How Are You Coming Across?

One thing I’ve come to believe is that the person you believe yourself to be is key to being the person others perceive you as. How you see yourself is largely how others will see you. To a point that is…

It’s always worth checking out every so often; how you are viewed by others around you, in order that the way you see yourself is in line with how people you interact with size you up. If you find that how you come across differs from how you view yourself, you should be asking yourself what it is your doing and saying that’s projecting this image that differs from how you believe your interacting with those you meet.

Take a moment and think about how you want others to see you. Do you want others to see you as helpful? Are you going for ruthless? Aggressive? Assertive? Innovative? Self-assured? We are multi-dimensional; meaning there are many sides to us and how we wish to be perceived will vary with the people in our lives we wish to interact with. So for example, we may want to come across as knowledgeable when we meet with our Supervisor at work, but when we talk to someone to buy our snow tires, we might wish to come across as wanting to be informed on what’s best for us and defer to their wisdom.

Whether we do it consciously or not, whenever we interact with others, we send signals about who we are, what’s important to us, how we see ourselves and all of these signals give others an impression of how we see ourselves. This is a key to interacting with the world around us and coming across to others in the way we wish to be viewed.

Take two people you see on a subway platform. Without having a conversation, you see them both from 20 feet away; one is a person in a formal suit, polished leather shoes, pressed pants, crisp shirt and tie, carrying a leather folder. The second is a person with green and blue hair, denim pants and sneakers, long-sleeved shirt, wearing a backpack and a tattoo on each forearm peaking out of the shirt sleeve. You know nothing about their character, their intelligence, their occupation, income level, hobbies, attitude, etc. but if you’re honest, you start to form an opinion about them just the same.

Did you choose a gender for both of the people above? None was given in the description, although to view them on the platform you’d have this information. That first impression you began to form in your brain is based largely on how you’ve perceived and interacted with other people of similar looks in your past. So whether you saw the person in the business suit as successful, determined and confident or conceited, hard-nosed and full of themselves is largely an individual thing. Were you to watch them longer, observe them closer, have a conversation perhaps, your view of them would either be reinforced or change based on further information you gather.

Just like the two people I’ve described, you present yourself to others (the world around you) both in how you look, how you act and what you say. Both the people above may be on the way to work, be very successful by their own definition and be friendly.

The choices we make right from the start of our day go a long way to determining how we are perceived. So what are some of these choices? Showering vs. not showering, brushing our teeth or not, how we wear our hair, the clothes we pick out, (cleanliness, colour, style, fit). There’s also the way we move. Do we saunter along, looking at the streetscape around us and the people we pass or do we walk with a purposeful stride, focused straight on the path ahead, not looking anywhere but at the destination we are moving toward?

Whether older or younger, some thought going in to how we dress, move and act will change how the people we interact with start to size us up. If you’re older and feel your age is a problem, I have to tell you that it’s possible this self-perception is coming across to others in your choice of clothing, grooming, how you behave and your movement. Look at yourself as objectively as you can and note the people around you that you perceive favourably. How are they dressed? How do they move? What’s their posture like? How are they groomed?

One thing you can do to check on how you’re coming across is to ask people you interact with and trust for their views on how they perceive you. As there is little value in only hearing what you want to hear, ask for honesty. Without leading them by saying, “Do I come across as confident?”, just ask how they see you.

Do this with one person and that’s interesting. Do this with two or three and it’s somewhat helpful. Do this with many people and you get a clearer idea of how the world perceives you. Now the question is do you like what you hear? Is it consistent with how you want to come across? If so, great! If not exactly what you hoped for, what is it you’re doing to create that image in their minds? If change is wanted, you act on it.

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.


Appropriate Dress Designed To Impress

Whether its your LinkedIn photo, every day work wear, a presentation to the shareholders, pitching your business to a potential investor or indeed an upcoming job interview, you’re wise to put some thought into what your clothing says about you. And make no mistake, if you neglect to put any thought into what you put on as you head out the door, you send a message just the same.

Caleb Wells, a Visual Consultant  with T.M.Lewin; an English heritage brand was kind enough to contact me  recently on this very subject. In part, he penned the following…

“As experts in business wear and dressing smart, we have taken it upon ourselves to help professionals understand the standards of dress for different interview and office settings. As you know, dressing for success is imperative. We have recently developed an exclusive infographic on Cracking the Interview Dress Code, helping growing professionals navigate what to wear and when.”

