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Do clothes really matter? I'm busy.

If we worked in a non-visual world, no they wouldn’t. Everyone would be equal. Orchestras now conduct blind auditions; the musician sits behind a screen so the judges can’t see them, and then they play their heart out. They are selected purely for their musicianship. No names, no visuals.

However, the remainder of us work in a highly visual world where our personal brand is on display at all time. Plus our photos often end up on the internet somewhere even without our intention. And, of course, the Holy Grail of business is our LinkedIn profile where image is paramount. I talked with a recruiter who actually told me she had excluded a resume purely based on the ‘bad’ photo. In the blink of an eye, a woman lost a chance at a job. How sad. It's OUR personal challenge to be completely prepared for any and all interactions that could lead to more career success.

Are you absolutely certain your image represents and reinforces your expertise and values?

Because if you’re NOT sure – that uncertainty insidiously eats at your self-confidence. And if you don’t feel completely confident, your overall presence is less commanding. And who needs that? I want YOU to be the best you possible – so you can go out and conquer your world.

I was working with a client this week and she’s a member of the Greater Houston Partnership. They had been invited to the campus of a major oil and gas company for a presentation. She said a female vice president gave the presentation. But my client (who is president of a large investment management firm) had trouble grasping and valuing the message because the image the female vice president presented did not fully represent the gravity of the event. Her clothes were OK (her words) and she was not wearing make-up. I don’t know the goal of the presentation, but it appears the impact did not meet expectations.

Every time you communicate, you are either drawing people closer, or pushing them away. Every single action creates an emotional connection (or not) -- your clothes, your posture, your attitude. There can’t be any doubt in their minds about who you are and what you represent.

"The soul never thinks without a mental picture." Aristotle

We can’t wear our resume so our visual instant communication system is our clothing. The way you present yourself is vital to creating an image that instantaneously conveys and supports your message effectively. Our loosely-defined business casual dress codes have eaten away at women’s professional image and we’ve got to regain it.

“The only real risk is the risk of thinking too small.” Frances Moore Lappé

Social scientist Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business Review is studying how we evaluate people we meet. “When we form a first impression of another person it’s not really a single impression. We’re really forming two. We’re judging:

  1. How warm and trustworthy the person is and that’s trying to answer the questions, “what are this person’s intentions toward me? And

  2. How strong and competent is this person?”

Research shows that these two trait dimensions account for 80 – 90 percent of an overall first impression, and that holds true across cultures.

We need to seriously re-evaluate how our image is being read by the rest of the world. If we are the face of the company on occasions we must look like the values of the brand. Anything less is pointless.

#personal brand #personalbranding #image #wardrobe #leadership #womeninbusiness #confidence #leadership

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