While we think that we are not judged by our looks or appearance, the truth is we are. The same study we shared in this article found that only 5 percent of leaders consider visual appearance to be a critical factor in executive presence. However, on the other hand, they also found that
- 83 percent of senior executives believe that “unkempt attire” detracts from a woman’s executive presence.
- In comparison, 75 percent of senior execs believe it detracts from a man’s executive presence.
A professional’s visual appearance performs mainly as a filter through which one’s behavior and communication skills become more apparent. If you look unkempt your boss and coworkers may perceive you as someone who is less talented, careless, and doesn’t pay much attention to detail.
Although there is a slight difference between the perception of a man and a woman’s unkempt attire, with such high percentages for both, this speaks to how important it truly is to put time and effort into the way you show up to your workplace. If your attire gets put on the back burner of your mind while you are getting ready for the day, you may be sabotaging your development and perception at work.
First Impression Reminder:
Yes, we all want to be judged on our merits, our performance, our results—the added value that we bring to each client, project, or moment. However, how you present yourself can distract from just that. It’s like a filter you put in front of you, and during some micro-moments, it can be the difference between getting hired or not, getting promoted or not, being respected or not, and so much more.
During these moments, get noticed at work for your performance rather than your appearance. If you ever stand out for something you are wearing, you have done something wrong. The purpose of a professional appearance is to avoid standing out negatively and being seen only in a physical sense.
If you dress professionally, you will often be seen as somebody who values their appearance in the workplace and will then be seen for what you bring to the table, over simply the way you show up physically. The ideal situation is to look professional in your workplace and be comfortable enough to exude confidence and be self-assured by your skillset. If your physical appearance is clean and professional, it will not stand in your way and be the first thing that is considered when clients or employers find your services.
I discuss this in great detail in my book, The Image of Leadership; however, if you have not yet read the book, keep in mind your workplace dress code. If your dress code is unspoken at work and is described as “business casual” or some other term that may make expectations vague, dress one level higher than your position requires.
Dress as if you have the job you are after, but be careful not to get too formal. Overdressing for your position draws just as much attention as underdressing. As a rule, if you have any doubts about what you should be wearing to work, dress one level up instead of one level down. This will ensure you are exuding professionalism and confidence every day.