What does your appearance say about you?

1-2-3-4-5!  That’s all it takes.  Three to five seconds for someone to form a first impression of you… even before you have said a single word.  It may not be fair, but it is real and, to some extent, human nature. When you meet someone new – a potential client or someone at a bar – just as you are forming a perception about them, they are forming one about you.  That first perception is based on our body language, the non-verbal cues we send out. Research suggests that
65% of what we communicate is “non-verbal” such as where our eyes are looking, our facial expressions, posture, and, yes, that includes our appearance.  

Last December, when speaking at the Barron’s Women Summit in Palm Beach, FL, I touched on the topic of how attire communicates our intentions and the perceptions people form based on our body language, our appearance, and for women, even our makeup!  A study done in conjunction with Harvard Medical School suggests the right amount of makeup increases other’s perceptions of a woman’s competence, trustworthiness and likeability.  The women who wore more makeup, it continued, were deemed more competent. That sent this well-dressed female audience into an uproar!  Another study in the American Economic Review said women who wear more makeup can earn more than 30% more pay than non-makeup wearing workers.  

Of course, we want to be recognized for our brains and not just our beauty, and some will consider these studies a lack of progress for women in the workplace.  However, as one attendee noted in an email to me:  “My favorite thing you said was, “It’s not fair, but it’s a fact” when referencing that appearance matters.  That’s the truth and I appreciate someone stating it in a way that both acknowledges the reaction it can elicit but also maintains its truth.”   

When we look “put together,” when we have taken the time to take care of ourselves, there is an unconscious connection – perception – that others will comprehend; “if they take care of themselves, they will take care of me, my portfolio, my project.”  I am not suggesting we need to be “model perfect,” but research suggests applying the right amount of makeup can be a reflection of how we feel about ourselves, and how we are perceived.  The truth is looks DO matter and if we are cognizant of this, we put ourselves in the best position for even greater career success.

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