The Desk

October 30, 2014

Having an Impact – Appearance

Do looks matter when vying for a new position or even when seeking acceptance? The larger man and ‪woman face many challenges when they endeavor to ‪dress the part and be accepted as a leader in their industry. It can become a challenge in many ways. In particular, finding fashion that makes the right statement, is affordable, and flatters the physique can be difficult.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a new job interview that requires the right attire. It can also be a matter of commanding the necessary level of respect when making a presentation, teaching, doing public speaking, or just appearing before cameras.

To what extent are we missing one of the best by ignoring the larger sized person? This isn’t a constant phenomenon but it is an obstacle that confronts much of our population. Perhaps it isn’t so much the size of the person that becomes a hiring deterrent as much as the health risks the larger person carries and the resulting impact on health insurance premiums. It could be that a subsidized fitness center membership could be included among the cafeteria benefits offered in order to allay those issues. Just a thought.

Let’s consider the special challenges women face when it comes to vying for upper management and leadership positions. We’re told that they find it useful to dress for power, the better to gain the influence they seek. The more likely they will not become mired in a support position they outgrew decades before. A New York Times article considers this proposition and concludes that the higher one climbs, the more limited the fashion choices become. After all, there are only so many ways to wear a suit (or especially a dress) without a masculine cut and avoid having a soft, pushover image. Women, by necessity, are forced to make bolder strides in fashion so that their voices, identity, and authority can override the traditional perspective of being weak and subservient.

Notice where this feminine fashion dynamic is happening in the NYT article? There are an important lessons to be derived from this. It isn’t “sexy”, per se, that’s driving the advancement. Being attractive, even alluring, gains attention and a desire to have this person around. But those aren’t necessarily the same magnets that garner respect and regard for being extremely talented. They’re merely part of marketing and branding. But the overriding emphasis is on knowledge and ability. A woman’s attire needs to communicate those skills without her making exaggerated demonstrations of them in other ways. They become part of her brand.

In this instance, brand represents gaining success and being able to have improved status by association. The critical ingredient to all of this is having and using good knowledge and wisdom. Then fashion is merely the window dressing for the ultimate prize.

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