8 Steps to Improving Your Professional Image
If you took a survey, most people wouldn’t really be able to tell you why they wear what they wear. More often than not, items and styles we consider favorable are usually just subconscious choices we’ve been making for as long as we can remember. We like them because they’re familiar and have become our go-to options, not necessarily because they portray a style we intentionally developed or that they improve our professional image.
Whether we have an interest in fashion or not, the clothing we wear, and the way we wear it, sends a very loud message about who we are – well before we ever open our mouths to speak. It impacts the perception of our leadership, seriousness of our work, trust in our decision making, readiness for promotions, and most importantly, confidence within ourselves.
You may ask yourself, why bother with improving my professional image when my work speaks for itself? And the answer can be found in the concept of ‘Power Dressing’. It is the idea that when we wear clothing we feel great in, our confidence is lifted and ultimately success increases. It is the notion of using our clothing to help us feel like the best version of ourselves, and the belief that when we dress the part and look like our most professional, put-together and capable selves, that other people relate to us accordingly and operate with us on a higher level.
What makes a person feel like their most powerful self doesn’t come down to a specific aesthetic or certain brand of clothing. It’s about wearing items that boost our confidence and make us feel ready to take on challenges, rather than wearing those that drive us to feel invisible
It’s no secret that when we FEEL good we PERFORM at a higher level. And yet we often forget to pay attention to this critical piece of the success-equation.
HOW OUR IMAGE IMPACTS OUR PERFORMACE
An image that commands authority will look different amongst different industries, and will vary between personal preferences. So the notion of creating a standard set of dress code rules, or wardrobe must-haves, is a pointless exercise. It is the desired outcome that always remains the same: how confident we feel optimizing for how successfully we perform.
When it comes to inner confidence, often the right clothing can work like a suit of armor to give the extra boost we need to not just look the part, but to feel it too, and carry ourselves accordingly. Putting on formal clothing makes us feel powerful, and that changes the basic way we see the world and the role we play in it.
Our image is one of many tools available to help us succeed in our careers. When used correctly, it fosters the ability for us to feel empowered, comfortable in our own skin, and above all else – confident.
HOW OUR IMAGE CORRELATES TO PERCEPTION
What we wear may seem like a trivial factor in the bigger picture of our careers, but it’s far more important than we think. Human beings make judgments based on our first impression of a person within 7 seconds of meeting them. This means that whether we’re on a job interview, at a networking event, or in a business meeting, we have just a few seconds to establish ourselves as the successful person we want other people to view us as.
We all know that the way a person looks and carries themselves matters, because it is the first thing other people see. What we don’t pay as much attention to however, is how much it matters. People form strong impressions of us; they do this very quickly and instinctively and with minimal information – all based off of the information WE provide them. How much of that do you think is based on the image we present them with?
8 STEPS TO IMPROVING YOUR PROFESSIONAL IMAGE
Developing an image that feels both authentic to who you are and representative of the message you want to convey, is instrumental to the success of your career. If you want to command authority, be viewed as the leader in your field or take on clients with bigger portfolios and larger responsibilites, carrying yourself at a higher level is imperative. Just as you wouldn’t leave your negotiating or leadership skills to chance, so too should you not leave your image.
The clothing we wear doesn’t define who we are, what we want, or what we’re capable of – but it most certainly influences how we feel and how we’re perceived. Even if you’re not working with a Stylist, crafting your personal brand is something that’s COMPLETELY within our control!
1. ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT HASN’T BEEN WORKING
In order to figure out what you want to achieve, it’s important to start with an honest assessment. Developing your personal style is all about generating confidence, so it’s critical to look at the relationship between the clothing you wear and how it impacts your state of being.
Reflect on times when you’ve felt disempowered. What were you wearing and did you struggle to put that outfit together? Look further to see if there are patterns in these experiences. When you give presentations, for example, are you consistently aware of your appearance and the way your coworkers see you? Do client meetings leave you struggling to find clothing that makes you feel like the best version of yourself?
Your wardrobe should act as a natural extension of who you are, showcasing your features and personality. Acknowledging when it’s not serving its purpose lets you know which areas to pay most attention to.
2. DETERMINE HOW YOU WANT TO SHOW UP IN THE WORLD
Ask yourself how you’d like to be perceived by all the people you interact with on a daily basis. Establishing a description of how you want to show up in the world, provides the foundation for your professional image. Choose words that paint a vivid mental picture of the way you want to be seen. Adjectives like powerful, strong, sophisticated and intelligent, provide a measurement to assess your image against.
It’s important to keep in mind that you’re always driving your personal narrative, whether you’re conscious of it or not. What do you want your style to say? When you’re able to get very clear on that, it becomes easier to build a criteria that matches your objectives.
3. IDENTIFY YOUR INSPIRATION
Studying the work of those who’ve already mastered a skill is a useful place to start when learning something new. As you begin to determine the framework for your professional image, it’s helpful to draw inspiration from people who fit your mold.
