As we all know when it comes to networking first impressions are key and often determine the quality of connections you make. Remember, you get only one shot to come across as confident and competent. Your goal is to make people want to get to know you better after the initial meeting. Personality and interpersonal communication skills can take you very far, but it all starts with you looking like a quality connection yourself. I can give you some tips on how you can improve your chances of making an excellent first impression simply by avoiding these common mistakes: Mistake #1
Poorly Fitting, Dated Clothing - Men tend to select clothing that is too large for their frame. If you combine that with newer garments cut with an emphasis on a tailored silhouette it's a recipe for self sabotage. It will be instantly obvious from across the room who is wearing out-of-date clothing. The last thing you want is to give the impression that you or your skills are anything less than current.
The Fix: Many brands now offer dress shirts in a slimmer cut, a welcome improvement over the traditional boxy fit for a lot of men. These more flattering styles are available from Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Geoffrey Beene, etc. The slimmer fit will be notated on the shirt's tag using terms like City Fit, Modern Cut, and Tailored. It's also a good idea to pair these tailored shirts with flat front pants - yes it is time to replace your pleated slacks and khakis (see previous post).
Too Casual - You don't have to wear a suit and tie to look professional. The key to looking professional without resorting to a suit is to wear a dress shirt and pants that are clean and crisp, with attention paid to the details. Rolled up sleeves, wrinkled pants, and dress shirts in less than excellent condition do not portray a solid professional image.
The Fix Use metal collar stays to ensure your collar won't curl under and stays stiff. Select slacks that have a small amount of Lycra in the fabric, this will help them retain their shape throughout the day. If you aren't going to wear a sport coat or suit add another distinguishing touch by wearing a french cuff dress shirt with cuff links.
Mistake #3 - Losing Your Distinction - Going business casual doesn't mean reverting back to the college days. You want to avoid losing your identity in a sea of lackluster polos and khakis, but be careful not to confuse distinction with flash. Ironically the photo below is from a Fox News report titled "Dressing for Casual Fridays", making me wonder if the reporter accidentally supplied us with the Fox News Back Office Intern Dress Code Manual. Don't expect to get a lot of respect from your superiors looking like a college kid going for beers with the buddies, even if it's Friday.
The Fix - Pick up updated versions of the business casual classics with subtle creative detailing. From a distance you'll simply look well put together and up close there is even more to admire. For example not all khakis are created equal. You could replace the standard all cotton Dockers with a cotton/nylon khaki from Calvin Klein which, although similar to Dockers in the sense that they are also khakis, have a cool modern look with no hint of flash. Also consider a button down shirt with a patterned weave instead of a solid. It's actually easier to set yourself apart as a business leader in business casual attire because the majority of your colleagues will be opting for the uninspired default polo - khaki uniform. If you do decide to don a polo remember,"stripes are not your friend" (see prior post).