After living and working abroad for a number of years, there is one thing that sticks out about American culture in the
workplace – we tend to wear our work ethic as a badge of honor. Coming in looking tired, nonchalantly mentioning pulling an all-nighter, and competition of hours worked, is an everyday occurrence.
From a personal brand standpoint, I caution “Beware”.
Whether you’re representing a company, client, or yourself, what people are buying into is the best version of you. They are not investing in the all-nighter you, the stressed you, or the disheveled you. They buy into you who will solve their problems, bring them success, and make it all look easy. Your outer appearance has a lot to do with giving that impression.
Pay attention to your audience: suit or sweatshirt
Whether you are a creative or businesslike person, pay attention to the forum for which you are attending and the message you want to get across. The Steve Jobs and the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world are in the less than 1% of the population in terms of being able to wear hoodies to investor meetings or black turtlenecks to multimillion-dollar movie pitches. You can still keep your style but make it appointment appropriate.
Lady Gaga proved a great example for this when she visited Harvard with Oprah Winfrey to launch her Born This Way initiative. The normally eccentric personality donned an Audrey Hepburn inspired, simple, brown one-piece pantsuit paired with an eye-catching headpiece. She was still Lady Gaga, but she wanted to draw more attention to her message than to an outrageous ensemble.
Step it up: dressing with an eye for detail
Two things can say a lot about your level of professionalism– clothes that fit and a wardrobe that is current. Mahjuba, a Southern California professional stylist, says that many people underestimate the importance of proper fit. Lacking a proper fit in key pieces like pants, skirts, shirts, blouses and suits, conveys an impression of being unkempt. Not exactly the impression you want to make when going into an important meeting, is it? Speak to established store staff if you are unsure while shopping or invest in a style consultation once a year (costs range from $200-$600/hr).
Back to basics: pay attention to hygiene
Looking showered and put together is one element, getting enough sleep is another, but a third area that most people, especially men, overlook is their hands. We talk with our hands, point with our fingers, and shake at the beginning and ending of meetings. Hands should be like good service at a restaurant, invisible and non-distracting. Keep nails short and clean, keep lotion in your office or briefcase, and ladies should be aware of chipped polish. For the men, investing in a manicure can be a great base that you can maintain. After all you want your audience to remember your point, not that you bite your nails.
After all is said and done, nothing about the all-nighters or the days filled with back-to-back meetings has to change. What should, is looking like you’ve done either. Invest in yourself in these areas and I promise that others will want to invest in you.
Katie Marston is President and Executive Director of DYME Branding , a personal brand development company focusing on professional athletes, celebrities, and executives. Follow her on Twitter at @ktmarston