Here is the link which will open the infographic he refers to which I am happy to share with you my readers. Not only is this information pertinent to my readership, it is also a fine example of networking and I encourage this strongly. Have a look.

Now before sharing this here, I took the opportunity to share this with some of the people with whom I work with. I was interested to see if it resonated with them. It was a good fit and good timing actually, as dressing to impress is always a part of the employment workshops I facilitate.

I am happy to report that the infographic has been well received. Some of us are visual learners, and while discussing what’s appropriate and what’s not works for some people, being able see visuals helps many grasp things quickly and accurately.

Now of course there are many who work in occupations where the dress code of the company or the nature of the job doesn’t lend itself to the suggestions in the infographic. The Cook, Valet Attendant, Lab Technician, Child and Youth Worker etc. might all state that their work demands another kind of attire altogether, and I’d agree; so too I suspect would Caleb. However, I think we can all agree – or at least I would hope many of us would agree that the knowledge of what constitutes Business Causal vs. Casual or Formal Business attire is important.

A Cook may not always be a Cook after all, and may one day want to step up his or her game and approach a new employer and want to impress at the first meeting and make a solid impression. That Lab Technician might have to wear the white lab coat on the job, but at the same time they could have functions to attend like conferences where they make a presentation; or similarly applying for employment. A white lab coat is not appropriate attire when you’re granted an interview and want to look your best.

Taking a look at attire, there’s always the question of casual Friday these days as well. If your organization supports casual Friday dress, it’s a good idea to inquire about the standards expected on this particular day. Show up in flip-flops, shorts and a Bermuda shirt and you might be okay or you might be invited to attend a meeting right away with your supervisor. “It’s about your clothes. What were you thinking?” is not a good way to start a conversation if you are on the receiving end.

Is money an issue? Dressing smart doesn’t have to break the bank and you don’t necessarily have to buy your entire wardrobe in one trip which I agree could be crippling. The importance of having some key pieces that you can mix and match to present a different look is excellent advice. Have some grey, black and navy solids on the bottom half of your body and some white or black options on your top half and you’ve made a start.

Depending on your organization and the image they want to convey, you may be able to add splashes of colour which might complement your hair colour or bring out the colour of your eyes. Every so often something I put on draws several positive comments from those I meet, and that information is worthwhile to me. If you experience this as well, you should note that combination; it will give you confidence and improve your delivery and interaction with others as a result.

The other thing I like about passing on this infographic is that while the information is timeless and sensible, it’s also 2017 information; current and up-to-date with the times. It’s a reliable source.

One suggestion I make to you is this. Pick a day when you’re not rushed and make an appointment with a  representative of a reputable clothing store. Explain that you’d like to get some clothing suggestions. Many stores with trained professionals are happy to show you how to coordinate your clothing. They can take a shirt, tie, pants and put together a look that sends the message you want. They also have the expertise to work with you over time and transform your look, often alerting you to sales on the things you’re interested in. Having a relationship with your clothier can and does reap its rewards.

Dressing for success never goes out of style and should never be overlooked as not worthy of attention.

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.”

Pre-Interview Personal Check List

Aside from doing your homework and researching the job you’re about to be interviewed for, here are some tips you can easily overlook that could make the difference between making a positive or negative first impression. Read the list, see what you think and make adjustments to your pre-interview routine as you best see fit. All the best to you as you pursue that next position!

  1. Footwear.

Get your shoes out the night before and spend 5 minutes polishing them. All shoe stores sell various polishes and protectants yet many buyers only leave with their shoes. When you sit down in front of interviews your footwear is often front and center; especially if you cross your legs and elevate one over the other, thus raising it directly in their line of sight. The interviewer can infer you don’t put much value in personal appearance if you’re footwear is poorly maintained and if this is you at your best, you might not be the person to represent the company.

2. Socks

Depending on the job you are going for, you can play it conservative and wear solid colours that match your outfit or you can go playful. If you’re unsure, opt for the conservative black, brown, grey etc. This isn’t the time or place to wear two different socks as the interviewer has a limited time period to ask you pertinent questions that relate to the job and one of them isn’t going to be, “What’s with the socks?” Therefore, they’ll be left to wonder if you’re just having fun, showing off your individualism, bucking the establishment or you just generally don’t recognize the occasions when you should dress appropriately.

