First Impressions Count

If you want to DRESS TO IMPRESS and make a GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION this article will help. It is a very old cliché but you never get a second chance to make a first impression. But you do get a chance to revitalise your image and confound people’s expectations of you, which you will do if you change your personal image.

Almost all the people I work with tell me that changing how they dressed actually had a significant impact on how they felt which caused them to behave differently and as a result to get different reactions from others. Imagine turning up at an event severely under dressed (i.e. jeans and a sloppy sweatshirt when everyone else is in evening attire) you are likely to want to slink into the background and feel out of place; you will certainly stand out from the crowd and get noticed but it may not be the impression you want to create.

If you dress differently but making sure it is appropriate, you can actually give your confidence a boost and cause people to behave towards you in a different way. There is now some significant research to show that feeling good about how you look can also have a very positive effect on your mental well being!

The Halo Effect

Much research has been done into how long it takes someone to sum you up based on what image you present; it varies slightly but an average is about 90 seconds. 90 seconds! That is particularly important when it comes to job interviews as I can testify myself. Having interviewed many, many people and despite always telling myself it’s the person that counts you just can’t help yourself being influenced by that first impression – which is invariably what they look like. Do they look like they’ve made an effort? Are they dressed appropriately? Do they stand, smile and offer you a firm hand shake as they introduce themselves?

It all contributes to the final package, it’s called the ‘halo effect’ and will influence how all other information is received, including answers to interview questions or whether they choose to buy your service!

Is it just a cliché?

Some of us find it really difficult to accept that how you look can have such an impact which invariably brings out another old cliché – Never judge a book by its cover. But if we’re honest we do, don’t we? How many of us will pick up a book in a plain brown cover with a dull coloured small type if we are looking for a light holiday read? Most of us are drawn to the brightly coloured and striking covers. But if we’re looking for a text book on say, contract law, we would be very suspicious of that brightly coloured striking cover fearing it would not have the right gravitas, we wouldn’t trust the content. Similarly, we need to dress for the market, or the customers, or the next job we want!

People receive messages about us in many ways and how we choose to present ourselves gives one piece of information about us. Even if we say we don’t care about how we look then that is the message we are giving others.

Manage Your Image!

I used to manage a team of social workers in a large hospital. We’d never spelt out a dress code but there was one and we didn’t really think about it until someone transgressed it.

We had a young man in our team for a short while. He was a good worker but his appearance belied this; he was scruffy and dressed as if just back drom a student party. I gently took him to task for his appearance (which he resented), but he then went out and got himself a very smart suit, way above the usual standard of dress in the team. He did it originally to prove a point but it was fascinating to watch the effect it had.

When he went onto the wards staff gave him more attention and respect than he had previously received and he actually said it was akin to being treated like a consultant. His confidence improved, his standard of work went up and he certainly raised his profile. He was the same person as before but then patients, usually elderly, had to overcome their feelings about his appearance before they could trust him; he did not have the luxury of time to demonstrate he was a competent worker. He had to give that ‘I’m a professional, you can trust me’ message very quickly and he learned that his personal image both helped and hindered him.

With women the effect can be even more marked and research shows that people will always assume a woman in a tailored jacket is in a senior position.

Stocktaking your appearance

Take a few minutes to think about what you (and your whole business if appropriate) are wearing now and what this says about you and the service you offer. If you are in your workplace is it a professional and competent look? Is that the image you want to convey or does your business call for a more approachable look? What is the dress code?

Where to get help

If you think you could do with a new look there are lots of places where help is available. There are many image consultants as a quick trawl of the internet will reveal but have you thought about trying the personal shoppers in major department stores? They usually offer their services free to men and women and in my experience are brilliant at what they do. Give them a brief and your budget and see what they come up with. You are under no obligation to buy.

Whatever you think about how we judge one another it is worth knowing for those times when you want to use it for your advantage. It’s a relatively easy way of giving out a message and giving yourself a boost in the meantime. Be bold!

Suggested Further Reading available from Amazon
First Impressions by Demarais and White

Thinking of expanding your training business? Are you passionate about empowering women? I can help you! To find out how, click here.


Posted on April 25th, 2009 by

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