Five Common Executive Image Mistakes - and How to Avoid Them

Your professional image matters.  In today's business environment, judgments are made in the blink of an eye.  Are you representing yourself in a positive light - appearing professional, trustworthy, cutting-edge, creative?  Or have you slipped into a business casual "rut" with the focus on casual, not business. 

According to a2010 article at, "In a tight job market, appearance is everything."  This applies if you are in the market for a job, or if you have a job and want to succeed and get promoted.  Follow these five tips to avoid common executive image mistakes to ensure your effectiveness.

Clothing that Makes You Appear Invisible (Boring)  Color is a powerful business tool that you do not want to overlook as you build your executive image. When you use appropriate color in your wardrobe, you can dress strategically for every situation and will feel more confident.  Colors send powerful psychological messages.  Think about the color BLUE.  It is worn by pilots, policemen and by most high-level interview clients.  It is a color of trust, serenity and calm. RED on the other hand is an aggressive color.  It demands attention and is quite bold.  Use it in small doses if you want to get noticed or to give yourself an air of confidence.

Inappropriate Office Attire  Business Casual Dressing is a hot topic in the corporate world today.  My advice is to remember to keep it "business" first, and "casual" second.  Do not wear anything to work that you would wear in the garden, at the gym, on the beach or at a nightclub.  I will also add, on the golf course, unless you have high quality, ironed polo shirts, with nice dress slacks.  Also watch for low-rise pants, short skirts, rumpled khakis, open-toed shoes or hints of cleavage.  All of these are inappropriate for the workplace. Bare legs and arms send a casual message that may not serve your career goals.

Even on Casual Friday do not get too casual - skip the T-shirt and tattered jeans. If you are in a position of authority or if you want to increase your credibility, always wear a third piece: a jacket or a sweater over your blouse or dress for women, and a sport coat for men. This is your authority piece and an important part of your wardrobe.

Falling into Fashion Trends  Choose timeless pieces that you can bring in to mix-and-match with your current wardrobe without breaking the bank every season. Remember, a working wardrobe should be 80% classic pieces and 20% trend.

If you really want to be fashion forward from 9-5, consider wearing only one trend piece at a time. This way you will still look current and hip without looking like you care more about fashion than looking professional.

Forgetting the Boyscout slogan: “Be Prepared”  I was recently hired by an executive to talk to her team about professional presence and dress code.  She explained to me that she hoped to get her team to a place where at a moment's notice, she could call any one of them into a high level client or management meeting and be confident in their professional attire.
Are you prepared to represent your best self at a moment's notice? Think about your clothes and your image each day so you will always come across as the competent professional that you are. Keep a blazer or sport coat at the office to add instant credibility.

Out-dated Clothing, Hair style, Shoes  Nothing says, "I am not on the cutting edge of my profession" quicker than an out-dated suit, hairdo or glasses. Men and women should keep their hairstyle and glasses current. Review your wardrobe on a yearly (at least) basis to determine if your clothing is out of date. A suit, sport coat or blazer are considered out of date if they are more than 5 years old.

Select one or two of the tips above to focus on over the next two weeks and make the necessary adjustments to your executive image. You will see results and garner the respect and attention you deserve, while having more confidence in your executive image.