Does Your High School Yearbook Photo Hold a Clue to Who You Are Now?

As the last New York Mayoral race was heating up, candidates had to undergo scrutiny, not only for their points of view about public policy but also for their personal images.

The Daily News chose a novel way to spotlight the candidates in a story that included photos of them in their high school yearbooks.


What Their Photos Said

The political reporter Adam Edelman had called Joyce Newman for her opinion, as an image consultant and presentation coach, about whether these high school photos could offer clues about who would become New York’s 109th mayor.

Obviously, the Daily News was having some fun with the story that asked, “Weren’t They Cute?” After studying the photos, Joyce was happy to help with her analysis of each candidate’s potential as the next mayor, although only two of her quotes were included in the story for lack of space. But you can read all her predictions for several of the Mayoral candidates based on their high school photos in the attached PDF.

Staying Relevant

That exercise led Joyce to thinking once again about how important personal image is for success in business.

Every single one of us is working to stay relevant in a world that is changing constantly because of new technologies and ways of doing business. Can you imagine using an overhead projector today?

You may remember using real slides and bulky projectors – it wasn’t that long ago – but many new professionals have never even heard of a slide carousel.

Those men and women who are tied to their looks from high school and college are ridiculed behind their backs and it’s hurting their personal images and careers.

Lower Your Pants

No, not all the way, of course! I had a client who literally was wearing his pants almost under his armpits – the vision of a New Yorker cartoon. After he saw himself on video, he understood how outdated he looked in his rumpled suits and eyeglasses from his student days at Harvard.

Joyce advised him to hire a stylist to help him create a more contemporary look. They went shopping together and he bought several new suits and new eyeglasses. He became quite the clotheshorse.

His company was also adopting a more contemporary approach to business so his timing was perfect. Everyone noticed how much he had changed. It’s never too late to become hip.

Even one item of clothing can label you as old fashioned – like wearing “space shoes.” Hairstyles change. Are you still wearing your hair the way you did in high school or college?

The new look for women’s hair is long and straight, but it’s not right for everyone. Very long hair could overwhelm a petite woman with a small face. Remember that you’re establishing your own personal style.

Bright blue eye shadow will attract the wrong kind of attention, as will shoes with peds sticking out, or a man’s bare calf showing when he crosses his leg.

Who would have thought that rimless eyeglasses would start to look old fashioned? The contemporary look is larger glasses with colored or titanium frames. The online retailer Warby Parker doesn’t have a single pair of rimless eyeglass online or in its several brick-and-mortar stores.

For years, we cautioned against wearing dark frames for TV appearances, but the other day a guest on “60 Minutes” wore glasses with red plastic frames that made her look edgy and up-to-date.

Your Personal Image is Everywhere

Your personal image travels with you everywhere. You want to have a consistent, contemporary look whether you are delivering a presentation, participating in a media interview, or filling out your social media profile. First impressions do count.

Joyce Newman image and presentation coach
Joyce Newman’s H.S. yearbook photo

The Internet has become a permanent archive of our personal and professional lives. Some experts would argue that there is no longer a distinction between the two. They may be right when everything you post on your personal and professional social networks is available for the world to see.

Go back and look at your photos in your high school yearbook. Do they offer clues about who you are today?

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  1. Wonderful information! Three things came to mind. First is the fact that the higher up someone is on the corporate ladder, the better their appearance is. (This doesn’t mean, of course, that all CEOs are sights to behold.) Then there are these two expressions: “First impressions are lasting impressions” and “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I loved your photo. I wish we went to the same high school. I would have asked you to both proms!

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The Newman Group is a recognized leader in guiding business professionals, celebrities and authors to improve their communications skills in presentations and media interviews.

Our highly skilled and experienced professionals have the expertise in media and presentation training to meet any business situation — from helping an executive to prepare for the challenge of talking to a reporter during a business crisis to presenting a group of investors during an IPO or keeping a celebrity spokesperson on point.