How to Accessorize Your Professional Image

Jul 29, 2013 by

A young client recently asked me what luxury items she should purchase to accessorize her professional image.  She wanted management to take her seriously and acknowledge that she was ready to move up the career ladder.  She thought a few status additions to her wardrobe would attract management’s attention.  I asked her what pieces she thought would give her a ROI (return on investment) and help her achieve her professional objectives.  She listed some of the traditional pieces people obtain to boost their professional visibility – a Vuitton briefcase, a Mont Blanc pen, a pair of Louboutin red-soled, closed toe shoes, a tailored outfit from MaxMara, or a new Movado round bracelet watch.

I explained that I thought these were all tangible investment pieces and that any one of them would send a signal to her friends, co-workers and management.  However, I asked her to consider another approach to accessorizing her career image.

“Investment purchases” are fun and make a statement, and can be added to your wardrobe – if you have the financial resources.  However, personal development is another ROI you can invest in and reap its rewards.  One of the best ways to accessorize your professional image is to invest in yourself – not necessarily with “things” but with personal development – learn something new, expand your awareness, invest in yourself.

Before you spend a major portion of your salary on status symbols that say, “I’m on my way!” consider these personal development alternatives:

  1.  Subscribe to The Wall Street Journal, or another major newspaper, and read it cover-to-cover.  Know what is happening in the world – not just in your industry. Knowledge of world events, book reviews, and other news items expand your thinking and make you a more interesting and dynamic person.   In addition to perusing daily newspapers, subscribe to trade journals and business magazines and keep abreast of industry changes and people in the news.
  2. Take a class and learn something new. A writing class can discipline your thinking process and make you more productive at work.  Acting classes for non-actors can increase your confidence, improve your presentation skills and help you deal with speaker anxiety. Classes that are not job-related, such as, art history, cooking, painting or singing lessons can stretch your imagination and versatility.
  3. Spend some time polishing your communication skills.  Join Toastmasters or other speaking groups and practice your presentation technique.  Videotape one of your presentations and assess the clarity of your message and your nonverbal cues – posture, tone of voice, gestures and facial expressions.  If necessary, work with your Presentation Skills Coach to improve your delivery and stage presence.
  4. Create your “Elevator Speech” – if you don’t already have one.  This is a critical accessory and one that costs you nothing.  Write a 20-second bio that tells people who you are, what you do — and what you can do for them!
  5. Take a trip.  If you have the time and resources, take a trip and go somewhere new – someplace you have never visited.  Make the trip an adventure – soak up the new sites and experience the culture of the locale you are visiting.  If a holiday is not possible, then visit the Zoo or a museum, or just go out for lunch to a new restaurant.  Traveling, or just taking a “time out” from your daily routine will increase your creativity, renew your enthusiasm and help you look at things differently.
  6. Learn how to meditate. Take a few minutes everyday and sit quietly and let your mind and body relax.  Meditating helps reduce stress and calms you after a hectic day at work.  Meditating regularly aids with problem solving and teaches you how to visualize different outcomes to nagging dilemmas.  There are numerous CDs you can use to walk you through the meditation process.
  7.  If your professional image needs sprucing up — clean out your closet before purchasing anything new.  Hire an Image Consultant to help you assess your current wardrobe and accessories.  Get rid of any outdated pieces of clothing, or clothes that are too tight, too short, or too loose. Work with the Image Consultant to help you update your look with a few well-chosen items.  If your budget allows, purchase some ROI clothing and accessories.  If not, always purchase the best career clothes and accessories you can afford.

ROI accessories are worthwhile purchases that may enhance your professional image – but don’t stop there in your endeavors to create your career persona.  Invest in your personal development.   Stretching to expand your learning and knowledge, reading, exploring, and experiencing new activities — all contribute to your professional and personal image and make you a more valuable member of the workforce.

Remember – things come and go, or are replaced by other things.  But learning and education are yours forever and no one can take them away from you.  Invest in you!

 “…The more you work on self-development the more it will work for you.”

                                                                        –Al Duncan, Motivational Speaker


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