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Elevating Your Professional Image – Look better, do better.

When I was pregnant, I worried that I would gain sixty pounds and never take the weight off. Well, that’s not what happened. I gained 18 pounds (amazing) and most of it was gone when Grayson was a week old. Six months later, I was fourteen pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight. I couldn’t explain it. It certainly isn’t a result of eating well or exercising, because I did neither. But it lefprofessional imaget me with a problem that impacted my professional image. None of my clothing fit. This was a good problem to have, but nonetheless, it was a problem.

Until I made some changes to my wardrobe, I went to events in my ‘old clothes’ and hoped no one would notice. And they might not have. For all I know, I was the only person who knew I was wearing ill-fitting clothing. But more important than what others saw, is how I felt. I felt unprofessional, unpolished and silly. Aka, I was uncomfortable. I didn’t trust my appearance and it had me doubt myself.

We feel more confident and do better work when we feel good in what we’re wearing and know we look good.

Here are four things you can do to elevate your professional image:

Elevate your professional image tip #1: Take photos of yourself wearing your ‘go to’ outfits. Look at the photos and assess how you look in your favorite clothing. I’m often dismayed at how I ‘really look’ in my favorite pieces of clothing. Then start taking photos of how you look in pieces of clothing before you buy them.

Elevate your professional image tip #2: Ask a friend whose judgment you trust to weigh in on your clothing. Specifically ask, “What’s the first impression I make in this outfit? Where should I wear this? Where shouldn’t I wear it?”

Elevate your professional image tip #3: Get a good haircut. You get what you pay for. Utilize the same practice as above. Ask a friend who always looks great to share the first impression your hair makes. Then make friends with your blow dryer. This might be the part of the blog when men check out. Stay with me. This applies to you too.

Elevate your professional image tip #4: Try on old items in your closet and get rid of everything that doesn’t pass the photo and friend evaluations. If you can’t bear to get rid of things you love, box them up so you won’t wear them. I admit, this is a painful process.

You’ll present yourself more confidently when you have confidence in your appearance.

Note, these suggestions only apply when you’re in front of other people. If you work from home and don’t see anyone during the day but your dog and the occasional neighbor, bring on the spandex or the jammies. There is a school of thought that says you’ll do better work, even at home, if you’re professionally dressed. This isn’t true for me. I do better work when I’m comfortable. So now you know what I’m wearing when you call me. Aren’t you glad we don’t Skype!


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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5 Responses to “Elevating Your Professional Image – Look better, do better.”

  1. Enid says:

    Thank you! So glad to read this blog since it reaffirms exactly how I feel and think about our presentation (aka: physical appearance) at work! Many times my coworkers accuse me of been a DIVA and shrugs off any advice I might give. Is not about expensive cloth, or fancy shoes, is about the right fit and combination for the appropriate office environment or activity. I will continue my quest to share knowledge so people feel and look empowered, polish and professional.

  2. Tammy says:

    A wardrobe does not have to be expensive or necessarily “trendy” to give a great impression. However, invest in a great haircut and great shoes. Everything in between will be elevated. Notice those around you, you will find that these two aspects of their appearance make the biggest impression.

  3. Kristy says:

    You always have great advice.
    I’m amazed how business casual (with a “jeans” Friday) to some means wearing what you’d throw on on a Saturday to go walk the dog or do grocery shopping.
    Not for me. I feel better when I look more polished, not my Sunday Best, but close 😉
    Thank you and Keep blogging!

  4. Alana says:

    Great suggestions about dressing the part -our dosm did a first impressions team building event at Nordstrom’s and I was the model with several changes in outfits, along with hair and makeup that was a nice transformation and we were all inspired to transform along with a brand new renovation project of the Pacific Beach Hotel to the 4-star Alohilani that changes its name on October 1st!

  5. Amy says:

    GREAT advice from Shari, as always. Our management finds it extremely difficult to have conversations with folks about their dress, so often times, we just don’t. Also, I get feedback from younger/new employees that dressing well costs too much. There are so many ways to dress professionally with properly fitting attire without spending a lot! I encourage folks to shop clearance racks, upscale thrift stores, and to buy a few classic pieces that can be mixed and matched. I totally agree with the advice on the hair and shoes. When I’m having a good hair day, my confidence levels are way up!

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