It takes three seconds for someone to make a first impression of you, before you've even said a word!
This means your appearance, your body language, and the way you carry yourself are identifiers of what you are about. Think of it like being the front cover of a book; the content could be extraordinary, but if it doesn't scream "pick me up!" only a select few actually will.
Three seconds! That's it!! If this is starting to alarm you, good. It's a good thing because there's a massive opportunity here.
The massive opportunity
Going back to the book reference, marketers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, countless hours, and pool together the most creative minds to strategically plan the cover of a book. By conducting extensive research, they determine the cover design that will appeal to the type of person who would most likely enjoy the content. On top of this, it needs to be presented it in a way that is fresh, new, and authentic to the message of the book.
As the author of your own personal brand, have you ever put real thought into why people find value in you? Why they want you as a friend, a business partner, or someone they want to associate with? Or maybe why you aren't perceived as a potential candidate for those positions?
The opportunity is that we can control how people perceive us by taking the right steps to ensure the front cover of our person is as authentic to us as possible, and at the same time exciting and fresh.
Here are three easy steps you can use to craft a striking front cover that speaks volumes about you and screams "pick me up!"
1. The Look
I'm sure you know someone who wears only brand name clothes. What does that say about them? Or what about the friend who swears only by organic and locally made garments. How does that reflect who they are? I'd say "elitist" and "change starts with me" attitudes.
Clothes are a way to express your creativity and values. They are an expression of your personality. What you wear can give not so subtle hints to the world about the kind of person you are. So, what kind of person are you, what do you stand for?
One golden rule I've learnt from my mentors is that the two things every person should have are: clean shoes and a nice watch. Sporting clean shoes gives the impression that you have it together. And a nice watch? Well, it says you are someone who values time, your own as well as others'.
Get creative. Use colors and fabrics to accentuate your moods. I'll wear bright colored turbans when I need to draw attention to myself, like when I'm giving keynote speeches. In any case, your clothes are telling people a lot about you, so it's time for you to start paying attention!
2. The Body Language
Your Body language actually says more about you than anything else. If you've got your arms crossed in front of your body, it can send signals that you don't want to be approached. Or if you're sitting down hunched over, you're sending signals of a lack of confidence. The way you carry yourself not only sends signals to other people, but our physiology also shapes the way we think about ourselves.
In this phenomenal TED talk, Amy Cuddy runs this fascinating experiment where job applicants are asked to sit in certain positions at a desk before going into a job interview. Some applicants sat with their legs on the desk and arms extended behind their head (power positions), while others curled their body into a hunch and looked at the ground (weak positions).
The result was that the state of mind of an applicant heading into the interview had a direct correlation on their confidence, and in turn, which applicants got the job. Watch the whole talk. Body language is key!
3. Authenticity Gets Points
Steve Jobs wore his staple black turtleneck with blue jeans to his death bed. In case you didn't know, jeans were actually invented for gold miners (that explains the small pockets you never knew what to use for; they were used to store golden nuggets). When the baby boomers came along, they started wearing jeans as a fashion statement. More than just a fashion statement, they wore jeans to make a statement about their era. They were unconventional, they were rebellious, they lived life on their own terms. Believe it or not, but wearing jeans was not a thing until the baby boomers came along..
Some combination of those words would probably come to mind if I asked you to describe Steve Jobs, am I right? The look and fashion of jeans changed over time, but he stuck to his authentic self. He turned being a "techie", normally associated with being "geeky" for lack of a better word, into "bold" and "cool". It was cool because he was staying true to who he was, and because he owned it.
Keep in mind that the way you dress and carry yourself needs to be authentic to you! You cannot copy someone else because if you cannot own it people will not believe you. Buy in is essential and that starts with you.
Being aware of your first impressions will help you create a compelling "pick me up!" cover of a book people will want to store on their bookshelves, and in turn help you increase your network, achieve your goals, and believe it or not, but help you grow into the real you!