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You’ve heard it said that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Every time we meet someone in a professional or personal setting, we immediately and subconsciously form impressions, either positive or negative. Think of your appearance as your packaging. If you interact in person with the public or with other business professionals who may refer business to you, many times they form their impression of your company and/or product based on you. You may have the inner qualities of Mother Theresa, but until someone gets to know you, the only clues they have to judge you by is your outer packaging…your dress, demeanor, and overall appearance.
Think about the times you’ve observed someone who is dressed professionally. This person often garners more respect than others even though he or she hasn’t done anything to earn it. Seem unfair? Perhaps, but it happens every day.
Some cities such as Austin are commonly "business casual", but remember that you still need to portray a professional appearance. Consider the following aspects of appearance:
Shoes: Although flip flops, athletic shoes casual sandals are comfortable, they alter the entire appearance of an outfit. Stick to dress shoes or sandals to keep your look professional.
Hair and Nails: Long hair pulled back in a messy ponytail or bunched up haphazardly in a clip can make you look disorganized and sloppy. Talon style fingernails are distracting and impractical in the workplace, and both women and men should make sure their nails are trimmed and clean. Men should shave daily or keep their facial hair trimmed and neat.
Body Piercings and Tattoos: Although these are socially acceptable with many younger generations, cover them up when doing business.
Casual Capris and Jeans: Know that when you wear them, you are portraying a casual rather than a professional look.
Provocative clothing: Although low cut blouses, tight pants, and short skirts are the norm in the workplace on television, leave them at home during the work week. If you have to wonder if your apparel is too racy for the workplace, then it probably is.
Perfumes and Colognes: Don’t douse on so much that others can smell you coming and going. This is especially important when visiting healthcare settings in which staff minimize fragrances out of respect for patients who may be overly sensitive to scents.
Ask yourself if you are dressed appropriately for an interview. Why? Because when you meet other professionals for the first time, it is similar to an interview in that you want to make a good first impression. If your appearance is not professional, people will never say anything, but will silently form opinions about you and the business you represent. Why not make sure your outer packaging complements the fantastic business professional you are in the inside?