First impressions count more in the credit crunch era

Do you think about how you dress at work and carefully select your outfit depending on your working environment? Or do you think it doesn’t matter and simply put on any outfit which is to hand?

Perhaps, you should know that your attitude to work can be gleaned from how you dress? So, if you look sloppy and unkempt others will assume that this is also your attitude to your work. Why is this? In today’s tough times when jobs are scarce and we need to do all we can to hang on to our employment, read on to find out how can you adapt it to your advantage? You have 30 seconds to make a 1st impression which can last up to 15 years.

Think about the last time you met someone new, albeit in a social or business environment. Do you recall how they spoke to you, the tone of their voice? Do you remember exactly what they said? Or do you remember what they wore? Recall a time when you’ve been watching a politician, presenter on the television and you’ve commented on the colour of the tie or the wrinkled shirt or some other slip up on their appearance. Or imagine if you were seeking the advice of a lawyer and were met by someone in jeans and a casual shirt. Or if you arrived at the car mechanic’s and he was dressed in a suit. Would you take either of them seriously?

Whether we like it or not, we are all judged on our appearance. Research by Professor Albert Mehrabian (his book Silent Messages) shows that 55 per cent of our first impression comes from our behaviour and appearance. 38 per cent of the sound of our voice are remembered from the first 30 seconds while only 7 per cent of what we say will make any impact. So, be aware that 93% of how you come across has nothing to do with what you are saying. What about the time you walked into a local store requiring advice, only to be confronted by a sales assistant whose hair was a mess, who looked scruffy and unkempt. Did you approach them for advice or did you seek out another member of staff? The first staff member you encountered may have been the most knowledgeable but his appearance portrayed an attitude of ‘I don’t care’ and so you are very likely to have wanted to look for someone who appeared tidy and therefore portraying a more professional image. How can you use this knowledge to your advantage?

It is known that after communication skills, the next most important element that CEOs and HR executives consider when making a new appointment, is a candidate’s personal image. This includes grooming, dress and manners. By dressing well and looking appropriate for your workplace, you will alert those around you as someone who means business and is serious about their job. For example, if are attending a client meeting dressed appropriately, the client sees immediately that you respect them. But secondly, you are also giving yourself confidence. If you were to imagine attending the same meeting dressed in your swim wear, you won’t feel so confident.

Here are some key tips on making your image work for you in your workplace to ensure you make the right first impression;

Make sure you fit in. Research the company you are visiting or look to your bosses for dress code clues. This will ensure you are dressing appropriately. As we’ve discussed above, your image says most about you as a person and your attitude to work. So, take pride in your appearance – make sure clothes are well maintained and your grooming is impeccable.

Dress for the job you want and not for the job you have. This will show your bosses or interviewer that you are serious about your work.

Add variety to your working wardrobe. Don’t always wear the same shirt and tie combination or the same blouse. It will be noticed and be viewed as non flexible and lazy.

Ensure your accessories are of the best quality you can afford. Eg: briefcase, business card holder, cufflinks. These are the finer details and are noticed.

Ladies, do wear make-up. It shows you can manage your time well and also enhances your eyes and mouth – your key communication portals.

Men, don’t forget a belt on your trousers. A belt is as important a part of your outfit as a tie.

Smile!! With your polished look, the best additional accessory is to smile as this shows you are confident and approachable.

The upshot is that you should always think carefully about what you wear. If you are dressed appropriately you will feel comfortable, have positive body language and be noticed by the powers that be. If you are unsure of how to dress appropriately for your workplace, visit your local Style Consultant who will help you become the best dressed person you can.

For help with your career during these tough times, contact Liz Kentish, The FM Coach on Tel: 01778 561326 / 07717 870777 or email:

Sarah Gray is a Senior Image Consultant with Colour Me Beautiful Image Consultants. Located in Warwickshire, Sarah offers advice on all aspects of personal image.

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