Wednesday, 19 November 2014

They look at you first .....

In one of my assignments , when I was working as a  Program Manager in a reputed organization,  I had to travel to a foreign country for a few client meetings.  I had never traveled to this country earlier and neither did I have any cultural training on that part of the world. There was a crisis and I just had to rush to meet the customer - a huge pharmaceutical company,  to placate him and give him the  reassurance so that we continued to get work.

Here in India, our official dress for a woman is either a sari or trousers or Salwar Kameej.  It was my post pregnancy days and I had bloated up and put on a lot of weight. The trousers did not fit me and I did not have time to buy some western official dresses. 

So, I packed my bags with lots of Sarees and Salwar Kameej and set off.  Unfortunately,  the weather there was very cold and Sari was totally unsuitable for the climate. I had to do with Salwar Kameejes. 

It really does not matter, I thought ... I have worked with them for almost a year now and I have regular phone calls with them, so they will see my mettle and not how I look .... 

In this post, I confess that it was utterly stupid of me to think like that. 

Like it or not, in this imperfect world, they look at you first ..... 

My customer meetings were almost  disastrous. I was not taken seriously.  That made me think hard about what had gone wrong .  I went to my mentor for guidance and much to my annoyance I found out that your dress and how you look matters. 

A lot. 

"Ananya"  he said " In a perfect world,  the only thing that matters is your performance.. but do we live in a perfect world ? No.... Here, we have to make sure that apart from our skills we also look the like person in that position ....

On the face of it, how you look or how you behave really does not have any impact on the job that you do and how productive and efficient you are.

But people do make assumptions about us by how we talk, how we look and how we behave. I may be sloppily dressed but the perfect fit for the role. In fact, I have recruited many people whose qualifications and experience matched with the job description though they did not look the role and they have proved to be excellent.

 But even now, I still agree with my therein mentor that the world is not perfect.  We are judged by our height weight, age, gender, dress, mannerisms . And again, whether we like it or not, perception matters a lot in the organization.  Unfortunate, but true !

People are selected and promoted who  look more like a person who is in the current senior role which you might be vying for.  So, my advise is, if you want to be selected or want to be promoted for a certain role, try to look like the person in that position.  If you think a bit deeply , you will understand that the people who are hiring or promoting are human beings . And as human beings we tend to be biased towards familiarity.  They want to take less risk. 

I am not saying that you forget about your skills and other requisite aspects about your employability or promotion prospects. I am just emphasizing on the fact that looking like the role might make things easier for you. 

It does not harm to conform . Especially so if  it makes you look more attractive as a candidate fit for that role . 

And on top of it, dressing appropriately also make us a wee bit more confident and there is  feel-good factor in our countenance which accelerates positive thoughts in our persona.

What do you think ? 


  1. Unfortunately we are not living in a perfect world and looks do count. In my job as a maintenance engineer it does not matter much. But in jobs where dealing with outside people is required, looks, dress sense and personality do count. It is not always for wrong reasons. Good dressing and glossy make-up may be treated as a sign that you give full importance to your clients and attach high level of importance to the meeting.

    1. I would not say that glossy make up is needed, but we should dress professionally and appropriately and more which looks like a person for that role. If we are traveling to a different geography, we should dress appropriately. If I want to be a manager, I would like to dress like a manager should do