Whether it’s celebrities, politicians, TV characters, or co-workers, make a list of individuals you view as consistently well-dressed. Getting clear on who you look up to helps you better identify what your preferences are as you build a unique personal style of your own.
This exercise can often feel difficult. As creatures of habit, it’s challenging to envision ourselves wearing something other than what we’re familiar with. For the time being, ignore the natural hesitation to step outside your comfort zone and instead focus on what appeals to you.
4. BUILD A VISUAL STYLE GUIDE
Create a collection of photos that reflect your desired image – search for outfits you’d like to try, icons who embody your aesthetic, and anything else you can use as reference to help build your personal brand.
Pinterest is a great platform for compiling ideas. Their algorithm is quick to learn your preferences and make personalized recommendations. Alternatively, you can save images into a designated folder on your phone, or cut out pictures from magazines and build a physical mood board.
Collecting photos allows you to see what your preferences look like as a whole and easily identify patterns in your taste. This visual framework serves as your style guide while you begin to put outfits together and get comfortable adapting your style.
5. ASSESS WHAT YOU OWN AND LET GO WITH WHAT DOESN’T ALIGN
Getting clear on the image you’re creating for yourself will help you assess what’s in your closet with honesty and objectivity. Chances are you’ve been wearing the same thing for years, not because you chose it strategically but because it was familiar. It’s time to be more methodical about what you’re wearing.
Review your current wardrobe piece by piece, to determine if each item fits with the style you plan to achieve. Commit to letting go of anything that doesn’t align. Holding on to clothing out of sentimental attachment will only guarantee you repeat old patterns. Keep the items that match your goals and part with the rest. A closet that serves you well doesn’t have to be one with endless options. Your ultimate goal is a capsule, comprehensive wardrobe where everything works together interchangeably and creates an image that’s uniquely you.
6. EMBRACE EXPLORATION & DISCOVERY
When you initially built your Pinterest board, you may have included photos of your favorite aspirational celebrities. After all, they’re very fashionable! But as it turns out, your lifestyle is different than theirs and those red-carpet ensembles don’t exactly translate to your 9-to-5.
That’s ok, it’s all part of the process! Building your image doesn’t happen instantaneously, so give yourself permission to play around and explore. Creating a sense of style is a trial and error process designed to help you discover what makes you feel like the best version of yourself.
Use what’s in your closet to experiment with new outfit combinations. Go to the store and try on silhouettes you’ve never seen your body in. When you step outside your comfort zone, you discover new possibilities for yourself and are able to create an image that’s authentically you.
7. COMMIT TO STRATEGIC SHOPPING
To shop effectively, you’ll need to have a plan in place otherwise you’re destined to repeat similar buying habits you’ve formed up to this point. Make a list of specific items you’re missing in your current wardrobe, so you’re clear on what you’re looking for when you get to the mall. That top you already have 3 of that just so happens to be on sale now, is not why you came. Stick to the plan!
It helps to break up your shopping, and focus on a few items each trip. Our minds have a tendency to get overloaded when we have too much to consider. If blazers and pants are on your list, save blouses and sweaters for another day. You’re much more likely to find what you need when you’re not clouded by decision-fatigue.
Commit to buying only the clothing that makes you feel like the best version of yourself. If you try something on and don’t immediately experience excitement, don’t buy it. If all the options feel just ‘ok’, and you have to convince yourself one is a winner, look elsewhere. Purchases like these almost never end up getting worn. Save your money for the styles you love, and don’t settle for something in between.
8. GET EXCITED TO GET DRESSED
When you’re clear on your professional image, and have built a wardrobe that reflects your message, getting dressed no longer feels overwhelming. It’s one step in your morning routine that sets you up to operate from a place of empowerment.
Wearing clothing that makes you feel good, ignites your self-confidence and drives you to perform at a higher level. When you feel your best, not only do you command more authority from others, but you have a greater trust within yourself. You take more risks, asset more attention, ask for what you want, and push yourself to be better. Style is so much more than nice clothing and designer trends. It’s one of many tools at our disposal, we can use to help us show up in the world as the best version of ourselves.
Remember, it’s a work in progress and you’re always evolving. Have fun with the process, make it your own, and see what’s possible for you!
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CREATE YOUR MESSAGE
Work with your Personal Stylist to assess your goals and determine exactly what it is you want your image to say. Getting clear on your message, and how you want to be perceived, is what sets the foundation for your style. Together we’ll uncover exactly who you want to show up in the world as and how that translates through your use of clothing.
BUILD YOUR WARDROBE
Once you understand what you want your image to convey, we’ll help you build a wardrobe that communicates your narrative. By using the clothing you already own and shopping for additional pieces, we’ll show you how simple it can be to achieve your desired look. You’ll learn how to buy clothing with intention, rather than at random, to create a cohesive sense of style.
FEEL YOUR BEST
The most important part of a strong image is one that feels authentically true to who you are. Style should be something that mirrors your inner self, and should never feel forced or contrived. A connected relationship with your Personal Stylist means that you can always expect wardrobe guidance and assistance that results in you feeling confident and empowered.
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