As much as we might hate to admit it, we all make split-second decisions about people based on how they look. It’s not nice and it might not be right, but it’s a part of our brain’s subconscious that helps us to easily decide if someone is part of our tribe and whether we should be scared of them.
As Hard as We Try, We’ll Always Have This Instinctual Reaction.
Take a look around the company that you work for. Nine times out of ten the people higher up the career ladder are relatively attractive or they dress well and present the best version of themselves. Now, look just one step down at middle management. Do you see anybody there dressing this well? Probably not quite as many and you’ll definitely see a few with wrinkled shirts, ill-groomed hair, and bad ties.
Those executives at the top didn’t only start looking that way when they got to the top, they looked that way in the interview that got them that job. Once you reach the higher levels of any company you’ll be working far more with other executives and clients. When you’re doing this kind of work you’re representing the company and you need to have a certain look.
Hopefully, this hasn’t depressed you and it really shouldn’t have, because the good news is that there’s a lot that you can do to improve your appearance. While genetics do play a part, the effort that you put into your appearance can easily overshadow any genetic luck that your competitors (cough… I mean… colleagues) might have.
1. Make Sure to Dress Fresh
Obviously, your gender will change this response and so I’ll break it into two separate sections. I’m going to talk as specifically as I can whilst remaining general because I know each company will have different dress codes and executives will wear different clothes.
My first recommendation is to always overdress to improve your appearance. The reason for this is that it’s actually quite difficult to really overdress unless you’re wearing a suit and everyone else is wearing sweatpants.
Let’s take the scenario that most people wear smart casual in the office, a pair of jeans and a nice shirt. If you come in wearing dress pants instead of jeans, all of a sudden you’re the smartest there and that’s the only difference you’ve made. It will make you stand out in a good way and it appears that you’re taking your career and your future seriously.
If you’re a guy and you’re wearing a tie, learn how to put a dimple in it. This helps to make even an ugly tie look a little bit nicer by giving it some depth and a more ‘lifelike’ motion to it.
Similarly, make sure that your clothes actually fit you. If in doubt take your jeans and suits to a local tailor and have everything tailored to your body, it won’t cost as much as you might think and can make a huge difference.
Finally, even if you work in a casual office you should never be wearing anything less than a shirt. Wearing a shirt doesn’t make you ‘owned by the man, dude’ it just makes you look like an adult rather than a teenager. If you want that promotion, then you need to look like you deserve it because the reality of the corporate world is that regardless of how good your work is, you’ll get passed over unless you tick the rest of the boxes.
2. Don’t Forget to Groom Yourself
Have you ever heard the phrase; “Just because you see a white crow it doesn’t mean the rest aren’t black”?
Just because you see one of your managers with a beard it doesn’t mean that it’s professional. Facial hair has never been and almost certainly will never be considered professional. Unless you’re keeping it as part of a religious code you need to shave tonight.
When you do get that promotion you’ll be going on business trips and so you’ll want to take an electric shaver with you that will keep you looking professional without all the hassle.
I’ve been asked the question about stubble plenty of times before and my answer is always the same, stubble is for the weekend and for party time. Facial hair has no place in the office. Period.
I love a beard just as much as the next man and I’m far lazier, I assure you, but play by the rules of the game if you want to be crowned the winner.
Secondly, trim your eyebrows. This one’s not just for the girls either! This doesn’t mean you need to shape them, just shave the hair between your brows and above them so that you look presentable.
Similarly, cut your nails and get a haircut. It’s these small grooming changes that will make all the difference in how you look and the most annoying part to me is that they aren’t even difficult. It’ll take you 5-minutes to groom yourself each week and it’ll make you stand out and look like you deserve the promotion.
It might seem like an oversimplification, but that’s because it can really be that simple, but when attractive people get paid 4% more than average, you literally can’t afford to ignore it. Improving your appearance in the office is about dressing for the job you want, rather than the job that you have and that will mean making changes.
Fortunately, your appearance has the added benefit of making you feel better about yourself, and when you feel better about yourself you’re likely to work better too. See, fashion and style aren’t all artsy, it has some real-world applications too!