3. Tattoos And Piercings

The general public once associated people who displayed tattoos as being criminals and sailors, piercings as being for punkers and those into self-mutilation. Today, people in all walks of life have tattoos and they’ve become mainstream. However, you have to use common sense when making up your mind to expose or cover up your personal artwork. Knowing the culture of the company you are applying for, anticipating the reaction of the customers, clients or end-users of the companies services and products can all help guide you in your decision. Of course, the tattoo itself and what it communicates has to be paramount. You can always remove piercings for an interview, or even the job once you’ve got it if it’s important to you and add them back when hired or on your own time.

4. Shirts, Blouses, Pants, Skirts And Dresses

Notice I didn’t include shorts and neither should you. Get out what you’re wearing the night before an interview or if you’ve got your favourite interview outfit, check it out now rather than later. Look for obvious signs of wear and tear such as frayed cuffs and hems. When standing in front of a mirror, have you gained or lost weight and the fit isn’t what it once was? Aside from stains that can come out in a wash, have the garments faded and now look drab? Have you any loose or missing buttons that need sewing?

5. Brush Your Teeth

Whether you’re a smoker or not, brushing your teeth before the interview not only removes any stuck food but can improve your breath and impact your confidence. Head out to a pharmacy or grocery store and pick up a small tube of toothpaste, a small or collapsible brush and a mini bottle of mouthwash. These you can stash in your purse, glove compartment box or even an inner jacket pocket of your coat.

6. Hygiene

Shower, use deodorant and if you’ve got annoying sweat lines under your chest or under your armpits, dust yourself with some baby powder after the shower dry off. The baby powder will help reduce those sweat lines and give you one less thing to worry about. Clean and trim your fingernails; trim the nasal hairs too.

7. Perfume and Cologne

These days someone in the company you are applying to is likely to have some allergy to fragrances. It might even be a company policy that you arrive without a scent; what’s pleasing to you might be deadly to someone else and that someone could be the person prepared to interview you. Some applicants are told that the interview can’t proceed unless they can wash off the fragrance and rescheduling may or may not be possible. Don’t lose the interview and thereto the job over this.

8. Hair Care

If you’re the applicant who out of habit plays with their bangs or locks, get it back and out of reach. If it constantly falls over your eyes and you have to continually toss it back or move it off your face with your hands, choose a hairstyle that eliminates this. Ensure it’s clean, groomed and this goes for beards and moustaches too.

9. Business or Business Casual?

Before the interview, check the expected attire worn each day by current employees. Does the company have a policy or dress code you could adhere to right from the interview? Find out.

10. Accessories

You want to impress them with your knowledge and your answers. Too bad if they can’t hear you over the jewelry on your wrists or they can’t get over the distracting earrings or necklaces. Keep your accessories to a minimum as they should highlight you not the other way around. Clean your glasses ahead of the interview as well.

Getting The Right Bra

At the moment, I’m facilitating a two-week workshop on self-employment and starting your own small business while in receipt of social assistance. As participants in this group are all exclusively on social assistance, it’s important for them to understand the rules that are in place that govern what they can and can not do as a small business owner until that day when they reach financial independence and can then do as they wish.

Now there are what I call the soft and technical skills that are required to be a successful small business owner. The technical skills are things like budgeting, writing a business plan, product production and money management. The soft skills are things like how dress, understanding what personal qualities are generally held by entrepreneurs etc. Very important and many would argue even more important than technical skills, as those can be sought out in others you could contract.

So there I was on day 2 of a 10 day class yesterday. The subject we were discussing is clothing, and how important it is to make a good first impression on investors, advisers, potential customers and business partners and colleagues. My audience was made up of people in ball caps, reflective sun glasses, t-shirts, jeans, etc. I was stressing the importance of taking pride in how you dress, and the fact that one never knows when you might attract or put off someone who might help grow your business.

