Public image of Liz (courtesy of Adam Yosef)

Today I’m going to talk about something that’s always been close to my heart:

I’m hired for my work and my brain, not my looks

Yes, I’ve written that big.

I’ve always struggled with this corporate image thing, especially for women. Being expected to dress a certain way, to put on make-up, to look “right”. I’m not talking about my right to be dirty or unkempt here, but to not dress up in what sometimes feels, to me, like drag. And I’m not criticising people who like to dress smartly, and especially not those people who dress very individually and interestingly – I’m talking about me and my resentment of the fact that I have had to present myself in a certain way in order to engender respect.

I’m lucky: I’ve not had many times in my life when I’ve had to dress up in office, suity attire. I do make an effort when I go to networking events or to do a presentation, but now I can pretty well choose what I want to wear. But I can remember times at trade shows where I’ve been openly criticised for wearing a dress and jacket, not a suit – “SO unusual”, when it wasn’t.

I’ll openly admit that I’ve not had the courage to be different and stand out; I’ve always toed the line and slunk around in my suit and heels, trying to be invisible. I’m fairly introverted and quiet,  and I don’t really like to attract attention by my physical appearance. I do know businesswomen who have brightly coloured hair or unusual outfits and can manage to sail on past the criticism. I salute you!

Anyway, I’ve always maintained that it doesn’t matter what people look like, but what they ARE like. Again, no to smelly and unkempt, but yes to pretty much anything else. And working invisibly like I do, on the other end of a wire(less), behind an email address, means that people probably don’t know what I look like, and hopefully don’t care. They hire me for my mind and my abilities.

Of course, human nature being what it is, I have been advised to, for example, have a photo on my About Me page of my professional website. And I have got one. And I am lucky enough to know Adam Yosef, who takes jolly good photos of me, looking like me. Cardi and scarf, a bit of make-up because, yes, I have got brainwashed into the whole image thing, and frankly it does make me look more awake these days, and we do have to present something of an image to the outside world, still, but it’s me, I think. But I hope that my clients, and potential clients, have a look, OK, she’s a human, a woman, about whatever age I look to be … and then concentrate on hiring the mind inside the outer casing.

Private image of me – can this woman spell less well?

This is a bit unfocused, but it’s been interesting jotting my thoughts down. I know I’m the same person with the same gifts, mind and talents as when I was sitting at an office desk stuffed into a suit – but I’m a more comfortable and relaxed home for those gifts, mind and talents now.

You can keep up with this series by clicking on the category “clothing” to the right. And do share / comment / both – I want this to be about us, not me!