The Tipping List
Making Your Best 30-Second Impression
Dress for the job you want – not the job you have
I read somewhere that a first impression is made in the first 30 seconds of meeting someone. Seeing as how I read that about a decade ago, it’s probably down to a nanosecond – everything seems to have sped up in the last decade, so I suspect first impression time-stamps have too.
There’s a raging debate among women on the pantyhose/no-pantyhose issue. Women are turning up their noses at hose, a clothing item once considered the epitome of professionalism and women’s lib. The Wall Street Journal addressed the issue – and you totally know it’s news if the WSJ is reporting it.
I get it. Pantyhose is hot. Hose is uncomfortable. It tears, snags, rips and runs. It’s a complete pain in the you-know-what. On the upside, hose helps to smooth, suck, hold, lock in and protect. You can even put it on your head and have pigtails if you get really drunk (although I wouldn’t recommend it).
Regardless of side of the fence you’re on regarding the big hose debate, there’s a general malaise on business dress. Let me say this: Appearance matters. Whether it’s 30 seconds or a nanosecond, your appearance – hair, nails, clothing, shoes – matters. Looking your best and projecting confidence still goes a long way in the corridors and offices of corporate America, whether you’re male or female.
Here are a few guidelines for dressing for success each day:
1. No matter what time of year it is, no matter how hot it is, sandals (especially flip-flops) are a no-no. The office is not the beach, the grocery, a party or a social gathering. Men don’t wear Tevas or Birkenstocks to work, so take the clue. Wear shoes that cover a good portion of your foot.
2. Business casual is not what you wear to the grocery store. Capri pants, jeans (even colored jeans), T-shirts, shirts without a collar, short skirts and shorts belong at home or the beach. Unless your workplace has no guidelines for attire, wear a skirt that is at least to your knees, or dress pants, and a blouse, jacket or sweater. You don’t have to wear a suit every day, but you do need to be ready for anything in case you’re called to the executive suite or you’re tapped to attend an important meeting.
3. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. A-ha! Good general rule unless you want to become a stripper – and in that case, save those wardrobe items for the weekend. Speaking of which, club attire is not for the workplace. I once hired a freelancer who came to one of our internal client meetings dressed as if she was ready to paint the town at the local nightclub. Not only did she struggle with credibility throughout the project implementation, but my credibility was also put on the line as well. Now I know to give guidance.
4. Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene. Wash and brush your hair, clean and trim your nails, and definitely brush your teeth. People look at those areas with more rigor and judgment than you realize.
5. Lastly – keep your undergarments UNDER YOUR GARMENTS. That means cover up those bra straps and, for Pete’s sake, keep your thong out of sight. Having it hang out is so Monica Lewinsky.
If you don’t know the style or the culture of an organization, ask your HR department, your boss, a trusted colleague or a client. They’ll be glad you asked, and will consider you a truly prepared working woman – whether or not you’re wearing hose. Score!