Myanmar's First Image Training Company
Professional Image: How to Balance Self-Expression with Workplace Expectations
It would be nice to think that the outside package should be irrelevant to hireability. But thereality of the workplace is this: Without a makeover, some very qualified employees may neverget the promotions they deserve. Others may not get hired at all.
Kali Evans-Raoul, an African American with experience as a cosmetic chemist, founded a
Chicago-based company which now employs 10 people to help clients look, sound and act inways tailored to their particular career goals. Her staff–including a wardrobe consultant,hairstylist, image coach and speech pathologist–helps clients gain positive notice from bossesand interviewers.
Self-Expression and Work
Looking professional does not mean selling out your cultural or ethnic heritage. Evans-Raoulhelps her clients “balance self-expression with workplace realities.” Her goal is to get them tobe true to themselves within the bounds of professional etiquette.
African American women often work in organizations where fellow employees rarely dress inways that are significant to any specific heritage. While a large Afro may be culturally significantand a prideful expression of individuality, extra-puffy hair may send a message that the weareris “not in control” of herself.
Many African American women do not wear makeup–it's not part of their culture. Yet others may perceive that as a lack of polish indicating an inability to perform at a higher level. And long, curved or glittery nails, while stylish at home, can distract a colleague or customer, preventing the wearer from being heard. When your hair and makeup are outside professional fashion norms, it takes more consideration to make sure that hairstyle and color are not distracting.
Every Office is Different.
Personal-appearance coaches must consider a client's particular workplace or profession. A hemline that is considered risqué in one office might be acceptable in another; a trendy outfit may be acceptable in an ad agency, but out-of-bounds in the law firm down the hall. However, certain standards apply everywhere. Clothing should be "the best quality you can afford".Quality is measured by fit and fabric, not just price.
Send the Right Message.
But looking good gets you only so far. African Americans must also focus on grammar,
intonation and inflection.
Speaking “office English” does not take away from one's cultural
heritage. Our abilities as individuals to be chameleon-like and have others feel comfortable with and around us is critical to our success. The degree to which we are successful depends very much on how well we fit in.
In the workplace, you must always have your game face on. People constantly make split-second decisions about you. Most of the time those decisions have nothing to do with race; they're about the crispness and cleanness of your message, and the ability for them to see you without any distractions.
It's sometimes harder for minorities, who may have a particular sense of cultural style, to treadthat line between self-expression and professional appearance. But the workplace is not a TV show. It's reality.