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The Economics of Beauty
The Economics of Beauty
Sad but true, 65% of workers feel that image is more important to their career prospects than their qualifications. I‘d be astonished if alongside the huge bombardment on ‘image’ from all media that those percentages won’t substantially increase.
It doesn’t seem fair does it, that people who look good are more likely to (a) be employed over others, and (b) earn more? It gets even more ridiculous when we find that taller people are considered to be more intelligent than shorter ones!
This is basic human nature going back to the cave-man where stronger and better looking people were considered better choices for mating, and there’s very little we can do about it as our individual subconscious first impressions are pretty much out of our control. We make snap judgements within just a few seconds and it can take several more meetings to improve a poor first impression - if we can manage it at all.
However, first impressions, whether we like them or not, are a fact of life. It will be our first impression that will make a favourable difference when interviewing for a new job or meeting a potential new client, and, at a time when we are all going through this financial misery and economic turmoil, it is a good time to reassess ourselves and to start thinking about where we could improve our image and how we might communicate our own personal brands better in order to stand still, let alone move on and up.
Employers are beginning to use people who have not, in the first instance, acquired technical skills. Instead, employers rely to a large extent upon the appearance, demeanour and similar qualities of those to be employed. This is ‘aesthetic labour’ in action. And it's not just employers, potential clients can be just as fussy over who they buy from.
You can choose to manage your appearance cost-effectively, with style and ease, but if you let it get out of hand you may eventually have to deal with it as a form of crisis management, which in my experience happens often to some of my clients with a certain amount of panic included!
• So what do you want your communication to say?
• What don’t you want it to say?!
• What is your environment?
• What are the expectations in your job?
Ask yourself this. If quality walks through the door, how does it look? If the person in sight is poorly groomed, wearing badly fitting clothing, down at heel shoes and their hair is unkempt and nails grubby, would you regard that as a ‘quality’ look? Would you be filled with confidence? What kind of communication would that be? Obviously not great, so constant and consistent detailed attention to the way you present yourself will make an enormous difference to the way you are perceived in those first vitally important seconds. What you are achieving when you first meet someone is presenting to the world a map of the person within. You can’t possibly represent everything about yourself in a few seconds, but people will surmise a whole lot about you from those first vital moments. As far as they are concerned, perception is reality.
Of course your appearance includes everything about you from top to toe, so body language, a firm handshake, facial expression (a welcoming smile), great grooming and well-made and current clothing are all being taken into account during those first moments.
In the same way that manufacturers pay great attention to the packaging of products in order to persuade us to buy them, we also need to attend to our ‘packaging’ if we want to ‘sell’ ourselves to others, and to persuade them to take a closer look at our brand promise. Well that’s fine you might say, but it is so expensive to put together a working wardrobe that functions well, is adaptable and inexpensive yet smart.
Not necessarily. First of all, think about your working life and what you need to develop a look that is consistent, and relevant to your workplace. You may not need to be formally booted and suited, perhaps you can look more casual, but which ever way you go think ‘investment’ and plan to spend a proportion of your income on keeping your working wardrobe current and versatile, and long-lasting , therefore economic!
“So how can I make a good impression”? is probably the next question on your list. Firstly, being current is an important part of having a good professional image. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a fashion victim, far from it; an over-trendy appearance won’t give an impression of a sharp mind, nor will a dated dress sense. If you wear clothes that show you are really aware of the economic and social climate, you will be seen as in tune with modern trends both in business and in your personal life. Again, it is the perception of you by others and your appropriateness to your particular industry that will effectively build your own Personal Brand.
When money is an issue, and where isn’t it these days?, then consider developing your own capsule wardrobe specifically for work. Take a look in your wardrobe and you may be surprised that you already have the basics there for a group of clothes that can be taken out of their current context (i.e. a trouser suit) and matched up with other clothes (the trousers worn with blouses and tops and the jacket worn with a contrasting skirt of another pair of contrasting trousers, red and grey and white/cream mixes are good for most people here). What you need to think about is getting your clothes to work hard for you, just like you work hard for yourself!!