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.



Clothes Make The Man

For the last two weeks I was fortunate to work with some people who gave themselves over to me and accepted my support to aid them in finding employment.

Among the job seekers was a gentleman who told me that his career objective was to work with the elderly in capacity of a Recreation Leader in a Senior’s facility. Like every other person who had accepted the invitation to attend, he also accepted the expectations that accompanied the invitation to attend; one of which was arriving each day in business / casual clothing.

Business casual clothing I told each participant, meant no jeans, no t-shirts; and while the ladies didn’t have to wear fancy ballroom gowns and the men didn’t have to wear three-piece suits, I did want them ready for interviews on a moments notice. Each person I spoke with told me not to worry, their clothing wouldn’t be an issue.

So back to my Recreation Aide and his quest to gain employment working in a seniors’ facility. On the second day of our gathering, in he walked with cargo shorts and a polo shirt; his definition apparently of business casual.”You said no jeans or t-shirts, but you didn’t say anything about shorts.” I had to see if he was being smart or sincere. In this case he was actually being sincere and thought his choice of clothing was acceptable for the job he was going for.

Well, we had a chat about clothing and he said he didn’t own any button up shirts; everything in his collection was a polo, t-shirt or sweater. When it came to pants, he had jeans and one pair of pants to a suit that didn’t fit him properly anymore. Now fortunately, one of the benefits I can provide for those I assist is some financial assistance. Armed with some funds I send him shopping, hoping he would take my advice and go for a button up shirt or two and a proper fitting couple of pants and belt – perhaps a reversible one that he could then wear black or brown as needed.

He did return with a change in clothing and the choices he made were excellent ones that spruced him up and which he still felt comfortable wearing. He was concerned that tucking in his shirt would expose a small belly roll over his belt line, but this wasn’t the case; and tucking his shirt in was a must.

You see from an employer or interviewers point of view, you can always dress down from how you present yourself, but they assume the way they see you is you at your best, so you can’t dress up beyond what they see. While yes you can take cues from the employees who work where you want to work, you have to also realize you’re going for a job interview and they are not. Dressing properly for an interview is essential; and having a shared understanding of what, ‘proper’ means is critical.

When you work with someone like an Employment Coach, Employment Counsellor or Job Coach, you get (hopefully) some good sound advice on how to dress for success in job interview situations. If you find you’re not getting advice on this subject, go ahead and ask.

One thing that everyone agrees on is that your first impression is essential to setting up the rest of the interview. The last thing you’d want to do is make a poor first impression and then count on your savvy interviewing style to rescue the rest of the interview. Why wouldn’t you want to start of making a strong first impression and then make it your goal to keep the interview going at that high level of professionalism?

Now as to the shopping experience; you may be one of the many who instinctively go into a store and mutter, “No thanks, I’m just looking”, when the Salesperson asks if they can be of help. If shopping isn’t your thing and coordinating an outfit or two isn’t your strength, stop denying the help offered.Instead, consider replying, “Actually yes I could use some help. I need an outfit or two for job interviews and my budget is (insert your figure here).”

By putting yourself in the hands of the Salesperson, you get the advice of someone who works in the fashion industry on a full-time basis. This doesn’t mean they are automatically an expert, but you ease off the stress of having to pick out your clothing when you don’t know what you’re doing. By giving them a budget, it tells them whether to head for the clearance rack with the 2 for 1’s, or the just arrived, full price section.

If money is a problem, look at flyers in advance of your shopping trip or look at websites of stores and see what specials they have on. You can ask for help from people you trust too in terms of where deals are to be had based on what you can spend and what you need.

When this gentleman came into class the day after his shopping excursion, I had him stand while we all looked him over. He got a round of applause and was told by others how good he looked. That did wonders for his confidence and I never saw those shorts again.

It’s true, clothes do make the man.

Sometimes You Just Have To Laugh…At Yourself!

A couple of months ago, I created a situation for myself that caused me to laugh out loud at myself in an empty parking lot and ended up with me a little lighter in the wallet. I share this humourous story with you in the hope that you can find some humour in it too, and perhaps see behind the story itself and learn how we all have a choice on how to act when things go wrong.

Most mornings at my home, I find myself leaving the house while my wife gets a few minutes of extra time under the covers easing into her day. My routine is usually to shower, dress, breakfast and then don coat and shoes and drive to work. On this day however, my wife rose early and started watching the news on television. As I stood at the doorway, I was interested in the news story being covered, and kept my eyes on the screen as I slipped on my shoes at the door. One shoe slipped on effortlessly, the second needed a little wiggling, but soon slipped on. I kissed my wife goodbye, put out the garbage and recycling, got into the car and drove the 1 hour to work – a trip of some 95 km’s.

It was only when I parked my car at work and stepped out that I saw my footwear for the first time. One black shoe and one brown one! AND that’s not the most amazing thing. The brown shoe was the slip on variety and the black one was a lace up shoe I hadn’t bothered to untie the night before! Right there in the parking lot, I laughed aloud at my situation. Going home to change sure wasn’t an option at this point.

Up in my office I looked up on the computer to see when the local shoe store would open and found that it opened at 9:30a.m. It was now 7:40a.m. I decided not to get annoyed with myself having no one to blame but myself. I immediately started speaking with my Supervisor and co-workers who did not immediately notice my faux pas. When I pointed this out to them and told them the story, they burst out laughing WITH me, not at me. I found out that several of the women I work with keep alternative shoes at work; some have runners for walking, some have pumps if the heels get too much etc. Not me.

I ended up taking my mid morning break at 9:30 sharp, and in less than 15 minutes, had left, gone to the store, bought a pair and returned to work. The $69.99 shoes I wanted were unavailable in my size, but in the ‘last pair’ section, I found a pair of leather slip on shoes originally $99.99 marked down to $19.99 in my size only! I guess the gods, just like me, were smiling that day.

When I went to the counter to pay, I told the clerk I’d just wear them out of the store and asked for a bag for my old ones. She knew it had been raining and asked if my old shoes had leaked. I told her it was far worse than that and just help up the mismatched pair for her to see. She laughed too.

My misfortune of the morning cost me $19.99. I learned to laugh at myself, and brought laughter to my colleagues, a stranger, and one client. All in all, that’s a trade off I’d make any day…but I do check my footwear each morning just a little bit better….!