With this target population, I assume nothing. We talked about everything from the length of skirts and dresses to the need for clean nails and teeth maintenance. Then the topic turned to underwear. You know, making sure your pants aren’t having your crotch at your knees, and 7 inches of your boxers exposed if you want to be taken seriously. And with respect to bra’s, not over exposing yourself, colour matching with your top etc. It was at this point a question was posed which I think is worthy of sharing here.

The question came from one of the females in the group who said that the cost of a bra for her – being heavy chested) was out of her price range. She pegged the right bra at about $80.00. We talked as a class for about 20 minutes on the subject of bras. Was it uncomfortable for me? No not really. I was impressed that the group on day 2 could have a serious conversation without the immature comments that might have come up from other groups, or the snickers.

Wearing the right bra really can make all the difference no matter what your bra size. But in the case of this woman and a few others in the room, it was an issue of needing the right one to provide support and reduce back pain. My suggestion to her was to put a funding request in writing for her Caseworker, and if she could obtain it, include a note from her physician that backed up her claim of experiencing back pain. Looking at things on a cost basis, what’s less expensive after all, two $80 bras or trips to Doctors and Chiropractors?

And as one of the woman in the class contributed, wearing no bra at all isn’t the answer as a small business owner. And she’s right on that account. And on the other end of things, another participant brought up the issue of being small chested and having to find one that fit her frame.

Finding the right fit; be it a bra, a dress, a pair of pants or a shirt is critical to both looking professional and feeling good about yourself and your level of self-confidence when addressing others. For tall or large people, some stores charge extra for plus sizes, and even those that don’t sometimes have limited selection of clothing. One of the men in the group said he has a waist size and inseam combination that isn’t easily found, and he has to sometimes settle for clothing that wouldn’t be his first choice due to availability.

You see the option of going to stores that cater to people who are taller, broader or heavier etc. isn’t always there for those on fixed incomes. Pay your rent, buy your groceries and there isn’t much left for what we might call basic necessities. And this is why I’ve made the suggestion to put a request for some clothing funds to the client’s worker who is in a position to provide it based on demonstrated need.

By the way, you might have already done a comfort check with yourself had you been in my position. You know, a guy talking with a mixed class about bras and underwear. Would you in my place be at ease discussing it or even think it appropriate. My feeling is this: if it’s important to the participants in the class to bring up, it’s important to discuss. Really effective adult education facilitators have to in my opinion, allow for discussions to occur where interest is sparked. Sure I’ve got my agenda, but adult participants have to be respected, allowed to contribute, and if it’s topic-related and relevant, discussion is to be encouraged. Looking at things the other way round, if she didn’t bring up her concern, she may not have found out that funds are available to help alleviate her problem and find a solution.

Like they say, there are no dumb questions. And if you’re thinking of a question, someone else likely is too whether it’s bra’s or some other subject.

Car Accidents And Underwear

So what do car accidents and underwear have in common? And just what do either have to do with getting a job, networking or anything at all quite frankly in a work situation? Read on.

See if this is familiar. You’re driving along a highway with  a concrete barrier between the cars traveling in one direction and cars moving in the opposite direction. After sailing along at 100km for some time, you see all kinds of red lights going on ahead of you. Inevitably you ease off the gas, then you apply the brakes, and eventually stop completely. Then it’s inching forwarded, brake; inching forward, brake. What’s going on you wonder? Must be an accident or something. Eventually you see some emergency vehicle lights – in the other lane of traffic going the other way. The accident isn’t even on your side!

Now there really isn’t any reason for people to have stopped completely, and in fact other than becoming more attentive and concentrating on the road, really all that was needed was some caution and a slight drop in speed. However, folks want to slow right down. Why? Well it’s pretty hard to drive when your neck is cranked out the window examining damage, looking for body parts, blood and distraught passengers vomiting on the shoulder of the road. That is why people look isn’t it? All those people in the cars know that they aren’t going to like what they see, but they want to see anyhow out of a morbid curiosity.

Ah, the light is beginning to dawn isn’t it? I mean about the underwear. You know, there’s that co-worker, client, customer or Supervisor whose pants are riding low, while their underwear of the day is riding high, and when they squat down to tie a shoe, pick up a pencil or wipe up a coffee spill, your eyes are inexplicably and involuntarily drawn to look where you know you really don’t want to – but you do just the same. It’s hardly ever pleasant, and you know it just falls into the category of, “Too much information”.

