At networking events, do people gravitate toward you or pass you by? Do you get your foot in the door easily or do you regularly have appointments cancelled? When you have an appointment with someone, do you sometimes get stood up?
Being dismissed by others or treated as if you were inconsequential can damage self esteem. Here are the top six reasons you don’t get your foot in the door and don’t get treated with the utmost respect:
1. You assume that if you wear a suit, you look good. You may wear a suit every day, but if it is in the wrong color or style, it can take away all credibility. A powerful, dynamic image doesn’t just happen. It takes awareness of color and of “line” or style. Dark colors increase authority and credibility; pale colors take away power and authority, so credibility is diminished. Wear darker colors and notice what happens. Men, make certain your ties have sufficient contrast with your suit to enable it to stand out and make a statement. If your ties match your shirt or your suit, it won’t be effective. Wearing styles that are very trendy but not businesslike can also wreak havoc in terms of credibility.
2. You rely on friends or family for image advice. Relying on friends or family for image advice is like playing Wardrobe Roulette™ with your image, even if they are in the “fashion” business. Professional attire and “trendy” attire sometimes go their separate ways. Buying what is on the mannequin in the store is also dangerous, because it may not suit your body or color type. These days, it is even dangerous to ask advice in men’s shops, because more and more shops sell trendy “fashion” looks instead of professional-looking business attire.
3. You dress for your comfort instead of how people expect a dynamic person to dress. If you dress for your comfort instead of dressing to impress others, they will take note. This attitude is probably the number one credibility killer. Even if your company has a Business Casual policy, make certain you don’t turn it into “Business Casualty” because of sloppy or careless attire
4. You have no plan when you get dressed in the morning. True professionals dress strategically. What you wear to the office on an ordinary day is different from what you wear to meet for the first time with the CEO of a company. And what you wear when you meet with a group of women may differ from what you wear to speak to a group of men. Even if it is Casual Friday, you may need to re-think what you wear to work if you know you are meeting with an important client that day. In today’s shaky economy, it is a good idea to dress better than you have in the past. Check your agenda before you go to your closet!
5. Your image is not consistent. One of the major tenets of branding for products also applies to people. Your message and your appearance must be consistent. Companies use consistent colors and logos, and their quality must also be consistent. Individuals need to think in the same manner. That’s why “Casual Friday” is not a good idea. When you dress in a professional manner Monday through Thursday and dress down on Friday, it sends conflicting signals about who you are and what you do. When you are dressed in casual attire, you may send the message that you have a casual attitude as well.
6. You don’t wear a suit regularly, so you don’t feel authentic wearing one. If you wear a suit only when you must meet with a person you want to to impress, you risk coming across as inauthentic. Or you may appear as if you are ill at ease or not comfortable in your own skin. When you are used to wearing a suit, your attitude is “That’s who I am.” You stand tall and walk proudly. On the other hand, when you’re not used to wearing a suit, you may think to yourself, “I look like my mother/my father, not me.” Or you may feel as if you are an impersonator and not being yourself. Get used to wearing a suit and see what happens. You will be treated differently, and then your attitude about yourself will change. I know; it happened to me!
Before you open your mouth, you will be accorded respect or dismissed as inconsequential. You don’t need a crystal ball to predict which scenario it will be. Your image tells the future.
Sandy Dumont is an image consultant who helps people achieve greater success in life by improving their image. She is a sought-after speaker and expert on the subject of image. For more information, please visit www.theimagearchitect.com.