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Is Your Appearance Holding You Back in the Workplace?

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Guest Contributor

  • Have you been passed over for promotion more than once despite the fact that you are doing an adequate (or better) job? 
  • Do you sometimes feel as though you are invisible to your bosses, no matter how much responsibility you take on or the successes you achieve? 
  • Perhaps you’ve even started to notice that coworkers are avoiding you or snickering behind your back. 

If you are one of those high-minded idealists that think your appearance should have no effect on your standing in the workplace because position and advancement should be based on merit, then you need to seriously rethink your strategy.  By phoning it in when it comes to looking the part, you are doing nothing so much as shooting yourself in the foot.  So if your “personal style” in the office consists of the same baggy jeans and shredded concert tees you’ve been wearing since high school (and your hair and makeup efforts are non-existent), you need to seriously consider the message you’re sending in the office.

For starters, you should at least dress professionally.  If you don’t know what proper office attire looks like, take a peek at your coworkers (especially those that have received promotions in the past).  You might even ask for some advice (what girl doesn’t like to participate in a makeover?).  You may find the business-casual look to be rather bland (with a boring palette of neutral shades and a heavy reliance on slacks, skirts, blazers, and button-down blouses), but that doesn’t mean you can’t spice up the look to give it a little attitude.  Bright, colorful accent pieces like scarves, pumps (kitten heels, perhaps?), and even printed blouses allow you to make even this understated style into something that still shows your personality.  As for jewelry, don’t go off the deep end; keep it simple, chic, and sparse.

Next you should think about creating a hair and makeup look to match your new wardrobe.  You don’t need to do any kind of major overhaul (like Botox injections or dental veneers), but you should make every effort to adopt a complexion and coiffure that are suitable for the workplace.  Think about implementing a skincare routine to deal with issues like acne and dry, dull skin so that you can start with a fresh face, and then utilize limited makeup.  Mineral options are fairly sheer and light but still provide great coverage to even out your skin tone.  Beyond that, keep makeup natural and minimal, choosing tinted lip balms or glosses, a natural shade of blush, and maybe even some mascara.  Full makeup is neither required nor appropriate for the office setting.

As for your hair, try a cut that is both flattering and not too fussy.  Although it may seem vain, you should also consider covering grays with color since age discrimination is nothing new in the corporate setting.  You might not believe that your appearance makes that much difference in the office, but you’re most likely wrong.  A major aspect of how you are perceived in the workplace centers on the way you look.  So take the time to spruce up your appearance; you may just notice a marked improvement in the treatment you receive at the office.

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