Whether it’s on the plant floor, the office cubicle, the reception area or the interview room, we all want to present ourselves in the best possible way. Maybe the shirt we tucked into our pants at home came out in the car, or things all fit right when we’re standing up, but as soon as we sit down, the pants sink and underwear rises. (Okay so how many of you are checking your backside with your hands right now?)

When you are looking for work, or crafting your image at your place of work on a daily basis, your backside may often be the side that others see half the time. And it’s not that your workplace is full of people judging your backside and holding up placards with their scores for your performance. That’s just so wrong. However, if you’ve taken the trouble to put a little bit of thought into what to wear each day, then take a little bit of time as well to think about HOW TO WEAR IT. Do things fit better than they used to or are things not holding up where they once did?  Do you need a shirt or blouse that’s extra long in the back to stay tucked in?

Of course the other faux pas is the person who has 7 yards of their top rammed into their skirt or pants with rolls of the top all protruding in odd bunches. This isn’t a great look either.

Like the car accident, people don’t really come to work with anything nefarious on their mind other than going about their work. Well most anyhow. However, when there’s a visual distraction in their path, that inclination to look, knowing that there is a good chance you’re not going to like what you see anyhow, somehow takes over.

My advice is to take care of your appearance on a daily basis. As you dress, be conscious of how things appear on the backside. Stretch or bend down a little and check what happens back there. What’s going on where you can’t see but co-workers and clients can? The upside to taking care of your backside is that your career aspirations won’t be broadsided and take a backslide.

Whether it’s boxers, briefs, thongs, jockeys or commando (just gross), there’s a reason they are all called UNDERwear. You wear them under, not above or over your clothes! You’ll find more blogs and job advice here.

All the very best!

Casualty Fridays

Some years ago, before business casual was widely in fashion, many employees tended to have to wear business suits to the office. The men wore dress shirts, ties, dress shoes and dress pants while the ladies wore blazers, blouses, pantyhose/stockings and heels. Then along came organizations like the United Way in North America which partnered with employers to allow employees to dress down on Fridays provided the employee made a financial contribution to a charity.

Even today at many offices, (including mine) employees can wear jeans to work on a Friday, ditch a dress shirt for a polo top, and pay a nominal $2.00 to a charity, (the United Way in my office). So much for what hasn’t changed. However, what has in fact changed is the broadcast of the message to the general public. Initially, one of the stipulations in many workplaces was that employees sported a pin that read, “I’m dressed this way for the United Way” or some such message. If someone asked about the pin, the employee would then tell the client or customer that they were making a financial contribution to a charity for the freedom to wear jeans to work. Oh and they couldn’t be the jeans people wear today! No tears, no rips, no stains.

So how does all this factor into a blog about job advice? Well, one of the things many Job Developers, Coaches and Employment Counsellors tell their clients is to try to observe employees at the companies they most want to work for, in order to gauge how they dress in the workplace. This gives you the chance to show up at your interview properly attired so you don’t stick out in a negative way. After all, if you look like one of them, the interviewer has an easier time seeing you working there.

So you can guess where I’m going right? Suppose the client you send out to observe employees entering the workplace chooses a Friday to do their advanced scouting. What would they take from this scene of people all walking in to work wearing runners, jeans and t-shirts/polos one day, only to find on the next Wednesday when they show up for their interview, that everybody has ramped it up to shirts/ties/blouses/dress skirts, and looking much more professional. Maybe somebody passed away and the staff are all heading off to the visitation after hours?

Now it’s a personal choice of mine to bypass the chance to sport jeans on Friday. Man I love my jeans. I change into them almost immediately every night and ditch the khaki’s or dress pants. The reason for my choice is simply this. As I work in the public with the public, even if I explained to everyone I had an interaction with the reason for why I was wearing jeans, there could be someone who sees me from across the room and makes the assumption that I’m dressed this way everyday, and that the employer finds this the norm and acceptable attire. Then they go to their interview dressed as casually, and don’t get far.

Some call them Casual Fridays however, I call them Casualty Fridays. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the employees from the clients/customers. I’ve heard some clients go up to others and ask, “Do you work here?” because they are confused. I think my own credibility on the subject would be skewed somewhat if I were to lead a session on Interview Preparation and Practice dressed in a T-Shirt and jeans. Wouldn’t this appear to be a, “Do as I say, not as I do” message? I never bought into those kind of messages much, and I suspect clients/customers would have an equally disconnecting moment in trying to do so. In other words my credibility would be questionable.

