Create Your Career Success: Look the Part

I was doing an interview with Cathy Gettings the other day.  It was part of her upcoming Magnetic Mindshift telesummit.  I’ll let you know when she has it ready to go.  If my interview with Cathy is any indication, it should be dynamite and a great career success event.

As we were discussing the importance of dressing for success Cathy said, “Your appearance should show that you have some respect for yourself.”

I had to chuckle, because I always tell my success coach clients, “Look in the mirror on your way out the door in the morning.  Ask yourself, ‘does my appearance demonstrate that I respect myself and the people I’ll meet today’.”

It’s true.  Your appearance says a lot about you – how much you respect yourself, and how much you respect others.  My best advice on to how your attire can help you create positive personal impact is simple and common sense.  Dress one level up.  In other words, dress a little nicer than you have to.  For example, if your office is casual, wear a dress or a suit every once in a while.

Make sure your clothes and shoes are clean and in good repair.  Keep your hair clean and well styled.  Make sure your shoes are shined.  Look in the mirror on your way out the door.  Ask yourself, “Will I impress other people with the way I look today?”  If the answer is “no”, take a few minutes and change before you go to work.

I always get dressed up when I am meeting clients.  Many of my clients dress casually.  When they tell me, “You didn’t need to wear a suit today,” I say, “Yes I did.  I’m meeting with an important person — you.”  Show respect for yourself and the people around you by dressing well and looking good.

Accessories are another part of your appearance.  In general, you want your accessories to compliment, not over power your clothing.  Keep them understated and elegant.  Large rings and earring, bracelets that jangle every time you move can distract from your look and your professionalism.  Save the bling for evenings out, tone it down at work

Pay attention to your electronic accessories.  About a year ago, I saw a Wall Street Journal article about electronic accessories.  It made some interesting points about cell phones, PDAs and other electronic helpers – all small enough to tote around with us all the time – and how they can hurt your image as a professional.  Look around, you’ll see that most senior executives aren’t overburdened by electronic accessories.

In Wildly Sophisticated, my friend Nicole Williams lays out ten fashion commandments.  I think they are invaluable advice for creating a professional look

  1. Sweat the small stuff. People don’t necessarily notice if you’re groomed, but they definitely notice when you’re not.
  2. Restrain yourself. Never let your accessories wear you.
  3. Know your body. Recognize that every style trend is not designed for you. This isn’t a limitation – its just reality.
  4. Black is your friend. Black staples – pants, skirts and jackets are clean, classic and they always look good. They’re flattering, will work with everything else in your closet and will stretch your clothing budget.
  5. Focus on your feet. A great pair of shoes can make all the difference in your look.  Make sure your footwear is polished and clean. This is another one of those details that people really do notice.
  6. Welcome the three-way mirror.  Clothes that fit well make you look better and help your confidence.
  7. Work it. Style is really a synonym for self-expression. You’ll feel and look better when your clothes reflect your personality.
  8. Buy quality. In the long run, quality clothes will actually save you money.
  9. Invest in accessories.  Your bag or briefcase is a constant companion. Clients, employers and colleagues will all notice what’s draped on your arm. Invest in a quality piece that reflects your style. And in this age of laptops, cell phones and PDAs, a bag that will carry your hardware is a lifesaver.
  10. Relax. Bottom line? Its just fashion. Give it your best shot; know that style matters and that looking groomed and professional are important for your career.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  Your appearance says a lot about you.  Dress in a manner that shows you respect yourself – and the people you will meet during your day.  Take the time to show that you care – and people will respond positively to you.  Dress one level up from what is expected and you will stand out from the crowd.

That’s my career advice on the importance of your appearance.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site last September.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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  1. Thanks for these tips! I just started a business and, in my search for new clients, I never know exactly how to present myself without seeming over-anxious or under-qualified. This helps me out a lot.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I find that if you demonstrate respect for prospective clients in the way you dress, they’ll respond to you favorably. I don’t know your business, but if you are calling on a client for the first time, a busiense suit is always appropriate. Good luck with your new business.

  3. Cathy Gettings says:

    Well, Bud, nice article. Thanks for the plug there concerning my upcoming “Achieving A Magnetic MindShift” Telesummit. I am so blessed to have such wonderful Leaders on board sharing their insights and techniques on how to Achieve Greater Success in personal and professional lives.
    I am an advocate of checking in the mirror before heading out of the house, whether or not you are headed to the office, or to meet a client. Being entrepreneurial, you never know when you may run into your next client, or business associate, so I believe there should always be a level of care in your appearance.
    I hope all of your readers will consider checking out the Telesummit, once we launch….details to follow.
    Cathy 🙂

  4. Cathy:
    I’ll make sure to share details of you Magnetic Mindshift Telesummit as soon as you’re ready to go.
    Thanks for your kind words on the aritcle.

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