Monday 21 January 2019

Dress to impress and show you really mean business

We all have a personal brand whether we like it or not. It is up to each of us how we manage that brand for maximum effectiveness. This is particularly true in the business world where first impressions are so important. Personal branding is not about pretending you are something you're not. It's about being who you are. It's about being authentic and being true to personal values.

A recent report in the UK stated that British bosses admitted that they would discriminate against female staff who did not wear make-up on a regular basis, with almost 61pc saying it would have a detrimental effect on the woman's promotion.

93pc of the first impression we make on someone is based on how our appearance, our body language, the tone, pitch and pace of our voice and only 7pc on the words we speak. In business, first impressions gone wrong can be costly. They can represent missed opportunities. As a business owner, you and your staff are the face of your business. In today's competitive business world, you cannot afford to allow your brand be represented as anything less than impressive.

I had a client recently who was well-qualified and extremely capable. She had been referred to me by her HR Director who told me that the young woman had been for a number of unsuccessful interviews within the organisation. She felt that the young woman's image was holding her back in her career. My job was to help the client refine her personal image to look more business-like and more commanding. We worked on every aspect of her image and her confidence levels. This helped her promote herself with potential clients which has had a huge positive impact on her competence and performance (and on the business).

Organisations spend huge amounts of money refining and promoting their corporate brand to make it attractive to their customers and potential customers. Often however, how staff members present themselves is often overlooked. We all know that people buy people, so it's essential that staff 'look the business'.

Think about an interview situation. All things being equal, the person who looks well will have the competitive edge and probably be the successful candidate. Time and time again, I hear employers complaining about the poor image of interviewees. The general thinking is that if a candidate cannot make the effort to present themselves well for interview, how will they present on a daily basis in work.

In a sales pitch, if the salesman/woman promotes the fact that their company leaves no stone unturned to deliver on their service, but they themselves look less than impressive, there is incongruence between what is being said and what is being seen. The visual wins out. Every time.

There has been much public debate too about our public representatives and how they present themselves. Do they dress appropriately for the high office they represent? Do they inspire confidence? Do they represent us well on the global stage? There are mixed views, but it is so easy to be drawn into a person's competency or otherwise depending on how they dress!

One of the questions I am often asked is how best to brand yourself and how to portray a professional personal image. This very much depends on your profession, your messaging and what you are trying to achieve. If you are working in a traditional sector such as law or accountancy, you will dress quite differently compared to someone working in the IT or advertising sector. People too have different 'style personalities' (classic, natural, romantic, dramatic amongst others) which determines their own personal style and this has to be balanced with what is expected in the workplace. For instance, someone who loves a very natural, relaxed look will often find it challenging to be 'suited and booted' every day in their business life.

In the 12 years since setting up my image consultancy business, I have yet to meet a client who does not benefit from putting that competitive edge into their look as well as learning how to make smarter dressing and shopping decisions.

As I always say to my clients, 'small changes for big impact'.

Frances Jones,

Irish Independent

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