In the time it takes for you to smile, introduce yourself and shake hands with someone — a prospective employer, a loan officer, a new neighbor — that person has already made up his or her mind about you. Research shows that other people, from possible office mates to potential soul mates, need only seven seconds to size you up … or down.
If you're wondering whether your handshake (and all that goes with it) could also be your kiss of death, it might be time for an image consultant. A combination fashion stylist and therapist — with a little bit of your mother thrown in — an image consultant helps with, well, your image. By putting your best foot forward, in a nicely polished, sensibly heeled shoe, you are better managing the way that clients, family and friends respond to you.
"The people you first meet initially look at nonverbal signals," says Judy Pressman, an image consultant from Baltimore, Md. "They look at your body language, at what you're wearing, at whether you're Mr. Bike-Man or Mr. Executive." Pressman contends that people draw certain conclusions — socio-economical, educational or otherwise — about other people based on what they look like. "We all judge and evaluate," she admits.
Pressman, in business now for 17 years, goes on to describe the social hairdo (big and sexy) and the professional hairdo (neat and bunned). "Obviously," she explains, "big, sexy hair is fine for some people, but just not for work."
Turning a "hair-don't" into a "hair-do" is just a small part of Pressman's job. She begins with an intense, truth-telling, journey-taking, hour-long consultation. "I ask them about their goals, values and their desires in life. I try to find that inner spark. Then I figure out how to make the outside match the inside."
Often, the perfect union of inner and outer beauty involves a trip to the shopping mall. "The universe tempts us with these 20% off sales," laughs Pressman. She tries to steer her clients into clothing that suits "who they really are." This could be a great-fitting jacket, a pair of well-tailored pants or anything that is a flattering shade of blue. Says Pressman, "I want people to be in love with themselves. My favorite thing is when a client buys something and then says, 'I would have never put that on, Judy!'"
Bunny Vreeland is an image consultant and hypnotherapist with more than 20 years experience. Her business, like Pressman's, thrives on an old adage: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.