by Diana La Femina, Senior Editor, INALJ Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, New Brunswick, Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta
Make Sure You Look the Part
Appearance matters, whether you want it to or not. But it’s not so much how you look as it is how you present yourself.
Anyone who knows me personally can tell you how laid-back I am with my appearance, to the point of being frumpy. I may very well have started the trend of wearing pajamas to class in high school (I’m sorry for that, by the way), I wash my hair but don’t style it, and it took me a long time before I realized that most of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my two brothers (a situation I have since rectified). What work-appropriate clothes I used to own were ill-fitting to say the least.
The problem wasn’t that I didn’t look nice, the problem was that I was sending a signal with my appearance that I didn’t want to send. By not putting in any effort I was telling people that I didn’t care, that the job or interview I was dressing for wasn’t important to me. It’s the idea behind the saying, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. (Although if I really followed that tenant literally I’d be dressing as a ninja princess everyday, and where would that get me?) Your appearance signals your intentions.
I want you to really look at how you present yourself at work, interviews, and networking events. You don’t have to buy new or expensive clothes, but do you look like you’ve put an effort into looking polished? Most importantly, do you look how you want others to think of your personal brand?
The opposite can work against you as well. I have a good friend who looks perfect every day. It’s annoying as anything to stand next to her. The hair, the outfit, the nails, the makeup; I just can’t compete. Problem is, she looks so perfect it’s actually intimidating. It makes her look controlling (which is actually very good for her position, but it’s not be for everyone) and vaguely unapproachable. At networking events, interviews, and almost always librarianship positions this is not the message you want to convey.
My point is, don’t aim for perfection, just aim for putting in enough effort to show you care about your personal brand. Prioritize and always stay true to yourself. Like color? Go for it. Wear nothing but black? Equally awesome. Be yourself but make sure to show you care.