Dress for Success – What to Wear to a Networking Meeting.
As humans we believe what we see, therefore, you may not have uttered a single word but the way that you look will tell people a lot about you. At a networking meeting it is vital that you take this into consideration. From your appearance people might assume your social level, job status, educational level, trustworthiness, personality and even your moral character!
We make these subconscious decisions and judgements about people in just a few seconds – usually based on our assumptions and biased by our past experiences.
When we start a business there are numerous things to think about and to plan but if you are your business it is important that you think about how you come across to others. You might spend time and money crafting your website, designing your logo and creating your business cards but it could all be futile if you don’t “look the part”.
You truly never get a second chance to make a first impression so it is crucial that you portray yourself in the best possible way from the outset and then maintain that image.
Dressing for success is not pretending to be something you’re not, neither is it a frivolous topic or a sign of vanity. There really is no substitute for sound knowledge and skills, but a carefully managed image will help by creating a reflection of your abilities through a sort of visual shorthand.
If a person looks a certain way we naturally would expect that person to behave in a particular way. Therefore the clothes that we choose to wear are essential to the impact we make and we can then use our image as a strategy to help us succeed.
Celebrities spend a fortune on creating and maintaining a certain image, so why can’t we do the same?
Creating a consistent message is key – you therefore need to ask yourself a few simple questions to help you select what to wear:
How do I want to be seen?
Think of three words to sum up how you would like others to see you? What do you want them to believe about you, before you even open your mouth?
These words may change depending on the occasion or situation but having these words in mind will help you choose, plan and shop for clothes in the future.
Eg your words might include: professional, knowledgeable, fun, creative, powerful, friendly, successful, powerful, authoritative, trendy, interesting or approachable.
When you have chosen your words, think how the words might look as outfits, accessories or as part of your grooming – this will help you to select (and reject!) garments that don’t fit the bill. Eg “Professional” doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a suit but it probably will require an element of tailoring and great grooming. If you want to look “approachable” then avoid contrasting colours, head to toe black outfits or sharp suits; try mid-toned colours, possibly some texture and soft tailoring.
What would people expect someone in my profession to wear?
This is linked to the previous question but vital to consider – for example if I was at a networking meeting and met a gardener I wouldn’t expect them to look “suited and booted” and I would probably mistrust their abilities if I didn’t see a little dirt under their fingernails! This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t take care with their appearance but in my eyes there would be a disconnect between how they looked and what they were saying.
Equally, I recently met an IFA at a networking meeting who claimed he could help me get a great return from investing my money with him. He said all this whilst wearing a jumper containing two big holes and dirty shoes – I’m afraid I didn’t believe him!!
So what do you think your clothes say about you? Are they standing between you and success?
Remember – there is a subconscious belief that if you look like you’ve taken time and care over your appearance people will believe that you will take time and care over your work.