Monday, October 09, 2006

Building your reputation

This post is lifted out of

To race on the autobahn, would you choose to drive a 6-cylinder jeep or a Ferrari? Obviously, a Ferrari would win over a jeep, even the fastest jeep, right? Ironically, although decreasing their odds of winning, many smart men are choosing to wear jeep-like clothing when racing around conducting business -- even in today's highly competitive business environment.

Business is a game. What you wear is one of your first moves, a fundamental strategy in order to win. Just as the best sports equipment can help an athlete gain the competitive edge, stylish businesslike apparel adds horsepower and panache, giving you a leg up in your career.

Let’s not get naked

Unless you work in a nudist colony or you're a porn star, wearing clothing is not optional; it's compulsory. As Mark Twain said, "Naked people have little or no influence on society." So why not let clothing work in your favor, like an advantageous asset? Your odds of winning raises and promotions -- of getting ahead in any career -- only increase when you pay attention to your workplace image.

The road signs have changed. Today's business environment calls for a man to be "Situationally Sensitive" to diverse ways of dressing. Traditional business attire lives on. Yet, business casual has never been so popular. Watch out, however, as dressing down has its pitfalls.

Millions are suffering from Casual Confusion Syndrome (CCS). The afflicted are mistakenly buying into the "casual" myth that their attire, or their overall image, makes no difference in their success potential or their performance on the job.

You are the force

Like bald tires on a car, another popular fable that endangers your power to get ahead is this thought: in today's digital dot-com world, how you dress doesn't matter. If that's true, why are millions of dollars spent on web site visuals? In fact, you are the walking "home page" of your personal web site.

Your image is also a web page of your company's site. Do others click on you for the answers, the ability to get the job done, or do they surf on?

First impressions and the visual aspect have never been more critical than they are today. Thanks to the technology explosion, business moves at a faster pace than it did even a decade ago. Harry Beckwith, author of Selling The Invisible, says that people do not simply form impressions, they become anchored to them.

Beckwith claims that busy people -- almost all people today -- are apt to make snap judgments, and then base all their later decisions on them. Can you afford a negative impression? No, not when you consider that your success is often tied to others' perceptions of you. A prominent CEO recently said, "If people only knew that it can take two years to undo one negative impression, surely they would try harder."

In less than thirty seconds, you've been judged

As people, we like to know what's going on around us. With antennas up, we continually seek data about our environment, including other people. Whether conscious or not, we consistently read other people; usually not to be judgmental, but to gain information about them.

Based on visual clues from others' attire, grooming, posture, and demeanor, we unconsciously assess who we think they are. Then we decide how we are going to respond or treat them -- all in a matter of seconds.

Communication statistics show that in only five to thirty seconds, three things are determined about you, whether accurate or not: 1) Your Socioeconomic Status 2) Your Educational Level 3) Your Desirability.

Although this process may or may not be conscious, in the end we all tend to associate well-dressed individuals with intelligence, attractiveness and achievement. Thus, those folks are granted more opportunities to prove themselves.

What are you wearing?

What exactly does that mean for ambitious men who want to get ahead in their careers? Start by thinking of your goals and just how fast you want to achieve them. In the race for success, do you want be perceived as ordinary or extraordinary?

If your favorite workplace-wear includes jeans and T-shirts, you are at risk of stalling out, getting pushed into the slow lane or off the road completely. Even wearing khakis and golf shirts can relegate you to the ordinary zone. Dressing casually, being comfortable, and appearing exceptionally well-dressed and businesslike is not an oxymoron.

Faced with more apparel choices than ever before, many men feel puzzled over how to put together a casual outfit that sets them apart. To command respect and add an air of authority to your overall image, follow these five power-up tips when dressing down for business.

Add power to your casual image

Tailored jackets

Jackets can always be removed if you want to appear more casual.

Quality shirts

Shirts speak volumes; they take center stage when you're not wearing a jacket. Tumble-dried collars do not place you neck and neck with the winners in the race for success.

Dressy trousers

Power up with well-balanced, high-quality trousers; avoid cheap polyester varieties unless you want to signal that you don't mind being walked on. Polyester's main claim to fame: carpets.

Stylish all-leather shoes

Shoes reveal your secrets and are primary indicators of your socioeconomic status. To look like a winner, buy quality shoes and keep them in mint condition.

Leather belts

Choose belts that are expensive -looking -- in the same color tone as your shoes.

You are what you appear

Like it or not, your image is linked to your success potential. Clothing is a primary communicator with its own coded language. It can signal that you are a leader with winning potential, or it can scream that you're a loser.

If your clothing is waving the loser flag, the brakes are on. You have to work extra hard to command respect and inspire trust.

Steer your career into the fast lane. Maximize your horsepower by powering up your image today. Be consistent, power up every day, and enjoy being a winner. What's more, be a magnet for success and greater acheivement.