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Does Your Self Image Align With Your Level Of Expertise? What To Do When Your Skill-Set Has Elevated, But Your Image Has Not.

Years ago, I found myself in a very precarious situation. I was standing in the grocery line, maybe a year or two into running my own business (I celebrated 8 this past January). I had on my usual errand running uniform: sweatpants, t-shirt and on this particular day, I had on a headscarf for good measure.

Truth be told, there was nothing about me that day that said, “I am someone who needs to be taken seriously.” Or, even “I am someone you should hire because I offer services that could completely change the game for you.”

Quite frankly, I was really new into my entrepreneurial journey and didn’t really see myself as a CEO of an organization but more like a personal brand strategist—who just so happened to be a mom of three running around on a few weekend errands.   

That particular afternoon, I found myself at my local grocery store standing in a ridiculously long line behind a gentleman. As we waited to move up we started engaging in conversation. One thing led to another and next thing you know I am helping him with the entire strategy for elevating his visibility within his organization.

He turned to me and said, “Wow, I am amazed at how much you know about this stuff.” I said, “Well, I should. I run a personal branding agency.” Well, you should have seen the look on his face.

I got it immediately—I didn’t present (at least at that moment) as someone who was at the top of her game. In fact, looking at me, it was probably a hard sell. But I know I am not alone.

How many time have you met someone and were completely shocked when they told you what they did? Or, if I reverse the question, as you have elevated your title in your industry, has your image elevated along side of it?

Since that afternoon, I have seen countless examples of why it is imperative that your image matches your expertise. For example, I had a client call me to tell me about her experience at an industry conference. According to my client, the doctor who was presenting was the most knowledgeable she had ever seen on that particular topic, however, my client simply couldn’t get pass staring at her hippie look. She said, “she looked a mess and her image was so distracting, that it was hard to concentrate on the message”

Or the time my stylist called completely outdone because she had just come from interviewing a young lady who wanted to join her design team. The young lady showed up for a job in a “creative industry,” looking anything but “creative,” and completely disheveled.  My stylist had to pull her to the side and explain that if she was going to interview for a position in the design industry, it was imperative to look the part. Especially, when the position would entail her representing the company.

We’ve all heard the old adage, dress for the part you want, not the one you have. But, I’d like to take it a little deeper. You must embody your end destination.

Not sure where to begin, here are a few strategies to get you started:

1.     Put together a Personal Image Branding Board: When was the last time you got really clear about what you liked? Not what was on sale, in season or in your size. I’m talking about what looks, colors, and style are you attracted to? The best way to find out is to pull a few of the latest magazines, or you can do it digitally and simply pull every image that makes you sit up and take notice. This is an excellent starting point.

2.     Get Feedback: Ask around. Find out if those in your inner circle of influence believe that your image reflects your position? See if people believe that you exude someone who is at the “top of their game,” or do you look like someone who “got off on the wrong elevator…you were supposed to exit a few floors below.”

3.     Hire a Stylist: Stop trying to be a “jane of all trades.” Stay in your own lane. Hire an expert. The fact is, Boss Women recognize the significance of bringing on a team to help them elevate.  The right stylist won’t allow you to pick something out because it is the latest rage. They will make sure it is the right color, cut, texture and fabric to accentuate your body. The best stylist can be an absolute game-changer with your personal brand. They quickly elevate you from looking like everyone else, to someone in a league of their own.

4.     Develop a Signature Look: Maybe it is time to develop something you become known for. Whether that is a certain color or a type of jewelry, maybe it is your glasses or unique handbags or it could just be your propensity to lean toward a type of clothing over the others. Example: Always wearing a dress, or pants or a suit, etc. The best personal brands give people something to remember and talk about.

5.     Revisit Style on a Regular Basis: There is no reason that I should look at your social media profile or pictures in your photo album and not be able to tell what year it is.  I wouldn’t want to see that you haven’t changed and have the exact same look year after year. You must evolve. Update. And get better.

These strategies are here to remind you that you are in absolute control of how you position yourself and always remember, your image is one of the first things they see—make it worthwhile.