Entrepreneurs spend countless hours on their education, networking, writing papers, getting credentials, taking workshops and classes -- anything to stay competitive and get ahead -- but a majority of them overlook their own visual résumé as part of the package.
Never underestimate the power of your own image. When you dress in a way that lets people know you have a sense of security, and present yourself in a professional manner, it makes a huge difference. When you dress sloppy, you send the message that your comfort and the way you like to dress are more important than your customers, investors, partners and employees.
Sure, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but sadly, that’s not how the business world works. Everyone makes snap judgments about the people they come in contact with every day. Your appearance contributes to others’ opinions of you.
Here are seven tips on how to project a more professional image at work.
1. Prevent wrinkles and missing buttons. Inspect your clothes regularly and hang or fold your garments immediately after wearing. If you notice a button missing, sew it back on or take it to a seamstress.
2. Keep your clothes and shoes looking fresh and in good condition. Make friends with your local dry cleaner, tailor, and bootblack. It’s the details that will make a difference between you and your competitors.
3. Pay attention to your nails. Everyone looks at hands. Keep your nails clean and trimmed. Your nails are an indicator that you’re likely to pay attention to details at work, too.
4. Don’t skimp on shoes. You have only one pair of feet, so buy the best shoes you can afford. Keep your shoes polished and scuff-free. If the heels are worn down, get them repaired. Men, buy cedar shoe trees. They will preserve the shape of your shoes and will help control odor and absorb moisture.
5. Pay attention to your accessories. Invest in high-quality, useful accessories. Carry a nice pen, briefcase, portfolio, and a leather-covered notepad or tablet.
6. Keep a jacket handy. Whenever you wear a jacket, it shows that you’re armed for business. Keep a jacket on the back of your office door or in a dark garment bag in your car in case you’re called to attend an important presentation or an unexpected meeting with a customer or client.
7. Dress for your client’s comfort, not your own. Stay away from clothes that are too tight, too short, too baggy or too revealing. If you’re not sure whether you should wear something or not, don’t take a chance. If it doesn’t fit well, dump it or donate it. Always dress a step above what your client will be wearing.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. She is also the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).