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“The next time you are heading out the door, pause at the mirror and make sure that what you see reflects your purpose and value.”
Amy Spiegel, author and business leader

Fact: You will be judged by your physical appearance. How you choose to dress is one of the first things people will notice about you and shapes their perception of you.

“The most basic mistake new employees make is underdressing,” says Randall Hansen, a professor of business at Stetson University in Deland, Fla. “If unsure, dress conservatively. The best way to avoid a problem is to understand the corporate culture.”

Making the right impression at work isn’t hard if you keep in mind three basic points when buying clothes for the office:

1. Presentation counts.

2. Casual shouldn’t mean slovenly.

3. Dress as you want to be seen: Serious, professional, upward-bound and ready to meet clients.

Dress for your next position, not your current one! Take notice of the professional presence of people who are currently in your “goal job.” Take a look at the rising stars in your department or organization. How do you compare?

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Even though most companies have a dress code, there is plenty of room for interpretation. Make your presentation reflect your professionalism and your personal style. In the words of one style expert, “Understated elegance beats flash and trash five days a week. That means men shouldn’t dress like aspiring rock stars, and women should shun the Paris Hilton look.”

As a leader or emerging professional, your future depends on taking the 3 core concepts of professionalism seriously:

  • behaviors
  • personal presentation
  • business presence

What Distinguishes Individuals with High Professional Presence?

  1. Confidence in their abilities to perform the functions they were hired to do.
  2. An ability to solve problems and focus on solutions.
  3. They make decisions that are sound and responsible and impact the good of the organization as opposed to self-serving.
  4. Confronting or eliminating fears from their thinking. Focusing on positive outcomes instead of negative results is their operational method.
  5. Taking risks. Professionals take calculated, measurable risks  in order to challenge themselves, create movement and change the organizational culture.
  6. They take care of themselves through effective self-management. They exercise, they eat the right foods, they nurture themselves and create an environment that is positive and motivating instead of one that is filled with stress.

Pay Attention to First Impression Impact!
Numerous studies support the premise that within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone they have formed an impression of you based upon the behaviors that you’ve chosen to give them. Impressions are powerful beliefs that are difficult to change.

Increase Your Personal Effectiveness!

Not Just Another Nice Suit!
Appearance can create credibility. You know this from your own experience watching TV food-fight shows focusing on politics and other chin-pulling topics. Think of the number of times experts from opposing sides of an issue have made good points during an exchange, but you remember what one said simply because that person was better dressed and came across better on screen.

You’ve probably read plenty of articles about a basic professional wardrobe, and how you can never go wrong with these basics:


  • A button-down shirt.
Polished black shoes.
  • A blue, black or gray jacket.
  • Slacks that complement the jacket.
  • Don’t forget the socks!


  • A skirt that hits just above the knee
  • Slacks and perhaps pantsuits.

Simple jewelry.
  • Just a hint of makeup.
  • Polished flats or moderate heels.
  • Sweaters.

Here’s the Secret
Most people master clothing, the obvious professional presence hallmark. Many downplay or even forget that grooming, personal behaviors, accessories, and your office, desk, or cubicle are also part of your professional presence. Pay attention to your hair, fingernails, nose and ear hair, breath, nail biting, facial hair, and anything else associated with your body.

Do you bite your nails or have any other personal behaviors? Overcome them to improve your polish. You want to take your career (and life) to the next level, and mastering behaviors is the bedrock of your current and future success. You are dressing to reinforce your professionalism and competence. Some young professionals don’t understand the difference and damage their careers.

In the words of Mark Twain, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.”
Do not go naked (or inappropriately dressed) into that good night.

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