe and lock out anything to the contrary.

In a nutshell your appearance is important, and when it is less than expected the results can cost you dearly in:

  • employment opportunities
  • potential income
  • promotions and job opportunities
  • respect and authority
  • personal branding

Here’s a professional makeover – I think you’ll agree that after the makeover it’s easier to believe the candidate’s potential, ability, people skills, executive income level and leadership capabilities.

Professional image, Image Innovators, Ann Reinten, My Private Stylist, Image Innovators, Professional dress
Source

So, how far should this be taken?  Designer clothes, latest fashions, having to be perfectly groomed?

Nope, the truth is it’s far easier and achievable than you may expect.

What’s Most Important 

To most employers THE most important thing to them is the value/revenue you bring to the business from the work you do.  Many consider this to be three times what they pay you.  The second most important thing is your ability to get along with others and act as a valuable and contributing team member. The third is that you are able to be relied upon to consistently represent their organization in a professional and positive manner during all contact you have with clients, customers and the general public.

YOU are after all, the human face of the organization you represent. Multitudes of thousands of dollars are spent creating and maintaining a company’s brand.  From their mission statement to their logo, website, building facade, foyer and advertising.  You, as their representative are their human interface and as such it is important that you are an asset in doing so.  This DOES NOT mean designer clothes, the latest fashion or high salon styling.  What an employer expects is for you to do the best with what you’ve got.  No more, no less. This means figure flattering, current clothes, well-coordinated and in colors that tell the world you’re a professional with your mind on the job at hand. 

Great Grooming = Confidence

Often, even more important than your clothes is your grooming. It reveals to the world how you feel about yourself and your mood. Those with a good level of self-esteem take the time to care for their appearance through: 

  • Clean well-styled hair
  • Nails and teeth clean and cared for
  • Well applied classic make-up  
  • Clean clothes in good repair
  • Well maintained accessories and shoes

Professional image, Image Innovators, Ann Reinten, My Private Stylist, Image Innovators, Professional dress, Professional Grooming Source

Appropriate and Polished = Professional Awareness

Like grooming the clothes, you chose to wear, and the way they are coordinated will set the tone for how you will be perceived and treated.

To gain the best perception your clothes should be:

  • Current: in-tune with today.  Your suit may be a classic style and ten years old but your accessories and/or the color of your blouse is in vogue this season.
  • Tailored: consisting of simple shapes and fitted lines.
  • Well-coordinated: easy on the eye and keeping the focus on you rather than what you are wearing.
  • Appropriate: for your age, figure, job and position.

Visual Attitude = Likeabilty

As the saying goes, “you’re never fully dressed without a smile“.  After everything is said and done, no matter what your clothes look like ultimately, it’s your face that connects most with people.  Eye contact, a genuine smile and even a nod of acknowledgement will open others up to you and create instant rapport.

Professional image, Image Innovators, Ann Reinten, My Private Stylist, Image Innovators, Professional dress

Some Absolute No Nos

  • Too short: more than 5cms /2″ above the knee
  • Too plunging: showing bust cleavage
  • Too tight: any garment
  • See through: any garment
  • Dirty: hair, nails teeth
  • Soiled/ stained/ torn: clothes
  • Make-up: too much
  • Hair: weird colors or styles
  • Inappropriate clothes: for weight or age

Even on a Budget

All of the above can be accomplished even by university leavers on a tiny budget or those returning to work after years of unemployment.  Grooming is a simple matter and takes just a few minutes a day.

Great clothes can be purchased inexpensively through many retail stores as well as second hand and consignment stores.  Organisations like Fitted for Work or Dressed for Success help women for interviews and work by providing them with free outfits. 

A smile and friendly nod of acknowledgement costs nothing but the willingness and awareness to do so.

Need a Little Help?      

My Private Stylist is a perfect program to set you on the right track in regards to what suits you.  It’s a web-based, personal style program that allows you to input details about your body shape, height, weight and age.  Based on your unique physical profile, a custom style program is created covering every aspect of what does and doesn’t suit you and why. It includes styling for everyday and professional wear.

Image innovators supports image consultants around the globe who can help you get to where you need to be.

All you need to do is take the first step.

  1. So glad you’re back, happy you enjoyed your time in Japan. I wish. looking forward to all your new posts.

  2. Really enjoyed your post and would like to follow with all your posts!

  3. Hi Ann- thank you so much for this post- it is an absolutely essential one and I love the way you communicate all this!

  4. Thanks Ann, One thing I am noticing is that Office attire has relaxed significantly in the last 5 years or so. Much of what people wear to work today would have been considered inappropriate not that long ago. I struggle with looking professional but also not looking over dressed compared to my colleagues. Cheers Victoria

    1. Sadly you are correct Victoria. I would be interested to know what industry you are in.

  5. I always enjoy your posts, I have picked up so many tips and tricks from them. Japan is on my wish list.

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