One aspect of unemployment that people sometimes welcome is that they no longer have to dress for work each day. They like the idea of being able to just wear sweats or jeans and a T-shirt rather than having to get ready and look appropriate for a job.
While it’s understandable, it’s important to think about the effect that may have on your job search.
After having this discussion in one of my job search classes, one of the women realized she may not be conveying the most professional image to people she’s been networking with. She had regularly ‘run to the store’ in her sweats, or met a friend for coffee in dressed-down shorts and a T-shirt. She had gotten into discussions about the types of jobs she was looking for and contacts she needs… without much success.
While there certainly may be other factors to consider, the impression she makes can definitely have an influence on the reaction she gets. Even your best friend will look at you with a different set of eyes when they begin thinking about referring you to their best business contacts. They may love talking about all the issues of life over a cup of coffee or at the neighborhood barbeque, however, may question whether you would present yourself professionally and competently to the VP of HR they know at a company you’re interested in pursuing. Even family, who know you best, may have reservations about introducing you to professional contacts they know if their impression of you is only as a ‘slob’ they see at family reunions.
In order to get the most referrals, it’s important to present an image that people have no concerns about referring. If they can see you as a professional, that’s competent, and sharp, they are much more likely to be willing to refer you to their best connections. While it may seem superficial to primarily consider appearance when making those judgments, the reality is that’s exactly what people do.
In networking groups I lead, I consistently see sharply dressed people get more credibility among the other people there. It’s not necessary to wear a suit… however, ‘business casual’ is far more assuring to someone considering sharing a contact than jeans and a T-shirt.
The woman from my class let me know a couple of weeks later that she believed her appearance made a big difference in a chance meeting she had. She was wearing sweats around the house that day, however, needed to go to the grocery store to pick up a few items. She decided to change into some nicer casual slacks and sweater. When she got to the store, she ran into an ex-coworker from several years ago. As they chatted and she was able to tell about her job search, the ex-coworker gave her a job lead at the company where she now worked and gave her the name and contact information of the hiring manager.
She was convinced that if she had shown up in her sweats and T-shirt that day, the other person would never have been so helpful.
In your job search, you never know when and where you’ll run into your best connections. Be prepared, and always look referable!
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