Working your image

Working your image

By Christina Prignano

It takes about three seconds for the average American to form a first impression, according to Monica Cost, founder and CEO of Evidently Assured, an image consulting firm.

For those on co-op or going on job interviews, this can be a frightening message. Fortunately, there are ways to make that first impression a great one, Cost said.

Cost spoke at the third annual “How to Work It” event Thursday in afterHOUS. The event was sponsored by Northeastern’s Females’ Center of Excellence and Leadership (Xcel), and included a fashion show of corporate attire.

“How to Work It” focused on building self-confidence to “present your best self,” Cost said.

“We can eliminate obstacles by first building confidence in ourselves and then projecting that confidence through our image or personal brand,” Cost said.

She said this is an important program for students.

“I see a lot of young people come into the workplace not knowing all the unwritten rules that you really wouldn’t know unless you were taught, but which can affect your success,” she said. “It’s important to be prepared.”

Xcel president Alisa Duhaney, said many young women feel they have to dress “dowdy” to succeed in the workplace.

“You can dress professionally and still look good,” Duhaney said.

Middler journalism and international affairs major Cara Bidwell attended her second “How to Work It” event Thursday. She said she enjoyed herself last year and wanted to come again.

“It was very practical and down-to-earth, and gave good tips on how to be successful,” she said.

While Bidwell said she thinks she has good self-confidence, she said the event teaches students how to market that self-confidence.

Junior criminal justice major Shanique Adams, one of the organizers of “How to Work It,” said the program is about “developing yourself for your total package.”

Adams said Xcel chose Cost because participants can look up to her.

“She is in a place where a lot of us would like to be,” Adams said.

Cost began by talking to participants about their attitudes, not just their clothing.

She said repeating affirmations can “reprogram your mind” to believe what you are saying. She encouraged students to take time and create an affirmation suited to them.

After preparing their minds, students must prepare their physical appearances.

“Your appearance always tells a story,” Cost said. “Be very intentional when dressing.”

Although she said some like to dress “glamorous/sexy,” that style is not always appropriate in a corporate setting, especially interviews.

For interviews, Cost suggested wearing muted colors like charcoal, black, black pinstripe or navy.

“Err on the side of conservatism,” Cost said.

She also suggested shirts with a lapel rather than a camisole when wearing a jacket. Cost said this look is more powerful.

Cost suggested men wear white shirts on interviews, with a “conservative, powerful tie” like red, yellow or blue.

In addition to attitude and appearance, communication through body language is important in the workplace, Cost said.

“Eighty-five percent of communication is body language,” she said.

Cost said the average American expects three things from physical communication: eye contact, a smile and a firm handshake.

She also said good posture and vocal projection are displays of confidence, and to be aware of excessive gesturing.

After the lecture, organizers put on a corporate fashion show for the audience.

Four outfits were modeled, two for men and two for women. The women’s outfits featured a formal, black suit with a button-down shirt and matching accessories. The men’s featured an interview look and a more casual look, the first a black suit, white shirt and red tie. Cost said this outfit was perfect for an interview.

Other outfits were displayed on a projector while Cost pointed out the good and bad in each.

After the fashion show, Cost fielded questions from students, which ranged from how to address superiors (address them as they were introduced to you), to whether to voice concerns over company policies (don’t complain if you don’t have a solution).

Cost said she hopes students took away that confidence is key.

“You have to pull confidence from within,” Cost said. “It won’t always come from external sources.”

– News Correspondent Jessi Savino contributed to this report.

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