Sure we all may walk around with an attitude, belief or mantra of “like me as I am” or “I don’t care what people think and say about me. I’m going to be me“, or “you don’t have to like me and how I look, because I like me“.
Some of us make the decision to live wild and look wilder, as we choose to wear bold hairstyles, hair colors, nail polish, lipstick, clothes, shoes, jewelry and other accessories.
Many of the bold and beautiful often wonder why they are looked over for promotions or fail to get raises even though the work delivered meets or exceeds standards. They wonder why they are ignored in meetings, demoted, removed from a place of visibility and instead tucked away where they seem invisible.
Many more wonder why they never seem to get that job callback or why the interview that seemed like a potential fit ended up with a “sorry but we’ve selected a different candidate“—if they even extend you the courtesy of letting you down that way.
There are numerous reasons why you don’t seem to be making strides in your professional life. Some may be due to your professional shortcomings. Some may be because others are merely outshining and out-hustling you. Some reasons may be due to people’s perception of you and their bias towards you– and a step farther, your appearance.
Are you working for or applying for a position with a company that is very conservative? Well then look through the owner’s, manager’s and recruiter’s lenses. Your over-the-top hair style, hair color, nails, makeup, or accessories may be a huge turnoff. Your busted shoes and tattered clothes, may be leaving the wrong impression. You may not be reflecting the image that their brand represents. So maybe, just maybe they take a risk and hire you, but don’t be shocked when that risk doesn’t extend beyond you quietly performing a job but then they limit how visible you can be in the job and within the company. If you don’t represent the core values, image, and vibe of the company, they don’t want you to be a face that represents their brand.
Sorry but your green hair, blue lipstick, and polka dot nails clash with that bank’s, doctor’s, dentist’s, and law firm’s image and brand—and most likely the image that their clients expect of them.
So you cop an attitude but let’s look at it from a different perspective, shall we?
Would you accept and then call the hairstylist or barber who handed you their business card but their hair looked a “hot mess”? Would you trust a nail technician to take care of your nails when theirs looks like a rat chewed on them? What about the person who wants to be your personal stylist yet their clothes and shoes look dingy, cheap, and in need of a trash can? Or the car detailer whose car is filthy? Or what about the dentist who has yellow, crooked, and missing teeth? All due respect, would you trust a person to teach you how to be physically fit if they weren’t fit and seemingly health conscious?
Most likely you have repeatedly said “no” to each of my questions. Why? Because appearance matters, attention to details matter, and we have become more brand conscious over the past 20 years—so if people don’t look the part then we just don’t trust them, and we definitely aren’t going to give money to people we don’t trust.
Ever see a shoe salesperson in a midrange to high end store with beat up, dirty shoes? Nope. It’s a turn off to the customer.
Now let’s be clear, this isn’t about you having the most expensive things you can buy and displaying it. It’s about how you present yourself. I don’t care if you shop from a discount or thrift store, it’s about finding items and colors that best complement your look, build, style, and personality.
What does your personal brand say about you? What does your appearance say about the company where you work or the one that you own?
If my dentist doesn’t take care of their own teeth then heck no they can’t dig around in my mouth. They can’t be that busy that they can’t fix their teeth yet they have plenty of time to chastise me about mine. If my doctor is lecturing me on my health and weight, yet they have a keg belly, I’m going to look at them sideways.
My personal fitness trainer and instructors better walk the walk. If they can’t do the workout then stop telling me “you can do it“. Shut up because you can’t even do it! Oh and they better also look the part. It always reminds me of the out-of-shape physical ed teacher during P.E., blowing their whistle, and yelling at the kids, yet they can’t do the workouts they are pushing the kids to do. Why don’t you drop and give us twenty? Why don’t you show us how to climb this tall, rugged rope? Why don’t you lead us in the mile long run? I mean, since you should be coming in first place then all you have to do is quickly grab your clipboard and clock in the rest of our finish times, right?
