Let’s face it; after you’ve been job searching for a while, your confidence takes a beating. You may feel invisible; especially if your job search is mostly online, you may feel like no one knows you’re there. It may be tempting to go for comfort over style when you do venture out. After all, who cares what you wear to the grocery store, right?
You might be right, but I still advise against letting your outer appearance reflect your inner discouragement. When you’re in a job search, especially if you’re in a smaller town, you are always “on.” Your appearance – clothes, grooming and general energy level – are all a part of how people perceive you at first glance. And that first glance will also be a part of how they size you up for success. Even if you’re a bit discouraged about how your search is going, you want to look like a confident winner. A shabby, disheveled appearance can broadcast your discouragement from blocks away before you ever say a word.
How can you dress comfortably, but still look professional and confident? Here are a few tips.
- Take a moment to make sure your hair is in order – clean and neat. We love to joke about Bad Hair Days, but they’re actually a pretty spot on metaphor for being a mess on the inside as well. If your hair just isn’t ready for prime time, find a flattering baseball cap or scarf that will cover the problem with style.
- Ditch the tee shirts in favor of casual collared shirts. This is a unisex piece of advice. There are plenty of casual styles that are cool and comfortable and present a more professional appearance. Keep one or two clean and pressed as your go-to outfit for running errands where you might be noticed.
- Wear colors that flatter you and make you feel good. (When in doubt, ask a friend.) Everyone has a shirt or an outfit that gets you compliments every time you wear it. You probably also have something that makes people think you had a bad night every time you wear it. It’s simple; given a choice, wear the colors that work.
- Speaking of colors, bold classics like red and navy blue and neutrals like black, white and khaki look polished and professional, even in casual clothes. When worn in solid blocks of color, they are also more slimming than patterns and prints.
- Invest in great accessories if you can. A bag or knapsack that holds your gear and paperwork in style doesn’t have to cost that much, but it will make you seem pulled together when you’re out running errands. You’ll feel more in control and confident when you can find what you need easily. Make sure you pack your personal business cards whenever you go out; you never know when you may meet someone you’d like to get back in touch with.
- Stylish sunglasses are not just cool; they also provide cover for tired eyes and no-makeup days. A quick hit of lip gloss or lipstick also brightens your whole face and draws attention away from dark circles or other evidence that you’[re not at your best.
Taking just a few minutes to look better will also make you feel better. And feeling better is a first step to making good things happen. Take a moment before going out to be grateful for one of the blessings in your life: friends or family, having a safe place to stay at night, even the weather. When you find something to smile about, you’ll find people notice you and smile back. Your more positive attitude may even be contagious – you never know the effect you may be having on someone whose troubles outweigh your own.
And remember that tomorrow’s a new day. It might be the day everything changes for the better.