When it comes to getting treated seriously as a professional, a lot of black women face an uphill struggle compared to others. Both women and black people have historically been kept out of the business community until only very recently in this part of the world. Even though you might not be the cause of the stigma, the burden often falls on your shoulders to overcome it. As such, here are a few tips on how to make sure you’re giving your clients and partners the confidence that you’re the professional that you want to brand yourself as without having to give up your identity.
Dress with confidence
First of all, it’s important to know that there is no single business style. The exec world might be full of people who are dressed formally 24 hours a day, but if your business doesn’t operate in those circles, why would you want to dress that way? If business casual better suits your business environment, then go with it. Even if you do want to conform to a more formal women’s style, you can still add a little personality to it through your choice of colors or accessories. Dress in a way that feels authentic to yourself because someone wearing a pants suit that they don’t feel comfortable in is often going to show that discomfort.
A good fit is essential
When you’re buying business wear, it’s not too unreasonable that you might be looking for a good discount, even if it means buying out of your size. However, this is a mistake that you will definitely regret in time. Even if you’re just about able to wear it, you won’t feel confident wearing clothes that don’t feel right on your body. You’re more likely to feel self-conscious which people will be able to see through your body language. Avoid the temptation to buy clothes that aren’t in your exact size and be sure that you know your body shape so that you’re buying fits that better suit you in that regard, as well.
Practicality is most important of all
While you want to make a good impression in your business wear, you also want to make sure that when your meeting is over, you can work comfortably for the rest of the day in the same wear. For that reason, it’s a good idea to invest in a selection of reliable staples for your business wardrobe. Good business wear can be costly, but you’re investing in their ability to go throughout the day, not just to look good. For that reason, make sure you take good care of them as well. Work them over with a lint roller before putting them on for the day and hang them on velvet hangers instead of wire hangers, for instance.
Accessorize with class
You can also heighten the professional appeal of any outfit with the right choice of accessories. Most people need to carry some accessories regardless, so you should take care to make sure that yours are at least, a good fit for the business environment. For instance, if you wear eyeglasses, then you should choose a pair that are sensible but project an air of authority and modern style. You don’t want to go too old fashioned, so it’s worth taking a look at the biggest selection available on the web to see if you can’t update your glasses. If you’re going to wear any other accessories, they should try to capture this same vibe.
A question of hairstyles
Perhaps one of the most contentious issues for any black woman who is considering their visual professionalism is that of how to style their hair. A lot of people have faced employment discrimination that is based, in some part, on keeping their hair natural. This might not be an issue if you’re running your own business, but you might be worried about how to style your hair. Black women are a lot more than their hair, but there are plenty of examples of styles that might be considered professional without having to straighten it. Of course, there are a lot of black women who feel more comfortable with straightening their hair and there’s no reason to diminish that, either. Do what makes you feel confident and comfortable in presenting.
Always keep an emergency blouse in your office
It’s a mistake that every woman is going to learn to avoid, either the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is reading and memorizing this tip. The hard way is having someone spill coffee on your blouse (or whatever other top you might be wearing) and having to live through the rest of the day with a big stain on your blouse. A lot of professional women keep a spare blouse or top in their desk drawer. Some will even keep one in their bag since you never know when you might need to change out there on the road. An extra pair of hose makes just as much sense, in case they run on you.
Work that body
Aside from the clothes that you’re wearing, your appearance will also be dictated by your posture and your body language. There are a lot of women who believe that you have to project aggressive and even masculine body language to be taken seriously in the professional environment. However, it can help you feel a lot more comfortable if you focus on maintaining a confident posture, instead. There are plenty of body language apps that can help you correct how you carry yourself so that you don’t shrink under attention but rather can create a strong impression of someone who believes in herself and what she has to offer. It can make a big difference in how you look in any outfit, not just your work gear, too.
Be mindful of showing too much skin
This isn’t being said to shame anyone’s body. You deserve to feel confident and beautiful in every scenario. However, the unfortunate reality is that showing too much skin is going to be a distraction in professional environments, especially for women. Showing cleavage simply isn’t appropriate in a business context. Similarly, you should take care to pay mind to how long or short any skirts or dresses you wear are, keeping in mind that everything raises when you sit. Just how is it going to affect you when you sit at your desk across from a client? A lot of workplaces have rules on things like showing off the arms or shoulders, but this more of an “at your own discretion” matter.
You don’t need to go too extravagant
When in doubt, keep it simple and keep it classy. You don’t need to overload yourself in accessories in an effort to make your outfit more exciting, nor do you need to cake yourself in too much makeup. A choice of bold lip color isn’t going to be the end of the world in any circumstance. However, nude shades can often be a little subtler and more suitable for the professional that you’re trying to go. In general, the less complicated your choices, the more likely you are to strike that professional chord that you’re aiming for with your look.
Professionalism is about a lot more than visuals and how you carry yourself across, of course. However, it does help to strike the right first impression, so keep the tips above in mind.