Is there a piece of your professional PIE (performance, image, and exposure) missing? You’ve set your professional goals and have a solid game plan to achieve those goals. Day-by-day, your performance gets better and better, and others are taking note of your exposures. So, what’s missing to support your success? If it lapses in your image, then you’ve come to the right place to work on solidifying your total image.
Professional Success Is More Than Hard Work Alone
Of course, your work ethics and professional behaviors are part of your image, but that’s just it… a professional image is so much more than just what you do and say. It’s also about how you present yourself while doing and saying it. The cumulative creates authenticity, which is necessary if you want your image to come across as positive.
As we’ve discussed previously, all the facets of your total image meld together to paint a perception of you. It’s how others view you as a human being, and the truths they gather and apply go far beyond the particular professional or personal circumstance at hand. It’s often used universally.
Before your skills, gestures, verbals, and non-verbals ever come out to play, most onlookers notice one thing. Do you know what it is? It’s how you dress. Maybe, that’s vain. Perhaps, it’s unfair. But, the reality is that your appearance is nine-tenths of your “hello.” It wordlessly speaks volumes on your demeanor, style, mindset, self-esteem, disposition, and even ethics within the first seconds of the onlooker seeing you coming. How?
Think about this scenario as an example. If you were interviewing someone dressed in head-to-toe black, you’d naturally draw assumptions about their personality traits. Leaders equate those assumptions beyond the simplicity of the clothes being worn. The perception of someone possibly being anti-social, introverted, and pessimistic by wearing all black could translate to not being a professional team player, lowering employee morale, and not being assertive. If your clothes are wrinkled, the translation could be that you take the accessible routes and ignore detail. If your accessories are large and loud, the translation could be that you’re disruptive or narcissistic.
As you can see, clothes aren’t just clothes when it comes to your total image.
Image is also about how you perceive yourself. There’s a seesaw of emotional and mental advantages and disadvantages when looking at your physical appearance in the mirror. If you don’t feel confident, worthy, and capable, it will show in the reflection no matter what tangible materials cover it. Likewise, if your reflection doesn’t support your confidence, it internalizes doubt.
Support Your Goals By Supporting Your Image
If you haven’t already gathered, the focal point of your total image is congruency. Your external presentation matches the internal facets that make you uniquely you. That’s different for everyone, but there are some common threads to help you ensure that your image is working in favor of your professional goals.
1. Dress for yourself. While you don’t want to throw style guides out the window completely, you want to avoid any style that doesn’t make you feel equal parts comfortable and engaged. Use your emotional responses as a guide. What excites and energizes your confidence?
2. Dress for your goals. Ask yourself what the outfit is designed to achieve. Is that aligned with your goals? Would you be a believer if you were the onlooker?
3. Dress for the setting. Where are you going, and what are the elements at hand? You’d be surprised at how being the wrong temperature, for example, can seriously impact your confidence and distract from your professional ground game.
4. Dress for your audience. Yes, you dress for you first, but your audience is a close second. It’s about keeping an appropriate perception around your image. Being a standout can be just as damaging as it can be a positive. The difference is in the eye of the beholder. Know your audience.
5. Dress for the circumstances. What’s the nature of why you’re going where you’re going? Make sure the tone of your outfit matches. In other words, you may look and feel stunning in an evening dress, but the style would be loudly obnoxious if you’re going to meet a prospective client for coffee.
6. Dress for your body. We all have different body shapes and sizes. What looks stunning on one person can look dreadfully unfitting on another. This goes back to dressing for you first, but it addresses the technical elements, not the emotional elements. Allow your unique body measurements, coloring, and other physical characteristics to guide your choices.
Are You Ready To Offer The World Your Total Package?
You’ve worked so hard on your professional skills and knowledge. Having the total image to reflect who you are and what you can do will go a long way in supporting your professional endeavors. It would be a shame to let it all go to waste simply because you didn’t look at the part you’re so capable of playing.