Getting Back Into the Work Force After Being Away for a Long Time

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Complacency is not our friend. It’s easy to get comfortable in a job, position, networking group, or even a relationship. This “comfortable” feeling can steer us into not staying on top of current fashions, new ideas and technologies. Complacency can lead to a deterioration in our work quality and output, as we find ourselves stepping back.

If you are trying to get back into the workforce, changing careers, attracting a new customer base or seeking that promotion, your appearance and social skills will impact your ability to be successful in achieving these goals. The following advice also works great for first dates.

  • Let’s start with your appearance: How’s your weight? Has it changed much – more than 5-10 pounds since the last time you wore that suit or outfit? You want to avoid baggy clothing, button strains and pocket puckering. Just because you can button or zip it, doesn’t mean it still fits you in an appropriate way.

    When was the last time you bought a new suit? If it’s more than three years ago, you need to consider investing in a more current look. Current doesn’t mean trendy, but you need to show that you haven’t been tucked away in a hole for the past decade. A current, well-fitted suit will impact how others form a first impression of you and will impact how they view your capabilities. If you dress in something outdated or ill-fitting, what will they think of your ability to stay on top of current marketing, product and technology trends? We are judged by our outsides first because it takes a while to get to know us inside. Dress to invite people to take the time to get to know what a great catch you are for their business or position.

  • Let’s move on to hairstyles, personal grooming including hands and facial hair. We know Twilight was a popular movie, but do you really want to have that vampire/werewolf facial hair that first says, “hmmm, kind of creepy”? Does your hairstyle remind people of Meg Ryan or some country western star? How are your roots and highlights? Is it time to freshen them up and try a more current style?

    Tattoos are very popular, but they may not be the visual impression your potential new employer wants to present to his customers. You represent the company. You can be as individual as you want during off hours, but if you’ve chosen to get the artwork, you may have to hide it during working hours. That’s just a fact, not everyone is receptive to personal expression in the form of body art and piercings. You may say, “Then I don’t want to work for that company.” Good for you, if you can be that selective. It’s not always an option and you have to be respectful of your potential employer’s customer base. It’s not personal, it’s just business.

    Well groomed hands say, “I am well groomed, sophisticated and pay attention to the details.” Are your nails trimmed and cuticles groomed? Take the time to clean them up. If you get your nails done, make sure they are a practical length and subtle color. Again, there is a time and a place for personal statements.

    Facial hair and I’m not just speaking to the men.

    Ladies, as we get older and reading glasses are needed, be sure to wear them when you apply your make-up. Do you have a few stray hairs on your face or neck? Really, look. Check any moles for that one wild hair that seems to stick straight out. Gray and blonde count too, as they will cast a shadow. That one long hair you keep missing to pluck can be very distracting. Have you considered waxing your upper lip and chin? Hormones rearrange where hairs show up. You don’t want that Nanny McPhee thing happening while you are discussing a new job or promotion.

    Men, check those ears and nostrils. Use a side mirror to get a good view. How about your neckline at the back of your head? Does your hairline end at the middle of your shoulders? You may want to consider a trimmer or even waxing to clean up that look at the back of your shirt if you have shorter hair.

  • Make-up: Do people see your eyes and smile first or your eye shadow, liner and lipstick first? Are you ready for an evening out on the town in clubs or for a professional day?
  • How about your smile, how white is it? It doesn’t have to be iPod white, with that look of fake coloring, but if you smoke or drink a lot of tea, coffee and red wine, your smile may not be its brightest. Perhaps you are a whitening strip person, be sure to use them. I’ve found a GREAT teeth whitening product that works in 90 minutes! – you can make the trays at home. They almost always have a deal on Facebook or Groupon. Be sure to check your breath as well. When we are nervous our breath can give us away. Drink enough water to avoid dry mouth and use a mouthwash, floss and brush before that interview or meeting.
  • How do you smell? Really, I’m serious. PLEASE don’t douse yourself in lotions, hair products and colognes that all conflict and arrive before you and linger long after you leave. Be subtle, but clean. Clean breath, deodorant, clean body – that should enough of a scent to make a good impression. Then people can pay attention to you rather than rubbing their eyes, gagging or reaching over to open a window to escape your scent.
  • How is your Body Language? Do you remember how to give a firm handshake and make eye contact? Practice in the mirror or with a family member. Sometimes when we are out of the habit of having to make a great impression, we forget social basics. Stand straight, shoulders back and down. Exude confidence, without arrogance.

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