Who hasn’t been on the receiving end of these two classic tidbits of Mom advice, “Looks aren’t everything” and “Appearances count”? When it comes to your job search, Mom was right on both accounts. While your skills, experience and ability to present yourself well in an interview will be weighty factors, so will your ability to appear professional. To look the part, you’ll need to do more than just dress for success.
You would think by now everyone looking for a job would understand the importance of appearances. Yet some people just haven’t gotten the message, showing up at networking events — and probably job interviews — in attire that doesn’t match the professional air they want to project. Others resist, objecting to the idea of conforming to a “superficial” concern. Finally, some get the importance of the message but still fail to observe it carefully.
Why image counts
The image you project is important in all aspects of your personal life. You dress up for “date night” with your spouse to be romantic. When you coach your kid’s sports team, you concentrate on being a fun yet authoritative and responsible role model. Why would work be any different?
You can’t control every aspect of how others perceive you, which is why it’s so important to manage those aspects that are within your control. The image you project directly influences how others perceive you and interact with you. It can help colleagues feel more inclined to like you, bosses to regard you a go-getter, and customers to judge you as professional and reliable.
More than just looks
How you dress and your personal grooming are important components of your overall image, but they’re by no means all that you need to consider. You could be the best-dressed person in the office, but if you don’t project an air of confidence and capability, you’ll never be offered those plum projects that can help advance your career.
It can help to think of your “image” as your “personal brand.” What message does your personal brand send out to the workplace? As you’re crafting your personal brand, keep these elements in mind:
- Your visual appearance. Do you choose clothing that is professional and appropriate for your workplace? Are you well-groomed, with a hairstyle that is flattering to you and also appropriate for your type of job? Is your posture good? Does your physical attitude project confidence and friendliness? Do you make eye contact with others? Is your handshake firm without being aggressive?
- Your verbal skills. The ability to speak well and communicate verbally is essential to nearly every job. If your visual appearance is good but you are not able to speak appropriately for your workplace, you’ll find it difficult to advance. Do you enunciate clearly? Are your vocabulary and word choices appropriate for your office? Do you have a good command of grammar? Do you speak in a tone that’s appropriate for your workplace? If you suspect your verbal skills are lacking, track down an online course aimed at helping improve your language skills.
- Your visual aids. Your resume is a supporting document in building your brand identity. If it’s not visually appealing or is full of typos and errors, it will undermine your image. People draw conclusions about you based on the documents you produce — resumes, letters, emails, etc. Often, those documents represent the first interaction someone has with you. It’s imperative that you set a high standard so that people viewing your documents draw positive conclusions about you.
Cultivating your professional image is essential when you’re job-hunting and even after you’ve secured a new job. By taking control of your image, you can help ensure others perceive you as the kind of professional who’s right for the job, and one with whom they would love to work!