How to Upgrade Your Image & Gain More Respect (And Opportunities!)

First, I’d like to start today’s post by saying “thank you” to all the folks who’ve supported the blog since its inception about a week ago. And to those who’ve recently joined the Career Pioneer bandwagon, you’re in for a great ride.

I realize in today’s cluttered world, you have many other sites vying for your attention, so your stopping by to visit and considering the blog a sensible resource is greatly appreciated.

Your continued and overwhelming support will not be forgotten. You can rest assure that you guys will get the first shout-out when I appear on Oprah, NBC’s Today Show, or that low-budget Public Access Channel. . . whichever one comes first.

Now, on to today’s topic…

Courtesy of Dreamstime

Courtesy of Dreamstime

I had a great conversation with a close friend last night. She just recently started a new high-profile job as a senior consultant. Aside from being a little on edge, wanting badly to make the best impression on her new colleagues, she’s fitting in quite nicely and is transitioning seamlessly into her new role.

After rehashing her first week on the job, we started to talk about the importance of appearances, not just in the corporate sector but everywhere. Since her first day, my friend has worn, what we like to call her “power suits;” and has sported a sleek, professional hair-do with complimentary make-up and accessories.

“It’s amazing how people treat you when you’re wearing a suit and your hair is pulled back in a pony-tail,” she said with a wide-eyed look. It’s not that she was surprised at the types of reaction she was receiving while dressed to the nines, and neither was I. What was most astonishing is that she began to notice a significant trend in the way people interacted with her when she’d wear a suit and when she had not in past positions.

There’s something about a person who wears a clean, pressed suit. The suit often speaks on behalf of the warm body inside it, commanding respect, and offering hints as to who the person is and how successful they are.

Courtesy of Dreamstime

Courtesy of Dreamstime

“I like her. Glad she’s on our team.”

Around her peers and colleagues, my friend in her power suits, had become a contender and entered into a secret society of some sort that welcomed only the most polished professionals. Her confidence also got a boost. “I’m always wearing suits,” my friend proclaimed. “Even on casual days!”

In my business as a copywriter, I often consult with companies about their branding, which in a nutshell involves the visual attributes and content related to a company’s overall image as perceived by its customers or clients. A growing trend nowadays, is personal branding. Personal branding is when people and their careers are marked as brands. It’s all about self-improvement and self-packaging, and one’s overall professional appearance is a weighty component.

Unless you’ve been living as a hermit for the last several years (or reside on some polygamist ranch where everyone shops from the same place), you know that we live in a society that is borderline obsessed with outer appearances. Some of us may not be in the position to afford upgrading our entire wardrobe to Armani suits, for example. But there are some simple tricks that you can implement to transform your dowdy image into a sophisticated, modern look without breaking the bank.

Now, it’s time to take notes my friends

  1. Consider making alterations to ill-fitted suits. Generally, the suits we purchase in regular old department and some speciality stores don’t fit us great right off the rack. By investing about $100, maybe even less depending on who’s your tailor and what needs to be done, you can get the designer look for less.
  2. Shop at Goodwill or consignment shops. The secret to shopping at these types of stores is finding ones that are in wealthy neighborhoods. Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely find some excellent steals at all of them, but you’re more likely to find designer brands and/or better quality clothing in stores located in certain communities. It’s just the truth people. When you do find an item, make sure you examine it closely for any rips or stains.  And if you feel comfortable, try it on. Again, these items will probably need some altering for the best fit. (Buyers beware: some consignment shops know that people peruse for deals on designer duds, and therefore their prices don’t cater to the real deal-seekers.)
  3. Find a good, reasonably-priced cobbler (not the food people, but one who repairs shoes) and replace your soles as needed. Please, ladies and gentlemen, there’s nothing more distracting than talking shoes. If you want your colleagues and potential clients to take you seriously in your newfound career, then take care of your shoes. Make sure you repair them, especially when the sole gets so worn down that the metal starts to show and begins to sound more like you’re wearing a tap shoe. (Can you tell that I’m a perpetrator of shoe neglect? Don’t follow in my foot steps. No pun intended.)
  4. Add diversity to your wardrobe by borrowing from a friend. This may not work for the guys, but for you gals, considering that you and your friend are identical in size, I recommend going on a free shopping spree in her closet. (With her permission, of course.) Sometimes, you can spice up your wardrobe by simply adding your friend’s chic blouse or wide-legged pair of pants and mix and match it with your own pieces. This is a great solution if you’re low on cash! And who isn’t these days?
  5. Change your hairstyle. This is my all-time favorite way to upgrade or spruce up my image. Maybe you could use a good coloring, a new, sleek style, or a much-needed trim. I realize that some women (and men) treasure their long tresses. But if it’s starting to look scraggly, brittle, and dried up four inches from the tips, then it’s time to let it go. Literally.

Keep the Discussion Going

Do you need to upgrade your image? Are you still wearing suits from the 80’s because you’ve convinced yourself that they’re “vintage”? Consider hiring a stylist or bring along a trusted, fashion-forward friend the next time you go shopping.

If you’re unsure as to whether you need an image upgrade, pull someone you trust aside and ask for their brutally honest opinion. Your future success could be depending on it!