Greasy hair, chipped fingernail polish, scuffed shoes . . . Though they may seem like minor details, they’re all part of a larger picture — the one you’re presenting to colleagues on a regular basis. Whether we like to admit it or not, our looks play a part in our success. We don’t all have to have supermodel good looks, but we do have to pay attention to the details that are crucial to making strong and lasting impressions. More than that, it’s about feeling the confidence you need to rock that presentation, stand out at the conference, or sign-up that first client. Follow these Do’s and Don’ts to using your looks to get ahead at work:
Do put in a little extra effort. If each morning you ask yourself “What’s the least possible amount of energy I could put into making myself presentable today?” you’re going about it all wrong. Dressing up and looking good is a powerful confidence booster. Each day you spend hiding in your cubicle hoping no one will catch a full glimpse, an opportunity is wasted to show off your star potential.
Don’t try to be something you’re not. Can’t keep up with all the designer trends your co-workers are flaunting? You don’t have to force yourself to like new styles or wear a full face of makeup if it’s just not you. But you should always strive to present the best version of yourself.
Don’t be too comfortable. If it’s a step above what you wear to bed, it’s not going to cut it. Of course you want to wear what you feel comfortable in, but you’re deciding between flats or heels, jeans or a dress, opt for the heels and the dress. Choose clothes that fit well and you’ll have no excuse!
Don’t go overboard on the sex appeal. I like to go by the rule of “one.” Choose a single item to give your look that little bit of sexiness or flare — whether it’s an eye-catching piece of jewelry, red lipstick, a pencil skirt with a back slit, or a killer pair of pumps. Any more than that and you’ll start to turn heads for the wrong reason.
Do take a clue from higher-ups. If you’re coming in for a job interview or just started in a new position, study what mid-to-upper management is wearing and follow suit. Dress for two (not one) positions ahead and people will always associate you with where you want to be.
Tips to Maximize Your Appearance
Check the mirror when you get to work. After a hectic commute, your makeup could be running, your hair could be disheveled, you could have a coffee stain on your blouse and you’d never know it. Make a bee line to the bathroom first thing each day to be safe.
Freshen up before meetings. Re-visit the mirror and add a coat of lip gloss, reapply powder, and run a comb through your hair before you’re about to spend an extended amount of time with colleagues. Nothing will drown out your voice like broccoli stuck between your teeth.
Find a good tailor. Poorly fit clothing can make an expensive outfit can look dreadful and a bargain buy look like a million bucks. No matter how much you spend on your clothes, take everyday pieces to be tailored — it’s an investment that will pay off.
Check your posture. Nothing about your appearance makes you look more unenthusiastic and unprofessional than slouchy posture. Standing up straight with your shoulders back and your head held high adds a whole new level of confidence that will command attention and force people to take you seriously.
Nicole Williams, author of Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success, is the best-selling author of Wildly Sophisticated: A Bold New Attitude for Career Success and Earn What You’re Worth, and the founder of WORKS by Nicole Williams, the first media and content company marketed toward young professional women. Her advice is featured regularly in major media outlets including Elle, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, theWall Street Journal, and the Financial Times. Nicole also regularly appears on The Today Show, ABC’s Primetime, Good Morning America, Fox News, and CNN.