Employment And The Age Paradox

One’s age is an interesting factor when it comes to finding employment. It can help you or hurt you; disqualify you or land you in the running.  Ironically, it’s something that’s never supposed to be revealed or inquired about in an interview – unless of course age is a legal requirement such as a position serving alcohol.

While age isn’t supposed to be raised verbally, it sure is taken into consideration by the person or people conducting interviews. I mean, it has to be doesn’t it? As soon as you come into visual contact with a representative of the company you are about to interview with, you’re being assessed. That brief look as you move towards each other is taking in all kinds of information; hair colour, skin tone, muscle/fat proportions, walking gait, how hard or easy it seems for you to stand, the speed of your walk, the purity or blotches of your skin, your smile, the health of your teeth, bags or lack thereof under your eyes, thickness or thinning hair, stooping or straight up posture. Whew! That’s a lot to take in over the course of 10 seconds!

Notice how all the above are observations made based completely on non-verbal signals you’ve put out there to the interviewer. Once you open your mouth and speak, more information is available such as the tone, power and volume of your voice, the clarity or not of your words, your vocabulary; your overall energy.

In another 10 seconds, all this information – and more – is sent by you and picked up on by the interviewer. At this point, you’ve now given them enough information – and it’s been about 20 seconds mind – that they’ve formed an opinion of you and compared that to what they’ve settled on as the kind of person they are after. That opening impression if good is something for you to build upon. If that opening impression is a miss, you’ve got the rest of your time together to alter it, and believe me, altering someone’s first impression of you when you only have one meeting with them is much harder than you’d like it to be.

There are many people both young and old who lament the age discrimination. Some who are young feel their age suggests a total lack of work experience, immaturity, little life experience, and a future full of mistakes, errors, poor judgement, lack of responsibility and commitment to a solid work ethic. Older workers worry they are discriminated against because they are judged as set in their ways, slowing down, drawing on health benefits to the extreme, out of date with developments and not interested in any personal development. Oh and let’s not even talk about technology.

The paradox re. age is that younger people sometimes wish they came across as more mature while older workers wish they presented as 10 or 15 years younger. Both groups recognize the advantages of the other. Younger people if we buy in to the stereotypes, are healthier, more energetic, technologically tuned in, are open vessels to teach and they look more vibrant and enthusiastic. Older workers have experience the young lack; both life and work. Older workers also have the benefit of having learned from their mistakes and they make less of them.

Here’s the thing though…we are who we are. If you’re 22, you’re 22. If you’re 56, you’re 56; it’s a given. However, as we all know, there are some 22 year olds who act like their 17 and some who act like they are 28. There are some 56 year olds with the energy and vitality of those in their mid-forties and some 56 year olds who move as if they are picking out their coffins on the weekend. Age alone then, isn’t the definitive factor that we might at first believe it to be. What is essential to recognize what we can control which will in turn help create the first impression we want others to formulate when meeting us.

The clothes we choose to wear send signals. Do the clothes fit properly and are they right for the conversation we are about to have. While it might not be flattering to think about, we have to also take a good look at our bodies because others will. Are you willing to lose or gain weight if you’d appear healthier or your clothes would fit better? Or would maintaining your weight but shifting some fat to muscles create a more vibrant you? If you’re an older fellow with a scruffy beard maybe shaving everyday would immediately take off 5 years? Maybe, maybe not.

This isn’t about pretending to be someone you’re not. This is about projecting a desirable image so that you become attractive to the interviewer – professionally attractive; so they can visualize you as a positive addition to the organization. Lest you think you are somehow selling out to change-up who you are just to impress someone, think again. You’d likely put some effort into your appearance if you knew you were having a date with someone, and if it was at the end of the month, you might do all you could between now and then to come across in the best possible way.

Of course you can ignore all of this advice and just say, “I am who I am and if they don’t like me that’s their problem.” But then again, you’re not investing yourself in this potential relationship now are you?

Communicating Without Saying A Word

Whether you’re unemployed and looking for a job or employed, your non-verbal body language is sending out all kinds of information to those within eyesight. What message you’re sending is entirely up to you of course; but pay no attention to ensuring the message you’re sending is the one you want to communicate and your lack of attention to this could harm you in ways you haven’t considered.

