Updated: May 25
When it comes to advancing your career, personal style can be a powerful tool.
I'm a firm believer in putting the best version of ourselves out to the world, and during my own rise up the corporate ladder, I always used my personal style to help me project a confident image and position me for success. My image told others I was professional, credible and ready for the next step, which ultimately led to opportunities coming to me.
If you're curious about how to leverage your personal style to make strides in your professional life, you're not alone. For this article, I speak to two ambitious female leaders who share their experience of how investing in their personal style changed their careers - and their lives. Keep reading to find out how you can do it too.
Dress With Intention & Purpose
Whether you’re presenting to the board, reporting to your boss, or going for a promotion, the visuals you present – from your body language to your personal style language – are a vital part of how others perceive you.
In research conducted by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, they suggest that colleagues size up your competence, likability
and trustworthiness in 250 milliseconds – simply based on appearance.
While talent, hard work and competence are important for career success, so too is your personal brand and presence - and part of that is how you look.
Sarah Felice, a Career and Executive Coach who specialises in working with senior female executives, says it's vital that your brand image aligns with expectations.
"When someone meets you after reading about you in your resume or LinkedIn profile, your brand needs to be congruent with what they expect. You should already look and sound like the job you are going for. " Sarah said.
For Hannah, a Banking Director who came to see me for a personal brand makeover, clothes offer an additional opportunity to positively impact your audience.
"I fully believe that a woman’s experience, credentials and merits are important to our career journeys, but why miss or ignore the opportunity to further ensure our success by presenting ourselves in a way that makes us memorable and impactful."
What you wear immediately communicates what you stand for, and how successful you appear to others. We also tend to have greater confidence in people that dress well and look the part.
In short, if you want to move up the career ladder, you need to start dressing in a way that reflects what you want others to think about you.
"I now dress with intention every day, whether it’s internal meetings or client facing, face-to-face or virtual. I present myself with purpose and try not to miss out on any opportunities to make an impression" said Hannah.
You Can Perform Better When You Dress Well
While we know that clothing affects how others perceive us, an even greater reason why what you wear matters is how it affects how you feel about yourself.
"We do better when we look better because we feel better." Rachel Roy
Vanessa, a Senior Executive with a renowned global technology company, knows first hand how important it is to be confident in yourself.
"Working on my personal style means I now feel super confident to lead without fear that I'm not going to look the part. I had to walk on stage in front of 300 people last month and I felt super confident to do that. I've got my colour palette, I know my brand and style, I've got the outfits that represent me."
For women, confidence in the workplace is critical and the clothes you wear can make all the difference in how you feel about yourself.
Your clothing creates feeling.
The connection between what we wear and how we think, feel and act is referred to as 'enclothed cognition'.
That means there are proven psychological benefits that your style and clothing can provide, and you can perform better based on what you wear.
Sounds too good to be true? Try experimenting with dressing up a bit and notice how your mood and confidence level shift. It could be as simple as stepping out of the basic black dress into a brighter, bolder colour.
When Vanessa first came to me, her wardrobe was predominantly monochrome. Yet a Signature Colour Analysis helped us uncover her rich and earthy Warm Autumn palette, working through her best neutrals and signature colours.
"The process of doing the colours blew my mind and it gave me the confidence and ability to stop buying black and navy, which didn't suit me anyway" said Vanessa.
Black can often feel like a 'safe' purchase, but its rarely memorable and won't help you to feel seen.
If, like Vanessa, you have styles or colours in your wardrobe that aren't serving you, it's time to for an upgrade.
If you'd like to chat with me about your current style situation and how I might be able to help, book in a time with me here.
Find Your Sweet Spot
This is the place where your authentic style personality, your environment and the way you'd like to be perceived intersects. When I first worked with Vanessa , she was working in a traditional corporate environment, so well tailored blazers, dresses and skirts were the perfect pieces to build her wardrobe around.
When she moved to her new role in a technology company, her working environment was vastly different. Traditional corporate wear would simply look out of place. Instead, we selected a range of smart casual pieces that could be mixed and matched, and which showcased her uniqueness. We added some smart sneakers, designer tees and bolder jewellery.
Now in a senior leadership role, she said: "As a leader I feel that blending into the background is not an option. You have to lead from the front. And to lead from the front, you've got to feel really good in your own skin, and because I'm feeling good in what I wear all the time, I'm a more present leader."
Hannah on the other hand had a 'dress for your day' workplace dress code in a banking environment, so we needed to ensure she had a range of smart casual and more formal pieces. I worked with Hannah to help her understand how she could tailor her style for specific audiences on any given day to have a desired and memorable impact.
Shift Your Mindset
So how you can dress for success?
If you're a female professional or leader, investing in your personal brand image is just as important as investing in your workplace skills or knowledge - perhaps even more so when you consider the flow on effect it has on your self confidence.
See your personal style as part of your personal development towards a more confident and authentic you.
For Vanessa , making the decision to work on herself, helped set the stage for rapid success, securing a new role followed by two further internal promotions within her first year.
"If I didn't make to decision to work on me, there is simply no way I would have been promoted. It wouldn't have happened because I didn't have the confidence in myself".
Working on her personal style also shifted her belief around blending in, and that it's okay to be you.
"It's built my personal brand and sense of self so that I don't want to just blend in. I want to more of me."
Differentiation is something that Nikki Harkin from CV-ME, says is essential to succeed. "It is a competitive landscape to land the best role with the best employer, so differentiating who you are and promoting your capabilities is critical."
Whether its a job interview, formal presentations or client facing engagements, don't underestimate the impact of your personal style to help set you apart.
Align your future self with your outfits today
A professional wardrobe that is up-to-date and stylish will allow you to start reaping the benefits of being a well-dressed female leader - and those benefits are real.
Since working with Hannah, she had this to say:
"I was promoted last year and truly credit Lucy’s program for helping me to achieve this goal. Since then, I have closed several landmark deals, successfully landed a challenging 6-month secondment that was out of my comfort zone and now have more confidence in myself. I feel equipped to present my whole self in a way that make sure I am seen and unforgettable."
For Vanessa, the investment in her personal style has paid off ten fold and represented a total renovation of who she was.
"It changed not just how I physically show up, but how I mentally and emotionally show up."
If you would like some help to align your outfits with who you and your goals, book a call with me today to explore what working together looks like. I specialise in working with female professionals and leaders 35+ to create a signature look that reflects their personal brand and how they'd like to be perceived. As a certified Personal Image Consultant and Stylist, I offer virtual styling services as well as in person.