Here on Your PF Pro, we discuss a lot of important things related to saving, spending, and investing money. However, in order to be able to do any of this, often we need a job to get started. Sounds pretty basic, right? Unless you’re independently wealthy (in which case, want to sponsor my wedding?), we all need jobs to get us started funding our retirement accounts.
Even if you have a job right now, it’s likely you’ll want to change positions by receiving a promotion, changing fields entirely, or starting your own business, so managing your own personal brand is a constantly evolving process. How you present yourself will almost always directly affect how people perceive you and, concurrently, how much they’ll be willing to pay you.
If you’re in corporate America, non-profit work, or somewhere in between, it’s very important to pay attention to how you’re perceived. Whether or not you get a job or raise is sometimes primarily based on how you look, and that means everything associated with your look. Even freelancers should pay attention to this post, as any face-to-face meeting can have an impact on your potential earnings.
Perception is Everything
Studies have shown that how people perceive you depends on how you look, and a well-tailored outfit can make the difference between people wanting to give you a raise or assuming you can’t do the job. First impressions play a large part when you’re looking for a job, whether that’s at an office or at a networking conference.
Since most our earnings growth takes place between ages 25-35, it makes sense to follow the norm in your industry in order to get your foot in the door. This means looking like you belong there, or, in less generous terms, “faking it until you make it.” If your industry leans more conservative, both in dress and speech, then lean that way. Don’t lean so hard that you end up looking too stiff and unappealing, but if it’s in your nature to be more casual than the average corporate job, play the professional role for a bit.
How would this work in the real world? This means showing up in a tailored outfit: something that fits you well. On an interview, wear your best suit, or the interview outfit that the most people give you compliments on. It doesn’t matter if it’s your only suit, or even if it’s a suit you got from a discount rack. If it fits and you’ve received some compliments on it, then it’s good enough to wear to an interview.
Freelancers and creative, this goes for you too! While you likely won’t have to wear a suit, pair your casual blouses or shirts with a stylish blazer, or wear tailored slacks to an interview. You want to dress for the job you want, and while that might mean wearing sweatpants all day, make a solid first impression by dressing better than expected.
It’s Not All About Your Physical Attributes
Having the outfit down is one thing, but it doesn’t always come down to how you look. This is really important to note, because not all of us are models! I know it seems like the attractive people always get the best jobs, but I promise, it doesn’t always come down to who is “conventionally attractive.”
Your first impression will be based on your overall look, hence the best interview outfit you have. However, you will ultimately win the job, promotion, or new client based on your competency and congeniality.
The bottom line is we all want to make more money. If you’re reading Your PF Pro right now, you’re not reading it because you want to slack off and live in the woods. At least, if you do want to do that, you probably want to build up a sizable retirement fund or “living in the woods” fund first to support your lifestyle, right? Before you can have that lifestyle, you’ll have to focus on your talents, building your skills at your current job, and expanding your income by side hustling. This means securing the job by making the best first impression then sealing the deal with your competency.
A Note To Freelancers
Freelancers, I didn’t forget about you! Let’s say you don’t interact face-to-face with anyone, ever (not even networking events?). Perception also plays a role when you’re applying for jobs online, too. Have you taken a look at your website, resume, or email signature lately? Make sure what you put out there conveys competency and interest in the position (or project) you’re applying for. After all, if you’re applying to design a new client’s website, make sure you’ve linked to your best work.
When you are contacted by a client, either by phone or by email, convey your competency by speaking professionally (not using too much jargon, unless you both are on the same page) and not using excessive punctuation. And for goodness’ sake, leave out the emojis, unless your client is into those, in which case you can use them or not. Answer the phone and email with proper greetings, and always end the conversation with a sign off that summarizes your interaction. For example, “Thank you for the opportunity to explain my interest in this position/project. I will send you over my references/portfolio as requested this afternoon.”
Play the Game to Increase Earnings
As much as I hate to describe it as a “game”, there is a certain way to apply for promotions, jobs, and clients successfully. While every industry has its quirks (like how government loves acronyms too much), it’s imperative you know the basics of marketing yourself. By presenting yourself in the best light, you’re much more likely to get the job you’re going for, and start earning more money.
After all, there is only a finite amount of money you can save until you can’t save anymore (for example, you can’t skip on paying your rent). However, with promotions or adding clients to your side hustle, your options for earning more money are only bounded by the amount of time you put in. Increase your earnings potential by making recruiters, your supervisors, and clients want to hire you for your skills and talent by presenting yourself in the best way.
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Do you agree that perception is everything when it comes to getting a new job, promotion, or client? Or have you found it’s less about how you presented yourself, and more about your work speaking for you?
Jon @ Money Smart Guides says
Making a great first impression is huge. You don’t need a wardrobe that costs you thousands either. Just think things through and be smart with the outfits you are choosing. I’ve seen too many people interviewing and in jobs that dress like slobs. While you might not think it is an issue, others – mostly higher ups – see you as not caring about yourself or your job. This will quickly lead to you being let go for someone that cares more.
Whether or not people like it, that’s totally true. If you show up looking unprofessional, no matter how qualified you are for the job, you’re not likely to get it. Better to invest in some quality clothes, ask people for clothing gift cards for birthdays, or carefully shopping thrift stores. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, just find something that fits you well and looks professional. Thank you for your comment, Jon!