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Saturday, September 27, 2008

The First Impression Factor, Part VI

JetNetting with Heshie Segal

It’s time to wrap up the physical “Look” needed to create a positive first impression. All of this for a split second . . .
and for the quintessential professional, it is well worth the effort.


By whatever name you call it, small, structured and leather are the key ingredients for the professional look. Leave soft, floppy, straw and canvas for casual occasions. Dark shoes are favored over light colors. Match the bag or purse, and belt if one is worn, to the shoes. Matching a color in the clothing makes it more casual.


For either gender, a leather briefcase is appropriate. If you use it everyday, it will eventually get worn and “tired” looking. While you may become attached to your briefcase, you cannot let sentimentality rule professionalism. Consider donating it to someone less fortunate and buy yourself a new one. Do NOT use a nylon bag to carry important papers.


Whether for men or women, the selection of jewelry to be worn, should be based upon the meeting, the gathering, the event, perhaps the culture and even the location. Jewelry should accentuate your professional attire - not dominate and detract from it. Women in a small group, can usually wear catchy, unique jewelry. For an interview, earrings, bracelets or necklaces might be distracting so keep them small, simple and 14 karat gold. Sterling silver is also a possibility, and gold is still preferable. Wearing flashy jewelry in a conservative environment will probably not gain points for you. Wear one earring per ear, no more than two rings on your hands, one watch, one bracelet, and a necklace or brooch-type pin. Avoid wearing earrings if they are not in your ear lobes. Ankle bracelets are not perceived as professional.

Men who wear earrings are making a statement. This is a negative in most business circles. As for other jewelry . . . chains, bands, or necklaces should be understated and at best, not visible. Only a wedding ring or college ring should be worn.

The one standard piece of jewelry is the watch. If you work in a creative industry, you have the edge in flexibility. Otherwise, the best choice is to go with a conservative look.

This would be the time to stretch your budget. A leather strap or metal band is appropriate. If a watch has a round face and a black leather bad, it projects someone who is conservative, straight forward and practical. By wearing a stainless steel gold watch, you are seen as assertive and outgoing. Choose a watch with a date indicator. Use a digital watch for casual events.


If you carry an umbrella, use one that is high quality. It is possible no one will notice how nice it is and, if it is of inferior quality, they will surely notice if it’s the dollar store variety. A solid is better than a pattern. A black or a dark color is preferable.


If it is cold, high quality black leather gloves are the way to go.


Eyewear should be in style. There are changes each year in eyewear; sometimes they are subtle but if you are still wearing what was in vogue ten years ago, chances are that people will consider you to be: 1). Behind the times; 2). Not open to change; 3). Unwilling to take a risk; 4). Too cheap to buy new glasses. If the glasses are too showy, that’s what people will remember. Wear simple glasses that fit your face, not ones that overpower it. Be aware that tinted lenses can affect your appearance and your behavior. Not only will you appear more tired when using a yellow or brown tint, you will also reduce eye contact. This can become a barrier. The same holds true for photo gray glasses that turn dark when light hits them. They will make you look as though you have something to hide. Stay away from trendy styles – trends come and go.


You are dressed and “accessorized” perfectly for the occasion. Are you set to go? Almost. The “look” is incomplete unless grooming is impeccable. Call it personal grooming or personal hygiene, this reflects the respect you show for yourself. It is the total package that sends a message to anyone who meets you; and remember, perception is everything.

Depending on the situation, each of the following areas will vary in importance.

If have you body or tongue piercing, remember they are acceptable in a society that also wears them.

Cleanliness is key. Shower or bathe before you go out. Use deodorant. Body or tongue piercing is only acceptable in a society that also wears them. Outside that culture, you will want to remove them if being accepted is important to you. The same goes for tattoos, so cover them if possible.

* Breath: Tobacco, alcohol, coffee and other foods may leave breath odor. Carry a fold up tooth brush or breath mints if needed.

* Fingernails: Nails should be clean and well groomed, i.e. neatly trimmed, manicured cuticles, avoiding extremes of nail length and polish color, especially in conservative industries. Nails that are too long, and nail ornaments or stickers, create distractions and may send wrong messages. A clear or neutral color is the best choice for women in a conservative environment.

* Hair (women): What you do with your hair reflects your personal awareness about creating a professional image. Not only should your hair be clean, trimmed, neatly combed or arranged, it also needs to be fashionably styled, cut to the shape of your face, be proportionate for your body and be age and culture appropriate. If you use hair color, it should match your skin tones and be properly maintained. Invest in yourself. Doing it the right way will save you time and energy and create a top notch image.

If you have long hair and do not want it to be a distraction, use a simple clip to pull it back. Also remember, fussing with your hair in public IS a distraction.

* Hair (men): The same rules apply to men with this added caveat: when men are going gray, it begins to look distinguished. (Women simply look like they are getting older. Who says public opinion is fair?)

* Facial Hair (men) Freshly shaved is professionally correct. If you have a mustache or beard, it should be neatly groomed. Some authorities claim, any facial hair has a weakening effect since it is perceived to mask.

* Make-up (Women): Before applying make-up, wash and moisturize your skin. While too little make-up is better than too much, even a small amount of make-up is required to finish the professional look. Use a light application of foundation with blusher to smooth out the skin. Done properly, it will look like you are not even wearing make-up. Eyes can be accentuated with natural or beige shadow and liner or mascara. If you are on stage, all of this can be accentuated. For a business setting, avoid the drama of overdoing it. Wear a lipstick that complements your skin tones and your outfit.

*Perfumes, Colognes, After Shave: Avoid strong perfume scents. Use sparingly or none at all. You want to be remembered for who YOU, not your "lingering scent". Also be mindful of those who are allergic to fragrances.

* Teeth: Brush and floss daily and visit a dentist for regular cleanings.

There you have it. The “Look” can be yours if you want it.

In the next parts of The First Impression Factor, I will deal with attitude, body language, behavior, words and more.

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The Emergence of The Relationship Economy
The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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