Repost: Reverse Engineering Your Visual Resume
I know it's not Throwback Thursday yet, but today I thought it would be nice to take a break from analyzing body types and check back in with our messy, complex, unique inner selves! This is a post from 2015, back when I was just getting started blogging, but the topic is resurfacing with a couple clients today - I hope that they (and you!) will find this process helpful when translating your inner awesomeness to a visual presentation. :)
A while back, we discussed the importance of accepting and controlling one's own visual cues - e.g. creating the character of "you." That post generated a lot of interest and questions, so I figured we could jump right in and discuss how to control your visual cues in a more fleshed-out way.
I find it easiest to think about this in terms of a job interview, because I often work with clients before big interviews or meetings. However, these same principles apply just as easily to auditions, dates, speaking engagements, parties, ad infinitum. In place of a resume, you can always refer to your casting call, your date's online profile, or an invitation.
To pack as much punch and positive impressions into your limited time with your audience, you should first realize that every element of your image says something about you - especially whether you do or don't care about a particular subject. It's important to go over everything you take into the room with you and harness its potential impact. In order to do this, I like to follow these general steps:
- Identify desired attributes.
- Attribute stock-check.
- Symbol application & checklist.
- Pad & Perfect.
- (repeat as needed)
Here I've simply taken a screen shot of a real job listing posted to Craigslist (identifying characters redacted) and highlighted anything that looks like an attribute the hiring party values. Notice that I did not simply stick to the "qualifications" section of the job listing, because it is just as important to gel with the company's culture as it is to intellectually be able to complete required tasks.
If I were getting dressed to apply for this job, my list for step 1 would look like this:
- Looking to advance
Making a list like this before every meeting ensures that you not only present yourself as a generally capable and likely person, but that you also present yourself as specifically suited to this exact position. You want to be everything they've dreamed about from the moment they set eyes on you.
Attribute Stock Check
Now that you have identified what the audience wants from you, you must also check that against what you can actually offer them - on the inside as well as the outside. If you are NOT friendly and professional, for example, you can surely still fake it... but false advertising almost always backfires. If you honestly don't possess an attribute, just remove it from your list. My styling slogan is "Just be yourself" not only because it helps you feel comfortable and confident, but also because misrepresentation is one of the surest ways to make people dislike you. o_0
Once your list is edited to accurately reflect your inner self, open up your wardrobe and figure out which external items communicate your inner self. Just go down the list, and start pulling out items within your dress code restrictions that match the attributes on your list. Set these aside on a chair, bed, rolling rack, or anywhere you can see and work with them easily. Here are some examples, although yours may differ.
- Friendly - warm(er) colored tops that flatter skin tone
- Professional - conservative, classically cut garments
- Successful - good quality brands and fabrics
- Personal - unique pendant, watch, or brooch
- Flexible - comfortable fit and fabrication
- Competitive - bold details like strong lines or colors.
- Looking to advance - dressier/better/more professional than what is technically necessary
Again, do pay attention to your dress code. "Friendly" and "flexible" will mean different things if you are interviewing at Bloomberg versus going on a date with that cute yoga instructor.
Symbol Application & Checklist
With all your best options laid out for you, start to assemble an outfit that actually looks good as a whole. As you get dressed, go back to your original list and check off the attributes that each item represents. This way, you can be sure that you are presenting a complete, well-rounded image to your audience.
This does not have to be too literal or stressful, because this is not a process designed to be consciously parced and evaluated. You just need to give off an impression that will inform all the wonderful things you talk about during your time with your audience.
Pad & Perfect
Once you are happy with your outfit and all that it says about you, it is time to move on to the other parts of your image that will enhance the look. This can be anything from an added accessory like a scarf to something you will casually make visible near you.
For example, your top should already be a flattering color that makes you look warm and approachable, but makeup can make you look even more vibrant, engaged, and interested. Maybe you would like to stress your aptitude to be flexible and rearrange your day on short notice, so wearing a watch or carrying your tablet with your resume and notepad might be a good idea. You don't want to pile things on to the point where clutter works against you, but a little boost here and there can do a lot.
We aren't finished yet! This part goes much faster, but it is also helpful to repeat this process a couple more times - with the difference being that you get both more specific to you and more generalized. You will definitely have great attributes that you believe will help you in your role but that were not stated on a resume, for example - attention to detail, creativity, training. You may also generally be the kind of person that customers like to interact with - well-groomed, thorough, and polite. Make sure that your look reflects these attributes, because no one normally has a conversation about how well-groomed you tend to be in your daily life.
Attentive to detail - Belt in belt loops or personalized cuff links.
Creative - An unexpected color combination or unconventional use of an item.
Training - A class ring or a tie with your school's colors/logo.
Grooming - clean/polished nails, hair, teeth.
Thorough - coordinating socks, collar stays, proper pants hems, no visible undershirts or bra straps.
Polite - no overuse of fragrance, no overt logos/phrases/religious symbols/et al that might make customers feel unwelcome or excluded, no loud or jangling accessories that might distract coworkers.
Voila! Now we have an interview outfit that packs a ton of information into what seems like an effortless professional look. The colors are warm and soft and friendly, the cuts are professional yet flexible, and the details create an overall impression of someone who is organized, structured, attentive, and Has it Together.