A Polished Image Improves Brand Confidence

Know how to dress appropriately, with confidence and grace, for the your professional environment

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According to image expert Wadlington, a polished look "depends on industry and environment."

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.

  • Wendy

    Thanks for the article. My minor (or major for me) image tweak was investing in a “job” wig. Maybe that will improve my chances of securing a job.

  • Bev

    The one thing each of us has to remember is that times are hard and no longer will a degree and you resume be enough to secure you a JOB.  We must all go the extra mile especially if you are a “Woman of Color” so I say this article gives each of us that “Extra” we will need to have a greater opportunity to get that job.  Listen up it”s not so much who you are but who you project yourself to be that matters in the work force.  

  • Karen, your struggle with embracing your natural hair while maintaining a “polished image” is a common concern amoung professional women. I recently taught a workshop at the Baltimore Natural Hair Care Expo call “Transitioning from Chemical to Natural.” I emphasized the importance and exploring our “beliefs” about our hair in its natural state and building a healthy self-image. Despite all the recent media attention and mainstream buzz around Black women and Natural Hair, it is going talk time, love and patience to heal centuries of distorted perceptions, Euro-centric standards and lack of nurturing to our hair…. Stay encouraged, love who God made you and most importantly live authentically 🙂
    Be Radiantly Beautiful

    ps. “dreadlocks” is not a term we embrace in the natural hair culture. Most people (African Americans) simply call them “Locks”, or “Locs” Clean, Cultivated and often very fabulous nothing dreadfull about them 😉

  • Tonya Jackson

    Thanks for this article. Branding your professional image is so very important. Business minded women should always be polished, sharp, and distinguished in the work place. Since corporate America has turned more to the business casual dress code, I would love to see more professionals such as yourself do more coaching or seminars that address exactly what it means to dress casually in the work place. I have seen it all and I think with a little more awareness and promotion of image branding, we can make the necessary changes. Just because you are not where you want to be professionally is no excuse not to have a polished image. I am a firm believer that you should always dress where you are trying to go.

  • Tonya Jackson

    Good article. Branding your professional image is so very important. A business minded woman should always be polished, sharp, and distinguished in the workplace. Since corporate America has turned more to the business casual dress code, I think the professional image of women has taken a tremendous turn. I have seen it all and I would like to see more professionals such as yourself do more coaching and seminars addressing this issue. I think with more awareness about imaging branding, we can make the well needed changes in the workplace. Even if you are not where you want to be professionally you should always dress where you are going.

  • Mzcole77

    I recently went on an interview and the person hiring actually commented to one of my references that I didn’t seem polished. I wish I had read this article first. I know for certain I was definitely judge by my appearance.