Looks matter in business as much as in the rest of life, even if their professional influence tends more to the subliminal. A quick Google Scholar search for “appearance discrimination” will leave you hard pressed to deny that appearance affects professional life, whether you want to be a print model or a product marketing manager.
What is a main element that interacts with physical appearance to give some people an attractive leg up? And more importantly, what are some traditional and not-so-traditional things can you do about it, no matter who you are when you step out the door in the morning?
It’s how you seem: self-esteem
Appropriately high self-esteem is correlated with attainment of leadership status. In this context, the better you feel, the better you come across to those around you.
Old School: Fake It ’Til You Make It – The worst-kept secret of confident people is that no one feels confident – or attractive – 100% of the time. A tried and true method of getting through almost anything is to act as if you’re doing just great at whatever it is.
Good posture and a relaxed smile will not only make you look more appealing to colleagues and clients; they will make you feel more in control of a high-pressure situation, too.
New School: Sign Off Of Facebook – This winter the popular media was abuzz with a study from Berlin’s Humboldt University that declared keeping up with Facebook status updates actually makes people feel worse about themselves.
While a healthy sense of competition is a good thing, poring over friends’ news about weight loss, world travel, or whatever your personal insecurity revolves around risks putting you in a negative frame of mind. So before a big interview or crucial meeting, just sign off. Give yourself at least 24 hours’ lead time to focus on feeling confident and looking put together.
Tackling change: old school and new school
Studies show that perceived attractive looks and youth go hand in hand. While everyone ages, not everyone treats change the same way. Ignoring it is the most ineffective strategy.
Those who meet change head on by accepting it and tackling it typically end up on top. So when it comes to appearance and career, embracing change, whether age-related or otherwise, with proactive, optimistic resolve is what sets some people apart.
Old School: Exercise, Exercise, Exercise – Frank Maggi, a personal trainer with over a dozen years’ experience at New York City’s high-end Sports Club LA (not to be confused with LA Fitness), is unsurprisingly a big proponent of physical activity to elevate overall mood and personal confidence. Maggi sometimes sees the biggest reversal in those who start with doubts about whether “this whole ‘exercise and diet thing’ would work.”
Whether you go to a spin class at the trendiest gym or do Hatha yoga alone in your living room, exercise isn’t just about looking different: it’s about feeling better in your own body and coming across more confidently to those in your professional circle. Exercisers tend to have more energy, better concentration, sleep better… the list goes on and on.
New School: Cosmetic Intervention – According to a USA Today report, Botox was only a $90 million a year business in 1997 and now is a $1.8 billion a year industry. Since 2000, usage of the Botox has increased over 600%.
Dr. Steven J. Pearlman MD, FACS, is a well-known New York City physician, Board Certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Despite its Manhattan location, his practice hardly sees a clientele of only actors and actresses dealing with hi-def cameras.
75% of Dr. Pearlman’s patients are in the business world (25% are male) – many from Wall St. His practice works with finance high-ups to soften frown lines and utilize Botox ‘browlifts’ not just to chase youth, but for actual professional benefit. “They are concerned that habitual worry lines might indicate falsely to a client that they are worried about a deal or their portfolio,” Pearlman says.
A winning smile will only take you so far and savvy executives know that there is no real correlation between intelligence and beauty. After you get in the door, you have to have something to say for yourself.
But the likelihood remains: your physical appearance will probably play a part in how peers, superiors and potential clients perceive you. Acting on that knowledge doesn’t mean radically changing everything about your appearance, but identifying strategies that work well for who you already are.