Even noticed the difference in how people move when walking? If you’re looking for a low-key but profitable way to spend your lunch hour, sit down with your lunch in a public space and people watch. Follow several passersby’s with your eyes – not just the handsome or cute ones! – and as you do so, be aware of the assumptions you’re making. When you see someone ambling along at a leisurely pace, their hands in their pockets, how do you perceive them? They don’t seem in a hurry to be anywhere.

Contrast the above with the person you see enter your view who is moving at an accelerated pace compared to others around them. They are walking briskly with one arm swinging at their side and the other clutching something that could be a document folder. Their head is up as they walk, looking for the clearest path in front of them, their eyes focused on what’s ahead of them. Again, what’s your brain communicating to you about them with little else to go on?

Did you assign a gender to either of the two examples above? Did you picture the first one with hand in their pockets to be dressed down from the second one hustling from point A to point B? Did you see the first person as enjoying the sunshine, making the most of their personal time on their lunch hour? Of the second, did you picture them still on the clock, obviously not on their lunch even though you’re on yours? Did the brisk walker seem to move with purpose while the ambling, leisurely movement of the first suggest at the moment they were in control of their time and what to do with it?

How you move says a lot to others who likewise make inferences about what you’re doing, your level of activity, the urgency or lack of it in how you’re going about things at the moment.

Now earlier I’d said jokingly that you should look at all people not just the handsome or cute ones. Think on that now though; what is it about how people dress, the way they move, the attention or lack of it that they take to their personal grooming, their facial expressions, etc., that attracts us to them? When we find ourselves drawn to someone do we sometimes also give them positive attributes and think positively about them before they’ve even uttered a word? Similarly, if we find ourselves disinterested or even negatively affected by someone on first sight, do we likewise perceive them negatively before they’ve opened their mouth to speak?

Our body language communicates much about us. We can seem dominant, defiant, submissive, reclusive, introverted, outrageously confident and non-conformist etc. In the clothes we wear, the tattoos and body piercings we may or may not have on display, the attention we put into our makeup, hairstyles, shoes on our feet etc.; everything about us communicates to others.

So all of this is important to acknowledge and understand when it comes to those times in our lives when making impressions on others is important to us. The job interview, meeting the potential in-laws, the date on Saturday night, your appearance in court, your friend’s wedding, the prom, spiritual gatherings, lounging at the golf club or yoga studio; we never stop communicating to others and all of it non-verbal.

The good news of course is that with some thought and attention, we are largely in control of the non-verbal communication we send out, hopeful that it is received by others in the way that is consistent with our intended message. Are you going for, ‘confident’, ‘professional’, ‘casually comfortable and relaxed’? Sometimes of course you may be told in advance how to dress. An invitation to a party might say that formal wear is in or the person setting up the interview over the phone might tell you that business casual is expected.

The best time to put some thought into your clothing and the image you want to communicate to others through your body language is always the same – now! When you know the kind of work you are interested in, you can safely predict with a high degree of accuracy the kind of clothing you’d like for a future interview. Now might be the best time then to get out and get that clothing together while you’re relaxed and not distracted with the pressure and stress of preparing for an actual one in a couple of days.

Be it a skirt or dress, formal suit, shirt and tie, getting things now – or at the very least budgeting now to acquire these items as you can afford them, will pay off when you go to the closet and they are there at the ready.

Remember, you’re in full control of the messages you communicate to others simply by entering their visual proximity. Best to make sure you give some thought now to how you want to be perceived.


Market Yourself Like Produce

There are some people, (perhaps you are one of them yourself) who when applying for employment take a very passive approach in marketing themselves as the most desirable candidate. They have a belief it would seem that reasons if and when an employer hires them, only then will they demonstrate how good they are. Up until that point, it would be a lot of wasted effort trying to be the best candidate because they don’t know who they are up against. “Take a chance and hire me and you won’t be disappointed”, seems to be their message.

Now if you are one who holds this kind of outlook, I would like to give you something to think about with a goal of changing your view. In perhaps changing your view, you might then change your approach, and your new actions may thusly change the results you experience.

So I need some kind of analogy that the typical reader, (in this case you) can easily visualize; something that you see the logic in that best illustrates my point. Hmmm…..got it!

