At one point, I did not believe this concept at all. I thought it was pretty stupid, actually.
I was never out to impress anyone because, at the time, I thought life was more than what you wear and how your hair is fixed at any given moment. If you can’t accept me when I show up at work looking like I’ve just rolled out of bed (a.k.a. a train wreck), then that’s just too bad.
I think I felt this way because I never considered myself pretty. Since I grew up feeling I was ‘average’ in appearance, my looks were never a priority. I thought choosing cute outfits and wearing makeup were only for the popular girls.
This was my mentality before I began working in a ‘grown up’ career – when I nailed a job in the beauty industry.
I was offered a paid internship at one of the most well-known beauty schools in the United States. I am a licensed esthetician, which means I work in a spa setting. Because my job involved being ‘behind the scenes’, my appearance was not important to me.
But the students and faculty liked me, and about a month into my internship, the Director of the school asked me to begin all of our weekly student body meetings with a brief presentation. Which meant that everything about me: attitude, appearance, etc., would be in the spotlight.
Needless to say, the idea of having hundreds of eyes on me at once did not exactly thrill me. I was not prepared to be under that much scrutiny.
It is pretty obvious, as I look back at pictures of myself from my internship, that I did not subscribe to the ‘image is everything’ mindset. Not only did I see it as cliché’, I also felt that focusing on my image was a waste of my valuable time.
The school was a little over an hour from my home, the entire drive nothing but interstate and the occasional billboard. I was commuting every morning and every evening; which meant waking up at 5 am and arriving back home sometimes as late as 9 PM. Most nights, I got less than six hours of sleep, and getting up to make myself look decent was the least of my concerns.
Honestly, I was only worried about drinking enough coffee to stay awake during the drive.
The mantra of the beauty industry, as a whole, is and always will be:
You are your own brand. Always represent yourself in the best way possible.
This is practically drilled into your head from day one. Entire classes are based around the idea of creating ‘the brand of you’- I am a spokesperson to the world for myself. What I want people to think about me is what I should convey to them.
In other words, I have to sell myself.
(In retrospect, maybe my superiors were placing so much emphasis on my image because I was opening those meetings looking like I didn’t own a hairbrush or a single pair of matching socks. They may have been trying to kindly give me a nudge in the right direction.)
You have to sell yourself too.
There is a TV show that documents the hiring and training process of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and one of the episodes featured a meeting with prospective cheerleaders to discuss, in detail, pictures each applicant was posting on Facebook.
The managers of the team were concerned that the wrong image of the girls would be projected if any inappropriate pictures ended up on Facebook. They had a pretty stern discussion and told the women (told, not suggested) that if any images of the girls partying/clubbing showed up online, they would be fired from the Cowboy’s Cheerleading line.
Apparently, image is something.
It turns out that most employers are now looking up all future prospects on the internet. So if you apply for a job, you’re probably going to be Googled. Just about everything you’ve ever put online will be right there, for anyone to see. And for the record- even if your Facebook is ‘private’, your profile picture is still visible.
In an article titled Appearance Counts on Businesstown.com, Dr. Judith Walters of Fairleigh Dickinson University conducted a study in which she sent out resumes of possible employees to various companies, some with ‘before’ photos of the applicant- and others with ‘after’ shots. Amazingly, by simply upgrading the appearance of the person to a more “polished” style, offers for starting salaries were 8 to 20 percent higher than those given to hopefuls with ‘before’ pictures.
Obviously, you will be taken more seriously if you present the best version of yourself to the world each day. Studies have also found that ‘well-groomed’ women are perceived as smarter than women who are dressed sloppy.
I am not suggesting that we should judge each other. And I certainly understand there are days when you need to run to the grocery store in your sweatpants, without combing your hair or putting any mascara on. Obviously to be on top of your game physically 100% of the time is pretty close to impossible.
If you represent ‘the brand of you’ in a beautiful way, you will also represent the company that you work for in the same light; and that is what every employer dreams of.
If you want to get anywhere with your pursuits, your career, and- really, most everything in life- you must put your best face forward each day.
Even if it means getting up a little earlier to wash your hair.
Because there is an image you are projecting to people. You are your own spokesperson. Do you want to be perceived as someone who doesn’t care?
You have to agree that it’s important to show the world that you love and take care of yourself. That you value your appearance and carry yourself with respect. You can’t disagree that image is a little more than just something in this world.
Image is everything.