Your personal brand is visually reflected in how you show up in person because others assess and judge you by your attributes. It may not feel fair—to be judged based on how you look—but it’s part of the information others take in to consider your value.
In a job interview, business meeting, or networking situation, others evaluate you on how you present yourself. They might ask themselves, “Does he take care of himself, and will he take care of my project? Does she look the part of an executive at our company? What is she trying to communicate with that outrageous outfit?”
Your Personal Brand Image
In my book, Reputation 360: Creating power through personal branding, I pointed out:
Have you ever heard, “You have one chance to make a good first impression?” Studies have shown that non-verbal communication accounts for eighty percent to ninety percent of the information we receive. In the first five seconds after meeting you, someone has judged you, possibly as credible, confident, and professional, or as interesting, valuable, and trustworthy, or as lazy, disorganized, and insecure. Do you see why that first impression has so much impact on how you will be perceived?
If I perceive you as arrogant and unapproachable, I’m less likely to want to get to know you, to learn what you do and what you need. You miss an opportunity to have me help you meet your goals. Perception and judgment aren’t fair. But other people’s perception of us is their reality, and they will give us opportunity, assign us value, and create visibility for us based on what they believe to be real.
How Do You Want People To Feel About You?
In determining the image you’d like to project, consider these steps:
- Write down the image that you think you currently have and what you think your style says about you. Do you put effort into how you look? Are you trying to set yourself apart in your choice of wardrobe, or are you focused on dressing like everyone else at work?
- Look at photographs of yourself. Are you are sending the right message with the way you are dressing and presenting yourself? Does your clothing look outdated though your industry is hip and modern? Do your clothes make you look old while you are trying to network with a younger target market? Is your clothing oversized and sloppy so that you appear larger than you are? Be discerning and remove anything from your wardrobe that says something about you that is not in line with your desired image and personal brand.
- Then, write down the image that you would like to have and how you would like to be perceived. When you look through magazines or Pinterest and see outfits you like or feel that they would look good on you, consider what you believe those outfits would say about you. Could a new suit make you feel more confident? Would high heels make you feel in control? If you switched out jeans for khaki pants would you feel more present at work?
- Take control of your image and wardrobe. If you decide you need to purge your wardrobe, then eliminate items that really don’t “feel like you.” Maybe you bought them because they were on sale or someone else told you you look great wearing them, but you feel like someone else when you wear them. Choose to wear clothing and accessories that make you feel confident, authentic, and consistent with the image you want to project to others.
- Shop for updated, quality clothes that are appropriate for your figure and your lifestyle (professional, casual days, networking events, etc.). My advice is to always buy the best quality you can afford. Your personal style should shine through and be consistent with your personal brand as much as possible.
Whether you choose your own wardrobe, have flexibility in accessorizing or adding “flare” to your uniform, or you wear strict corporate attire dictated by someone else, your personal brand can still flourish in how you act, behave, and interact and can set the expectation of the experience of working with you.