Okay so you’re at the supermarket and you find yourself in the fruits and vegetables area. You’re standing in front of the apples we’ll suppose and you’ve made up your mind to purchase a few. Now apples works nicely because not all apples are the same variety and each variety has its own characteristics making some best for pies, others better for snacking on as they are, and some are just that much sweeter or tart.

But there’s more. Even once you look the assortment of varieties over and narrow what you want down to a particular variety, you aren’t likely to just put the first four you touch into your cart and move on. Having done it myself and watched others do it, you my dear reader are in all probability just like all the other shoppers. You give them a visual inspection, you test the firmness, look for bruising or cuts, assess the overall size and shape of the fruit, and based on whatever you’re looking for, you finally decide.

Somehow amongst all those 50 apples of the exact same variety, you selected the 4 which lined up with your personal preferences. Those preferences of yours are your most desired qualities in an apple on that occasion, and you passed up some for the ones you walked away with.

Now the store itself knows how people shop and they too have watched the behaviours of their customers. They regularly have employees sorting through the apples if you think about it. They too are making those apples as appealing as they can for you the buyer. They will shine them up, remove ones they deem unappealing to the eye, turn the apples so they show their best side to the customers, and they position the overhead lights to best show the gleam of the products. Nothing is left to chance and of course any apple deemed to be bruised or damaged in some way is removed, put on a cart and either discounted for quick sale or removed completely from the store floor.

In this analogy, you the shopper are the employer making your selection. The employee putting their best out there is you looking as attractive as you can.

If you agree that the food stores are going through this process in marketing their products to the  best of their abilities, then it follows that I think you should also agree that you too should be marketing yourself to be the one to pick when applying for work.

When you pick out your wardrobe in advance of the interview instead of just throwing something on the morning of for example, you are polishing up your outward appearance to be at your best. When you research the job and the company as well as those who work where you also want to be employed, your arming yourself with knowledge and that knowledge you hope will appeal to the interviewer when you share what you did to prepare.

But you might argue, you buy your produce down at the farmers market where the apples aren’t polished, they aren’t stacked in nice pyramids, and they aren’t even washed or polished. What then? I would ask you then if when standing at that vendors stall you still don’t cast a critical eye over the apples you are considering purchasing. Of course you do. You do the same when choosing the head of cauliflower, picking the pint of berries that appears to be the best.

Employers are the same and act in the same way. They advertise exactly what they are looking for in the job postings. They cast critical eyes over the applications they receive to determine who on paper best meets what they want. They meet with those they are considering selecting to confirm what they want to know and in the end they make their selection based on who comes off as the most desirable.

Your chances go up significantly if you put in the required effort to market yourself to meeting the needs of the organizations you wish to work for. It may sound like a lot of time and effort to adapt to the needs of each employer but actually this approach is the one which will result in being hired sooner rather than later.

So are you a Granny Smith or Delicious?

Look At Yourself With A Critical Eye

Get yourself dressed in whatever job search clothing you plan on wearing and look at yourself in the mirror. In the privacy of your own home, this is the time to cast a critical eye over what you see and note things to address.

This is a good first step whether you are young or old; and age is only one factor you’re assessing in your outfit. This is also a good activity if you are checking to see what message your choice of clothes and how they fit on your body send. You might be in the right clothes but wear them poorly or fit them perfectly but be outdated.

Start at your head and work your way on down to your shoes. A full length mirror is obviously the best option here so you can get the entire view and the image it conveys. This is after all the look you plan on giving to the interviewer and/or other employees in companies you wish to work. You’re not only assessing your own personal look but also how well you align yourself with the other people who work there.

So how’s your hair? Whether you have a little or a full head of hair, it should be clean and groomed. Keep in mind that in the confines you are doing this exercise, there is no wind or breeze like you might encounter on the way to the interview. What will it look like once you get where you’re going? A good general rule is to ensure hair is off your face, so long-haired men and ladies should ensure no bangs hang over the eyes; you’ll only end up flipping it over with a toss of your head or with a hand; and this isn’t a Hollywood beauty shot. For guys specifically, make sure you clear up the scruff and stubble that you can’t see in the mirror that inevitably grows on the sides and rear out of your normal view. Trim facial hair.

