In my very first professional sales role, I attended a residential sales training course. One of the activities we all took part in was to stand in the middle of the room whilst others guessed our previous job role. The point of this exercise was to demonstrate that how we dress can affect the perception that people have of us.

 

As we went around the room, we had everything from a hairdresser or a beautician to a sports coach and a doctor. It became apparent that whether we like it or not, people make judgments about us based on our appearance. At the end of the session, the trainer sent us away with a clear message – dress for the job you want and not the job you’ve got. This is something that has stuck with me over the years.

 

Roll forward about 10 years, and I have left my recruitment roots for a role in the family business. This role started my networking career. Whilst the business was ticking along nicely; nobody really knew who we were. I had had a brief stint at the Birmingham Chamber in the membership department, so knew how big networking was getting in the West Midlands, therefore encouraging the family business to take up membership with the local Chambers, I started the networking activity on behalf of the business.

 

Now, anyone that has only recently started networking knows how daunting it can be….. you walk into a room full of people that all seem to have known each other for years. You are dressed to impress (hopefully) coffee (or wine) in one hand and business cards in the other…..now you’ve just got to wait for someone to come and speak to you. Sound familiar? Well this was most definitely me, dressed in my black ‘power’ suit, white shirt and black and white poka dot scarf (a left over from my days at Reed where we had company issue scarfs)….I was ready to join the sea of other black, grey and if you are lucky brown suits and start growing my business.

 

However, it’s not that easy is it? You start off with good intentions but eventually networking starts getting further and further down the priority list. You reason it is because ‘you never get anything from it anyway’. After a few months, I was at this point. Not even the knowledge I had from my Chamber days could stop me from finding other ‘more important things’ this to do. It was about then that I met Jane Brook, at a networking event none the less.

 

Jane runs a franchise of ‘House of Colour’ and it is from her that I not only learnt more about the power of a personal brand but also became an advocate of it. I attended a colour course (along with my sister) followed by a style course and I can honestly say I have never looked back. I’ve learnt how colour can be used to make you feel more confident, build self-esteem and ultimately make you a better networker – who knew? Through understanding what colours suited me best, I completely transformed my wardrobe (and created an extensive colourful scarf collection along the way) and now wear very little if any black (yes I still do own a black evening dress, but make sure I wear very bright lipstick to compensate – sorry Jane!). The result of my networking? Well, it certainly makes me one of the most stand out people in the room (less so in the Worcester Scene as Jane’s magic has spread) but for some reason it has made me more approachable and I actually get lots of comments on something I am wearing (from men and women) which is a great icebreaker.

 

So going back to the title of the blog, The Power of a Personal brand; what both of these experiences have taught me is how important it is to create a personal brand that suits both your personality and industry. For example, we operate in the professional services industry so I need to maintain a professional edge. However, that does not mean I can’t have fun with colour. This also transfers into areas such as my professional LinkedIn profile…..I include some personal touches such as photo’s of my dog, Harry, as well as the key professional items such as experience and work background. I’ve always felt that people buy from people, and a personal touch is what can make you stand out head and shoulders above the rest…..well that and a bright red dress!