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The other night I saw a TV program discussing how the number of applications for holiday retail jobs is surging. But with most companies either drastically reducing seasonal help or eliminating it altogether, it's a lot tougher to find that extra cash we all need so badly. One woman who was interviewed said she had applied to every single place she could think of and still hadn't found work. She looked to be in her mid-40's, not unattractive, wearing something akin to a polo shirt and casual pants with comfortable loafer-type shoes. Overall, her appearance was neat and clean. So what was she doing wrong? The instant I saw her I knew.  

Let's start with that tired old cliché: dress for success. We've all heard it, but ask yourself how seriously you take it. Even if this woman were applying for a job at Wal-Mart - where the uniform actually is a polo and khakis - she ought to look credible and professional. Especially during the current weak economy, she ought to take care that her image - her visual résumé - is as strong and error-free as her paper résumé. You wouldn't dream of submitting your résumé without first having it proofed by as many people as possible. So too with your appearance. Having an image that is state-of-the-art can make or break your career and with so many companies making cut-backs, and consumers in a panic over spending, you need every tool to get ahead and stay there.

Here are powerful tips for creating an image that says YOU are the one who will get the job done:

1. Choose Winning Colors
The darker the color, the higher the authority. Pastels have the opposite effect, causing you to look passive and powerless. (White is not a pastel.) Many of us find earthy colors from the Autumn palette appealing, but they usually end up making us look less dynamic. These include most shades of brown, beige, camel, moss green and dark olive green. Neon colors such as orange and lime green tend to look too flashy. Instead, choose rich colors like royal blue and magenta, which are classy and give the impression of sophistication and professionalism.  

2. Choose Outfits that Suggest Power
Unlike men, we have plenty of clothing options and needn't always wear suits. For instance, you can team a black skirt with a suit jacket in a bold color such as magenta, royal blue or purple. A navy blue suit looks great, but take care when pairing it with a white blouse that it doesn't end up looking like a uniform. A white shell works well, or you can try a red or fuchsia blouse instead. You can wear black with abandon as long as you wear fairly bold accessories and lipstick (pinks, reds) so that your face is the focal point, not your clothing. A knee-length skirt is the most flattering and most authoritative length. Mid-calf skirts do not make you look thinner - they make you look matronly and less dynamic. Ankle-length skirts may be slimming, but they are also severe looking. If you must choose between an ankle-length skirt and pants, you're probably better off with the pants.

3. Wear Bold Accessories
Bold accessories give a look of success and worldliness. Earrings are a must. Wide, elongated and chunky hoop earrings that resemble a large oval wedding band are good examples because they hug your face and are seen as part of you. Thin round hoops are not professional; they make most people think of gypsies or teenagers. Studs are fine, but they remain “neutral” and do not add power. Bold necklaces and pins are also good power accessories, but note that single-strand pearls and scarves very often look demure, not business-like. A note about shoes: keep them simple, clean and unobtrusive. Feet should not be noticed. If a potential employer or client feels compelled to look at your shoes, socks or stockings, something is wrong.

4: Wear Professional Makeup
According to the latest findings from Judith Waters, PhD, professor of psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University, it pays to wear professional-looking makeup. In this study, resumes with photos attached were presented to 500 HR executives. Women with professional makeup were all awarded a salary range up to 18% higher than those who either wore inappropriate colors or no makeup at all.  

5: Develop good posture
Develop good posture. It is worth a million dollars in terms of image. Stand up straight, take a deep breath and get a “proud chest.” Maintain that posture, but let the shoulders relax a little when you exhale. You will look self-assured and successful! Along with a friendly smile, you will look self-assured and successful!



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