Your Appearance Counts Whether You Want It To Or Not

Christian Knutson | Comments | January 28, 2013

Regardless of how you want to slice it, your appearance is plays a part in how you are received by those looking at you.  I realize this may be a taboo topic, however, I venture into it nonetheless.  In your business, the business of life or career, how you present yourself will directly impact what you achieve.

As engineers, those with whom we interact expect a certain, as my wife puts it…”engineer-like appearance”.  I know what she means.  Conservative, organized, well put together.  Perhaps not a pocket-protector, but definitely clean-cut and, as the British say, “smart”.  Why is this?  Because people expect an engineer to be conservative, trustworthy, and managers of risk.  We wouldn’t feel right committing our life savings at a bank where everyone was wearing cut-offs and t-shirts or working with a gym trainer who smokes heavily.  The reason why is that we expect specific types of people, bankers or physical trainers, to look and act a certain way.  This is neither right nor wrong, it just is.

I won’t suggest you begin wearing tailored suits, high-gloss shoes, and a conservative haircut from today onwards.  I will suggest, however, that you take a look at who you work with, who your clients are, who you serve, and what’s expected of you and attire yourself appropriately.  If you work for an Avant-garde firm, then spiking your hair and wearing primary colors might work.  But for the rest of us, adjusting our appearance to fit what is expected is not only smart, it’s good business.

“Clothes and manners do not make the man; but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance.”  Henry Ward Beecher

Chris Knutson, P.E., PMP is a leadership and strategy coach, practicing engineer and program manager. He is co-founder of The Engineering Career Coach, a company providing engineers and engineering companies core skills, leadership, and lifestyle design services enabling them to execute their vision. Chris is a retired U.S. Air Force civil engineer officer with over two decades of active duty service leading engineering organizations and multi-million dollar programs around the globe. Learn more about his work and access more resources at The Engineering Career Coach.