Every professional knows that their personal brand is of the utmost importance: building a good reputation and living up to it is critical for success across all industries. What very few folks -- men in particular --- fail to realize is the degree to which their appearance affects their personal brand.
To say that first impressions are formed and set deep within seconds is as cliche as it is true. Though we'd like to believe that our strong eye-contact, firm handshake, and confident tenor will carry us through, the tone has already been set by our appearance.
They tell us not to judge a book by its cover, but sight is the primary sense that we rely on to understand the world. What we see inexorably colors our perceptions. That is why graphic design is a multi billion dollar industry; that is why every brand needs and invests in a mascot that articulates its identity.
For your personal brand, that responsibility falls upon... Well yeah, you guessed it.
Now that doesn't mean you must wear a suit and tie every day or something ridiculous like that. Depending on your industry, doing so could really hurt your cause! What you should consider doing, however, is taking a good hard look in the mirror. Who is staring back?
Does that person reflect the values, experience, and poise that are hallmarks of your personal brand? Does your reflection do justice to who you are, how far you've come, and where you're headed? If the answer isn't a resounding "YES" to all of the above, then it may be time to invest in refining the most overlooked, yet immediately-impactful component of your brand: its mascot!
Rather than getting bogged down in the technical details of crafting a sharp appearance -- though they do matter -- the first and foremost step is to identify your message and your audience.
What do you want to convey about yourself?
Who are you trying to convey that to?
And finally, what does that look like?
Though style is an artful form of expression, it can (and should) also be wielded as a tool for pragmatic communication. A sharp appearance aligned with your persona and values will multiply your confidence, charisma, and efficacy. When it comes to personal branding, style and substance are intertwined: for better or worse, you are the mascot.