You are judged by your appearance.
Like it or not. It’s the uncomfortable truth.
We’ve all heard this a million times but for some unknown reason, we all like to ignore it. Ignorance is bliss, right?!
When it comes to your career, your image CAN make or break your career.
People make a lot of subconscious observations about us, including ones about our posture, appearance, body language, and the way we dress. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t matter how dedicated you are at work because if you don’t look dedicated, it’s pointless.
It’s the truth.
Think about it. Every hour day after day, as humans, we evaluate our surroundings based on what we see and hear.
We avoid situations that seem threatening. We lean towards people who appear welcoming. When we meet someone new, we use our sensory information to quickly decide if we’re going to get along with them or if we need to keep our distance.
Furthermore, we are always attracted to people who look interesting, seem approachable, look sexy.
So just as we judge other people by how they appear, other people who meet us judge us too. It’s only fair.
People who you meet in the professional world are constantly making decisions about you from the moment they see you.
Should they hire you? Should they work with you? Are you trustworthy? Are you capable? Are you confident?
As your appearance is what people see first, the clothes you choose to wear have a huge impact on how you are perceived by others, particularly when you meet people for the first time.
The concept of “thin-slicing” is at the core of these first impressions.
Malcom Gladwell discusses in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking how we make an accurate assessment of a person from observing them for just a few seconds, or by a “thin-slice” of them. These assessments are made much faster than we imagine- in less than two seconds. They rely on the thinnest slices of experience. They are also unconscious.
According to him, we thin-slice because we have to. Whenever people have to make sense of a complicated situation or deal with lots of information quickly, they bring to bear all of their beliefs, attitudes, values, experiences, education and more to the situation. Then, they thin-slice the situation to make a decision quickly.
It’s just like when you look at a dish served to you in a restaurant. Just by looking at it in the moment it is placed in front of you, you decide whether you like it- in which case your mouth starts watering and you can’t wait to devour it, and if you decide you don’t like it, you wouldn’t be so keen and would conveniently take a sip of your wine while looking at the dish for a few seconds before you actually taste it. When you eat it, you will constantly be looking for excuses why you didn’t like that dish. It’s human nature to focus on the negatives first.
The same is true for appearances. I’m not trying to compare food and clothes but the point is with just a few glances at someone, you decide whether a person is a friend or foe, whether they’re like you, how successful they are and so forth.
So, if you do it, then others must do it too!
Moreover, studies show that it takes one-tenth of a second for a total stranger to start determining traits like your trustworthiness, authority and likability.
Talking about clothes in a professional world may seem irrelevant to you. But here’s the thing. If you mess it up with your appearance, it’s much harder to get your reputation back on track by behavioural and communicative excellence.
This is complicated by what is known as Confirmation Bias.
Confirmation Bias compels your audience to ignore any signs that go against their first impressions of you. In contrast, they are extremely sensitive to any signs or anything that might confirm or support their initial opinion about the type of person you are.
For example, when you walk into a room for a job interview, what you wear can have a huge influence on your interviewer, whether they are aware or not.
It’s highly likely that you are seen before you are heard and as you walk from the door to the chair to sit down for your interview, the interviewer will have scanned you up and down for clues. The impression that you make in those few seconds are extremely hard to alter. (Remember Andy from The Devil Wears Prada?)
In those few seconds, before you even said “hello”, your image has conveyed a multitude of things about you as an individual- your perceived level of intelligence, your competence, your self-esteem, confidence, authority, power and success.
Now, all throughout the interview, the interviewer is only going to seek further information that supports their initial opinion of you and will ignore anything that might tell them otherwise. You can do all the talking you want. It wouldn’t matter much.
This is why your appearance is extremely important.
Is it fair? Probably not.
The bad news is that you are going to be judged whether you like it or not. This is not going to change….at least not for a very long time.
The good news is that there’s also something known as “halo effect”, whereby If someone is well-dressed and put-together, we instinctively have greater confidence in their abilities.
Here’s Andy again.
Just like Andy, when you are dressed appropriately, coupled with the words you say and the way you carry yourself, it’ll be hard for anyone to not form an opinion about you in your favour.
Don’t let your appearance be the reason you are not moving forward in your career.
The quicker you accept and understand this, the easier it’ll be for you to progress.
So, here’s the thing ladies.
The world ain’t straight. The system isn’t fair. And odds are stacked against you.
And when the way you dress can determine your future, how far would you go to get it right?