Managing Those Crucial Scenarios When How You Look Matters (Big-Time!)
Let’s face it, we have all heard that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. But that isn’t entirely true. We do care what some people think, and that’s good: if we are meeting someone whose personal opinion or reaction to us is important to the achievement of our goals, then, of course, we want to consider our appearance. And if we are trying to reflect our ability or increase our credibility – dress matters. In fact, research shows that “clothes influence how we view and interact with the world,” and in addition, how others view us. So if you are out to influence, speak, or “become known,” then how you dress is critical to your success.
So we all know that first impressions do matter — especially in a job interview, a sales call, a blind date, a court appearance, a TV or video appearance, or anytime you are meeting someone who does not know you. In fact, any meeting where you need to influence, make a point, or create an unforgettable presence has “it’s showtime!” written all over it. So, what are the most common of these scenarios?
Meeting Someone for the First Time: Like it or not, there is a cause and effect when you first meet someone; they are sizing you up in about thirty seconds at a subconscious — and then conscious level — that may take a few years to erase. By showing up “mindfully” dressed, you increase your chances of projecting an impressive, trustworthy and credible appearance. So take some extra time to come up with a pulled-together outfit that gives off a professional, subtly “listen-to-me” vibe.
When you need to encourage yourself: One of the fastest and least expensive ways to lift your mood or gain confidence is to use your clothing as a resource – the way you do with your house, your car or your money. So when you need to feel good — dress up, and dress well. Don’t just reach for the same pair of jeans you have worn all week. Think about those new grey-green pants you bought last month but haven’t worn. Look for your favorite patterned top, add a smart pair of earrings, and tell yourself “I look good!” Put on your absolute favorite clothing, or your favorite signature piece that you love, and that sparks a sense of joy. It does make a difference.
When You’re Attending a Party: While it may seem odd to ask the party-giver when you are unsure about what to wear to an event, by all means, do so. Call the party planner, the event coordinator, ask a friend who has been to a similar event, or make contact with an image consultant in your area. And if the invitation says white or black tie, then be respectful of the host(ess), and discover what that means. Have a look at this great resource from Emily Post on the subject if you need further help.
Then, once you know the dress code, stick to it. Don’t second-guess the invitation and dress in more casual clothing than what it required. Besides, how often will you get the chance to dress like you are heading to the Oscars? Have fun, and go with the dressy, “memorable evening” guidelines.
When You’re Attending a Networking Event: Here is a venue where it is crucial that you create a look that is authentic and appropriate to you. Your personality, values, attitudes and interests need to be represented in the design details of your clothing. While it is a good idea to review the culture of any networking event you attend, remember that you are, in a sense, selling yourself and your product or service to people whom you are meeting for the first time. So if that requires a dress, a suit or even a uniform, then wear that. When you learn to manage your clothing as a tool to help think, feel, and act your professional best, you create both a positive first and last impression about yourself and your abilities.
Remember: if you are out to project a sense of influence, speak at an important event, or otherwise make a good impression, then how you dress is critical to your success. You can save the Snuggies and sweatpants for the end of the day, but when you need to go all out in a “real-world” situation to maximize your presence, think about the tips above to help you get started.26