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These are the North and South Poles of first impressions. Building a professional identity to project a strong first impression must take these same boundaries into account.
Somewhere between the two extremes of approachable and authoritative lies fertile ground where you can nurture an effective professional style. A professional style may or may not conform to current fashion but it should be an expression of your independence and confidence. Wearing attractive clothes with assurance can positively influence prospective job offers, help secure your long awaited promotion or make the difference in landing a multimillion-dollar contract.
Your authority/approachability quotient determines how other people will initially respond to you when you finally get to open your mouth. Think of a sliding scale with blue jeans (the pants of the people) at one end and very expensive custom-made suits (the togs of the toffs) at the other. Of course you don’t have to get stuck at one end or the other. Most people find a comfortable spot that borrows and combines elements from both ends.
A man with a “serious” attitude and a set of bankers’ pinstripes to match presents a façade of total authority. But if you add a bright red pair of suspenders to that pinstriped suit, the businessman immediately becomes more approachable.
A woman can present the same “serious” facade of authority by showing up in the modern business uniform of dark suit and sensible heels. But, like the suspender-wearing banker, she can show her approachability by adding a flash of color with a bright scarf or a piece of whimsical jewelry.
These imaginative touches have a persuasive impact on the first impression you choose to create because they offer a controlled glimpse of your personality—they suggest what you’ll be like when people get to know you.
Remember, when you are poorly dressed, people notice your clothing; when you are perfectly dressed, they notice you.