As for your face, trim the nose hairs. Gross but give it a look. If you apply makeup, apply it in moderation with good taste (unfortunately this isn’t common sense). Moderation might mean less than you would normally. You want to impress them with your answers not distract them with so much makeup they wonder if you’re being authentic in other ways in addition to the makeup you’re hiding behind.

Speaking of hiding, and honesty is the best policy here, don’t expose your cleavage in an interview. Many employers I speak with – both men and women by the way – tell me that they frown overexposed cleavage. They wonder what you’ll dress like once hired, and having a discussion about exposing breasts is one they want to avoid so the easiest thing to do is not select the candidate in the first place. Too bad too, because some potentially good candidates don’t move on to the final job selection stage and are never told why.

If the job you are interviewing for has you wearing a tie, give it a look over too. Can you tie a knot or do you loosen it up just enough to pull it over your head? If you do, it isn’t looking as crisp as you think it is. Invest the 15 minutes it takes to learn how to dress yourself.

Look at your shirt with a focus on the buttons. If you see exposed skin where you shouldn’t it could be that either the shirt is too small or the fit for your frame is wrong. Be it the chest or the stomach, an ill-fitting top which exposes the flesh isn’t you at your best. Go to a clothing store with knowledgeable sales staff and get a proper fit.

Look at your sleeves with your arms at both sides. If you’re wearing a long sleeve outfit, do the sleeves extend past your wrists or possibly end too far up your forearm? When wearing a jacket over a shirt or blouse, it’s tasteful to have a little of the sleeve visible beyond the jacket cuffs.

As for the waistline, I know this is a sensitive area to talk about, however, you are looking with a critical eye. If you are overweight you can opt to lose some but that may be a long-term goal. For now, get into the right sizes and you’ll eliminate or reduce belt lines that roll over and outward, shirts that pull out of your pants or having to wear shirts over your pants. Many pants and belts now have flex capabilities, adjusting as you do.

Your socks typically match your clothing colours, although there is a current trend to wearing brightly coloured ones. Know the culture of wear you’re headed and take your cues from the workplace.

As for footwear, make sure you can walk, sit and stand comfortably in whatever you wear. Open-toed footwear is perfect for many things but an interview isn’t typically one of them. Whatever footwear you put on, ensure it’s clean and if leather, polished.

Clean your teeth, freshen your breath, remember the deodorant and pass on fragrances altogether. Clothing always looks better if ironed or pressed and check your clothing for animal hairs, lint, stains and odours if you’ve worn them previously – especially if you smoke.

Finally, smile! “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.”

My Plan To Be Scruffy At Work

I am a proponent of people taking pride in their personal appearance when it comes to showing up at work. Nonetheless, for the month of November I will be growing day by day a moustache, all in support of Movember; the cause that raises awareness and funds for men’s health – especially prostate cancer.

My objective is a lofty one for someone who is taking part in this cause for the first time; I want to raise $1,000.00. Yesterday evening was my first shout out to those I know, and I started the evening with exactly zero dollars. The first three on board were my daughter and her husband, a couple who are long-time friends, and a member of my extended family. All three have generous hearts, and stepped up almost immediately upon hearing of my request for help.

So here’s how it works. I joined a team of men who likewise work for the same employer, albeit at a number of locations around town. All of us will start the month clean-shaven, and will allow the hair to grow under our noses for the month of November. As we do so, people will notice, ask about it, and we’ll explain the reason and maybe collect a donation along the way.

Now to do something like this, you need the permission of your employer because after all, you still represent the organization with whom you work, and in my case, I have to be sensitive to the fact that the clientele I work with may take my unshaven face as a green light to go scruffy anytime and all the time. And that would be missing the point. It is not permissible to show up for a job interview unshaven or without some grooming and expect to have this ignored. While you may explain your cause if job searching in November, you run the risk of being judged negatively and not respecting the hiring process you are in.

The opposite could of course be true, in that the organization you are interviewing with is fully aware of this cause, has staff of its own partaking, and supports social causes such as Movember. If this is the situation you stand a much better chance than say, showing up for your Vice-President of a financial institution interview looking like you have little care for your personal grooming.

http://ca.movember.com/mospace/7254669 is a link to my personal Movember page. If you are so inclined, you can visit the page and click on the,”Donate To Me” link. If you don’t choose to donate, I’m entirely okay with that too because so many of us get requests for assistance and donations. However, I’m hoping of course that you get behind both me and the cause.

