Expert Author Susan Leigh
As the cliche goes, you have one chance to make a first impression, and that is a very true statement. People make up their minds within a short time span of meeting us and it can take a long time to correct that impression if it is the wrong one.
Many factors contribute to that impression. Of course dress and grooming are important. Clean and smart is more important than expensive clothes to most peoples' minds. And there is no excuse for dishevelled, unless you have been caught in a rainstorm or had an accident!
The choice of outfit depends on the situation one is going into. However, just because they dress down at the office you are visiting does not necessarily mean that they expect you to do so. As a Counsellor and Business Coach I always wear a suit or smart dress and shoes so that I convey to my clients that I take them and their business seriously. Personally I think that it demonstrates respect: respect for them, respect for myself and my reputation and respect for the work that we are doing together. I could do exactly the same work in jeans and flip-flops but I am certain that it conveys more gravitas and importance when I dress smartly.
In the early days of multi-millionaire, Richard Branson building his empire from a canal barge it is widely reported that he and his team had one business suit that they kept especially for meetings. The rest of the time they wore jeans and t-shirts, but felt that it was important to convey a professional impression at client meetings.
One thought about the impression that you convey to others is to consider how you look when you are dressed for business. When did you last update your image? Is it still studenty and bohemian or does it need to be more professional? Maybe have a photograph taken and see yourself as others see you. Or ask friends for honest feedback. Personal shoppers can also be very helpful at times like this. They do not know you but can help with putting together the look that you want and take into account your style and how you present yourself to them. They can help you decide how to pull together the best look for you and your requirements. Knowing that you are dressed well for the situation is a good investment in terms of confidence and self esteem. It reinforces your determination to do well.
Body language is another factor in the impression you create. Take time to breathe calmly and relax before you enter the room. Then pause on entering, look around and quickly get the layout of the room. Taking a few extra seconds to get your bearings is hardly noticeable to others, but gives you the time to feel clear about where you are going to move to next. Relax your shoulders, smile and, if necessary, 'act as if' you are feeling good about this opportunity to present yourself. Surprisingly, the nerves often abate as the pretense becomes more natural.
Remember that most situations are going be a two way exchange of information. You want to know about the people and situation that you are entering, and they want to know about you. So from an interview situation to a meeting or presentation it is a joint learning situation. Remember that, stay calm and do not be afraid of pauses. Many people speak too quickly when they are stressed. By being dressed well you boost your own personal confidence levels and can feel calmer knowing that you are creating a good impression to others. This enables you to take better control of the situation and feel positive about yourself how you come across to others.


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