We already know others will judge us, even when we were taught to never judge a book by its cover. That’s right, others are already going to judge you by the image that you’re projecting anyway. It doesn’t really matter whether this image developed naturally over the years, or an act that you artificially put on. So why not give them something positive to judge you by?
What’s Inside Matters To You… What’s Outside Matters To Others…
Whether you realise it or not, we all project an image, an identity, a personal brand. You can leave it to form naturally over the years, or you can take matters into your own hand. If you choose to take no active actions to mould that image, one will be assign to you naturally. It’s called an organically formed personal brand. Believe it or not, great majority of the people fall into this category.
The rest of the people, the small number of them, take an active role to form an image of themselves. This group of people take great pride in themselves and their abilities. They choose to actively project an image that shows confidence and competence. They choose to say a lot about themselves without ever speaking a single word…
The crowd believes that you’re charismatic and capable based merely on the image that you project. It doesn’t really matter if that’s who you really are on the inside. It’s how you choose to tell your story. You don’t have to keep telling the same story to everybody that you meet. The power of positive association does all the talking for you.
Now, if you believe that you’re bending the truth a little too much by projecting a “false image”, think again. What if you’re really that capable on the inside, but your presentation throws everybody off. What if people think that you’re a jobless gamer, when you’re actually a very competent app developer?… See?… Image really is that important!…
It’s actually not all about the outer packaging alone. But truth be told, the packaging actually does carry a lot of weight in this department. So here are some of the parameters that you’ll have to look into to improve your personal brand identity :-
(1) Your Overall Image
You’re probably gonna say “See?… I knew it’s all about the dressing style!…”, but no, it’s not all about dressing. The truth is that how you dress constitutes more than 70% of the initial image projection. Would you trust your money to somebody who dresses in a grey hoodie, torn jeans and dirty looking trainers?…
Probably not… Not unless he’s Mark Zukerberg. So unless you personally know him, you’re not likely to trust somebody who dresses similar to his style.
But you would trust your money to somebody whom you’ve never met before, if he/she actually takes the trouble to dress professionally. You’re unconsciously convinced that he/she is trustworthy and means business, if he/she projects an aura of professionalism…
(2) Your Attire
I generally divide the level of formality by the days of the week. Mondays being the most formal (business formal, not social formal), and Fridays being the least formal (but still business appropriate). Come weekends, you’re basically free to dress as you wish.
Dark suits, plain white shirts, understated ties, plain oxford shoes, and plain coloured, square fold, pocket squares… No exceptions.
Lighter coloured or lightly patterned suits (option for dark blazer with light coloured, non-matching trousers). Feel free to introduce colours and/or subtle patterns into your shirts, but keep them light coloured. Feel free to introduce louder patterns or coloured ties too, but stick with a more formal woven fabric). You can stick with the oxfords shoes, but feel free to bring in your brogues or derbies. Just make sure you stick to lace-up shoes for now. You can also introduce more colours and patterns, and explore slightly more elaborate folds for your pocket squares.
Skip the suits. Blazers and sport jackets is the order of the day. Match them with the odd trousers. Option for oxford button-down shirts with contrast weaves, in place of the dressier plain weave, plain coloured shirts. Introduce more colours and patterns to your shirts and ties. Just make sure that they don’t clash with each other. You can also alternate the dressy lace-up shoes with less formal monk-straps to add in a pinch of playfulness. And go crazy with your elaborately patterned and/or folded pocket squares.
Skip the blazers altogether, and stick to sport jackets. You can start to introduce heavily patterned weave and/or textured sport jackets. Patch pockets, contrasting patch elbows and/or contrasting collars are now open season. Contrast your jackets of choice with cotton chino trousers. Go crazy with the shirt options. Knit ties or other textured neckwear, as well as pocket squares. The sky’s the limit here. Skip the lace-ups altogether, and go for the more casual monk straps or loafers.
