Dress to impress

Like it or not, people are judged on the way they look. And
in the workplace, it is vital to make sure you project the right image

Your personal image should represent your key values and convey your personal
PR and marketing message before you have even said a word.

In a competitive workplace environment, the ability to consistently make a
positive impression on your colleagues and your boss is essential. We all judge
other people – sub-consciously and consciously – on their professionalism,
capability, sincerity, credibility and the like, and we do so within a very
short space of time. The bad news is that people tend to judge us, too.

Studies show that we actually judge people within five seconds of meeting
them, and we then add to or amend that first impression in the next five
seconds. It can take around 21 encounters with that person to change the
initial first impression, so do not underestimate those first 10 seconds – they
can set you apart from the next person.

The way we package and present ourselves as a whole – including personal
appearance, body language, voice quality, attitude and behaviour – plays a
large part in how others judge us, and only 7 per cent of the first impression
we make is based on the words we use.

In today’s busy environment, lack of time means we rely more than ever on
intuition for those quick decisions. In this commercial world people buy
people, not companies. So if you want to maximise your chances of greater
exposure, promotion and earnings potential, it makes sense to pay attention to
the elements you will be judged on.

We are more likely to believe what we see rather than what we hear. Even if
we are hearing great things, if the non-verbal communication does not match
with the words we tend to go with what our eyes tell us. In other words, great
words do not make up for a poor appearance.

It is also worth remembering that research across a large number of
organisations shows there are three basic factors that determine your chances
of promotion: your ability to do the task (10 per cent), the way you behave
when carrying out the task (30 per cent) and your exposure and visibility (60
per cent).

A powerful personal brand and a positive visual image will make you
memorable for all the right reasons and set you apart from the crowd.

My top tips for dressing to impress are:

– Be consistent – identify some of your personal brand values and make sure
you reflect them all of the time. This includes dress-down days. For example,
if creativity is a large part of your character, then allow it to show in your
visual image through your choice of accessories, and by avoiding conservative

– Dress appropriately – gauge what is right for the audience’s expectations,
the occasion and your meeting or presentation objectives

– Be aware of your most flattering styles and colours – get help from an
image expert if necessary; it will be a worthwhile investment.

– Pay attention to detail – use well-chosen accessories, such as jewellery,
cufflinks, watches, spectacles, bags, ties and scarves. Keep shoes
well-maintained, and avoid loose hems or threads hanging down from your
clothes. Remove pet hairs and stains – they always get noticed and will let
your overall appearance down

– Get a good fit – no matter how much time and money you spend on your
clothes, if they don’t fit well, you will have wasted all your efforts

– Groom to perfection – this is the icing on the cake.

If you want to move up in your career, don’t let your personal image get in
the way of projecting your true qualities and abilities. If a picture paints a
thousand words, what is your image saying about you?

Lesley Everett is the author of Walking TALL – Key steps to total image
impact, (McGraw-Hill, £10.99), and co-author of The Image Iceberg Tips Booklet.


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