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For the past few weeks I have been struggling with my hair.
I know, that old saw of black women and our hair, when will it end? As you can see from my photo, I wear my hair natural. But as I continue on this path of re-invention, I was in a quandary over how best to present a polished image. Is my natural hair projecting a polished image along with my wardrobe?
A polished image is defined as a well-put together style, which reflects and captures the essence of who you are with confidence and grace. It means dressing appropriately for the right environment and having a professional appearance.
People only see the packaging and if that’s not together you (may) have lost the opportunity before you’ve had a chance to open your mouth and sell yourself. Regardless of the field you are in, appearance matters, especially, if you’re a woman. You must consider everything from your shoes to your hair and anything in between — including your briefcase and/or handbag to capture that winning look.
Along with the hair drama for women, the wardrobe factor can become tricky when creating the “power” look each time you step outside for work, after work, an interview, or a formal event. Men have it easy, regardless of the time of day, their wardrobe choices are quite basic: slacks, jacket, tie, crisp white shirt, and a polished shoe.
“A well-conceived image from head to toe is a polished look, and that all depends on industry and environment,” says Cheryl Ann Wadlington, creative director of Evoluer Image Consultants. “If you were in a creative field it would be different from a law firm. In corporate America you wear traditional clothes — a crisp white shirt, pair of slacks, closed toe shoe with no detail, pearl earrings. … Confidence and know-how are important but appearance matters more.”
Being your true authentic self is important, but there is a time and place. Once you’ve secured the opportunity, de-code the corporate culture, and then and only then should you incorporate your personal style into the job. How you market yourself for the position is key and you will want to keep a consistent image.
Wadlington passionately explains, “Brand confidence is how you speak, walk, talk, dress, attitude — all has to be packaged with the look from head to toe.”
A polished image coupled with brand confidence equals the ability to take charge and own a situation:
1. Dress the part and look fabulous.
2. Know the dress code of the company and if you don’t know it, ask.
3. Neat hair is a must, whether you have dreadlocks, chemical relaxer or a weave.
4. Choose your underpinnings (underwear, bra) wisely. Pull up the “girlies,” and make sure you’re wearing a proper fitting bra. “Eight out of ten women wear an incorrect bra and should be fitted by an expert,” says Wadlington.
5. All professional women should have a quality and classic handbag. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it shouldn’t be cheap.
6. Don’t go overboard with the jewelry. Invest in a quality watch to accessorize the outfit.
What minor image tweaks have you done lately to secure a job or opportunity? I would love to know.
Caviar & Chitlins Moment: Sometimes content is not as important as the image. Don’t be afraid to make minor adjustments to live the life you deserve.
Karen Taylor Bass, The PR Expert, provides entrepreneurs, corporations, and mompreneurs with essential branding, marketing, and public relations coaching; www.karentaylorbass.com and www.taylormademediapr.com. Follow Karen’s tips and Caviar & Chitlins moments at Twitter, twitter.com/prexpert.