Dress for Success

Be ‘loud and proud’ about the products and services you offer and the image you present.

July 10, 2013

My dear friend Elise called me at 1:30 AM the other day in a moment of crisis.

She had been jetted somewhat afar for a high-level job interview.  Travel drama had occurred.  The flight was delayed, she arrived late to her hotel, hadn’t eaten, was exhausted, but worst of all—her luggage was lost.  No interview suit.

A driver was to pick her up at 7:40 AM.  She wore shorts and a cable knit sweater.  There was no place or time to shop.

Elise was in a panic.

Her loving husband was en route with another suit, starting his anticipated eight-hour drive with the disadvantages of bad weather, geographical unfamiliarity, no sleep, and time constraints requiring he shave more than an hour off the trek for Elise to appear dressed for success.  Not good odds…

I sympathized and advised that, worst case scenario, she would have to present herself to the interview committee and president as she was.  Cancelation or late arrival was not an option.  The interview was a rigorous day-long affair, and she had to give a presentation.

Perhaps she could ask them to imagine her wearing the new Ann Taylor suit and simply proceed. After all, she is a seasoned professional touting an impressive resume.  She might even get bonus points for perseverance and charisma…

‘You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.’—Will Rogers

Interesting articles this week suggest this is true not only for individuals, but also for businesses seeking to retain employees and gain new clients.

Individuals have “Seven Seconds to Make a First Impression,”  according to Forbes, and “First impressions are more heavily influenced by nonverbal cues… Studies have found that nonverbal cues have over four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say.”

Here, good impression indicators include positive attitude, good posture, a friendly smile, making eye contact, raised eyebrows, a firm handshake, and a slight leaning in during conversation.

New staffers need to feel adequately welcomed, and employers should consider the impact first impressions make on future performance of employees, Forbes reports. 

Provide the following to impress newbies:

Consider also “5 Ways to Make a First Impression When You Welcome Your Customers.”  Visitors to your offices like convenient parking, cordial greetings, attractive waiting areas, and helpful staff.  Try touring your office with the eye of one unfamiliar with your surroundings.  Do you measure up?

You might also make impressions for consumers with your branch practices. “Branch Closures Drive Customers Away,” says a recent American Banker article.  “Three in ten of consumers surveyed said they moved their accounts to another institution because of a branch closing within the last year.”

Further, “28% of branch users said they would switch their financial institutions if their current branches closed.”

Why? One-fourth of respondents say “the branch closure gave them a generally negative impression of the institution, while 25% said it made them uneasy about the safety of their money.”

The ultimate message: “Providers planning to reduce their branch networks should anticipate a degree of customer loss.”

‘Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates an impression by remaining silent.’—Dalai Lama

Communication style is important in all interactions.  Research this week prompts you to consider how to best make dynamic impressions.

Do you know “How Social Tools are used in the Workplace”?  This interesting infographic shows “46% of global information workers say using social tools has increased their productivity, while 9% say such tools have reduced productivity.”

This data-laden post further states, “One-third (34%) of workers surveyed say their management underestimates the benefits of these tools, and at least a quarter report that there are restrictions in place for using external social networks (32%), microblogging (30%), and internal social networks (25%).”

Are your employees provided tools to facilitate good impressions?

In other interactive news, know that “Mobile to Exceed $3T in Transactions by 2017,” says Juniper Research.

Here, industry analysis shows “financial institutions leading the pack for volume.  The study suggests there is a particularly strong use case for mobile with bill payments that carry substantially bigger transaction sizes.

“For mobile bill pay specifically, there is a big opportunity for banks and carriers in developing countries,” the article continues.  “Often times, only a small percentage of consumers in developing countries own a credit card or have a bank account, but a bigger portion of users own a mobile device and often use services such as money transfers.”

In a related report, learn about “Tablet Ownership 2013.”  Outreach to tablet owners will give your credit union new avenues to make a good impression.

The report cites a “strong correlation” of tablet ownership with educational attainment and household income. The typical table owner:

Want to impress women? Give them “Good News, Phone Calls, and Sleep.”

This infographic reports on “insights on a range of topics from a panel of 400 ‘alpha women’—identified as consumer influencers and opinion leaders in their peer groups…” as well as opinions of “mainstream women.”  Communication preferences are addressed along with other topics.

You’ll also learn about what women want financially.  Forty percent hope to pay down debt, 23% want to put more money into savings, and 22% would like to “budget for one or two splurges.”

Will your good impressions invite women so you can help them meet financial goals?

Elise had a successful interview this week.  Her dedicated husband arrived five minutes before the chauffeur, and she barely accomplished the wardrobe change.

Elise’s composure, quick-thinking, problem-solving skills, and cooperative spouse were important contributors to the dynamic first impression she made as a successful businesswoman.  She was calm, cool, and collected for the interview team.

Don’t wait for the harrowing experience that forces you to contemplate the importance of and need for readiness in making good first impressions.  Furthermore, know uncontrollable external events may be contributing factors to your image.

Like Elise, you may require “Emergency Plan B” when faced with wardrobe malfunctions or other issues.  Contingency plans may or may not be successful.

Communicating your image is an ongoing project, and others will make decisions about their level of interaction with you based on that image.

Be “loud and proud” about the products and services you offer with the image you present.  Per the words of K. Rafferty, “Never tread lightly. Leave a deep impression wherever you go.”






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.