When you buy a professionally marketed product or service, you are interacting with a brand identity. Someone has taken time and trouble to work out whom they want to appeal to, and how to get their message across.
You can draw on similar ideas in presenting yourself professionally. This is sometimes referred to as personal branding. It is about taking a considered look at who you are, how you want to be seen, and how you can communicate this. If you get this right, your external appearance and manner represents who you are on the inside – and who you are at your best. Looking good will not only help you feel confident, but will inspire confidence in you.
When marketers develop a company brand, they take into account the brand values, and you can do the same for yourself. What personal values and qualities do you wish to communicate? What effect will this have on your customers or clients? For example, a solicitor will always want to look smart and professional to inspire confidence, but this can be expressed in different ways. A family lawyer may choose a more relaxed way of dressing than a corporate lawyer, for example a smart dress rather than a formal business suit.
In my business, I would like to be seen as approachable, yet professional and a smart casual way of dressing takes me happily through most working situations.
You may prefer a tailored look, or a quirky look. Whatever feels like the real “you”. Even if your workplace is quite conventional, you may still be able to inject a bit of personality into your outfit with a tie, scarf or piece of jewellery.
If you don’t feel 100% confident in the way you dress, it can be worth investing in a colour and style consultation. A good colour and style consultant will offer advice based around your lifestyle, and not try to impose a look on you. You may also find you save money by only buying clothes that really suit you.
It’s not just the visual element that makes up your personal brand. The way you walk, speak and present yourself is part of this. Simple tips to help inspire confidence include: taking a breath before you speak, paying attention to your posture, and being careful not to put yourself down when you speak.
You may be presenting a different aspect of your personality at work to the one you share with friends and family, and therefore you may choose to dress differently. Wearing a uniform is an extreme example of this. A uniform is ultimately about stepping into a role and appropriate in some jobs. And your company culture may be reflected in an unofficial “uniform” worn by most people.
Dressing to suit your workplace culture is normal, but if your workplace image feels really alien or “not you”, then it may be that you would be happier in a different environment. So if you don’t feel comfortable in formal attire or a uniform, that in itself might say something about the kind of place where you want to work.
Ultimately, you can’t NOT send out messages about yourself from the way you dress, and from your posture and voice. A personal branding approach helps you to be more confident that the image you present is the right one for you.