When you are meeting someone for the first time, know that you will be judged before you have a chance to say hello. Yes, people see, hear, feel and, yes, even smell their way to assessing their first impression of you. All of this information is downloaded in seconds and is not easily erased, if at all. If you are meeting a potential client, interviewing for a new position or networking, you can be sure that people are making judgments on what they see.
Messages sent by your posture, body language, grooming and attire precede your handshake, eye contact and first “How do you do?”. Grooming—choices you make to ensure you are polished and ready to send the right message before you even head to the closet let alone out the door is a personal subject and the attention paid to this detail pays off.
Your grooming speaks to the respect you have for yourself and others. Its message is powerful. When you spend the time to present your best self you gain in reputation, advancement, promotion, salary. And yes, studies exist that say women who wear makeup are offered better salaries. You may not like the study results but the reality is – it pays to look good. Here are a few upfront preparations that will have you off to a great presence before you get dressed.
Shower – it’s a given, right? Thought so. This one is not one of the tips. It's a do or die.
Hair – clean, cut and styled and complementary to your face. Choose styles that are professional and simple. Women, save the glam looks for special evening events. I have seen men and women with unkempt, disheveled hair at work, networking events and luncheons. They look like they have just climbed out of bed and schlepped in without taking a peek in the mirror. Assumptions made are not easily erased.
Hair is not the only thing to brush. Make sure oral hygiene is top notch. Your smile is one of your best assets. Let it work for you. Whiter teeth are more attractive but not everyone is blessed with “pearly whites”. Coffee, tea, colas, wine and smoking all contribute to discoloration of teeth. I am not advocating giving up your pleasures. Just understand the extra care your smile may need. Remember the mouth wash and mints.
Feet should be covered. The only toes that should be seen are women’s in dressy sandals or open toed pumps at appropriate events. In this case, consider pedicures mandatory. I know that in the south, women shun hose due to the heat. For a more polished look wear the hose. You will most likely be in air conditioning and the look is so much more pulled together. If you opt out of the hose, be sure legs are meticulously groomed. Men, wear socks! Match the color to your pants and no white socks, ever!
Cosmetics – Yes? No? How much? A study funded by Procter & Gamble and designed and executed by Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that individuals who wore makeup with a natural or professional look were perceived to be more competent, likable, attractive and trustworthy. Dramatic makeup reduced the trustworthiness factor so leave the smoldering eyes out of the workplace. Individuals wearing no makeup scored the lowest. Like the research results or not, people respond positively to the “I took 5 minutes to improve my appearance” effort. Many women also say they feel more confident and pulled together when wearing makeup.
Carolle Vargas is president of Your Etiquette Style, an etiquette and business protocol training company based in Jacksonville,