From the days of the 1960s and those Mad Men wearing three-piece suits, collars, ties and tie clips to the heady rush of the dotcom era of wearing just about anything into and out the office, corporate grooming and the adage “dress for success” have taken a battering.
Luckily, the tide is turning and gen Y and the millennials are realising personal appearance and grooming are key aspects of their personal brand and can make or break their career prospects.
A 1994 study by Hamermesh and Biddle found beauty had a premium and attractive people could earn up to 15 per cent more than their plain counterparts.
Looks are not the only factor. I have transformed many clients from homely to corporate sharpshooter through good grooming and well co-ordinated outfits.
Your personal brand is the sum total of the comments made about you by your peers and circle of reach, and it begins when you are born. As you progress through life and your career, that reach gets wider and your personal brand is commented on often by people you have never met.
You need to keep in mind that you are the driver, positively or negatively, of those comments. Your personal brand is defined by you, and by those around you, so take responsibility for it.
A 2013 study by graduatecareers.com.au found a male graduate earned $55,000 a year and a female $51,000. By the time those same employees had been working for 15 years, ignoring inflation, promotions and pay rises, those who had focused on creating a great personal brand incorporating their personal grooming could earn an additional $123,750.
So how can gen Yers build their personal brand and reap the rewards without blowing their budget?
First, they need to invest time and money into their image. It takes time to look good. This does not necessarily mean spending hours primping and preening; it involves investing in a business wardrobe appropriate for their industry and position. This should be done with an eye for their future careers rather than wearing clothes that defined their past.
Well-fitting clothes do maketh the man and woman. Find a good tailor. A cheap suit that fits well looks infinitely better than an expensive suit that does not. Other basic elements make a difference; a well-ironed shirt gets noticed, as do polished shoes.
Adopt a hairstyle that suits your environment, your position and looks clean as well as fresh.
You will be noticed for the way you look, and if you look good and are doing a great job your brand will build positively.
However, if you look good and act poorly — being disrespectful, inarticulate or behaving in a non-professional manner in your position — people are likely to remark, “What a pity it is that you don’t live up to expectations.”
If your actions are impeccable but your image is sloppy people may say: “It’s a pity you weren’t the full package — you could have gone so far.”
Gen Y may not have heard the old saying “Never leave money on the table that can easily be in your pocket.”
But my advice is to always be the person in control of building your personal brand. Know that you are leaving nothing to chance and ensure you get your share of that extra $123,000 plus.
Clare Maxfield is a corporate image consultant.
Click this link to view this article from The Australian Newspaper: http://bit.ly/1C0o3oS