The late great Dr. Susan Jeffers was a renowned psychologist, a friend, and author of the classic book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Susan used to advise people to “pick up the mirror instead of the microscope.” Meaning: take a good look at yourself before you start turning a critical eye on others.
Although Susan meant it more metaphorically than literally, it seems to me that giving your appearance the occasional critical once-over is good for your personal brand. While your physical appearance may not seem important if you’re doing great work, is it really worth taking the chance that a sloppy or outdated image could limit your professional growth?
I don’t think so. After all, you’ve worked hard to establish your reputation. So why risk having people underestimate your forward-thinking nature because you’ve left your look back in 1997? Here are some simple ways to get noticed – for all the right reasons:
Kick your look up a notch. If you’re used to showing up on the more casual side of the wardrobe spectrum, step it up a bit. Whether it’s a networking event, social occasion, or just another day at the office, it’s better to stand out for being the best-dressed person in the room than the worst. Don’t forget to update your hairstyle, get your teeth professionally whitened, and anything else that highlights the energetic and contemporary YOU.
Those of you who are screaming right now, “But we’re a casual office,” I hear you. But don’t go to work in raggedy jeans, stretched-out shirts, and shoes from your high school era. You can be casual and stylish at the same time.
Take a listen to your own voice. Tune in to how you come across on a recorded phone call or videotaped meeting. Do you need to lose the little girl lilt that makes you sound like you’re still in middle school? Are you coming across as down-in-the-dumps Eeyore? Or are you stuck in Valley Girl mode, where every sentence ends on an up note – even when it’s not a question? (Read that aloud with a period at the end and then with a question mark and see which sounds more authoritative.)
Take note of the non-verbal. How you carry yourself is a big part of your image. Just like my kids learned from their favorite kindergarten teacher – stand up straight, look others right in the eye, and shake hands with a firm but not killer grip. And don’t be afraid to smile. Research shows that if we smile when we’re introduced to others, they’re more likely to remember our names. It’s all part of our biological instinct to seek out friends and avoid foes.
For heaven’s sake, update your social media photo. Are you still apologizing for the crappy photo you posted on your social media sites and then promptly forgot to change? According to a study from career site TheLadders.com, if your LinkedIn profile contains a photo, it’s 40% more likely to be read. But there’s a catch — your photo shouldn’t be a snapshot from your last office party and it shouldn’t include friends, family, or pets (sorry, Bowser). Choose a headshot that’s consistent with your overall brand, whether that’s trendy, conservative, or somewhere in between. Ideally, it should be a close-up against a neutral background with a genuine smile that will immediately make others want to get to know you!