I am one of those extremely lucky men who has the good fortune to get critiqued by my wife on a daily basis. I am not the only one, you know who you are out there if you’re like me, or better still…like my wife. Yes, on a daily basis as I am having what I believe might be a conversation about dinner at the Jones’ the night before, or the upcoming Scout meetings for the boys – I am being covertly scrutinized from head to toe about everything from the length of my hair or nails, my weight loss progress, how up to date or clean my pants, or shirt, or underwear, or socks are, or how polished my shoes are. Okay, that’s not entirely true; it really isn’t all that covert.
Every morning my spouse is kind enough to give me an unfiltered review on my appearance. Filtered would be more like, “That’s not what you’re wearing is it?” I get more of the “You are not wearing that…period” And here’s the interesting part – what she knows instinctively, having not ever been in this industry, is that the second I walk out the door on any given day…I am being interviewed.
Every interaction I have with other people is another opportunity for me to present myself as a professional, personable, intelligent, creative, genuine, modest, confident, successful individual. Whether I am looking for candidates or looking for a job, the way I present myself is a reflection on how I think of myself and how I want to be perceived by others. The perception of others is something we need to do our best to control.
I can feel your eyes rolling. I was even once told by a peer in the workplace that we needed to change the perception that the director had of a given project. Ugh! I replied that we could change reality, but we could not necessarily change another person’s perception, that was something they’d need to do on their own. But by changing reality, or in the case of personal presentation, by controlling that reality at a micro-management level – we get in front of people’s perception generators and control the input. In order to do that we need to get into the mindset that we are ALWAYS interviewing. Whether it is with other parents when dropping off the kids at school, at the grocery store, at the barber or at the salon, or the drycleaners, and don’t even ask me about the impromptu nearly-naked interview in the locker room at the gym. Ugh again!
This idea that one is always interviewing goes well beyond your appearance (even though that is a big part of anyone else’s first impression). We need to act and interact correctly, we need to smell right (non-offensive/clean), our body language needs to be right (open, warm, pleasant, engaging) and we have to say and do the right things (listen, laugh, empathize, listen more, reply, assess, share, keep listening, ponder, muse, repeat).
So my wife is kind enough to give me her opinion and some much needed direction on a regular basis. I am not saying that I am an unreflective dolt who does not know how to groom himself or dress himself, in fact I am usually about 15 minutes ahead of her, but since I keep my self-critique in my head (I look in the mirror and think, “hmm, gonna need a haircut soon”) she verbalizes it shortly thereafter, “Get your haircut today…and be sure to cut your nails.” Yeah, I knew it was coming, but just kept it in my head. Thanks honey!
What she has taught me to consider, yes she is actually a teacher by trade, is that there are a few questions you can easily ask yourself every day that will help prepare you for the day ahead.
If you were meeting yourself for the first time today:
Would you hire you?
Would you want to work for you?
Would you want to work alongside you?
Would you want to buy something from you?
Would you want to sell something to you?
Would you take yourself seriously (wearing that)?
Would you want to get to know you better?
Asking and answering these questions for yourself will help you put your best foot forward as you emerge each day to face the world.
Before I close here I gotta share a story with you on how right my wife really is (and I know she is not the only one folks). Years ago when I was working with a youth group one of the really smart kids stopped by the house on the day of a big dance. We talked about the dance and how excited he was. My wife entered the room and in 2 seconds she assessed and commented, “You’re not wearing those sneakers to the dance.” She told him. He had planned on wearing his regular day-to-day sneakers to the dance. He had new pants, a new shirt, cleaned the car, gotten cologne, etc. But being a teenage boy normally dependent on his mother to get him footwear, he did not get new shoes. My wife continued, “It’s all about the shoes kid. Nice shoes means a lot to a girl. If you are looking to be successful tonight at the dance you gotta get new shoes.” He didn’t for that dance. But what he later relayed to us is that after hearing her opinion he decided to watch how the girls at the dance that evening interacted with the guys. You know what? He saw that at least 90% of the girls (by his count) checked out the guys shoes within the first 2 seconds. He was sold and bought new shoes before the next dance.
Seven years later we were attending his wedding with friends and family numbering over 200. Shortly after the reception started he very deliberately wove his way through the crowd and approached my wife and me with his new bride in tow. “I’ve been dying to share this with you both for the longest time” he said excitedly. Turning to his new wife he said, “Honey, on the day we met, when I approached you awkwardly with some lame line in trying to get you interested in talking to me, why did you even bother to give me a chance?” You know what she said without me having to write it here, so this is for the guys like me. She replied with a smile, “It was the shoes.”
My point? I just want to make sure that you know that I know just how lucky I am to have the critic so close at hand on a daily basis. Someone who is so in tune with how well I can fit into the styles of the day. Someone who can listen to me snoring next to her for hours on end night after night and still have the wisdom and courage to help me understand how to put my best foot forward when I go out into the world every single day.