So let’s talk openly about cancer and the workplace. There are a number of people who are hesitant to use that word aloud when someone in the workplace has it themselves or has a friend or family member who gets diagnosed. We don’t seem to mind talking about other illnesses, but I suspect cancer is talked about less frequently because the implications for death are heightened; and if not death, certainly a dramatic change in one’s health.

In my organization, it was only last year that a very well-respected and loved Manager was diagnosed with this, and she has only recently returned to work. Just prior to her diagnosis, she accepted a promotion and got all the well-wishes she deserves which were considerable. Knowing she had a huge group of well-wishers and supporters here in our office meant a lot to her apparently, and that’s a fabulous tool in tackling the illness – support.

I don’t have cancer; my dad passed away from it, and quite frankly in his early seventies I know how much I would have appreciated him around all these years later. But it got him. And if it wasn’t that, it would have had to be something else because we don’t live forever. Do you know someone affected by cancer?

But here’s the real deal around men and illness; generally guys aren’t like me. I talk openly about illness and last year had my first colonoscopy. Men seem to avoid medical check-ups more than women, as if somehow if we don’t get checked out, nothing can be confirmed or discovered. Weird. If there’s something to find, why not find it early, treat it, overcome it if you can by making changes or surgery, and then live longer? Maybe not forever, but you might be there to see your kids buy their first home, throw the ball around with your grandchildren, or just be with the love of your life a few years more?

So no pressure intended, and I’ll not think any less of those who opt not to sponsor me, but I have to at least ask you to consider sponsoring me and supporting the cause of men’s health and prostate cancer screening specifically. If you can afford it, big or small, visit http://ca.movember.com/mospace/7254669 and give what you can.

And a big thanks in advance for all your ongoing support!

1st Impressions: Who Do You Think You’re Fooling?

Last week was the first of a two-week job searching class that I am facilitating. When the group first walked in on that Monday morning just over a week ago, I judged each and every one of the people who walked through the door and sat down. And don’t think they didn’t judge me either.

Now of course, judging others is not something that you might think you do; it’s as if the idea of judging someone else is a bad thing to do. I’m here to tell you that not only is it a very good thing to do, it’s absolutely necessary, and the faster you realize you are being judged the better if you are seriously job searching.

However, what I really want to get across is that you have to believe that some people are just better at judging others with a higher degree of accuracy than you might like to think. As each of these 12 people sat down, within a few seconds I had already formed an initial impression. As 20 minutes elapsed, I either revised or reinforced my initial impression of each person as they introduced themselves. I watched their faces to see who could make solid eye contact, looked at their posture as they were seated, felt their handshake and thought, “confident” or “insecure”, looked at their clothing and thought, “Not taking this seriously” or “Well done”.

As a week has now passed, I’m closer to the end of the program than the beginning with this group of people, and I can tell you honestly that my impressions formed after 3 seconds – that’s 3 seconds – was 100% accurate. Now if you think I’m sharing this to impress you, you couldn’t be more wrong. I’m sharing this with you as a person looking for work so you can fully appreciate the importance of that critical first chance to make a strong positive impression.

The good news is that the capacity or ability to shape the impression that others have of you is within your control. While anyone can extend a hand and shake the hand of another person, some will put no effort into the gesture and offer a limp hand, or worse, just a few fingers not even the entire hand. It’s not essential to squeeze hard, but a firm handshake is by far the best that shows you to be assertive and confident.

Take some time to groom yourself. So trim your facial hair, wash your hair and brush or comb it. Put on a clean blouse or shirt and yes you should tuck it into your pants if you want to come across as a professional, whereas a shirt hanging over your pants looks far too casual like you are going to the beach. Do your best to save your jeans for the weekends and evenings on your own time and either present yourself in dress pants or at least some khaki’s.

As for your footwear, sandals are once again for the beach and strolling down the street window shopping but never for job searching. Socks and shoes for the men, while the ladies have a few more options such as flats, closed or open-toed shoes with tights, hose, bare legs etc. And for the ladies only, don’t make the mistake of wearing your skirt too high or your top too low. Interviewers will not be impressed with your cleavage, and if anything it will work against not for you.

