You may have heard the adage “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” One of the best ways to improve the overall appearance that you may have not considered is by hiring an image consultant. When people hear the term ‘image consultant’, it often conjures up images of a specialist who comes to your home or place of business and makes sure that you look your best, that your wardrobe matches the image that you are trying to present to others.
But, it’s not just selecting a wardrobe; it is about mentoring, guiding, coaching, and educating people through the science and art of image management. While an image consultant certainly addresses fashion as well, it goes far beyond that. It is about communicating in a way that presents your message in an articulate and professional manner, it is about maintaining a professional image at all times. An image consultant empowers clients to project the confidence and competence needed in order to make an appropriate and authentic appearance for any professional, social, or personal situation.
“Can I afford it?”
This is the first thing that people wonder about when they hear the term image consultant, “can I afford to hire someone to work on my image?” Even though it is not polite to answer a question with a question, it suits this particular issue: can you afford not to? Especially at a time that increased competition on the job market has become commonplace, you cannot have those first seven seconds of a first impression (which have been meticulously analyzed in a study published by New York University) be anything less than professional and direct. Appearance is the first thing that people notice, and with improved appearance comes improved behavior and communication (what image consultants call the “ABC of a professional imprint” – Appearance, Behavior, and Communication). Simply put, you look better – you feel better and present yourself as such. This is not about fashion, this is about image – what image am I sending out into the world?
You should not rely on merit alone
Another reservation that people have is “I should be judged on my work, what I do for the company should matter more than how I dress or act.” Even though the human resources department may look for qualified personnel on paper, especially promoting from within often hinges on appearance and image just as much. It is important that you take an active approach in advancing your professional career. People cannot sit back and expect things to be handed to them anymore, the competition is too great. Just put yourself in the recruiter’s mindset for a moment. If you have two qualified candidates that have similar experience levels but one requires a bit more refinement before he or she has a professional attitude whereas the other makes a far better first impression – who do you think is going to receive the job offer?
“Do I lose my sense of self?”
Some people feel that they may lose their personal sense of self if they hire an image consultant. However, you have to keep in mind that anything an image consultant presents to you is advice, not a direct order. A professional image consultant will sit down with you, talk about what motivates you, what your aspirations are, what your experiences are. They will provide advice based on that. They are not going to make you over into something you are not; they are going to help you improve on what you are already doing. They are going to emphasize the positives instead of trying to make you into something that you are not.
What is it exactly?
We understand that no one wants something completely unexpected. Therefore, we will try to take you through the different steps of image consulting in a brief way. Oftentimes people divide the different aspects of image consulting up in four different stages: artistic element, the physical, the social, and the physiological.
- The artistic – This part is important, certain colors and textures match with what a person is trying to represent whereas others do not. This might also include pattern selection and coordination.
- The physical – The physical is how you carry yourself at all times, remember that we are constantly communicating with others, even if we are not doing so verbally or even consciously. This can include our body language, if you tell someone that you are listening but appear bored and disinterested, that does not reflect positively on you. Additional factors include grooming, hygiene, and verbal communication. Verbal communication is especially challenging, how can you make sure that you are actively conveying the message you are trying to send without it getting lost somewhere along the way?
- Social – These are your roles and goals, if you have a certain function or title (or want a specific function or title) chances are that you are going to have to dress for it and ‘play the part’. Again, remember that standing out does not necessarily mean that everything has to be flashy. This also includes etiquette, what is the appropriate way to handle certain situations?
- Physiological – This takes your values, personality, and behavior, observes them and then identifies strengths and possible pitfalls. What are some of the areas that could use some work, how can you accurate represent the positive aspects of your personality to third parties?
Everyone can benefit from an image consultant
Working with an image consultant can benefit anyone. It does not matter if you are fresh out of college, recently unemployed, or have worked with the same company for a decade, anyone can benefit from a few consultations. Recent college graduates may balk at the notion of spending money in addition to their college loans, but remember that few companies are hiring and the competition is fiercer than ever before. Keep in mind that for many people an image consultant is not necessarily an expense, but it is an investment that can help you stand out from all the other people currently on the market.
Ultimately, you decide whether you believe that an image consultant can help you. Would you want to sit back years from now and think about how those few short hours could have made a difference, could have helped you stand out and achieve the career that you were hoping for? It is your career, it is your image, and you decide whether you want to make the most out of it or not.
Sylvie di Giusto is a Personal Branding Strategist and Image Expert based in New York City. Her clients are achievement-oriented professionals who place great importance in themselves, their career goals and their professional appearance. To learn more about Sylvie’s image consultations and corporate trainings, visit www.executive-image-consulting.com.