January 23, 2012

Time for a New Look? Better Check

We’re not very far into 2012, so if you haven’t written up your New Year’s resolutions, you still have time to add one: Improve personal image.

Ouch. I didn’t mean anyone in particular – just most people in general. Double ouch. Here’s the thing. I’ve noticed that while we’ve been adopting a more casual look overall, we’ve lost touch with a basic idea from the past: If you look good at work, you’re more likely to be taken seriously.

Good, as in professional and well-groomed, that is. Not good as in goooooood. If you look "hot," then you’re looking too good for work and it’s time to rethink things. Here are 5 pitfalls to eliminate or improve if they happen to tell your story.

1. Bizarre or outdated eyewear. This can be expensive, but if you’ve got the wrong eyewear for your work,  you should get new eyeglasses. If all someone can remember about you is what you had on your nose, it’s probably too prominent for your workplace.

2. Ditto for tattoos and piercings. Of course these are personal expression, etc. But some things are better expressed in some settings than in others. Again, figure out if you’re "saying the right thing" and adjust accordingly.

3. Hair that’s not doing you any favors. In this case I’m talking about the hair on your head, but if you’re thinking of eyebrows, nostrils, ears or whiskers, then you already know what you have to do. In the case of hairstyle, the first thing to consider is whether you look neat and cared for. The wild-animal look isn’t right for most work settings. Hair color and cut are also considerations, with the best styles being those that don’t raise questions about your competence.

4. Clothing. Yep, you should definitely wear clothing. The question is what? You’ve heard you should dress for your next promotion and that’s actually pretty smart. It’s always good to look like you can handle more responsibility. No matter what you’re wearing, you’ll want to wash it frequently, and sew up the holes when they appear.

5. All the other stuff. Smelly cologne, clownish makeup, dirty fingernails – there are a ton of other things I could mention here. I’ll just sum up by advising this: It all matters more than you think. If you pay attention to your image you’ll be rewarded in the end. I promise.

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