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How You Look Matters in Business … and in Life

Jun 19, 2015 | Business

I grew up believing it was vanity to worry about looking good when you left the house. It didn’t matter what you looked like. “It’s what’s inside that counts.” How many times did I hear that growing up! And while, ultimately that is true, it’s also not.

When we first see someone, within three seconds we form an opinion of them. It’s not conscious, you can’t help but do it. What else can that opinion be based on but how you present yourself? And yes, you could ignore your first impression. But the plain fact is, in business, people respond better to someone who looks professional. Would you trust your taxes to an accountant who was dressed in sweats? (Conversely, would you want a plumber who showed up at your house in a business suit?)

This doesn’t mean you have to wear a business suit. There are plenty of ways to look sharp and professional in non-conventional garb.

It’s all about how you present yourself. It’s not just your hair, your clothes, and your makeup, or even your glasses, but all those things do combine to create a “look.” So does posture. You can be all GQ, but if you slump, that’s what people will notice. Because it’s out of context, it doesn’t fit with the clothes and hair and all.

It’s funny, though. Just as much as how you feel influences what you wear, so do clothes affect how you feel. I’m real clear on this as an actor. Put on a costume, put on a personality. You can’t help it. It’s the way we’re built. That’s one reason a lot of women wear sexy underwear to work. No one at the office is going to see it, but it makes her feel more confident. She’s got a secret. Maybe it helps her make the transition for mother to executive. Whatever.

The way image consultant Lauren Solomon (3/11/15) puts it is you want your outside to match who you are inside. There is some combination of clothing that reflects who you are, or maybe who you are working to be. There are no rules. Just look sharp and professional wearing clothes that make you feel good.

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