Part 14 – the last in a series on professionalism.
Criteria 14: Well packaged. Dresses the part, like a professional.
Within just a few seconds of meeting someone for the first time, people “preview” other people before they know anything about them. This first impression can last from a few seconds to about fifteen seconds. When people size up others, at a quick glance they notice physical attributes or external features, like: Gender, race, age, ethnicity, weight, outer wear, physical characteristics, skin quality, posture, stance, and movement.
From these physical attributes, they begin to observe: Physical health, grooming habits, level of education, manners/etiquette, marital status, socio-economic status, language (verbal and nonverbal), wealth, and original geographic location.
At a deeper level, people assess: Personality, level of professionalism, credibility, trustworthiness, approachability, attractiveness, honesty, attitude, friendliness, promptness, confidence, courtesy, and demeanor.
When you make a first impression, you want it to be the best it can be. Make that first impression a positive and lasting one. Here are a few tips:
Know Your Body Type. That deserves repeating. Know your body type. A specific body type looks best in clothing that accentuates that body type. The three basic body types are:
- Ectomorph (Think Cher). Long and lean, delicate body build, thin, small shoulders, usually with a narrow waist and hips with a linear physique. Wardrobe tip: Big chunky anything, especially jewelry, looks out of place on the Ectomorph’s delicate build.
- Endomorph (Think cartoon character Dilbert). Soft body, big bones, large trunk and thighs, with more body fat around the midsection. Wardrobe tip: Tight pants…tight anything…isn’t flattering to the Endomorph’s physique. Keep clothing loose and flowing.
- Mesomorph (Think Arnold Schwarzenegger). Athletic build, broad shoulders, large bones, narrow waist, large muscles. Wardrobe tip: Ditch the boxy Chesterfield coat. You’ll look like a refrigerator walking down the street. Add fullness below the waist to balance your broad shoulders.
Dress With Credibility in Mind. Clothing can accentuate or divert attention from your credibility. A tailored business suit for women or men presents a professional image, especially for the board room. Creative types have credibility when highlighting their creative flair.
Hire an Image Consultant. If you don’t have an eye for what goes with what, then hire someone to help. Many image consultants are members of the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI). Visit their website at www.aici.org. Scroll through “Find an Image Consultant” to locate an image consultant in your geographic area.
Dress Up to Get Up in an Organization. In 1978, John T. Molloy wrote a best-selling book, Dress for Success. Molloy’s mantra, “Always dress for the job you want; not for the job you have“ remains powerful today. I tell people in my professional presence workshops that it’s important to observe the people ahead of and above you, to see how they dress, and use that as a guideline. What is acceptable or unacceptable?
Maintain a Clean Wardrobe. The secret to looking professional is making sure that your clothing is clean, ironed and mended. Put the Oxford shirt with frayed collars and cuffs in the rag bag. Have the gravy-laden tie dry cleaned. Hem that skirt before it completely unravels.
Practice Good Grooming Basics. I once interviewed a woman for a position. Her perfume arrived in the conference room before she did! Know the basics about personal care and hygiene. If you work with someone whose grooming habits are standing in the way of advancement in the organization, schedule that critical conversation. You can have a positive influence on that person’s professional life forever.
How you dress and groom yourself positions you in the minds of other people. When you handle yourself with grace and elegance, dress in appropriate stylish attire and become skilled in basic etiquette, people will regard you as a true professional. Isn’t that how you want others to think of you?