How important is image in developing your career?
As I sit people watching in a cafe in Canary Wharf, the majority of the people I see are dressed quite similarly - power suits and pencil skirts.
However, each person has a unique character that makes them different. There are tattoos on show; visible piercings; and even one person with purple hair (the lady I'm meeting).
Not so long ago these forms of self expression were an absolute no-no in the corporate world and were typically kept hidden with individuals fearing reprimand by their bosses. It was considered unprofessional. So why is it now considered okay to express yourself in such a manner in the work place? I posed to this question to the lady that I was meeting.
In the world of Investment Banking Audit, hiring managers are not just looking for technical gurus, they're looking for people with a personality.
A different hiring manager said to me "I am looking for someone a bit crazy, a bit wacky who can think outside the norm. Someone who can have a laugh and socialise is key. I'm not too fussed about the technical knowledge. We can teach that, but we can't teach personality".
I was quite shocked to hear this at first but it all makes sense. Audit in particular has become all about relationship management - building those bridges with stakeholders in different departments. At the junior level (AVP) this has become crucial. Rather than merely assisting on audit delivery, you are also expected to manage the relationship with (often difficult) stakeholders.
When I asked my client about her purple hair (a natural brunette), she laughed and said, "Well, we're such a big organisation and I need people to remember me -'The lady with purple highlights' is good enough for me".
Essentially, she is creating a brand for herself within the organisation. Making her standout not only because of her work but also for who she is as a person. Her unique personality is shining through.
So my advice. Express yourself! Make a mark not only with your work but also with who you are as a person. Socialise with your peers across different departments. Let them get to know who you are as a person. Why just be another "bum on seat" when you can be so much more. Don't settle to for average - strive to set the world on fire with who you are.
I would like to think that I have created a brand for myself. In the last 6 years of being within audit recruitment not only has the way I work changed, but so too has my personality and the way in which I present myself both in the office and with clients/candidates.
My current form of self expression / branding is a designer beard, paisley ties and pocket squares. I stand out not only the in way which I work but also my corporate look. The typical recruitment look of brown brogues and navy suits is just not for me.
Create a brand, not only by your work but with who you are as a person.