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Career Corner: Dress for Success: First Impressions Count

I was recently interviewed for an article about how to dress for success for Media Job Market.

The article titled Dress for Success: First Impressions Count is by Hayli Morrison

Dress for Success: First Impressions Count

Bronte Hasty cried the first time she applied Dermablend.

The 32-year-old information technology specialist applied
the concealment makeup not to cover scars, acne or skin discoloration.
She used it to cover something she considered beautiful, but society
considered taboo – her facial tattoos. She’s had them for nearly five
years, the courageous result of a longtime obsession with the art form.

“I’m not comfortable in the makeup,” Hasty said. “The
first time, it felt like I was not only covering the tattoos, but I was
covering myself.”

Now, Hasty spends 25 minutes every weekday
morning blending the makeup just right to cover the swirls above her
eyebrows and the small dots lining the center of her face. At the end
of it all, she looks like your average, glasses-wearing, young office
professional. “It’s a big commitment, considering the average time it
would take for normal makeup would be 5 minutes,” she said.

It’s a dilemma facing the up-and-coming generation of professionals.
How much of your personal identity must you give up to blend in and
succeed? Apparently, a lot. According to a July 2007 survey by online
career site, 85 percent of employees believe that tattoos and
body piercings will hurt a person’s chances of finding a job.
Two-thirds of poll respondents felt that tattoos and piercings affect
the perception of co-workers and employers.

Hasty agrees
wholeheartedly. She has never entered a job interview without wearing
Dermablend, and adheres very strictly to corporate dress code. She
often goes a step above to dress a bit more formal than her colleagues,
though after a while she might introduce into her work wardrobe some
capri pants or shirts with three-quarter length sleeves.

“I break people in slowly so that when I walk up to their desk, they’re
not staring at me, but they’re listening to what I’m saying that’s
work-related,” said Hasty, who also has a neck tattoo and an earlobe
stretched with a large-gauge earring that remains mostly hidden by her
long hair. “I might get some weird looks and some comments from upper
management, but once they get to know me, they like me and they just
ignore it.”

Like most young professionals, Hasty quickly
understood that she had to look a certain way to be taken seriously in
the professional world – especially in the conservative Texas region
where she resides. But dress code can vary so greatly by industry,
company, and geographical area, it can be a very fine line to walk for
up-and-coming professionals. After all, there are plenty of stories of
people being turned away for being overdressed.

It is all about balancing your outward appearance with your inward
feelings, said career coach Hallie Crawford, MA, CPCC, and author of
the upcoming Flying Solo: Career Transition Tips for Singles.
Attire that is comfortable, yet professional, can help you project
confidence and better your job performance, which in turn can lead to a
raise or promotion.

“Take a look at yourself in the
mirror and ask yourself, ‘What impression would I make?’ If it’s not
the image you want, maybe you need to work on it,” Crawford said.
“Maybe it’s just a higher-quality suit, because you can tell a
difference sometimes. Maybe something a little bit easier could be a
wallet upgrade for guys, or a purse for girls.

your office organized is another thing,” she added. “If you have a
disorganized office, people might get the impression that you’re a

When it comes to job interviews, appearance is
everything. A little pre-interview research can go a long way toward
determining appropriate dress. If anything, it would be better to err
on the side of dressing too formal, but that doesn’t even necessarily
entail a traditional dress suit, Crawford said.

have changed, but make sure you’ve got a haircut, look clean-cut and
professional, and look like you’ve thought about it,” she said. “That’s
the first impression somebody has of you, even though people would like
to say, ‘We’re not going to judge you on your appearance, but on your
skills and experience.’ But that’s human nature.”

foresees a day when corporate expectations might slacken up a bit as
older managers retire and are replaced by younger managers. However,
she fully understands the staid mindset of the current, older, upper
management set.

“I think they are different generations.
They have certain ideas in their head as to what type of person (a
tattooed) person must be,” she said. “The younger generation, even if
they don’t like it, they’re more open-minded.”

But then,
Hasty is quick to admit that her current situation could be a lot
worse. She is able to excel in her chosen profession while maintaining
the appearance she loves – granted, underneath layers of Dermablend.
With a knowing tone of voice, she says, “I think I’m getting to have my
cake and eat it, too.”

Hallie Crawford
Atlanta Career Coach