Are You Due for a Professional Image Update?

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” may be a cliché but this one is true.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

That’s why it’s essential to develop a professional image that creates an unforgettable powerful first impression when you are about to make a presentation, attend a business meeting or appear on TV.

Find Your Personal Style

What you say is important, but often a first impression is formed by your appearance before you even begin to speak. Your personal style, or image, is a silent introduction of yourself to others. Whenever you walk into a room, your clothing, personal grooming and body language are on immediate display.

In a television interview, how you dress can enhance your talk or totally sabotage it. In his Steve Jobs biography, Walter Isaacson writes that early in his career Steve Jobs was so poorly dressed and had such poor personal grooming habits that no one wanted to work with him so he was relegated to the night shift!.

While you might argue that this kind of superficial scrutiny is insufficient to judge your professional credentials, there is no denying the power of that first impression which is actually gauged in the first three to seven seconds!

Make a Fashion Statement

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Are you a person who dresses so conservatively that you seem to disappear in a crowd? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your appearance. This is not advice to dress flamboyantly. But you can become memorable with a special look that people associate with you.

Hillary Clinton is known for her pants suits. First Lady Michelle Obama popularized the sleeveless dress. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright is known for her ever-present jewelry pin (there is even a book about them).

Men make fashion statements, too. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is invariably dressed in his hoodie. Charles Osgood was known for his bow ties. Louis Kelso, father of the ESOP, only wore navy with white polka dot bow ties. He had over a hundred of them and each one was different. While bow ties work for these two men, we don’t recommend them for TV appearances.

Think of the times you felt really good about yourself. What were you wearing? Alternatively, think about the times when you felt uncomfortable when you entered a room and saw that your attire did not compare favorably to what others were wearing. Remember, you want a personal style that fits like a favorite slipper that you step into easily and comfortably.

Build a Wardrobe That’s You

To achieve a true personal style, you need to develop an eye for what looks good on you, and then use that knowledge to build a wardrobe that lives up to the demands of the life you lead. Here are several tips:

  • Avoid passing fads. Right now a lot of women are making a fashion statement with a feather in their hair. Not you. Wild colorful patterns in men’s ties are the rage, but they do not enhance your appearance on TV or in a business meeting.  All some people remember about the 60 Minutes interview of Andrew Madoff was his weird hairstyle.
  • Stick with classic shapes and styles.  Don’t confuse classic with dull. Blazers, turtlenecks, beautiful silk blouses, and well-fitting suits are always in style.
  • Choose quality over quantity. Build a foundation of basics that you can wear year after year. Most image consultants recommend investing in at least one major piece every season. Maybe it’s a new coat or a great pair of boots.
  • Spice up your basic wardrobe. Add an item in the season’s hottest color or fabric. Have you noticed all the purple on the racks this year or that winter coats now come in a myriad of bright colors?
  • Invest in separates that can be mixed and matched. Consider building  your wardrobe around a few great suits, blazers, slacks or skirts. These can be mixed and matched, creating fresh looks distinguished by handsome looking accessories.
  • Finishing touches. Be sure your clothes are cleaned and pressed. Choose a hairstyle that adds to your image but doesn’t overwhelm you. Add accessories like a new attaché case or tote bag, or a colorful scarf to dress up your outfit.  Don’t forget that a great leather belt can make or break a suit or great dress. Update your wallet so the next time you whip it out to pay the bill it doesn’t look like it was run over by a car.
Charles Osgood

Charles Osgood

Creating a professional style doesn’t need to involve a major investment of money. You can start now by shopping the holiday sales. Stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Brooks Brothers have personal shoppers who can help you.

But a unique style does involve investing your time in looking and feeling so good about yourself that the first impression you create in someone’s mind is “this is someone I want to know!”

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