At an event I attended recently for my daughter, I was chatting with another parent who is an administrator at a prominent local hospital. Between discussing braces, soccer and upcoming summer plans, we actually got around to talking about non-kid topics. I asked how work was going and he mentioned that he was swamped because in addition to seeing patients, he also was in the process of trying to fill an open position on his staff. When I asked him how it was going, his answer verified something I know to be true… IMAGE MATTERS.
This man told me how they had searched and searched for a qualified candidate and he was excited, but also nervous about someone they found that might be great. The candidate had a really good resume and the appropriate experience, but the problem was “she looked pretty disheveled.” Even though he liked her, he was worried the rest of his staff would not go for it based on her appearance. He went on to tell me that he knew the candidate was a busy mom and as a dad he gets how hectic it can be, but this was a reflection of the candidate’s judgement about the way she presented herself for the interview.
Even though this dad was someone I knew through our kids, I am quite certain he didn’t know I am a brand strategist and image consultant. We were just having a friendly conversation while we waited for our kids. So it wasn’t a case of him trying to come up with some common ground or something I’d be interested in hearing about. It was just the first thing that popped into his mind when I asked him about work.
The point is, people notice your appearance and how you present yourself absolutely effects their impression of you. The example I just shared is a real life situation where someone might lose out on a great opportunity solely because of their personal image. Do you think she will ever know that’s why she didn’t get the job? I doubt it and that’s why I’m revisiting the importance of image with you today. I want to remind you that people are watching, your image matters and it should be a priority when thinking about your personal brand.
Before we go any further, I want to say I AM that busy mom, no I’m not applying for a job in health care, but I am the mom who goes to the gym at 5am and then stops at grocery store afterwards to pick up milk for breakfast in my yoga pants. I do not look perfect all the time as many of you know first-hand. So I want to be clear that I am not implying you try to look perfect 24/7. However, if you are showing up as the ambassador of your brand, you would be very wise to put some thought and effort into your brand image.
I will never forget the first time I met the new principal at my daughter’s kindergarten orientation. I had older kids, but a lot of the parents in the room were sending their babies out into the world for the first time. It was a big deal. There were quite a few new faculty members who were being introduced to us that day and at the end they called up a young aide who was wearing a very short skirt and heavy biker boots. My husband turned to me and rolled his eyes. What neither of us realized was it was not a new aide, but rather the new principal. My jaw dropped. She clearly showed lack of judgement and awareness about how her appearance would effect the audience. As it turned out, she happened to be a perfectly nice woman who does fine as principal, but that experience left me very skeptical of her abilities for a long time.
You don’t want to give people any reason to dismiss you or undervalue your expertise before you get a chance to prove yourself. You want to be in as much control as possible about the impression you are making on your audience. So pay attention. Does your image reflect someone who is smart, capable and confident? If not, you have some work to do.
Here are some simple tips to help you show up like the high-value expert you are:
1. Know your audience. Are you looking for clients to fill your spiritual yoga retreat or speaking to financial advisors? Dress for the right audience.
2. Know the occasion. Is it casual Friday or inauguration day? Is this the first time you are meeting a group or is this a group of your closest, most loyal clients? Pay attention to the situation and dress appropriately.
3. Set yourself apart. If you want to be a leader, plan to dress one level above your audience. And if you are trying to win clients remember, you are still auditioning until you have the gig. Continue to show up as your best.
4. Look in the mirror! Take the time to check yourself out. How does the whole picture look? Is your shirt wrinkled? Do you have on enough make-up or maybe too much? Are your shoes scuffed? Do you look polished? Taking care of the details will greatly enhance your overall appearance.
No one is expecting you to look like a super-model, but don’t be fooled into thinking your image doesn’t matter. Our society has definitely become more casual over time, but there are still deeply ingrained queues human beings respond to in the blink of an eye. Be sure your image is sending the right signals. Your brand will thank you.
Your feedback is music to my ears!
Can you think of a time you were surprised by someone whose image did not match their expertise? What confuses you most about creating a polished image?
If you would like to use this article on your website or ezine, feel free! Just be sure to include the following:Heather Poduska is a brand strategist, image consultant, business coach and opera singer who helps entrepreneurs and small business owners create client attractive brands, polished brand images and brand communication strategies to increase their visibility and impact in the marketplace and grow their businesses.