How long does it take for someone you meet to form an opinion about you? Only 6 to 12 seconds. And first impressions are lasting impressions that are difficult to change.
People you meet need to conclude you are professional, attractive and intelligent. The right clothing and nonverbal cues make this happen.
People assume all sorts of information about you based on your appearance: whether you're educated, well-informed, have ‘personality,’ and if you're someone they'd like to get to know.
Start with good grooming and hygiene. Attend to your hair and nails. Makeup? In business, less is more. The same goes for fragrance and jewelry.
How do you dress?
For men: Best business colors are blue and gray. Navy blue projects an image of authority. Dress for success in navy and gray, especially when attending meetings, interviews and presentations. Diversify your wardrobe with suits, jackets and pants in khaki, tan, and taupe. Convey a formal image in a dark suit and long-sleeved white shirt. Accent your wardrobe with pastel, solid-colored shirts. Choose ties that reflect your personality. For a formal image, choose ties with a neutral background. Otherwise, there's more leeway.
For women: Mix and match color-coordinated separates to maximize wardrobe options and stretch your clothing budget. Choose fashion colors or rely on standards: navy, black, gray, taupe or burgundy for winter and beige or khaki for summer. A white or cream colored blouse for your ensemble creates a more formal appearance. Choose styles that are more conservative for business wear. Tailored pants can easily be substituted for skirts and are often a comfortable alternative.
Keep your shoes in top-notch condition. Shoes are very telling. Polished shoes suggest attention to personal grooming. Others will assume you pay attention to detail with all aspects of your life.
When all is said and done, it makes sense to invest in quality, not quantity. Make sure your clothes fit well, are clean and wrinkle-free.
Remove ‘wrinkles’ in your body language, too. Body language speaks to who you are. Maintain good eye contact to connect with others to establish trust. Use facial expressions that indicate you're listening and responsive. Smiling is always a plus, but don’t be phony. Be relaxed, responsive, and reassuring.
Maintain good posture. Align your body toward the person you're speaking with. Give them your undivided attention. Open body posture conveys confidence. Avoid crossing your arms. This can suggest defensiveness and lack of receptivity.
Develop a firm handshake. Use hand and arm movements to add strength to what you say. And avoid placing your hands around your mouth. It suggests a lack of confidence. Don’t fidget unless you want others to think you are nervous or insecure.
Six to 12 seconds isn’t much time. But now that you know how to make a great first impression, you are in a position to make those seconds really count.
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