I am a freelance writer and marketing consultant. This means I am constantly on the look-out for more work and new clients. Sometimes it feels like I am a professional job seeker. I’ve been on more interviews and have done more presentations than I think is humanly possible. Which is great because my work is your gain.
Today I want to talk about polish and the importance of first impressions. Studies show that your looks can hurt or hinder your chances of getting a job or well deserved promotion, regardless of qualifications. Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to be judged on appearance but the reality is most employers, clients, hiring managers, and recruiters do size up their employees and potential candidates by the way they look.
In fact 73% of employers rate grooming as a strong influence when meeting with potential candidates. “These results are consistent with what we’ve seen in the past,” says Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director. “Job candidates need to remember that their overall grooming and choice of interview attire project an image; they are marketing themselves to the employer as a potential employee, and part of marketing is the packaging.”
It’s important to keep yourself as polished as possible and to help you here are some Dos for you to consider:
Whether you are currently employed or not:
- Do put your best foot forward at all times – keep yourself neat, clean, and well-groomed – tailor or throw away ill-fitting clothes
- Do maintain your professional portfolio – update your resume and profiles with new accomplishments and take classes or workshops to keep your skills fresh
- Do make professional connections whenever possible – attend networking events in your industry, socialize with colleagues, and stay current with industry news and events
- Do spell and grammar checks for all professional correspondence
- Do keep a running list of your goals – a vision board, a to-do list, or any kind of reminder of what you are working towards
- Don’t get complacent, lazy, or sloppy
- Don’t let your skills get rusty or obsolete
- Don’t isolate yourself from coworkers or industry insiders
- Don’t be afraid to brag – humbly – about yourself
- Don’t ever use slang in an interview or conversations with colleagues
- Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond – learn about your employer (potential or current) and coworkers and share common interests you may have
Keep in mind that polish is about more than just your style – it’s about the complete package – you must dress for the job you want and always be thinking about the future. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can still keep yourself current:
- Invest in a good tailor – in this way you can make old clothing look and fit like new
- If you can’t afford a new pair of shoes, polish and re-heel the ones you have to get more wear out of them
- Update your resume with a new look and feel – a simple online search of “resume templates” will help you get started
- If you can’t afford to take clothing to the cleaners buy Dryell, then press and iron suits, shirts, and pants yourself
- The devil is in the details – loose seams and buttons translate to carelessness – learn how to sew on a button or fix a loose hem
- If you can’t afford a hair cut buy products that will keep your loose strands neat and in place
- Never use a casual picture for your professional resume or profile
First impressions count so it’s important to do everything in your power to make sure the impressions you give are good and lasting. This doesn’t mean that you have pretend to be something you’re not, on the contrary be yourself but the best version of yourself. At the end of the day you will be valued for exactly that and all the skills you bring to the table. Don’t build a package that can not be maintained, the point is to maintain, to the best of your ability, the package you’re in.
Market yourself as a complete package, put your best foot forward always but most importantly be bold, brave and unafraid to go after what you want.
What experience have you had packaging yourself for potential employers? What Dos, Don’ts, or other advice would you give? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below, I love hearing from you.