Up­grad­ing pro­fes­sional im­age im­por­tant

Lesotho Times - - Jobs & Tenders -

TO­DAY’S lead­ers should take note: Your pro­fes­sional im­age still mat­ters. No mat­ter how for­mal or in­for­mal the work en­vi­ron­ment, the way you present your­self has an im­pact. This is es­pe­cially true in first im­pres­sions. Ac­cord­ing to re­search from Prince­ton Univer­sity, peo­ple as­sess your com­pe­tence, trust­wor­thi­ness, and like­abil­ity in just a tenth of a sec­ond, solely based on the way you look.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween to­day’s work­place and the “dress for suc­cess” era is that the range of op­tions is so much broader. Norms have evolved and frag­mented. In some set­tings, red sneak­ers or dress t-shirts can con­vey sta­tus; in oth­ers not so much. The de­sired pro­fes­sional im­age for a 50-some­thing ex­ec­u­tive at a man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany in China may be com­pletely dif­fer­ent for a young ad agency CEO in New York City.

Plus, what­ever im­age we present is mag­ni­fied by so­cial-media ser­vices like Linkedin. Chances are, your head­shots are seen much more of­ten now than a decade or two ago. Mil­len­ni­als, it seems, face the para­dox of be­ing the least for­mal gen­er­a­tion yet the most con­scious of style and per­sonal brand­ing. It can be con­fus­ing.

So how do we nav­i­gate this? How do we know when to in­vest in an up­grade? And what’s the best way to pull off one that en­hances our goals? Here are some tips: De­cide if the time is right. As an ex­ec­u­tive coach, I’ve seen im­age up­grades be par­tic­u­larly help­ful dur­ing tran­si­tions -- when look­ing for a new job, step­ping into a new or more public role, or chang­ing work en­vi­ron­ments. If you’re in a pe­riod of change or just feel­ing stuck and in a rut, now may be a good time. If you’re not sure, ask for hon­est feed­back from trusted friends, col­leagues and pro­fes­sion­als. Look for cues about how oth­ers per­ceive you. Maybe there’s no need for an up­grade and that’s OK. Know your goals. Get clear on what im­pact you’re hop­ing to have. Are you look­ing to re­fresh your im­age or pivot it? For one per­son, the goal may be to be taken more se­ri­ously and en­hance their pro­fes­sional im­age. For another, it may be to be per­ceived as more ap­proach­able, or more mod­ern and stylish. For some­one mov­ing from fi­nance to advertising, maybe they want to look more “Soho.” (It’s OK to use char­ac­ter­i­za­tions like that.) Un­der­stand the con­text. Look at your work en­vi­ron­ment like an an­thro­pol­o­gist. What are the norms of your en­vi­ron­ment? What con­veys sta­tus? Who are your most im­por­tant au­di­ences? How do the peo­ple you re­spect and look up to present them­selves? The bet­ter you un­der­stand the cul­tural con­text, the more con­trol you can have over your im­pact. Work with pro­fes­sion­als. En­list the sup­port of pro­fes­sion­als and share with them your goals and con­text. Hire a per­sonal stylist, or use the free styling ser­vice of a store like J. Crew. Try a hair stylist in­stead of a bar­ber. Work with a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher in­stead of your spouse or friend. It’s not as ex­pen­sive as you might think. MAKE IT EF­FI­CIENT. The point of a style up­grade isn’t to be­come more vain or to spend more time fuss­ing over what to wear. In­stead, use it as an op­por­tu­nity to re­duce de­ci­sion fa­tigue. Pick a stan­dard work uni­form or a few go-to op­tions. Buy all your clothes at once with a stylist in­stead of shop­ping alone, one ar­ti­cle of cloth­ing at a time.

If you doubt the im­pact, con­sider Tim Wil­liams, the Ber­lin-based pitch­man for the travel web­site Trivago. In a mat­ter of months, the con­sen­sus on “The Trivago Guy” has gone from creepy to crush-wor­thy. The Twit­ter­sphere re­mains abuzz. Who would’ve thought a man’s style would be­come cen­tral to the mar­ket­ing of a travel web­site?

As su­per­fi­cial as it may seem, the im­pact of an im­age up­grade isn’t just how oth­ers per­ceive us but how we see our­selves. It’s worth bring­ing some con­scious­ness and in­ten­tion­al­ity to style to grow your im­pact as an ex­ec­u­tive and leader. — En­tre­pre­neur

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