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November 2002

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April-May 2001 Issue

Empowerment Enterprises LLC
For International Association of Exhibition Management

By Sherry Maysonave
See Contact Information and Profile on

Are you earning the income that you desire to earn or believe that you are capable of earning? Do you want to win raises and promotions? If so, it is essential that you pay attention to your workplace image. In today's dressed-down business environment, millions are suffering from the Casual Confusion Syndrome. They believe that their casual attire - or their overall business image - makes no difference in their success potential, their achievements, or their income. They are mistaken.

The Hamermesh-Biddle Project (HBP), a formal study conducted by two economists, exposes the pitfalls of buying into this casual myth. The HBP research shows that "attractive" people have higher incomes. Surprisingly, this proved true for telemarketing and other jobs that did not require any public contact. Underscoring the link between your image and your income, the Wall Street Journal article announcing HBP's discoveries was entitled "Good Looks Can Mean a Pretty Penny on the Job."

To increase your income, maximize your attractive potential on a daily basis. While it may take some effort, anyone can be perceived as attractive. Yes, anyone. There are millions of women and men who are far from naturally good looking. Nonetheless, they have a polished way of dressing, they carry themselves well, and they exude a positive demeanor. Together, these qualities make them appear highly attractive; they are often perceived as striking and very appealing, even when they are dressed down.

First Impressions Count
A stylish haircut that compliments your face shape and appropriate apparel that suits your body-type are strong business assets - important business tools that can catapult you to greater success. An attractive put-together image sends the nonverbal message that you pay attention to detail and that you take pride in yourself and your work. Like it or not, your nonverbal communication is always in the forefront. Is yours working for you or against you?

As people, we are information gathers; we consistently read other people. We do not read others to be judgmental. Instead, we size up others so that we can gain important information about them. Based upon visual clues from their attire, grooming, posture, and demeanor, we unconsciously assess who they are. And with that, we decide how we are going to treat them.

Communication statistics show that in the first five to thirty seconds of meeting someone, at least three primary things are determined about you. Whether perceived accurately or not, those three primaries are:

  1. Your socioeconomic status
  2. Your educational level, and
  3. Your desirability
This sizing-people-up process may or may not be conscious with us. But in the end, we all tend to associate well-dressed individuals with intelligence, attractiveness, and achievement. Thus, we grant those folks more opportunities to prove themselves.

Look Like A Winner
Regarding your status or achievements in these three areas, the messages that you send determine largely how others treat you. What socioeconomic status you come from does not matter at all. But to succeed in business, it's important to appear that you currently belong in at least the middle, if not upper, socioeconomic bracket. Why? People like to be associated with winners and other successful people. This is the primary reason to present yourself as if you are already successful regardless of what level of success you have achieved to date.

Keep in mind, a successful professional look can be achieved on any budget. Abundant cash flow certainly makes it easier to look rich and successful, but budget limitations can be overcome with the right wardrobe plan. Looking successful does not mean that you drape yourself with status symbols; that can work against you in business. It does mean that you can never overdo real quality in your clothing and accessories. To get ahead, you must pay attention to the details of your image, details like shoes, well-coordinated outfits, haircuts, makeup, etc.

Look Smart
The second consideration is your perceived educational level. Well-dressed people, even casually well dressed, are considered to be smarter and better educated than those sloppily clad. If you project professionalism and dress smartly on a consistent basis, you will attract opportunities that allow you to prove just how smart and capable you are. Well-dressed incompetents get more chances than poorly dressed brilliant folks.

Look Good
Your "desirability" is the third nonverbal area involved in a first and ongoing impression. Our personal filters get involved in assessing someone's desirability factor. Even still, in business a polished, professional image is always considered more desirable than an ill-groomed inappropriate image.

Business is a game. What you wear is a fundamental strategy. Just as the best sports equipment can give an athlete the competitive edge, businesslike stylish apparel can gain you a leg up in your career. Whether you are dressed up or down, smart professional attire stamps your demeanor and visual image with power and confidence.

In today's digital world, first impressions and the visual aspect have never been more critical. With the technology explosion, business moves at a faster pace today. Harry Beckwith, author of Selling The Invisible, says that people do not simply form impressions, they become anchored to them. Busy people are apt to make snap judgments, and then base all their later decisions on them. Can you afford a negative impression? No, not when you consider that your success is often tied to others' perceptions of you. A prominent CEO recently said, "If people only knew that it can take two years to undo one negative impression, surely they would try harder."

Your image is the "Home Page" of your personal web site and a web page of your company's site. Do others click on you as having the answers, seeing you as having the ability to get the job done, or do they surf on?

Upgrade your image today, maintain it consistently, and watch your income potential soar as opportunities for success and greater success knock on your door.

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