November. The month we start to think about the festive season and all of its frills. It’s the season that comes with gift giving and all its fun wrappings. But if we take a second to think about it, what exactly is it that makes a gift instantly stand out to you? Typically it has something to do with the packaging. Our guest blogger this month, personal stylist, executive presence coach and author Lizzie Edwards, invites us to think about our own packaging…our outer brands.
To stand out and show people what you have to offer, and to reach the top of your profession, you need to consider yourself as a brand. And as with any brand your packaging tells the consumer what quality they can expect, setting the expectation for what is on the inside. The more expensive and high quality the product, the more attention to detail goes into its packaging.
Your appearance is your packaging. It creates perceived value and sets the expectation of your personal brand, telling others what kind of qualities they can expect from you, and what you are about, before you even speak. The clothes you choose to wear therefore have a huge impact on others, particularly when you meet them for the first time.
In a fraction of a second when they first see you, another person can perceive your personality, level of intelligence, competence, affability, self-esteem, power, and success. They decide whether you are like them, whether they like you. It’s harsh, but it’s human nature. We are hard wired this way, and it’s happening to all of us, by all of us and this is why what you wear is so important when considering your personal brand.
As a business owner or an employee, it’s important your appearance is not only communicating your personal brand values, but also takes into account the brand of the organisation you work for; its philosophy, culture, and standard of service.
You can also use your wardrobe to help you embody your brand values. How you dress impacts how you feel and perform. Studies into ‘enclothed cognition’ have shown that it is the association we have of an item is where the power lies, be it personally, or culturally or societally. Therefore, if you feel that the wearing of a suit shows professionalism, power, intelligence for example, when you wear a suit you will feel and act like a person with those qualities.
This is why the statement ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ is so true, but dressing for a more senior role than you currently inhabit is also beneficial as it enables others to imagine you in the role. If you look like you can run an important project, lead a team or present to the shareholders, you are more likely to be given the opportunity to do so. When you dress your best you become the person who stands out from a crowd and when an opportunity arises, among those of equal level and skill, it will be offered to you – the most capable and professional looking employee.
It’s up to you to ensure that what you wear is telling others what you want them to know. The good news is that now you’ve been reminded you of this, if you feel your current image isn’t doing an amazing job of representing you to the world, you can easily do something about it.
You may already know your personal brand and have a list of values. Once you know how you want to be seen, you then need to consider your wardrobe and ensure that you are projecting your brand values and qualities and undertake an image audit and to be as objective as possible to try to uncover any appearance blind spots you may have.
Put on an entire outfit, top to toe with any added layers, accessories, coat and bag as this is often how you are seen out and about as a first impression
If you wear it, apply your make-up and style your hair as you normally would, in the same amount of time.
Stand in front of a full-length mirror (if you don’t have one, I advise you to get one immediately!) with your eyes closed at first, then open them and take yourself in for a minute, remembering to view yourself from all sides. Also take an honest look at your grooming to see where there may be room for improvement in your hair, make up, nails or teeth.
Ask yourself: Does your image say what you want to? Does it tell people about your personal brand; who you are, your qualities, your position? Do your clothes look like ‘an outfit’; considered and well put together, or like individual items worn together with little relation to each other? Does your style show your personality and look up to date? When you see yourself, do your personal brand words come straight to mind? If not, there is work to do! Do this a couple more times so you have seen and assessed a few different looks.
Awareness is the first step, and once you have made an assessment you’ll have a better idea of how much room for improvement there is. When looking at clothes, remember to consider what you want people to know about you and keep your brand values in mind. When you do this you are not leaving your impression to chance, but ensuring others see you accurately, as your best, most authentic self.
Lizzie Edwards is a personal stylist and executive presence coach, and the founder of the UK’s leading style and wardrobe consultancy for senior female professionals, executives and business owners. She is also the author of the best-selling book, Look Like the Leader You Are; A 7 Step Style Strategy for Ambitious Women.