And it might as well be said here, that wearing the right bra for your body size is a must. If you haven’t already done so or don’t even know they exist, you might benefit from making an appointment with a knowledgeable salesperson in an undergarment department or store dedicated to women’s clothing. Tell the sales clerk you’re seeking advice on getting properly fitted in a bra that offers support. Don’t assume that you’ve had it right all these years. The difference between what you’re wearing now and what you perhaps should be wearing can make you more comfortable, keep things in place, and improve your appearance.

And then there’s the smile. A smile warms others up to you and visually tells others that you are warmer, more approachable and pleasant. If you don’t smile as a rule, you may come across in that first few seconds as cold, brooding, too serious, and someone to be cautious around. And it actually takes far less muscles to smile than it does to frown so stop working so hard!

Even how you walk will reveal you. Walk briskly and you’ll be deemed to be confident, perky, having a purpose, going places and on a mission. Walk with your hands in your pockets, slouched and shuffling your feet and you’ll come across as lazy, unmotivated, disinterested, even depressed.

I’m going to present two different initial greetings in writing only and you decide which of the two is the more assertive confident job seeker. Both are responding to meeting an interviewer. Person A says, “Good morning! Nice to meet you.” Person B says, “Hi.” Did you choose Person A as the more assertive? You can’t hear the tone or volume of the voice, but the words alone probably in your mind were heard nonetheless. A greeting just using a few more words makes a stronger positive impression.

Work on improving your own first impression. If you receiving some help from an Employment Counsellor, Career Coach, or Job Coach, maybe you might want to discuss what you’ve read and practice a few things.


Scruffy Peach Fuzz

Yesterday I came into contact with a fellow who is unemployed and regularly makes use of the Resource Centre I work at. Now, I’ve know this guy for a couple of years, and over that time, he has struck me as personable, willing to engage in conversation, he makes good eye contact, and he seems fairly intent on working.

Now as it so happens, I was contact by an employer just two days ago who is looking to hire a few people, and one of those roles they are looking to hire is in the area of Shipping and Receiving. In addition to the obvious duties of the job, the inside information she shared with me is that the company recently cut the dead weight; employees who stood around waiting to be told what to do. They are looking for go-getter’s, energetic people who move quickly and look for things that need to be done and take initiative to do them.

So I engaged this fellow in conversation and asked him what exactly he was looking for. To this question, he replied that he’d like a Shipping / Receiving position. So far so good I’m thinking. “What’s standing in your way”? I asked. Transportation and a two year gap in his employment were the two things he mentioned. I hadn’t mentioned the job opening yet to him, and I then asked about his work ethic, and turns out he is interested in a job where he keeps busy and active. Again so far so good, and he’s saying the right things. He even indicated that the salary he would start at was in the ballpark of the job I knew about.

When I mentioned the job opening and the inside tips I knew about, he got understandably interested and he really appreciated the chance I was giving him. But then one thing happened that I still can’t really understand. You see, this guy has constant peach fuzz on his face. His beard and moustache are thin and spotty, and he keeps it trimmed that way. To someone who doesn’t know him, it looks like he just hasn’t shaved for three days and is either too lazy or is in the early stages of growing a full beard. So I suggested he consider going clean-shaven to the company when he drops off his resume and application.

My suggestion was meant with tremendous resistance. He figures he’s being hired to do a job, and if in the back room of a store unloading and unpackaging merchandise, it shouldn’t matter what he looks like. If someone doesn’t like his appearnace, he doesn’t want to work for them he said. Now I scratched my head at this one because of what he said next even more. He then said, he himself isn’t all that attached to his facial hair, it’s just the principle. I just shook my head and actually told him that I was surprised because I thought he was smarter than that!

If the facial hair isn’t all that important to him, why not shave it off or grow it all in and keep it trimmed. It just gave the impression that he didn’t care about his appearance, and going to a job interview, it would communicate that he’s not all that concerned about making a good first impression. Representing a company, even for those times you are on a break, on the floor of the store or on a bus while wearing your company logo, you still represent a company, and other people make connections between your appearance and the employer. Right or wrong, fair or not, if you can’t be bothered to take some pride in yourself, then the store by default probably doesn’t take pride in their cleanliness and appearance either.

