How to Look and Feel Your Best for Holiday Networking

It’s easy to say appearance doesn’t matter, but there’s no doubt first impressions count.

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Some people believe this time of the year is not the ideal time to be in job search mode. Conventional wisdom suggests everyone is too busy delving into the holiday season to focus on identifying and securing new candidates. Whether or not you subscribe to the “holidays are slow for hiring” theory, there’s no doubt it is an opportune time to take advantage of networking. Parties and informal gatherings offer numerous chances to meet new people, and you may benefit from people feeling upbeat and generous at this time of the year.

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It’s a good idea to prepare in advance so you will look and feel your best during this busy time of the year. Have you considered giving yourself the gift of an image update? Diana Jennings, president of California-based Brand You Image and a leader within the image profession works with professionals to teach them how to increase their visual influence. “By giving your image and the visual representation of your brand a boost, you’ll bring positive attention to yourself, while potentially making valuable contacts,” she says. Jennings reminds professionals not to lose sight of the fact that a networking event can actually be an informal interview.

As an image and personal branding consultant, Jennings explains looking your best is “Not just what you wear, but it’s how you wear it. When your image is working for you, your clothing will be authentic and appropriate for your desired role and the occasion. Your outfit will also be aligned with your goals and reflect your values and personality. What you wear will compliment your body shape and your lifestyle.”

In a competitive environment, people use every piece of information possible to evaluate your fit for an opportunity. “Every detail about your appearance sends out bits and bytes of information about you,” she says. This information forms people’s first, and lasting, impression.

Consider how you dress and what you wear an important part of your personal brand. “In the same way that companies make their brands attractive through packaging and homeowners spruce up their houses before putting them up for sale, the marketing process includes steps to be visually attractive,” Jennings says.

Appearance is a very personal subject. “No one’s actual work depends on their image,” she says. “However, as a professional it is important for your appearance to represent the quality of your work, product, or service. Some people will interpret a lack of effort in your personal presentation as a lack of effort in other areas of your life.”

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Job seekers should not consider a visual makeover a one-time, or seasonal thing. Jennings stresses how important it is to consider your brand and image identity in the larger context of how you hope to be perceived.

Jennings offers the following guidelines to keep in mind when planning what you wear:

Dress for the position you aspire to have. What you wear will depend on the occasion, your profession, and geographical region. The expectations differ for laborers, service providers, creative types, administrators, and executives. Keep your eyes open and be aware of how successful people in your field dress. Identify some appropriate prototypes and incorporate your own style to create your look.

Be realistic and honest about what fits your body and what doesn’t. Not all brands are suited for every body type, nor are all styles appropriate for all body shapes. Visit stores and try things on to learn what brands and designers cut their garments in a shape most similar to your body. Avoid garments with pull lines or uncomfortable items. In other words, don’t buy something if you know you won’t be able to sit down in it!

Rule of one. This guideline is effective when you’re not sure how to put an outfit together. As described in the upcoming book of the same name by Judith Rasband, president and CEO of Conselle Institute of Image Management, this rule refers to the fact that the most harmonious outfits will have one dominant element and everything else will be subordinate. Otherwise, the outfit can appear too busy with various elements fighting for attention. Consider style and shape, color, texture, or pattern when determining which aspect of your outfit to feature. What you choose is personal preference based on the pieces you have to work with. Using the Rule of one will enable you to create visual harmony among all the elements you wear.

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Select several investment pieces. You need to view what you wear as a tangible asset with a potential long-term rate of return if you invest wisely. For example, consider buying a jacket that is a little more basic in its construction over a novelty jacket you won’t wear as often. A well-thought-out wardrobe will help you do three things: create visual influence, reinforce the message you want and need to communicate, and prove to be of good financial value. Shop for quality over quantity.

Wristwatches do more than tell time. Wearing a wristwatch communicates punctuality to decision makers. Bear in mind, the style of your timepiece must be consistent with the style of your clothing. Since watches are hot commodities and very trendy, you have many styles and price points to choose from. Select well, and your wristwatch will be more than just a timepiece. 

It’s easy to say appearance doesn’t matter, but there’s no doubt first impressions count. With a little effort and planning, it’s not difficult to be sure you put your best foot forward at this busy time of year.

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.

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