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Let's Get Personal: You Are Your Brand

Career

I was recently having a conversation with one of my most respected professional female colleagues — let’s call her “Amanda” — when she said: “Don’t dress for the job you have. Dress for the job you want.”


Amanda is currently the Special Products and Innovations Director for a fast growing, billion-dollar, international franchise company. Before that, she was an Account Director at one of the biggest global agencies in the world. And before that, she was an Associate Brand Manager for one of the world’s largest lifestyle brands.

She’s also 28 years old.

And let me be clear: she didn’t get to where she is based on her affinity for J.Crew and cute shoes.

Make no mistake: Amanda ascended the corporate ladder based on her tenacity, work ethic and her hard-earned experience and education. But Amanda was also savvy enough to realize at a young enough age that how she showed up to work, be it aesthetically, socially or energetically, could (and would) have a huge impact on her career. She realized it was her responsibility to create the life and career she wanted, and that it didn’t begin and end with what was on her resume. It needed to come from within, and she needed to infuse it into every aspect of her life.

Why?

Because every person is a brand.

When you step out into the world each day to “make your mark,” are you wearing yesterday’s laundry or a thoughtfully curated ensemble that makes you feel confident and empowered? On that same note (and more importantly), while the handbag you bring into your next meeting might indeed look good and feel even better to hold, are you a bringing a positive spirit and a collaborative attitude in as well?

Your brand isn’t solely developed at the office. Let’s talk about your social and cultural brand. Do you give back to your community or spend time working with a charity, and if so, what does that organization say about you? Speaking of which, what do the five closest people in your life say about you? You are a reflection of the company you keep.

The music you listen to, the home you live in, the places you travel, the blogs you read, the color of your nails, the cocktail you religiously order, your favorite workouts, your favorite magazines, the people you call your advisors, mentors and friends… they are all a reflection and extension of your personal brand.

I don’t point this out to make you self-conscious about every extreme detail in your day-to-day existence. I point this out to simply make you aware, and to encourage you to own it, to embrace it, to amplify it, to Simply Be it.

Being your own brand is a choice, but it’s also a gift. A gift that no one else in the world but you gets to hold, cherish and shape. This gift is the bedrock of your career path, whether you’re an Entrepreneur or a Corporate Rock Star.

So now it’s your turn: What is your personal brand? How are you living it, being it and owning it?

This article was first published on www.roadjesstraveled.com

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
4min read
Lifestyle

Going Makeupless To The Office May Be Costing You More Than Just Money

Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.


Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.

Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.

As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.

Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.

So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.

Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.

For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."