Mom was right: Neatness counts in career success

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The articulate, well prepared executive presents a financial report to stockholders; with the lining of her skirt showing 1 1/2 inches past the hem.

The President of a large corporation discusses innovation and trend setting ideas to top management sporting large rim glasses popular twenty years ago.

The marketing guru presents the new advertising campaign to the leadership team flashing a smile with dingy, yellow teeth.

Your professional presence is critical in today's competitive marketplace. It includes physical appearance, body language, energy, vocal quality and the words you use. Meticulous attention to detail is the key. Others notice the detail and consciously or unconsciously make judgments about you, the quality of your work, and the value you bring.

  • Sharpen your image and the first impression you make. Here are some tips:

  • Be congruent. Be sure your visual, vocal and verbal messages are the same. More than 50% of our impact comes from the visual. Buy the best clothing you can afford in a cut that flatters you. Think quality, fit, and practicality.

  • Ties tell a story. Sorry guys, but the tie is still a standard in American business. Be sure your ties are 100% silk in updated styles and colors. The tip of your tie should fall approximately to the middle of your belt. No gravy or food remains, please.
  • Hair and nails. Regularly update your hairdo and spend the extra money to get a good cut. Be careful with perms, they tend to make women look older if not done carefully. Don't forget the nails. You don't shake hands with the top CEO with chewed nails and picked cuticles.
  • Don't look lumpy. Avoid bulges in pockets, purses and cases from hauling too much stuff. Keep shirts, blouses tucked in neatly to avoid the "muumuu" look. If you carry change in your pocket, make sure it doesn't jingle when you walk.
  • Polish your shoes. Leather is best. For women, classic pumps are always in style. Wear shoes that compliment your outfit rather than drawing attention to your feet. Worn shoes make you look sloppy, use them for gardening.
  • Find the devil in the details. Make sure that your accessories flatter and enhance your appearance. Your briefcase, wallet, purse and office supplies should be of top quality in perfect condition. You don't sign a $100,000 contract with a 19-cent Bic.
  • Keep jewelry simple. Tasteful, modest jewelry is a must in the business setting. Expensive, flamboyant pieces give an appearance of eccentricity at best, "lounge lizard" at worst. Save it for the cocktail parties and keep your appearance understated.
  • Make sure your smile dazzles. Your smile is one of the first things people notice. Teeth naturally yellow, as you get older. It is simple and inexpensive to obtain a customized mold to whiten teeth in just a few days. Ask your dentist for information.

Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Barbara Bartlein is the People Pro. For more tips to build your career, please visit: The People Pro

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