Is Your Professional Image Stuck in 2009?
Frequently, I find that some of my clients feel guilty at the thought of making making purchases to revise their wardrobe. They’ll hold on to the same look they’ve had for years — same clothes, hair, and makeup, and even the same old bag they’ve used to carry their laptops and other documents for years now. But you are not the same person you were in, say, 2009, and hanging on to that old image may make you look rumpled or slightly outdated — and others may treat you accordingly.
The truth is that style matters. The way you present yourself affects how others see you, and in turn, respond to you. An up-to-date professional image communicates not just that you value yourself, but that you pay attention to detail and are aware of social norms.
If you are still presenting yourself in the same way you did half a decade ago, it’s time to let go of that old image. Upgrade your professional image to one that suits who you really are now by using this simple checklist:
1. Consider how you want to be known.
Which qualities do you want to come to mind when your people first see you? Much of our assessment of others is done before they even open their mouths. Likely, you want words like professional, polished, poised, confident, and current to describe your look.
2. Inventory your wardrobe.
Next, invite a trusted friend — or even a professional stylist — to review everything in your closet and give you an honest opinion about whether it conveys the words on your list. Be sure to identify which items are fine to keep but are inappropriate for the office. I often see women wearing plunging necklines that would look great on a date, but wrong for the office.
3. Invest in looks that convey your ideal you.
Spend some time developing a Pinterest board or old-fashioned tear-sheets of looks that spell success in your field. You don’t need to become a shopaholic, but having a visual blueprint of the look that you want will help you make smart purchases that support your professional image. Also consider visiting a top-notch hair stylist for a new look. (Then, you can have a less expensive hairdresser help you maintain the new look.)
As a psychologist, I have seen time and time again that by changing the way we treat ourselves, we can change the way others treat us as well. Leave the guilt behind, and give yourself permission to take charge of your professional image in 2015.
Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Carmichael Psychology in New York City. She has taught cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for anxiety reduction at Fortune 500 companies and her private practice. Her new series of online tools helps her clients CBT techniques for anxiety on their own schedule.