Let me say however, that if an employer sanctions the practice of dressing down to make a contribution to a charity, by all means every employee should have the right to make that choice once a week – especially as business attire has been replaced by business casual more and more and in more workplaces too. I would also stress that good advice would be to not admonish any co-worker who slips on a pair of jeans on a day they are allowed to by the employer. After all, the cause is good, the employer approves and obviously the employee is comfortable. All I suggest is that if you are in a position to influence, take a moment when you can to inform any potential job seeker WHY you are wearing your jeans to work on a Friday, and why it normally wouldn’t be appropriate.

Me, I’m waiting for the day I can pull out my tied-dyed jeans, lace up my black and purple platform shoes, put on my cotton french cuffed shirt which only buttons half way up my chest, and style my hair with an afro pick. That day is only approved by my employer once a year…..October 31.

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.

How Do You Get Dressed?

I’m going to paint a picture for you to imagine. You’ve awoke, showered, and are standing stark naked in front of your open closet or dresser wondering once yet again to yourself, “What will I wear today?” Now instead of clothes hanging on those hangers, or lying nicely folded, I want you imagine words. There’s a number of things to choose from: Insecurity, Confidence, Fun, Romantic, Silly, Professional, Uncertain, Positive, Shy, Loud, Obnoxious, and oooh I wondered where my Attractive had gone!

Wouldn’t it be nice to just reach in and put on something that would communicate to everyone who saw us exactly what we wanted to convey? If we were normally shy and withdrawn how nice it would be to just slip into that Assertive outfit for that big interview! It does feel wonderful AND it still fits! In some respect, we do go through this in real life. We put something on and wonder if it makes us look fat, or maybe that short dress makes us look like we are still trying to look 26 but our birthdays say we’re 46. So maybe we can’t pull that one off anymore. Let’s put Playful Tease back on the hanger and maybe donate that to charity!

Our clothes are only part of how we arm ouselves for the day. In addition to our physical wardrobe choices, we do our hair, makeup, shave, cover or expose tattoos, remove or not our piercings, pick out our footwear, maybe grab an umbrella or suntan lotion and head out the door. All of these choices we make are part of how we wish to be perceived by others and there are just some clothes that make us feel, well, pretty, handsome, confident, assertive, professional, casual, etc.

What if way back in the closet, under a pile of your usual stuff, you found a seldom used Invincible. Remember how it looked in the store when you first saw that? You thought you could rule the world in that outfit. You haven’t had that on in some time. Or maybe it’s still in the original package and you haven’t ever wore it. Get it out, slip it on and see how great it feels? It’s like your second skin! Why haven’t you been wearing this more often? It’s got you written all over it!

I’d like to remind you of one very important observation. When you are out looking for work, or going for that interview, the people you are meeting don’t know you at all. All they will know about you is what you choose to display to them and this is ENTIRELY within your control. So what kind of impression do you want to convey? For example if you are a bit reserved, your self-esteem has been battered around lately, and you’re not as confident as you used to be, YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS THIS. There is nothing that says you have to share this information with everyone you meet.

Just as an actor takes some time to get into a character by thinking about how the character they are portraying would walk, talk, dress, act, and carry themself, you too should think about how you will walk, talk, dress, act and carry yourself. Walk with your head down, and don’t look people in the eye, and you’ll be seen as timid and unsure. Walk with a slightly longer stride, head up, smiling and looking people in the eye, and you’ll be viewed as someone who has somewhere to be, is confident and assertive.

You probably would agree that music has the power to affect your mood. Put on some ACDC and you’ll be in a completely different frame of mind 3 minutes later. Click over to your dusty Barry Manilow CD (LOL!) and just see if you don’t mellow out! Oh and don’t let anybody catch you doing this experiment! Just as music has the capacity to evoke emotions and that translates to behaviour, so too do our other choices in clothing and attitude.

So tomorrow when you stand naked to the world in your bedroom closet, choose how to arm yourself with thought and care. When you walk out your front door, what image will you bring to the world? Oh and by the way, you really do look marvelous in that Invincible!