Welcome to Part 2 in the current Thursday series, “Maximizing Your Personal Brand.” Last week, I laid the groundwork with two important ideas. I’d recommend reading that post first, if you haven’t already; but I’ll summarize those two important points here:
Nonverbal communication includes more than expressions and hand gestures.
Some facets of what can only qualify as nonverbal communication are choices we make before we ever even leave the house; yet once we do encounter people, they will be summing us up and making decisions about us based on those choices. And, right or wrong, fair or unfair, the judgments people form will affect the impact of our spoken message.
You are your own personal brand.
Just as any company or organization must carefully develop a strong, clear, positive, unique and memorable branding identity, so must individuals if we are to stand out and be successful in an all too “samey” world. Likewise, we as individuals must treat our personal brand as an investment, devoting adequate time and resources to making sure it remains strong and relevant.We must treat our personal brand as an investment, making sure it remains strong and relevant. Click To Tweet
In last week’s post, we talked about the impact that the right clothing and eyewear have on what our personal brand is communicating to the world. Today, we’ll add another.
Hair – Personal Brand Strategy #3
(Before I continue, let me say this. I’m going to try to speak to all ages, both genders and everyone from those with a mop of unruly hair to those who are bald. So read the notes below thoroughly, even if you don’t see yourself in them up front – there will be at least some tidbits of value for you to consider in the lot.)
Hair is among the most treasured – and touchy – personal assets. We assign value to ourselves based on everything from natural color and curl, to the volume or amount of hair we have at any stage of our life. When you stop to think about it, it is a little arbitrary, but there you have it. I’m acknowledging the facts – we place a deep level of personal importance on hair.
This being the case, one might expect me to tread lightly on the topic. But in your best interest, I’m going to be blunt here instead. We go to great lengths in an attempt to hang onto our youth. But there are hair crimes people commit in the name of “trying to look younger” (or even older) that actually counter the goal. The thing is … no one you interact with daily is going to tell you. Nope. It’s too embarrassing for them. So they’ll over-focus on something else when speaking with you, all the while silently snickering or cringing inside. (Think about it: when is the last time you recall someone speaking negatively in any way about your hair?) Maybe you really are as fashionable as you think you are. But in the event that you’re not, I’ll be the bad guy – or rather the friend who’s willing to mete out some tough love.
I’m going to tell it like it is.
This is the perfect time to slip in some of my own favorite and most-oft quoted advice from The Best Advice So Far, which I gleaned from my dear friend Carlotta Cooney, a sage woman of few words who has since passed:
“You have to start from where you are,
not from where you wish you were.”
Men: Personal Brand Dos and Don’ts
I know many guys suffer a real identity crisis related to hair loss, but the truth is that trying to hide it never works. The Donald Trump comb-over never looks good. And growing out what hair remains doesn’t somehow balance the losses elsewhere. Keep thinning or balding hair cropped tight. Or Bic it altogether. Embrace it. Own it. Make it part of your personal brand. Think Vin Diesel and Seth Godin.
Likewise, think very carefully before dyeing your hair. Especially if the goal is to cover gray, it nearly always looks unnatural and backfires badly. We play these mind games where we tell ourselves “it’s not so bad” or “people won’t notice.” But I’m here to tell you (remember, I’m your friend): people notice. As a general rule, if your grays or whites account for more than a third of your hair, it’s time to stop coloring. Instead, talk to your barber or stylist about product to enhance the gray rather than color it a wan shade of yellow or shoe-shine black.
Be sure to keep beards and moustaches current and neatly trimmed. If your well-thought-out personal brand requires a more extreme style, make sure it’s up to standards for that fashion and kept up rigorously.
Ladies: Personal Brand Dos and Don’ts
You’ve got more leeway when it comes to hair, but if you can’t keep up with dyes and fancy styling (due to schedule or budget), don’t start them. The “let go” look counters the one week things may have been in good form.
Both: Personal Brand Dos and Don’ts
Just as those pleated pants or Golden Girls padded-shoulder jackets aren’t doing you any favors, neither is holding onto a hairstyle from yesteryear. Again, take a look through current and well-respected fashion magazines to get an idea of what’s current (which does not mean flipping through the outdated coffee table book of styles that’s faded from sitting around under the fluorescent lights at the corner $12 salon for two decades).
On that note, I’d encourage you to invest in going – even if only once – to a high-end salon for a consultation with a professional. Ask a confident and knowledgeable hair stylist what they’d recommend for a current look you can manage. Better yet, take a risk – *gulp* – sit yourself down in their chair, and give them your trust and full permission to cut and style your hair as they feel will best suit you, given your lifestyle and your goals for your personal brand. Have them turn you away from the mirror while they cut, if you think you’re likely to have a conniption and run out the door screaming halfway through.
Just keep in mind that any significant change takes getting used to – even if it’s the right change. And having done this myself (more than once), I can tell you first-hand that there’s nothing quite like that moment when you say, “Wow! I should’ve done this ages ago!” The right haircut can really add confidence as well as impact in communicating your personal brand to others.Any significant change takes getting used to – even if it’s the RIGHT change. Click To Tweet
Unless you’re in your 20s, if you are in a professional or business career, going to an extreme of any kind (e.g., a 10-inch mohawk, bleaching to white when your natural hair is dark brown) just reads as immature or conflicted, not fashionable. (For those in other fields like the arts, professional music, acting, etc., you can be more eccentric as part of your personal brand.) But if you do decide to go with a more bold style, use this guideline: the more extreme the cut, the more high-end the salon and stylist should be, in order to get it right. Letting the $12 chain salon attempt an avant-garde cut on you is nearly always a mistake. That said, there is a lot of room at any age for exploration with cool and modern styles that won’t be over the top and yet will help you stand out among the business side-parts and small-town-news-anchor dos.
Once you’ve gotten that killer cut, if you can’t afford the salon prices for the long haul, go right on over to your usual barber or hair place and ask “your regular person” to analyze your freshly cut and styled hair, so they can keep up with it thereafter. (Just be sure to ask them if they are confident replicating the cut before your next visit.)
Let me end with an anecdote.
I’ve tried many different styles of hair over the years. Many – from the surfer do to the Caesar, Fabio to the dreaded mullet. And while I’ve enjoyed the freedom of choice and experimentation, I’m just as glad I didn’t hold onto any one of them for too long.
However, there was a distinct point back a couple of decades ago where I realized that I cared too much about my hair. What I mean is that I placed so much importance on it that it stopped serving my personal brand. Rather, I realized that I was a slave to my hair. A friend was my stylist at the time, and it took her about an hour each time she cut my hair, snipping a tiny bit here and there and then having to step back and ask, “Is this OK? … Is this still OK?”
Once I had the epiphany that I was letting my hair rule me, I determined to show my hair who was boss. I made an appointment and told my stylist friend to shave it all off. Bald. And so I held my breath (I think she did, too), and I took the plunge. Buzzzzzzzz…..
Why do I add this personal tale? Because while, for whatever reasons, we attach great value to hair – it really is just hair. It grows back. It is not a life-or-death crisis (just ask anyone who’s experienced hair loss while enduring chemo, and they’ll gladly set you straight on what’s important and what’s not). All this is to say … free yourself to experiment a little in the name of finding the right look for your personal brand. The same goes for clothing, eyewear, accessories, etc. Operate in freedom. There’s plenty of room to change your mind in life.Operate in freedom. There's plenty of room to change your mind in life. Click To Tweet
And once you do find “The Look,” don’t get too comfortable with it. Hair styles change quickly, just like clothing and eyewear fashions. Stay current. And, for Pete’s sake, have fun with it.