The 10 Major Appearance Blunders That Can Kill Your ‘Executive Presence’ In Seconds

This week Marie Claire hosted an event called “The Power of Presence.” Sylvia Ann Hewlett, economist and the founding president of the Center for Talent Innovation, broke down exactly what ‘Executive Presence’ means in a research report she presented to the audience. Based on the responses of executives she surveyed, it was found that the  three main pillars of Executive Presence are gravitas, communication and appearance. If you use these three things correctly you can thrive in a “world that is still led by pale males,” she said. “Appearance is an extraordinarily powerful first filtering. It can get you knocked off the list in a second.” And for women, we have twice as many chances to make appearance mistakes than men unfortunately. To make sure you aren’t knocking yourself off the list, check out these nine easy appearance blunders.

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    • Lastango

      I know flashy jewelry is included in the slides, but I want to put in a special mention for wearing lots of rings. You know the type — nearly every finger, on both hands. Too many women don’t get that there’s a problem with that.
      (And yeah, it screams “I so hate that I don’t have a wedding band!”)

      • boots

        Wow – I never thought of it that way, but I think you’re spot on. I’ve seen it, but just not made that connection. Cheers!

    • Somnilee

      Do you know what else kills “executive presence”? Focussing on your appearance so much that you’re able to make a slideshow about it every week.

    • http://twitter.com/Curvy_CEO Curvy CEO

      Excellent piece!! As an African American woman with “natural” hair (i.e., non-straight, often worn in a curly ‘fro), I do have to take care to make sure that my appearance is as non-threatening as possible because, as the article you cited correctly states, hair with a more European aesthetic is generally more acceptable in office settings. Thankfully, the tide is changing, especially in major cities. In fact, here in DC, natural hair – afros, braids, dreadlocks, etc. – is becoming the norm! My general advice to anyone who wishes to wear their hair in a natural state that doesn’t reflect this aesthetic (whether afro-textured for my black folks or uber-curly for my non-black folks), is to make sure it’s neat, clean, and off your face. Incidentally, this is the same advice I give no folks with straight hair, too. It’s all about looking like you’re there to work.

    • Mints

      I come for Jen’s bullish, and get sucked into these identical slideshows week after week.

    • lucy

      Wow this piece feels dated…”In a law firm or investment bank, that tattoo you got one drunken night during college just isn’t going to fly (so hopefully it was on your ankle and not your neck.) Same goes for piercings. If you work at a trendy coffee shop, it’s probably okay but not in the courtroom.”
      So anyone who got a tattoo did it as a drunken mistake? And you can only work at a coffee shop? You do realize that this stereotype is shifting right?
      Well over half of young people ages 20-29 have tattoos these days. In fact in the advertising industry where I work it’s odd if you don’t have a tattoo. Even the CEO of our company (and we work on major national brands) has a tattoo! And most tattoos can be covered up when needed.
      I used to like reading the grindstone, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a blatant stereotype that I would expect more to come out of the mouth of a middle aged out of date white guy rather than a site that’s meant to inform and inspire young professional women.

      • lucy

        Ah I came back to read the rest of it, and it got even worse! First of all it isn’t “Christie Clark” she is “Christy Clark”. And the incident in question was ridiculous to us in Canada. No one cared about her “cleavage” because she actually wasn’t wearing anything revealing, she just didn’t cover herself up in a turtleneck. The shirt in question is here: http://vancouver.virginradio.ca/Pics/SleazeNews/Clarkcleavage.jpg.
        Hardly revealing at all, and the original comment and the man who made it actually got slammed for being sexist and inappropriate. I agree that you shouldn’t go to work totally inappropriate, but that doesn’t extend to restricting ourselves to insane sexist standards.
        Again I thought this was a site meant to empower young professional women, yet you’re also using a sexist man’s comments as advice on how we dress?

      • competitivenonfiction

        The Christy Clark “scandal” cracked me up. I live in British Columbia and it was a bit of a laughing matter. Everyone who thought this mattered was seen as old and backwards. I doubt she’ll get see another term as Premier, but that has nothing to do with cleavage and everything to do with her political party.

    • http://thekimberlydiaries.com/ the kimberly diaries

      My hair is bottle blonde and while it doesn’t look as good as it would if it were done professionally, dyeing it myself allows me to make sure that I never have roots. I’d rather have no roots than a professional color job.