- make or break relationships
- open or shut doors
- attract or repel opportunities.
Everyday people use stereotypes to decide whether to engage with a person or move on. In business we do not want people moving on to another professional or another firm. We want them to engage with us, to do business with us.
Try this exercise .Conjure the image of a heavy set man wearing leather biker jacket, blue jeans, heavy boots, earring and sporting a beard and a multitude of tattoos. Now, what ‘profession’ comes to mind to match this visual image?
Chances are you did not immediately think of doctor, architect, dentist, teacher, electrician, surveyor or landscape gardener. Why? Because you don’t associate any of these careers with the visual image you conjured up. This is the power of stereotypes.
It is very important to remember that if you dress in the manner of a particular stereotype you will be attributed with the qualities of that stereotype. A bikie is not someone we immediately assume is honest, trustworthy, educated and moral.
A more subtle example may include the young woman who dresses in a frilly skirt and pin-tucked blouse, and accessorises with a floral headband and bows on her shoes. This ultra-feminine look, attractive as it may be, does not send a message of competency and credibility in a professional setting. The look is stereotypically sweet and girly and the message this look sends is not reliability, stability and dependability. In fact women who dress in this way are often perceived as young and lacking experience, dependent on others and not capable of making difficult decisions.
So, the accepted guidelines for business dress include:
- neutral colours
- conservative garments
- closed-in shoes with a medium heel
- minimal jewellery
- and a minimum of bare skin on show.
An effective visual image for business is:
A successful business outfit needs to:
- be well fitted and comfortable
- be clean and well maintained
- be restrained but not boring
- flatter you figure type
- compliment your colouring
Our visual image matters because rightly or wrongly, we are judged by it. And remember, we only get one chance to create a great first impression.