How we present ourselves to the world says a lot about who we are and how we will be perceived. Learn about communicating through your appearance and how to create a signature style and greeting.
> At the end of this lesson you should be able to create the vision you want to communicate.
Fair or not, people make up their mind about you within the first four minutes of meeting you. Yes, you can turn that impression around if you got off on the wrong foot, but all the effort involved in doing so could be better used elsewhere.
By taking an active role in the image you project, you can radiate your authentic self while staying within the workplace rules. Your signature style is the full package, so stay mindful of how you walk into a room, how you conduct yourself, and the vibe that you give off.
“To be aware is more important than what you wear.” Kenneth Cole
The Ugly Duxling - Essentials of a Work Appropriate Wardrobe
There is an old rumour that you should dress for the position you want, rather than the position you have. There is truth in that, but with different professions, businesses, and individual companies having different dress codes, what exactly does that look like?
It may be written into an official document, or it may be unstated but implied, but the best way to find out is to simply ask about dress code. Tempting as it might be, you don’t have to blow a fortune on a new wardrobe. Simply take a little extra time when you are new to make sure you look put-together, and always… always stay away from:
- Excessively bright colours and wild patterns.
- Too much jewellery, or jewellery that is noisy.
- Sheer fabrics that show your undies.
- Wrinkled or stained clothes.
- Loose hems. (If you haven’t already, learn how to sew on a button and fix a hem.)
- Missing buttons. (Many items have loose threads and precariously sewn-on buttons straight off-the-rail. Spend a bit of time snipping off or burning away hanging threads. Prevent button threads from unravelling by coating the stitches with clear nail polish.)
- Ill-fitting clothes.
Like a Dux to Water – Personal Hygiene and Grooming
Squeaky clean and well-groomed trumps any outfit! The obvious practices like bathing or showering every day (unless you are in the Western Cape), brushing your teeth, and washing your hair need not be said.
Be careful of overlooking:
- Dirty, overly coloured, or in-need-of-maintenance hair.
- Chipped nail polish for women and long nails for men.
- Wild beards and other facial hair.
- Too much makeup.
- Body odour – just ask a friend.
- Cloying fragrance.
- Chewing gum.
- Tattoos and piercings – industry dependent.
Don’t Be an Odd Dux - Behaviour
A remarkable amount of communication in the business world is left unsaid. To give you the Dux advantage when starting your career, here are some behaviours which are not rules, but which support workplace relationships.
- Interviews and first day aside, pay close attention to the unspoken rules of punctuality and company culture.
- Especially when you’re new, use lunch breaks to your advantage by getting to know your colleagues. Be warned that getting to know them does not mean gossiping with a clique or sleeping with your boss.
- The art of meeting and greeting gives you an old-world charm beyond your years. When joining a conversation, introduce yourself. Be ready to introduce others who join the group. In his book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell noted that, “Acquaintances, in short, represent a source of social power, and the more acquaintances you have the more powerful you are.” Ideally, you introduce the less highly-ranked person to the more senior person, e.g. “Mr Boss, I’d like to introduce Mr Junior. He is a new addition to our research team.” Other than that, keep hierarchy of address equal i.e. Mr or Mrs to Mr or Mrs; First name to First name etc.
- Handshakes are a form of body language that have stood the test of time. Different cultures around the world have specific handshake etiquette. Business Etiquette for Dummies describes that the Western norm is to:
- “Extend your hand and grip the other person’s hand in such a way that both are pushed all the way in to meet web-to-web and your thumbs are facing straight up.
- From your shoulder, through the elbow, and straight through to your hand, shake just a couple of times in a vertical up-and-down motion.
- End the handshake cleanly, before the introduction is over (roughly three to four seconds).”
In South Africa we have variations of our own. The video below has poor sound, but it is a fun watch:
Finally, to be safe, this is a brief and comical guide on what not to do:
Answer the quiz questions below.