You can skip any forms of jackets (although I wouldn’t recommend it), and wear your coloured/textured shirts openly. You can also wear knit sweaters over your shirts in place of sport jackets too. Light coloured cotton chino trousers or dark wash jeans. Keep the faded and/or torn jeans for the weekends. As for shirts, you can either go for small repeating pattern printed shirts or a plain Polo T-shirt (not my personal favourite though). Whatever your choice, just stay away from the graphic t-shirts. You can opt go to sans neckwear, or match your “casual” outfits with the equally “casual” colourful knit ties. Just do yourself a favour, and stay away from the novelty ties, like ties with Spiderman, Bugs Bunny or Santa Claus prints (you can wear those for the appropriate occasions). Polish off the look with a pair of comfortable loafers, boat shoes or driving shoes.
If you’re not going out and/or meeting people, you can dress as comfortably as you’d like to. Everything from shorts and round-collar t-shirts to sandals and slippers. Heck, you can even wear your pyjamas the whole day long if you wish. But if you’re going out, meeting friends, or possibly even on a date, do yourself a favour, and dress a little better. You won’t go wrong wearing a Friday’s apparel for a weekend out with your mates.
And no, that’s not the specific attires for the specific days of the week. That’s just the level of formality when it comes to dressing. You can easily pull off a Tuesday’s attire for meeting a client any day of the week. But don’t expect to be taken seriously if you attend a high level corporate meeting in a Thursday’s outfit, regardless what day of the week it is.
(3) Your Grooming
You can be dressed to the nines, but if you show up to a morning meeting sporting bed hair, or five o’clock shadow, be prepared to be not taken seriously.
There are no specific hairstyles or facial hair styles. Anything that looks neat and well combed will set you apart from the guys whose messy hair style look like they just got out of bed… Hmm… Or maybe they actually did just get out of bed… after a night of hard partying…
As for the ladies, only one word to describe your hairstyle and make up – Neat. Whatever you do, please just don’t look like you’re all made up to attend the party immediately after work…
Trimmed and neat finger nails goes without saying. And watch out for that mouth odour. You might want to keep some mints within reach to freshen up before stepping into the all important meeting.
(4) Your Etiquette And Mannerism
Etiquette is the “rules” that governs a specific event, whether a business or a social event. You either fit in or you don’t… There’s no two ways about it. On the other hand, manners is what you do that makes your host and fellow guests comfortable to be around you.
Having good manners make the people around you more comfortable with your presence. It doesn’t matter whether you’re attending a royal banquet, or attending a funeral of a loved one.
Why Wasn’t I Taught About It In School?…
Although projecting a positive image on oneself is very important, it is rather unfortunate that this was never part of the school curriculum. So much so that many employers reject potential candidates during job interviews, because they don’t have a “feel” for the candidate. The reason can subconsciously be due to the inability of the candidates to project a positive image.
If you’re lucky enough to have landed yourself a good job, your boss might just send you to a grooming course. But what if you’re still looking to land yourself that evasive job offer? Or you’re already employed, but you’re stuck at the bottom rung of the ladder, just because you don’t project the right image for somebody on a higher level? How can you improve on that?
Just as the other finer things in life, you have to invest in yourself in order to achieve it. Nobody owes it to you to help you improve on your personal brand. If you want to improve yourself bad enough, you’re gonna have to read widely, and expand your network of contacts. The more exposed you are to the world, the better you’re able to improve on your personal image projection.
Of course, it never hurts if you have a mentor to take you in, and give you a fast-track up the ladder of self development. But if you don’t have one, you might wanna consider engaging in an image consultant.
Do I Need An Image Consultant?
Technically speaking, nobody needs an image consultant. But having an unfair advantage sure wouldn’t hurt you right?… Especially when there are so many candidates vying for that limited number of job vacancies. Or so many co-workers vying for the manager’s position. A more relevant question would be, “Do I need an unfair advantage over my peers?”… If your answer is a definite “yes”, then talk to us.