Making lasting impressions

Making lasting impressions

Jaspreet Kaur believes personal image keeping is gender neutral and your body language can go a long way in determining your career prospects, writes Deepika Nidige

What is it about first impressions that a universal emphasis is laid for it to be a good one? It is not the stuff alone that matters, but also how it’s packaged. Because let’s face it, we are humans and we judge books (and every other thing, people included) by their
covers, choosing aesthetically pleasing exteriors even if we are unsure about what lies inside. Face value is quite a seller these days.

It was with this philosophy in mind that Jaspreet Kaur ventured out into the field of image consulting. Having spent many years as a corporate communications
specialist and having worked in various banks across the country, Jaspreet had made some subtle observations of working professionals in general. She often came across highly-qualified people who were experts in their fields, but when it came to certain aspects, like dressing appropriately or prepping themselves for a social interaction, they were far from perfect.

This is where the power of grooming comes in, explains Jaspreet. Image
consulting involves the grooming of an individual‑, helping them achieve a pleasing and confident personality. “Most people do not understand that looks and image are two different things.‑ Looks are something one is born with; it’s natural. But an image is something we make of ourselves. By altering our habits and mannerisms, we can build either a good image or a bad one.”

Jaspreet heads StyleSculpt, an image consultancy in Mumbai, where she provides both personal and corporate training to individuals. For a complete image makeover, it generally takes 12-13 sessions, which can last for a few hours each. In case of accelerated training, sessions are spread out over two to three days. “Many kinds of women come to me saying they want a makeover. Newly married girls who want to up their glamour quotient, women from small towns who begin working in big metros. Some of them say ‘I want to lose weight but I don’t want to exercise.’ Everyone has a different story behind their needs for a change,” she says.

Globally, there are many institutes that offer courses in image consulting for those who’d like to pursue it as a career option. But in India, only a handful of them exist. An even more intriguing point is that most of the courses are modelled with a focus on makeovers for women. Whatever happened to ‘keeping up appearances’ for men! Are they not in need of improvement or betterment?

“Oh but they are,” interjects Jaspreet, “I have many male clients. They too are worried about their images and like to be guided.” So, maybe it is time that these institutes thought of extending their curriculum towards the male fraternity as well. “Absolutely. If not for others, one must begin to take care for their own selves. I mean, if you don’t care for yourself, nobody else well,” she words it simply.

But Jaspreet does concede that generally speaking, there is more pressure on women to look good than there is for men. But she is of the opinion that personal image keeping is gender neutral. “Image upkeep is essential for everyone. How do you think it looks when a manager of a firm takes off his/her shoes and saunters around the office barefoot. What kind of an impression do you think it leaves?” she asks. “It is one thing to be qualified; another to be presentable,” she asserts.

“It’s not just about appearances. Your body language and cultural adaptability are also important. If you are in a business lunch meeting abroad, you need to condition yourself to the customs there. How you handle the cutlery and food is as important as how you excuse yourself from the table if you receive an emergency call,” she explains.

Image is also essential to set examples. “How a mother or father dresses up to a PTA meeting is important, because they will be gauged on their outward appearances. Also, their children would look up to them, seeking to emulate them,” Jaspreet reasons.

In business contexts too, people are always observing you – how you shake hands with someone, how you exchange business cards, how you sip tea. “Even in an office party, it’s not okay to let your hair down. A bit of enjoyment is alright, but don’t go overboard with the food, alcohol or dancing. Underline all your fun actions with a hint of professionalism,” she advises.

For those who need a quick guide, here are some pointers for you to adopt at work:

Stick to your office dress code. Don’t try to be a sartorial iconoclast. It’s not as cool as you think.

No sandals or flipflops at work please. Wear closed shoes with socks or foot
liners.

Even on casual Fridays, white jeans and skinny jeans are a no-no. Stick to blue laundered jeans.

For office parties, you need to make sure if it is a cocktail party, reception or a lunch buffet and dress accordingly.

If you’re wearing a sari, cotton and crisply starched is the best option.

If you work in a creative field, you can go a little funky with your choice of
accessories.

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