How image plays role in career building

“When you know your own style and represent yourself well, you can forget about how you look and concentrate on what you’re doing. You’re going to have more confidence and success,” said Barber.

Now, as president of Elements Image Consulting, she helps others discover and create their own personal styles.

“Style isn’t about fashion,” she said. “It’s about projecting an image that is consistent with your personality, values and goals, so that you — the real you — shows up for the interview or the big meeting.

“Today, when so many job seekers have similar skills, titles and talents, a high-quality image can differentiate you from the competition.”

Think first impressions don’t matter? An out-of-date suit may lead others to think that your ideas are out of date, too. Dated shoes or a worn belt suggest you’re not a detail person or don’t consider this meeting important. Cheap fabrics do nothing to support the salary level you’re seeking. While professionally appropriate, your buttoned-down banking look may be saying “boring” or “distant” rather than “inventive” and “approachable.” What messages are you sending?

Even top-level executives with an extensive professional wardrobe can benefit from polishing their brand and understanding the power of perception. “In the first two seconds we judge a lot by appearance — someone’s education, personality, salary level and whether we’d like to get to know them better,” said Barber.

“Your choice of color says a lot,” she explained. “Blue is the color of trust [think policemen, firemen] and projects a friendlier, more approachable image. Red is a more authoritative, aggressive color. Orange and purple are creative. Choosing a subtle orange pin-striped shirt acknowledges that you’re comfortable with your creative side.”

In individual consultations and workshops, she helps clients avoid common credibility and confidence-robbers:

● Wearing a style that’s not appropriate for your body type.

● Dressing in a dated look. If your suits, shoes or eyeglasses are 2 to 5 years old, it’s time for an upgrade.

● A poor fit. “If you’ve lost weight, your pants may be baggy or two long,” she said.

● Good grooming. “You need a professional hair style, and well groomed teeth and nails. Teeth-whitening may make you appear more youthful.”

● Fabric quality. “A pant is not a pant. Choose quality fabrics that wear well and won’t wrinkle.”

● Dressing inappropriately for the occasion. “If it’s an informal networking event, a suit is too formal,” said Barber.

“Taking the time to understand your personal image is a good investment. It shows that you respect yourself and the company where you work or would like to work,” she said.

Image polishing advice will be just one of the topics covered at Mastering Executive Job Change: Senior Executive Forum, a workshop for “C” level and senior managers in transition on June 22 in Atlanta (www.masteringexecutivejobchange.com).

“We have been offering career transition workshops for all executive levels for the past 10 years and found that few workshops were addressing the specific needs of job seekers at the senior level,” said Mike Seagraves, vice president and director of marketing for Integrity Wealth Management, an Atlanta-based independent investment services firm.

In March, Seagraves pulled together a team of experts who could tell senior job seekers exactly what they needed to know for a pilot workshop. “We asked questions after each session to make sure the insider information presented was relevant and useful. The response was overwhelmingly positive,” said Seagraves. “They all said that they had learned things they didn’t know and would recommend the forum to others.{“

Seagraves intends to keep future workshops small, knowing that networking is an important aspect of job transition. “These are savvy executives who can benefit from being together and forming relationships to assist each other,” he said.

Participants will learn about the financial aspects of a job search and how to avoid making poor financial decisions during a stressful time. Other experts will discuss job search skills, image and brand building, and up-to-date search techniques for the changes in today’s job market.

“Each piece is designed to give participants a long-lasting competitive edge, not just fleeting motivation,” said Seagraves. “A 70-80 page workbook includes a blueprint with action steps for each aspect of career transition, so that participants can continue to hone their skills.”

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