7 seconds. That's how long it takes. Do you know just how much can happen in 7 seconds? It's quite something! In 7 seconds around the world over 200,000 facebook posts are uploaded, over 23,000 tweets are posted and over 17 million emails are sent. Not only that but every 7 seconds 21 babies are born and over 2,000 kit kat sticks are consumed worldwide. 7 seconds definately counts! Most importantly, we don't get a second chance to make a good first impression!
As part of that all important 7 seconds, research shows we are judged 55% on our appearance and just 7% on what we say (there’s that number again!). Many little things control the way we feel about someone in that small space of time. Genetically in fact we have been hard wired to make quick (sometimes irrational) decisions. Everything from finding someone attractive to how much we trust them, happens in a matter of seconds. It’s a type of unconscious thinking called ‘rapid cognition’, kind of like your brain moving just that little bit quicker than the deliberate decision-making style of thinking we’re more accustomed to. I like to simply explain it, as the ability human’s have to dig deeper and gauge what is really important from a very quick experience.
So, what can we do to make sure our first impression is one people remember?
Read on for my 7 (of course) tips to help you make a lasting first impression.
1. Wardrobe basics are key
Yes, you can have whatever you want as long as you dress for it. This is the year of clever wardrobe styling. The way forward is to re-invent your wardrobe around great wardrobe basics that last longer, show our personality and make us not only look the part but feel the part. Structured shoulders for example means walking taller and in a more self assured way. It is also worth investing in a pair of beautifully cut trousers. For all their playful insouciance, frills, bows and cheap thrills cannot give us this poise. When the world around us feels more than a little shaky, we need serious clothes that make us walk tall and feel fabulous.
This Season’s Professional Wardrobe Essentials Include:
A good suit in a neutral colour.
A classic MAC Jacket.
A statement coat.
A statement/modern everyday structured jacket.
A pair of smart cigarette or tailored trousers.
7-8 dressy tops.
A crisp white shirt.
An A line (knee length) leather skirt.
Silk camisoles for under jackets.
A little black dress and one other formal dress.
Colourful accessories and bags.
2. Go for ‘Fit’ as opposed to fashion fads.
Don’t obsess over the latest must-have trends. Instead focus on the pieces that work for your shape and that you can mix and match in your wardrobe. It is much easier to be inspired by five amazing pieces than 25 mediocre ones. You’ll find that having fewer clothes of better quality eliminates that dreaded ‘nothing to wear’ feeling. When buying always ask yourself ‘Have I got two/three ways I can wear this?’
As part of this point you should also think of cost per wear
Imagine you see a new spring coat you love costing €275 but instead buy a €90 coat to save money. Chances are that halfway through the season you will buy another coat. Always divide the price of a piece by the number of times you are likely to wear it. Often the more expensive item pays for itself in the long run.
3. The new power dressing
Darker colours are perceived to be more appropriate for work. They form part of a strong culture of power dressing many have gotten used to this but we can challenge this. Think about what part of your shape you want to accentuate. Choose lighter colours, print or brighter colours in this area (for example if it is the top half or the bottom half). Creams, tans and white will always draw the eye more than black or brown. As well as a print or a brighter colour. The trick is to maintain a balance between darker and brighter colours. You always want to ask yourself ‘Does this look give off a professional message?.’ Your wardrobe does not have to be devoid of colour to do that! For the parts of your shape you don’t want to show use more matt fabrics, darker colours and less print or embellishment. The new power dressing is about understanding ‘you’ and reflecting that in how you dress.
4. Start from the bottom up
I always think it can be harder to find great items for the bottom half – like trousers and skirts. My advice is to always start here. Shop around, always keep an eye out for great pieces that are 100% right for you. If you have these in your wardrobe, you can have so much fun getting creative. Without them, your wardrobe can be full of lots of nice tops and jackets but nothing to wear them with. One of my current favourite work-wear websites hot off the press is finerylondon.com started by a group of professional women for women who want a modern, flexible and quality wardrobe. I would also advise clients to check out Hobbs, LK Bennett, Zara of course, Massimo Duitti and Pied a Terre in House of Fraser.
5. Wear Special
So many women say to me ‘it’s only work’ and don’t invest but I find this crazy. Not only because I like to talk a lot about our all important 7 seconds but work is where we spend 70-80% of our time, so do you not deserve and want to feel great in all that time? Each season I like to invest in just one or two beautiful key pieces that come out on those days I need some extra confidence.
6. Body language tips
37% of what we communicate is through how we use our body. There is a whole body of research (pardon the pun) that shows how our confidence improves when we use our body in a more powerful way. Little things like standing tall, using your hands when speaking, using more animated expressions, offering up a firm hand shake and making good eye contact all add up to not only creating a more powerful impression but can also actually start to shape how we feel. When you have a few minutes check out the ‘Amy Cuddy TED Talk on Power Posing’.
7. YOUR ONLINE IMAGE
Nowadays, that all important first impression is not just created when we meet someone but also through our online image. Have you ever thought about your online profiles and the impression they give? Another scary fact for you. Over 93% of people will check out your Linkedin profile before deciding to make contact. Having a professional profile picture on a white background is key. You are also generally better going for a block colour outfit for this picture as print can sometimes be too distracting. The trick is to get the right balance of personality and formality. So, what can we do right now? Well, simply think of current level of impact you think YOU make when you meet people for the first time? Be honest with yourself. Is it what YOU want it to be? If it’s not, what steps will you now take to get you to where you want to be?
Always remember the saying ‘Your ship comes in because you are captain of it.” Every single one of us has an image whether we like it or not and if we don’t develop it by intent, it WILL develop by default! Take the reigns and make those 7 seconds count! You never know who you might meet….