Now consider this…
If you’re looking for a marriage counselor and the person you meet with has been divorced several times and is currently divorced, then how in the world will they help you protect, save, and rebuild your marriage? I’m just saying, in the words of Jesus, “physician heal thyself“.
If your financial counselor or coach doesn’t have an 800-plus credit score, admits to still getting payday loans (or you happen to see them getting one), then who are they to be coaching you? They need to go back to the drawing board and take some of those classes and work on some of those principles they are selling to you.
People can talk all day long. But can they walk the walk?
So appearance matters to the vast majority of us. A corporate image and culture is formed and shaped at the top of the company, by the CEO/President, and it feeds down through the other levels and branches of the organization. If your image doesn’t compliment the company’s then how can you be upset when they don’t want you as a representative of their company and the brand they worked hard to build?
I want you to do something for me.
Tell me this—are your hands well manicured, are your clothes and hair clean and presentable, and are your shoes in great shape?
“Why?” you ask.
Well because believe it or not, when most people see you the first thing they look at is your face, specifically your eyes. Then they look at your hair. Is it well groomed, does it have a foul or pleasant odor, is it a natural color or something bold or bizarre? What about your clothes? Are they clean? Are they ill-fitting or do they hang nicely on your body complementing your build and shape?
Then when they are close enough to pay attention to the finest of details, they look at two things very closely: your hands and your shoes (and if you have on sandals or no shoes, then yes they are checking out your feet). Our eyes are naturally drawn to these things. Maybe because we speak with our hands (and shake hands with others) and our feet are visible when we walk and are seated. Which is also why we stare at men’s socks when they are seated, and notice how many rings (and the quality of those rings) a woman has on her hands. The attention to detail becomes our obsession.
Let’s start with the hands…
I don’t care if you’re in construction, sanitation, or a mechanic—do your hands look like a person who is concerned about their health and wellbeing or do you look like you’re part werewolf and part science experiment? Keep your nails clean (when you don’t have them in sludge), cut to an active length (for the ladies) and as short as possible (for the men), and please tame those cuticles and hang nails.
Ladies who love nail polish, artificial nails, and accessories…what you put on your nails, hands, head, ears, and around your neck should compliment the environment that you’re in most, which for the vast majority of us that would be our workplace. So think twice before busting out with extreme colors, lengths and shapes. If you work in a more conservative environment your boldness can be seen as a distraction.
If you have a customer-facing role in the company, do your best to represent that brand to the fullest. You’re being paid to represent the brand, so do it well!
That means your shoes and clothes are very important. If your shoes are extremely worn, look beat up, have knots where your toes have been crunched in them repeatedly, the sole and top seem to be fighting over which direction your shoe should be aligned, the heel looks tattered, and the color has faded or revealed the undertone shade—take them to a shoe repair store, donate them, or if you know they can’t be salvaged, throw them away. I truly believe that many people are walking around wearing the wrong shoe size, either too big or too small. Go to a reputable shoe store and have the salesperson help you determine your correct size and see how your size varies depending on the type of shoe you’re wearing. You may wear a different size depending if the shoe is open-toed or closed-toe.
The same thing applies to your clothes. You know what’s too tight, too loose, too short, and too revealing. There have been plenty of times when I’ve stepped in front of the mirror and said aloud, “oh heck no” and immediately changed into something else. Fellas, I’m also speaking to you. If you’re one breath away from bursting the seams of your pants or a button on your shirt, it’s time to donate them. If your pants are hanging below your hips and you’re not a male exotic dancer “working the floor”, you need to pull them up and get them tailored to fit you properly. Go to a tailor or to the mens’ department in the mall and ask to be measured so you know your correct size for dress shirts, slacks, blazers, and jackets.
A first impression is a lasting impression. A first impression could lead to the start of something new and great, or to another closed door and added rejection. Each day we step foot outside of our homes we make the decision about how we want the world to view us, and like it or not, judge us. You never know who is watching you, so step out representing the image and brand of where you want to be (if you aren’t already there).
Copyright 2017. All Rights Reserved. Natasha Foreman Bryant.