In the end, I don’t know if he will in fact show up today with a clean-shaven face or not when he drops off his resume and application. It will be interesting to hear what happens however, because I’ll follow up on this. Ironcially, he told me that all kinds of people have told him what I told him and he’s sticking to his position. He figures that once people get to know him, then they are in a position to judge him. I disagreed and told him so. People make instantaneous judgements all the time – himself included. Is that woman appealing from across the floor enough to go over and talk to her? Is that well-dressed guy on the street corner successful? Can you guess someone’s financial situation based on just how they present themselves? And if someone drops off a resume, you can bet that person is being sized up and judged from the moment they enter the eyesight of the peson receiving their resume.

Aw I still hope he shaves and gets the job interview at least! 

What You Tell About Yourself

On my drive in to work everyday, I pass a number of homes, some of which are century homes, some newer. Despite the age of the actual home itself, the care taken to maintain the home and the property of any home older than a couple of years says a great deal about the people who live there.

I was struck by the appearance of a house this morning especially, and I made the link between the appearance of the home and the job seeker, or in fact, any employee. Let me share this with you and perhaps you can see and learn from the parallel I share – assuming I do it well enough!

The home in question has a fair amount of property around it, and it has some mature trees, a paved driveway, and I’m guessing it would contain 4 or 5 bedrooms as it has a second and third floor. It appears at one time to be have been cared for as the exterior has gingerbread accents on the roof lines, and it has a curved staircase that leads one up to the welcoming front door which is stained oak. While it sounds impressive, I could easily see that some of the gingerbread scrolling is missing and hasn’t been replaced, the gingerbread itself is covered in peeling paint. The curved staircase leading up to the door needs some support work, and the front door needs to be stripped and re-stained as damage from weather has removed the protective finish and started to remove the lustre and shine of the stain. The trees on the property are overgrown and need a good cutting back too.

In other words, what I got from the appearance of the place was at one time someone obviously cared for the place and had made some effort but for whatever reason(s), the place was just being let go and showed a lack of care. Perhaps money was tight due to a drop in income, someone wasn’t physically able to do the work anymore etc. For whatever reason, that home is just not showing itself at it’s best and somebody possibly doesn’t care as much as they once did.

Now to the job seeker or the employed. Can you identify with people you see around you daily, perhaps if we admit it, ourselves from time to time and see the link I”m going to draw with that property? I know of people who are wearing fairly expensive shoes for example, who haven’t polished them in many months. The scuffs are there, perhaps some mud or nick that indicates a lack of attention. Perhaps a favourite shirt that someone wears often has a threadbare collar that indicates it should really be relegated to Saturday in the backyard rather than the workplace. Perhaps the cuffs of the pants are disintegrating from contact with the ground each step, or the back pocket is wearing thin wear the person keeps their wallet.

All of the above indicate perhaps that at one time the person cared for their appearance enough to purchase the clothing but for reasons unknown, has not taken the time or trouble to keep up their appearance. Lack of money, attention, concern etc. could be to blame. There may have been a time when those new shoes got changed out of to nip outside and just pick up the newspaper from the driveway in the rain. If you didn’t you might have wiped off any mud or dirt immediately and given them a good polish from time to time. But as with many things, over time, the shoes didn’t seem all that important or new, and they got less and less of a concern as a result.

The message you are communicating to co-workers, clients, Management, potential employers etc. is entirely up to you to craft. How do you want to be perceived and viewed? There was a Sherlock Holmes episode that I vividly recall now as I write this in which Holmes remarked to Watson about the declining wealth of an apparently well dressed gentleman. In that gentleman’s’ presence, Watson challenges him to explain how he could possibly deduce that from his appearance, and he cites buttons not replaced, a silk handkerchief frayed and not replaced, the lack of care for the shoes etc. There are Holmes-like people all around us checking us out and making judgements and assumptions about our appearance and yes, you do it too with others.

Maybe the time has come to look over your wardrobe and accessories and give your overall appearance a brushing up. Whether you are looking for work, or thinking of a promotion down the road, your appearance and your attention to it (or lack thereof) may be part of how you are perceived for that new job or that new role. A good clue would be to look at those in positions you aspire to and take your cues from how they dress. Then, however they dress, step it slightly up one notch in order to be a good ‘fit’.  Just like a house gets spruced up before going on the market, so should you.